Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Music is a vanishing act

by John Wardle

The Live music industry in NSW is in real trouble. Music is all around us, and yet musicians have lost their role as contributing members of the community.

There have been many contributing factors to this decline. Social and demographic changes, such as changing leisure technologies, environments, and practices -- the gentrification of inner Sydney, and the little known impact of local government environmental planning policies that encourage increased population density in areas with a heritage of live music.

Though the pubs dismiss the impact of their transformation into the local casino, many Musicians credit the introduction of gaming machines to their traditional work place, the local pub, as being a fatal blow to the once vibrant music scene in NSW -- which defined the sounds of our lives and made a major contribution to our evolving cultural identity. After all, what is easier? Spend perhaps $100,000 to get an entertainment licence, or just get in a few pokies?

In May 2003 the results of an inquiry into state of live popular Music opportunities in New South Wales, the Vanishing Acts report, was published. (Click the headline for a link)

The report was written by Professor Bruce Johnson of the University of NSW and Dr Shane Homan of the University of Newcastle and jointly funded by the Music Board of the Australia Council and the NSW Ministry for the Arts. It provides solutions to many of the long-held industry concerns about the future viability of live Music in the State.

We now have a terrific opportunity to encourage a magnificent new music scene in NSW if the initiative is there to act on the recommendations of Vanishing Acts, and if State and Local Governments have the long term vision to support necessary changes to licensing and local government processes that are required to encourage the return of the musician to the local community.

It would be exciting to see a Musical environment in NSW where a more inclusive music is encouraged, -- where teenagers, who are restricted from most venues, can participate, where older people, and others who may not feel comfortable in a rock venue can enjoy live music in their neighborhood, and where ethnic music is included with the wonderful food culture that we appreciate so much.

This can all be supported by acting on the Vanishing Acts report, with the addition of a restaurant licensing initiative to encourage live music there.

-- John Wardle isa professional musician and music teacher responsible for the guitar program at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Access Centre.


biff said...

Live music,...real becoming hard to find.
Publicans no longer rely on musicians to pull a crowd.
Pokies show a better return, although the crime statistics of late show the short-staffed pokie-affluent pub as a prime "soft target' for opportunistic armed-robbers.
I wonder how successful 3 hooded culprits would be in stealing the night's takings if there were 100 happy, pissed, rock'n'roll patrons milling about.
It seems as though 10 broke pokie players are less troublesome that 100 alcohol-fuelled music punters...and show the same profit for the publican, and I believe it!
I would really like to go out some nights and see a live act, whether it be a loud, big-stage production or a quieter moody jazz ensemble, without a "mini casino" wanting to swallow my paypacket...(and "quiet please!... the gambler might be annoyed"!)
The Pavlov's dog-style jingles that emanate from the poker machine after a minor win might not be heard over a band!
I find I usually "play" a pokie through sheer boredom while drinking alcohol served "responsibly" to me by the staff.
We need more venues for live music, no doubt about it, but the accelerated energy requirements of today's technologically endowed youth will create more problems than solve them, so the soft option is to provide pokies, not people. May you "go over the top" with a jackpot. I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

The best music in the Cross is the jingle of poker machines.

And don't that music and the gingle jangle sound sweet.

If anyone knows of a poker machine pub operator with intellect please post his/her name here.

Kings Cross the hone to drugs/and pokies.