New South Wales faces festival restrictions that may damage local industry
Governments have always played a key role in the success or failure of live events around the globe. In some regions, festivals are able to flourish to the best of their ability, in other areas, officials are doing everything they can to stop festivals from taking place at all. In Asia, it has consistently proven difficult for festival brands to establish themselves due to local opposition, which has impeded their progress. But, in this article we’ll take a look at the difficulties event organisers are facing in the New South Wales region of Australia, where festivals are being restricted a great deal.
New licensing laws are about to come into play within the New South Wales region regarding music festivals, laws which will change the shape of the festival market in the area. These laws will be enforced from 1st March, and have already caused a huge negative stir within the music industry, with some stating that they are set to destroy the live music scene in the area. In fact, two festivals have already been cancelled as a result of the new licensing laws, illustrating the impact that the new rules are set to make on the industry.
A festival that was scheduled to take place in February, Mountain Sounds Festival, was cancelled as a result of an unexpected bill. This bill was for having police officers on site at the event, and unexpectedly reached $200,000, an amount that financially derailed the festival’s plans. The issue at hand wasn’t necessarily the amount, but the fact that the bill came unexpectedly, making it impossible for the event to budget effectively. Psyfari Festival was also cancelled as a result of the new laws. According to the festival, the reason for cancellation was the current political climate regarding festivals in the New South Wales region.
Another event that could potentially be cancelled is Byron Bay Bluesfest, the festival’s director threatened to move the festival elsewhere as a result of the new laws. His reasoning was the “hundreds of thousands of dollars” that it would cost for them to comply with the new regulations. He even wrote an open letter to the government asking “why do you seem to be hell-bent on destroying our industry?” This is a question that certainly seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue in the New South Wales area, as the new laws continue to threaten the industry.
Many have hailed the new laws as the government’s way of “waging war on festivals”, a troubling move if it is true. In response to the new laws a rally has been called, titled “Don’t Kill Live Music”. A petition has also been created which has signatories from key industry figures that include Henry Rollins, Amy Shark, Courtney Barnett and Ticketmaster. With so much opposition to the new regulations, the issue looks set to continue to be debated into the future.
When governments try to limit music festivals, their motive is usually related to drug use, and that is certainly true in New South Wales. Drug-induced deaths are most often the reason behind governments increasing restriction around music events. In September 2018 multiple people died or were taken seriously ill due to drug-related illness at Defqon.1 in Castlereagh. In response to this, the NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian said that her government had a “zero tolerance” policy for drug use and that they planned to shut down the festival completely. Later on, this was amended when Berejiklian stated that she simply wanted festivals to go ahead in a safe manner. What followed was a string of events that essentially lead up to this change in policy by the government.
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We are working with an alliance of music industry heavyweights to fight this war on festivals. This is a rally to make the government quake, organised by a growing coalition of legends. Follow @dklmaustralia for updates. #dontkilllivemusic. . We will be announcing more actions in the coming days and working with everyone effected to stop this new festival regime from doing to the whole state of NSW what the lockouts did to Sydney. . #keepsydneyopen #saveourfestivals #voteoutthelockout #bluesfest #psyfari #mountainsounds #centralcoast #byron #sydneylocal #sydneynight #sydneylife #NSW #partypeople #musicfestivals #nightlife #nswpol #auspol #politics #sydneyculture #partypartyparty #fightthepower #picoftheday
The new government policies in New South Wales have once again raised the debate about drug use and drug testing within festivals, and whose responsibility it is to take the blame for anybody who is taken ill. Many feel that festivals are unfairly prosecuted as a result of their attendees being taken ill. Some argue that governments use drug use as an excuse to persecute events and limit them within the local area.
What the adaptation has caused is a level of uncertainty within the music industry, and will undoubtedly put off anyone looking to host an event in the area. In Asia, the industry is facing similar issues, as there is also a great deal of opposition towards music festivals in some regions. It is often a lack of understanding that causes government officials to be strongly opposed to music festivals, and many feel that events cause a multitude of issues. The fact remains that regions which introduce stricter regulations for events will see a much less populated festival calendar, and ultimately it is the music fans, brands and artists that will suffer the most.
With so many adaptations being made to the government policies regarding events in New South Wales, the fate of the festivals that take place in the region continues to hang in the balance. Regardless of any decision that is made, uncertainty is a huge negative influencer within the music industry. Hosting events always comes with a degree of risk, so it is unsurprising that events may want to steer clear of New South Wales for fear of prosecution and financial loss. Only time will tell just how much the new regulations will effect the local music industry, but it certainly isn’t going to have a positive outcome for the area.