2017-08-04 11:40

We're all in this together: sound, cities, and the music industries that rely on them

By Hugh Nichols

As a Strategy Advisor at the City of Sydney my specialty is live music and performance. As you might imagine, this regularly lands me in the centre of spirited discussions with both industry and government about music venues, regulation, urban planning, liquor licensing and so on. Sound–or noise, depending on how you look at it–is a common feature of these discussions. On Tuesday this week I convened a forum called ‘Sound Solutions’, focused on the topic of cities, live music, culture, sound and acoustics. It was held as part of Music Australia’s Contemporary Music Roundtable conference.

Regardless of whether you prefer the word sound or noise to describe it, there’s no getting around the fact that a city is partly defined by its 'aural life', and how it regulates this will have a significant impact on the nature of its music and the viability of its live music industry. As such, it seemed to be a topic well worth discussing at a national music industry conference.

Working with Music Australia and the Association of Artist Managers we brought in speakers from around the country, including Elizabeth Beach from the National Acoustic Laboratories, Jon Perring of famed Melbourne venue The Tote, Sydney event producer and founder of Heaps Gay Kat Dopper and Brisbane City Council’s Frank Henry, chief architect of the Fortitude Valley Special Entertainment Precinct.

Originally the event had been conceived of as a ‘roundtable’ discussion, largely due to my expectation that we might, at most, attract 20 to 25 people interested in having such a conversation. I was wrong, and in the end we sold out the room. Working with our facilitator Leanne De Souza, we rejigged the session format to ensure that the almost 60 people who showed up would all have a chance to contribute.

The fact that we ended up with triple the number of people we expected was staggering to me, though perhaps it shouldn’t have been. Sound and the music industry is a niche topic, but it’s not a new policy challenge (see Shane Homan’s The Mayor’s a Square for evidence). It has certainly gathered more than its fair share of attention in recent years, especially in Sydney.

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