The biggest overhaul of regulations around live music and cultural activity in NSW in a generation passed through the Legislative Council of the NSW Parliament last night with coordinated changes to the Liquor Act, Planning Act, Local Government Act, the Building Code as well as emergency COVID-19 placemaking for food, drink and entertainment activation.

“APRA AMCOS and the Live Music Office have long advocated that one of the major keys to supporting the Australian music industry’s global success is for the removal of unnecessary and complex regulations on live music,” said Dean Ormston, CEO APRA AMCOS.

“For decades, regulations in NSW have had a strange-hold on live music and cultural activity. These days are now passed and both APRA AMCOS and the Live Music Office are proud to have been instrumental in working on these reforms with the NSW Parliament.

“The changes passed last night will support small businesses, live music and cultural venues to get back up on their feet once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Crucially, the objective of the liquor act will now include the need to consider employment opportunities for live music, arts and cultural activity.

“These changes will also see the creation of special entertainment precincts to encourage live music and cultural activity in city centres and regions throughout NSW. From the City of Sydney to Local Governments across metropolitan and regional NSW, Councils will be able unlock the potential of local economic areas.

“All these changes will help support small businesses and drive an economic recovery across the state, and importantly, getting musicians back to work,” Dean Ormston said.

The amendments to liquor licensing, planning and local government legislation include provisions to:

  • Establish cultural and entertainment precincts to foster live music and cultural activity
  • Remove entertainment conditions in venues including the type of music, instruments or number of musicians
  • Incentivise live music and cultural activity through license discounts and extended trading for venues including participating venues in the NSW Government Great Southern Nights program
  • Integrated licensing and planning processes and the removal of restrictions on mirror-balls and dancing and the elimination of entertainment prohibitions on restaurants and small bars
  • A streamlined process to enable the creation of small bars and live music and small arts spaces
  • The power for local councils to remove entertainment bans with new planning rules prohibiting councils from regulating music genres, types of instruments, and numbers of performers
  • Low impact live entertainment to be classified as exempt development under planning regulations
  • Temporary measures for the period of the COVID-19 pandemic to allow local councils to encourage the use of outdoor space for outdoor dining and performance to assist with social distancing measures.

“The bipartisan support for the changes represents a new and vital collaboration between the Government, Opposition, cross-bench MPs and industry to once and for all get behind local music and cultural activity that also balance community expectations,” said John Wardle from the Live Music Office.

“In particular, we commend the work of Customer Services Minister Victor Dominello, Planning Minister Rob Stokes, Jobs, Investment and Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres, Opposition spokesperson for Music and the Night Time Economy John Graham and Greens spokesperson for the arts Cate Faehrmann,” he said.

“These monumental changes represent the best opportunity for the NSW Government to pursue statewide place-making strategies through the Department of Planning and the 24-Hour Economy Strategy of Treasury and Global NSW.

“As well as this, these reforms will allow local government areas like Sydney, the Inner West and other key metropolitan and regional centres to finally get rid of outdated entertainment conditions, establish entertainment precincts, and get on with the work of refreshing their planning controls to foster live music and cultural activity for the benefit of their local communities and visitors.”

Similar reforms have been overseen by states and territories around the country including the development of entertainment precincts in Queensland, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, live music licensing incentives in the Northern Territory and planning controls in South Australia and Victoria.

Research shows that live music provides $16 billion worth of economic, cultural and social benefit to the nation, with every dollar spent on live music providing three dollars’ worth of benefits returned to the wider community.

As well as this, live music provides a vital benefit to associated industries including hospitality, tourism and regional economic development, fostering safe night time economy activity.

Tourism Research Australia data shows, investment in music and cultural events has one of the greatest impacts in increasing regional visitation. Music, in particular, is one of the highest value events that can drive overnight trips and provide a competitive advantage to regional areas.