According to music industry peak body APRA AMCOS, Australia has lost approximately 1,300 live music venues and stages since COVID restrictions were implemented.

New South Wales has lost the highest proportion of its pre-COVID live music venues – almost one in three. In Victoria, which endured some of the world’s longest COVID lockdowns, it was one in four. According to figures collated by NSW Liquor and Gaming, there are just 137 live music venues state-wide.

Photo © Clem Onojeghuo/UnSplash

COVID played havoc with live music business models nationwide, but the figures suggest that other issues are also at play in NSW. Regulatory factors (the lingering effects of “lock-out laws” introduced in 2014, which were repealed in 2020), demographic change, cost-of-living pressures and local development decisions have conspired to make the running of many live music venues in NSW both unviable and unattractive.

“The role that live music plays in the economic, social and cultural fabric of Australia cannot be overstated,” said Dean Ormston, Chief Executive of APRA AMCOS. “A healthy live music scene in our cities, regional centres and towns provides them with a competitive advantage and is the feeding ground for Australia’s fast-growing musical exports.”

“Over the last 30 years in Australia, a shifting regulatory, audience and digital environment has radically altered the playing field for the live music sector. Changes in the urban environment have brought long standing music venues into conflict over amenity issues, and a tightened regulatory framework has inhibited the development of new business models.”

Prior to its election to state government, the Minns Labor team pledged to support a “grassroots” revival of the sector. Now in power, it is preparing the way, conducting the first state-wide survey of music venues. Data collected will form part of wider research project combining economic analysis, venue mapping data and audience research and inform a new strategic policy for contemporary music in the NSW. The survey, State of the Scene, is open until 15 January 2024.

Acting Head of Sound NSW, Emily Collins said: “Sound NSW’s mission is to see a new era when NSW’s musicians, live music venues and festivals can thrive, creating greater job opportunities, injecting vibrancy to our state, and exporting NSW-grown music across Australia and to the world.”

“The data and insights from the Live Music Survey will help us better understand and support venues.”

“Following the launch of the NSW Arts, Culture and Creative Industries policy later this year, Sound NSW will develop and deliver the state’s first-ever 10-year contemporary music strategy. Just as Screen NSW does for film and TV, this is about bringing a cohesive and coherent government approach to growing the sector.”

The survey welcomes participants with connection to the live music sector – including from those in the classical, art music and jazz areas – who will be asked to assess the strengths of the industry as well as the factors that might be holding it back. The survey is anonymous, with no personal information collected.

Click here to participate in the survey.

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