Live Music In South Australia

November 27, 2013


The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (21:21): I move:

That this council notes the report of the Live Music Thinker in Residence entitled ‘The Future of Live Music in South Australia’.

 I rise to draw the attention of the council to the Live Music Thinker in Residence report and to make some comments on the recommendations within that report and the importance of live music in general. Given the hour and given we have much more to debate, I will not labour too much on the points and I will make my speech a little shorter than I had originally intended.

 The report, obviously, has been the latest initiative of the Thinker in Residence program and the first of that program to be hosted and housed within the Dunstan Foundation. It brought Martin Elbourne, as the thinker, to Adelaide several times and his report is reasonably substantial. While it is not the definitive outline of the future of live music in this state, I certainly think it is a useful piece of work and something that this council should rightly pay heed to.

 It is important to pay heed to the live music industry, because it is not just a joyful and fun thing, it is actually also an incredibly important part of the economics of not only Australia, of course, but the world. Members may be surprised to know that in fact Australia is amongst the leading digital music markets internationally, and that in our country, 335,100 people actually work in the music sector. That was calculated by the ABS in 2007, and I would note that that is actually more than car manufacturing and mining combined. Music concert ticket sales reached almost $1 billion in 2011 and 11 million attendances at music events occur nationally.

 In 2011, venues such as hotels, clubs, cafes and restaurants were estimated to generate 41.97 million attendances and leverage $1.21 billion worth of revenue through audience spending in licensed live music venues, with 6,300 such gigs each week across the country. Live music helps to sustain about 15,000 direct jobs. Live music in hotels, clubs and restaurants generated gross revenues of $1.21 billion and contributed approximately $650 million to the Australian economy in 2010-11 alone. In 2009-10, each Australian household spent an estimated $380 on music related goods and services, totalling over $2 billion economy-wide in that year. It is an important industry and obviously a joyful industry that adds that extra dimension to life through the cultural benefits that it brings as well as those economic ones.

 The Thinker in Residence had around 150 meetings with stakeholders. They included musicians, venue owners, the state government, of course, the local council, owners of rehearsal spaces and production studios, artists, managers, music organisations and festival organisers. It also included visits to the regions, specifically the Barossa Valley, Port Lincoln, Port Augusta, Whyalla and McLaren Vale. I personally was able to meet with the thinker, and I certainly appreciated the input and the conversations I had with the office, and I particularly thank Donna Harden and Margo McInnes for their ongoing discussions with me.

 Indeed, Reverb is the overall branding, and the Reverb team is certainly going to take the recommendations of the thinker further. But it is also up to the South Australian community, not just the music industry, and, of course, this parliament to ensure that the potential we have to harness not only the economic opportunities that the live music industry can provide but, of course, that indefinable quality that makes life worth living and to extend those benefits as widely as we can.

 I note that recommendation 48 of the report is to ‘Remove the definition of “entertainment” in the Licensing Act.’ It will come as no surprise to members of this council that I fully support that recommendation, given that it reflects my private member’s bill, which will lapse, of course, in this session of parliament and, indeed, was not accepted recently in the debate on liquor licensing reform but, rest assured, I will be reintroducing it into this council in the new year when we resume.

 I look forward to that debate, and I draw all members’ attention to page 113 of the Live Music Thinker in Residence’s report, which backs my call to remove the definition of ‘entertainment’ in the Liquor Licensing Act. I will not go into too much detail—I have talked about that issue in this place before—but I refer members to my speeches questioning why the Liquor Licensing Act needs to define the specific genres of music and, indeed, why they have such a particular problem with grunge techno and a favouring of jazz. What business that is of liquor licensing enforcement still is a question that befuddles me.

 Recommendation No. 47 is an encouragement for local councils to create their own live music plans in conjunction with local development plans. That is a quite logical and obvious recommendation and certainly one where I have to acknowledged that we have been outstripped in this area because the City of Sydney is showing us how it is done. Their recent report, Live Music Matters, which was launched at the beginning of this month, is something that I think we should be seeing not only with the Adelaide City Council but also other councils not only in the metropolitan area but potentially in the regions as well.

 I commend the National Live Music Office. John Wardle and Ianto Ware, who run that particular office, were instrumental in that report. That report in Sydney is an approach I think we could take here. Rather than having a Thinker in Residence, we should be encouraging resident thinkers. We should be starting from the grassroots up, particularly when it comes to an issue such as live music.

 We should have been looking at the people who had the on-ground knowledge, the grassroots knowledge, who are living and breathing this in Adelaide and South Australia every single day and using their wisdom. But that is a further way forward, and I hope that we follow the same path that Sydney has taken.

 Recommendation 43 states that we need to ‘reduce barriers to live music created by legislation meant for other purposes and encourage dedicated live music venues. It goes on to say:

 Artists need spaces to perform, write, record and rehearse and audiences need spaces to connect with artists. A reduction in available space, due to the changing nature of the city environment described earlier, is an ongoing threat to live performance. Complex legislative requirements can provide significant barriers to the creation of dedicated live music venues and spaces and threaten the capacity of existing venues to continue to operate.

 That is an issue that has now been going on for some decades, and I know that many in this council, well before me, have raised those issues in this place. However, that does not mean it is a challenge we should shy away from.

 The report goes on to note that some of the most welcome changes of the small venues licence do remove some of the barriers put in the way of live music. However, it goes on to express concern that venues that have a high emphasis on live music as their business need to have more than 120 patrons on an ongoing basis to make that venue viable through ticket sales. So while it says it might support a bar culture, the thinker does not believe that the small venues licence will actually benefit the live music industry per se.

 Recommendation 42 is an area about which the thinker, Martin Elbourne, was quite passionate in his public statements and in one particular forum that I attended at the Scott Theatre. It is to encourage a culture of early and late night activity, reducing the early morning issues of antisocial behaviour. The thinker was quite clear, in fact, that gigs start earlier. It certainly does not mean that gigs also cannot start late, but he was very much an advocate of having different niche markets, particularly for those who have children to be able to go and attend a live music performance and get home in time for the babysitter who has looked after the kids earlier on. That is something he raised. I note that the band The Whitlams used that particular market very well.

 It is a very effective use of a venue to book two gigs in a night. To have a 7.30 gig and then a 10.30 gig means that you get two bangs for your buck yet you have the same equipment outlay, the same venue outlay. You cut your costs but you get two audiences. From a business model perspective that is something the live music industry could pursue, although I certainly do not see that starting gigs earlier has to be at the expense of having late night gigs. That was the somewhat controversial interpretation by some, that the thinker might have us all in by midnight. I am pretty sure that is not really what he meant; certainly the written version of the recommendation makes it much clearer.

 In recommendation 41 the thinker also pointed out that there was a need for a more flexible approach to the late night trading code of practice. He raised many concerns regarding the effect he thought the late night code may have on live music, in particular smaller venues that would be burdened with onerous costs associated with the new requirements. That was an area he believed needed careful watching, certainly with the amendments of this council, to ensure that we review that late night code of practice, and I think the recent changes to liquor licensing will help the thinker in residence fulfil that particular recommendation.

 In recommendation 40 the thinker also urged the state government to take the lead on clarification of roles and responsibilities held by regulatory and enforcement bodies. He stated that:

 Public confusion, created by intersecting and overlapping regulations between authorities, needs to be overcome. Although some local government authorities produce guidelines, greater collaboration is required between the commonwealth and state governments to clarify the roles and responsibilities of regulatory and enforcement bodies particularly in relation to the cross over between the National Construction Code—Building Code of Australia (Cwth), the Development Act (SA) and the Liquor Licensing Act (SA).

 Indeed, that is one of the ongoing bugbears.

 On a more positive note, the thinker was certainly thinking outside the square, if you are thinking the square is the City of Adelaide itself. He pointed to a range of areas that he believed—and I tend to agree—are ripe for a renaissance in terms of live music. He pointed to Port Adelaide in particular, and that is certainly in line with the government’s own rhetoric. However, he also pointed to the Barossa, and I note that one of the recommendations—as the Hon. John Dawkins would be interested to know—calls for more activity in Gawler. I thought that might pique the honourable member’s interest.

 I believe that there has been a really welcome focus here on ensuring that live music is spread across the state. There are recommendations that there should be touring circuits across the state in regional areas of South Australia, and setting up that well-trodden path on which bands can take their show on the road and get not only touring practice but also, as the Thinker himself said, ‘Find out if they hate each other’s guts before they go on a nationwide or overseas’ tour.’ Always a good thing to find that out earlier rather than later!

 What I found lacking here was that outer metropolitan areas were not targeted so much other than, obviously, Port Adelaide, but I think any touring schedule should look at the outer suburbs as well as the regions. The Thinker also recommends to support more underage shows and has a range of recommendations about audience development. In recommendation 25 he envisages creating a one-off annual celebration of local music.

 Certainly celebrating local music is one of the areas to which I particularly wanted to draw the council’s attention, and I commend Fowler’s Live for their recent music awards, which, for the last two years they have instituted off their own bat, where they have recognised and awarded South Australian local music across the industry, not just the performers but all facets of the industry including venues, management and so on. Unless we take those times to reflect and recognise the genius that we have within this state, we tend to overlook it.

 On that note, I also commend Adelaidenow or The Advertiser for recently running their top 100 South Australian songs. I note that The Angels took out the number one spot after a bit of audience feedback with Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again? Reading my paper on the weekend, I was quite interested to learn the story behind that song, and that it is quite a tragic sad song of the loss of the life of a young Adelaide student; yet, of course, the audience has turned that song into something very different. That is the beauty of live music, because a band can play without an audience in their bedroom or in their garage, and they can record, but until they have that interaction with the audience, there is not that spark, that amazing thing that live music brings that is beyond that recorded or isolated product.

 I note that the Thinker’s report has generated a lot of media interest in various ways and certainly that top 100 list was part of it. Not all said about the Thinker has been pleasant and a lot of it is conflicted and, certainly, it has the industry at least talking if not yet agreeing. I was really struck when I saw an article by Andrew P. Street, who was well known in Adelaide as a street press writer for dB Magazine in the past when street press print media was a hallmark of the music industry. Of course with the digital era, that is increasingly less so. He still writes for a range of outlets.

 He had a piece in the online magazine, Faster Louder, which is quite a well-known music outlet for reporting, reviews and so on in Australia, and in it he responded to that top 100 with the best six Adelaide songs that did not make the best Adelaide songs list. In true Adelaide style he points to the fact that what the hell was Paul Kelly’s From St Kilda to Kings Cross or Darling It Hurts doing on there when we all know that Adelaide is the best ‘diss’ song of Adelaide ever, and it was written by Paul Kelly who, of course, comes from Adelaide, as much as Melbourne likes to claim him. He prompted my memories because his number six was Baterz’s Target’s Air Conditioner and members may not be aware, but Baterz was a friend of mine, and so I am going to name-drop now, and I will read out what Andrew P. Street has said about Baterz, which is:

 If you mention Baterz to Adelaide indie music fans lovers of a certain age, their eyes will mist over. Barnaby Ward grew up in Canberra and swapped his time between the two most often mocked Australian cities, forming The Bedridden with old school pal Kirsty Stegwazi (herself a formidable songwriter) and then releasing a solo album approximately every 10 minutes once they split up.

 I think I own about 20 of them. The article continues:

 The reason that he didn’t become the planet’s dream combination of Daniel Johnston, Lou Barlow and the Moldy Peaches is that A. He was in Adelaide and B. He died in 2000 of complications related to HIV contracted through a blood transfusion, having been born with a severe form of haemophilia. There should be [Andrew P. Street says] a statue of him in the middle of Rundle Mall, if you ask me.

 Online, this sparked enormous feedback. For those of you unfamiliar with the song Target’s Airconditioner, it begins with the lines, ‘Going into town on the sweaty 181.’ Of course, many of us would remember that the 181 used to be a bus and, indeed, it was never air-conditioned, but Target has always had air conditioning and Adelaide has always had very hot summers. Whenever Baterz played Target’s Airconditioner, everyone in the room knew the words. Indeed, there has been a lot of Facebook traffic that we need to have a statute of Baterz somewhere opposite Target in Rundle Mall. I think this is a fabulous idea.

 However, statues are very expensive and, if we cannot afford a statue, I would suggest a mural with the Baterz artwork from his various Army of Nerds collections, which have an array of strange creatures. He did all the artwork, as did his Army of Nerds, on these various CDs. Certainly, one can only look to something like the wall of Solutions’ mural that has been a tribute to Elliott Smith and see that it is a tourist attraction internationally. Paying respect to our musicians—the big ones, the well-known ones, as well as the largely undiscovered but certainly much-loved geniuses such as Baterz—is a fitting way to ensure that we embed live music in our culture.

 I would also say it is not just that I knew Baterz: Baterz is actually quite a phenomenon, and for the last 10 years there has been a tribute gig every year to him at the Grace Emily Hotel, and that will continue for some time to come. A whole range of Adelaide musicians come along and play one or two Baterz songs each, and it is a fitting memorial to him. Certainly, I believe a mural would be an even better memorial so that people can find out who he was, and maybe putting the website on that mural would be a great step forward.

 In summing up, and getting back to the more basic and boring aspects of the live music industry, I cannot conclude without touching on the Building Code. Recommendation 49 is to work with the federal government to achieve changes to the Building Code, small to medium venues that come under the class 9B. I had never heard the term ‘class 9B’ until I started talking about it to people who were trying to run music venues and about what their problems were. Every second sentence, I think, ends with ‘class 9B and the Building Code’.

 Class 9B buildings are those used for places of public assembly for entertainment or recreational purposes. These include theatres, galleries and halls; they are all classified as class 9B. Cafes, restaurants, bars and hotels are class 6. In some cases, the activities carried out in hotels, bars, cafes or restaurants may lead to them being categorised as class 9B buildings. This occurs when it is seen to be a change in use from a place that primarily sells alcohol to a place that primarily provides entertainment.

 New venues wanting to provide a mixture of services, such as having a bar and providing an occasional theatre show or exhibition, may be classed as class 9B. When they are so classified—places of public assembly for entertainment—they are subjected to major compliance requirements, such as the installation of fire hydrants, sprinkler systems, smoke detector systems with 24-hour monitoring and a direct connection to the fire brigade, mechanical smoke extraction systems, increased fire rating, and isolation of walls and doors, disabled facilities and access, and increased structural requirements for floors. These requirements are in place for safety reasons.

 There is, of course, attention between the need for safety and the commercial viability of businesses with a minimal operating budget. This is particularly true when repurposing heritage buildings which require lots of structural work to meet requirements. Whilst the safety of patrons cannot be compromised, it may be possible to be more flexible in the way that risks are mitigated. It may also be possible to introduce a graded system of compliance so that smaller venues with smaller capacities can ensure safety without being subjected to the full range of conditions as required by being classified as class 9B.

 This will require a national focus, with input from a range of stakeholders and, indeed, those stakeholders must include the music industry, but it can be done. In New South Wales they have varied class B. If New South Wales can do it, South Australia can. In 2009, New South Wales introduced a variation to the building code that changed the criteria for which buildings should be classified as 9B. They deleted part C section 1 of the classification, and that means that discos, nightclubs or bar areas of a hotel or motel providing live entertainment or containing a dance floor are no longer subject to those regulations. This variation makes it far more viable for a small multi-use venue to provide entertainment as well as sell alcohol.

 So, with those words, I look forward to the Premier’s response to this live music Thinker in Residence, and given that this is the last sitting session of the year I look forward to a vibrant new government of whichever colour with a dedication to continuing the work we have done so far in live music.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins.

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