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In Australia, Victorian Coalition Government announces red tape reduction reforms to boost live music sector

Today in Australia, the Victoria Coalition Government announced a series of red tape reduction reforms in an effort to boost productivity and reduce costs for businesses in the state, including reforms for live music venues.

The reforms will make it easier for venues to host live music by easing unnecessary regulations related to liquor licenses.

”The hospitality sector will see the removal of an unnecessary regulation that requires liquor licensees to apply for approval to hold alcohol-free underage concerts on licensed premises, while other processes, including those around hosting live music, will be simplified,” said acting Premier and Minister for State Development Peter Ryan.

The main reforms affecting music include:

Under age venues : Currently licensees must obtain approval to hold alcohol-free underage and mix-aged live music events on licensed premises. This reform will remove that requirement

Small live music venues: Currently small live music venues wishing to undertake work to adapt or renovate to host live venues music attract permit and approval requirements based on the Building Code of Australia, Building Classification 9(b). This reform will simplify and reduce planning approval for change of land use for small venues seeking to host live music.

Temporary liquor licences: Currently a temporary limited liquor licence application must be lodged at least 8 weeks before an event. This reform will streamline the approval process for temporary liquor licences and examine the feasibility of introducing a notification process for repeat and low risk events run by licensees with a sound reputation.

The government has also promised to do whatever it can to implement an “agent-of-change” planning principle that would require residents who move into an area with established live music venues to foot the bill for any desired soundproofing.

Calling live music “one of Melbourne’s greatest tourism and cultural assets,’ Planning Minister Matthew Guy said the government would find a way to “give certainty” to the live music industry and its patrons.

Victoria’s State Government says the reforms were accepted following extensive consultation by Red Tape Commissioner John Lloyd, who met with 25 associations, including Music Victoria .

Over a year ago, Music Canada’s report highlighting the best practices in Austin, Texas hit Melbourne’s radar prompting city officials to contact Austin to learn more about their success .

Red Tape issues persist in Canadian live music sector:

In Toronto, some examples include:

  • Ambiguous licensing requirements: in response to concerns about dance clubs, the city created a new “entertainment license” that is not supposed to apply to live music venues, and yet, numerous venues have been fined for not having one.
  • Approvals for road closures often take many months, even for festivals that have a long track record.
  • Some public spaces are governed by Transportation, others by Parks Forestry Recreation. Lines of delineation are not clear.
  • Postering bylaw is ill-conceived and poorly enforced, with little understanding by City staff and bylaw enforcement personnel.

Music Canada and our partners in the live music sector have been advocating for the reduction in red tape at all three levels of government. Federally, we remain concerned about the effect of recent changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program that reduce the ability of bars and restaurants to hire international performers. We were pleased to see red tape reduction in the music sector identified as a priority in a recent whitepaper from the Ontario PC party. In Toronto, the establishment of the new Toronto Music Industry Advisory Council is a significant achievement for the music community, promising an opportunity to address concerns.

Music Canada is continuing to advocate for the creation of a Music Office at Toronto City Hall, which was one of the recommendations outlined in our aforementioned report, Accelerating Toronto’s Music Industry Growth – Leveraging Best Practices from Austin, Texas , commissioned and released by Music Canada in 2012. A Music Office would “create a valuable alignment between the City and the commercial music industry in Toronto,” the report found.

The Music Office could provide coordination across the various city departments that deal with issues relating to live music events and venues, as well as act as an Ombudsman and clearing house for music business operators. The report notes this could make a significant impact in “re-engineering the business/government interface to stimulate job creation and investment attraction,” one of key recommendations made by the Toronto Prosperity Institute’s 2011 report, Establishing The Path To Growth . The Music Office could also play a strong business development role, stimulating the growth of activity in the music sector.

The groundwork for a Music Office has already been laid; the City of Toronto recently issued a job posting for a Sector Development Officer (Music) , working in the Economic Development & Culture division.

We will share today’s news out of Australia with our government contacts, and continue to advocate for music in Canada in 2014.

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