Gold Coast is getting a Live Music Plan

cosmic-psychos-at-cooly-hotel-2015-c-leigh-kelly-cropped

Cosmic Psychos at Cooly Hotel 2015 (c) Leigh Kelly

There’s no question the last two years has seen some exciting growth in the city’s cultural space. New venues are opening, new bands are forming, other bands are kicking serious goals. There’s considerable organic growth in the music scene, people are investing money and time and the positive impacts are being felt across all levels of the industry.

But things are about to be taken to a whole new level thanks to City of Gold Coast’s work on a draft Live Music Plan and some key actions that will take place between now and May 2017.

Joel Edmondson is Executive Officer for QMusic and he spoke to Blank Gold Coast about the Live Music Action Plan and its role in the development of cultural tourism.

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He says visitors are looking for more sophisticated offerings from the Gold Coast and if the public image doesn’t evolve beyond beaches and thee parks it will become less relevant. Live music can help.

“Apart from the intrinsic value of culture to the human experience, cultural tourism is important because it’s just not enough to have a monolithic tourist offering these days,” Joel said.

“For those people living on the Gold Coast who don’t identify with that outdated stereotype, a thriving cultural sector can be a source of great community pride.”

“There are a lot of really great cultural events happening on the Coast now, but little in the way of compelling ‘week in, week out’ live music infrastructure. A thriving music industry also generates year-round employment across a range of industry sectors,” he said.

“It’s also really important to note that if Council wants to attract large organisations and multinationals to set up on the Gold Coast (especially in the innovation and tech sector), then those organisations will need to be sure that they can attract the best young talent,” Joel said.

“One of the main reasons young people want to live in a city is the quality of the night economy, and if companies can’t see a night economy that will tempt young people to move there, they’ll be less likely to set up shop.”

Council’s briefing paper on the plan recognised that a thriving live music ecosystem includes multiple market segments: young, emerging and established artists, national and international touring artists, commercial cover bands and independent original artists, venues, promoters, producers, recording and distribution.

One of the ways the City hopes to boost the night economy is by establishing a regulatory taskforce.

Councillor Herman Vorster is Chair of the City’s Economic Development Committee, which is responsible for decisions and investments around art and culture.

Cr Vorster said the taskforce would help build an understanding of the regulatory hurdles that separate an aspirating performer from their audience.

“Council has some responsibility for regulation, but a lot of that regulation lies with the Office of Gaming and Liquor Regulation,” Cr Vorster said.

The purpose of the taskforce is to cut through the buck passing, understand clearly who’s responsible for what and lobby for change at all levels to facilitate growth in the industry.

Cr Vorster said that could involve lobbying for changes in liquor regulation or the City’s own planning scheme.

In particular he wants the regulatory taskforce to look at the decoupling of liquor licensing and noise regulation: an issue that was raised time and time again during early industry consultation on the Music Plan.

“In my six months experience as a divisional Councillor, I know how inherently conservative a venue can be when there is the slightest risk to their liquor license,” Cr Vorster said. “Many venues are now turning away musicians or axing acts because of vexatious noise complaints.”

“I would hope that this issue would be examined by the regulatory taskforce and in my personal view there’s probably a good case to decouple noise regulation from liquor licensing, so those issues can be separately assessed and managed on their own merits.”

“It seems unfair to rob a community of entertainment and opportunities for social engagement because a vexatious claim may risk the viability of the venue.”

According to Joel Edmondson, there’s no question that liquor licensing should be decoupled from noise issues.

“Responsible service of alcohol and the provision of entertainment really have nothing to do with each other,” he said.

In addition to establishing a regulatory taskforce, Council is also undertaking an audit of live music venues. Both actions will inform the final plan.

“One of the gaps in the working draft is the absence of firm data around venues, their utilisation, even their facilities,” Cr Vorster said.

The audit will help build an understanding of what the capacity is here on the Gold Coast so “we can determine if we have enough capacity or whether we need to support new venues in some areas.”

Joel Edmondson says live music venues are the centerpiece of the contemporary music industry, particularly now that income from recorded music has all but dried up for the majority of musicians.

“Live music income is what is supporting their livelihoods, and in turn, the livelihoods of the infrastructure that supports them: managers, agents, publicists,” Joel said.

But he also added that a study of Gold Coast audiences and what kind of live music experiences they have an appetite for is needed to support the audit of venues.

“How can you really understand the impact of supply without knowing what the demand is?” Joel said. “Conversely, it’s also important that Council and the local community has a clear vision of what kind of music scene they want to generate on the Gold Coast, and not be lead too strictly by  current attendance behaviours – people are only attending what’s currently available to them.”

As the City delivers on its broader agenda of economic diversification with an increasing focus on the education, health, knowledge and technology sectors, the demand and community expectation for arts and culture, including live music becomes ever more important.

“I’m hoping by May we’ll have a final plan that will satisfy the insatiable appetite of Gold Coasters for live music,” Cr Vorster said, “but also a plan that makes a music career viable here on the Gold Coast for Gold Coasters.”

What does that mean? That there are opportunities to be rewarded for talent (which is sometimes presently a labour of love). And social dividends. Live music and by extension, culture is our social fabric.

“The question is,” Cr Vorster asks, “do we want that fabric to be a flimsy sheet or a cosy blanket?”

“A vibrant live music scene that feeds into our cultural economy ensures the city grows together as we grow up.”

Cr Vorster also praised the engagement of the local music industry to date.

What’s really great to see about the live music industry is that they’re absolutely passionate about their craft and the economy.

“From a Council perspective we hold the same views.”

The Live Music Action Plan 2017-2020 is currently in final draft. Prior to Council finalising the plan, it’s expected that the draft will be made available to sector stakeholders for feedback to ensure it adequately reflects priorities and to encourage broad ownership.

Read Council’s papers on the Live Music Action Plan here.

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