Live music lovers unite!

As Newcastle becomes an increasingly ‘liveable’ city – with apartments springing up all over the joint, what happens to our live music scene?

Obviously, we love live music here at Newcastle Live, so anything that supports the growth of live music in this city has our attention.

We recently attended the roundtable at The Edwards hosted by Newcastle Labor, which was unique in that it had representation from three levels of government: council, state and federal.

We spoke to Newcastle Councillor Carol Duncan about the issue, and it’s unsurprising that this former radio announcer and avowed music lover has taken the reigns of this project.

“These are my tribe, my friends, for nearly 30 years,” says Carol when asked why she’s so passionate about this issue. “It’s very personal to me – and it should be very personal to all of us.”

We don’t need to tell you that Newcastle has a rich history of live music. But did you know that the night time economy in Newy is estimated to be worth $1.4 billion? It also employs over 12 000 people – many of those in the live music industry. This is something to celebrate and we need to lock in policies and procedures to allow this industry to flourish.

At 5.30pm on Tuesday 27 February Newcastle Labor Councillors will be bringing forward a Notice of Motion for Debate at the Ordinary Meeting of Council. These meetings are open to the public and we’re encouraging all musos, venue owners, promoters and punters to get along and show visible support for embedding live music into the planning of this city.

The motion moved at the council meeting will include the following:

Creation of a Newcastle Local Live Music Industry Advisory Group

This will advise local, state and federal governments on policy developments aimed at supporting the growth and sustainability of Newcastle’s live music scene. This will be made up of core members including: artists, venues, music industry business, local government, community radio along with education and training bodies.

Embedding the live music scene in the next Community Strategic Plan

This is really important. With so many new apartments going up, it’s vital that there’s a plan for Development Applications and Section 149s to place the responsibility for soundproofing apartments and houses on the developer. S149 certificates will require applicants to acknowledge that they live in a cultural zone where noise, and hours of operation will be an issue.

Finalising the draft Newcastle After Dark Nighttime Economy Strategy

This one’s been in the works for a while. Council is keen to develop a safe and vibrant after-dark economy in our city. The strategy will build in key priorities for safety, amenity for residents and visitors, culture and the economy.

Developing a process to make Council-owned venues more readily available for all-ages gigs

Okay, this is a cool one. One of the key outcomes of the roundtable was the decision to do something NOW that can make a difference to the live music scene. So council are looking at ways to open up their venues to all-ages gigs. “We’re looking to open up the Civic Playhouse on a Sunday,” says Carol. “Offering up City Hall to all-ages gigs might be like offering up Nana’s living room – but the Playhouse is a great space.” Oh, and the other rooms could be on the table too. Who knows? It’ll be on a needs- and wants-basis.

Another action to come out of the roundtable is that council will be looking at some of its processes – assessing if any policies or controls might need review or amendment to make life easier for venues and performers as well as residents. “We need to ask, ‘how can we, as a council, help our staff make decisions that are finessed?” Carol says. “It’s not just about ticking a box, what else do we need to look at to make things work?”

Tuesday night’s meeting will be an opportunity for those of us who love live music to fill the gallery to show council and the state government that this is the future for our city. “It’d be great to see the gallery filled at City Hall to show that we’ve got the grassroots support so state and fed govt will know that this is an issue worth working on,” Carol says.

As punters, we have a pretty unique opportunity here where there’s a state-wide and nation-wide push at a community level to support live music in this town. It’s about living in a city where live music is an active consideration at the start of any planning process – not an inconvenient afterthought.

At Newcastle Live we’re feeling pretty positive about this project on a number of levels. For a start, most of these processes have already been implemented in other cities with great success. Melbourne, Wollongong, Brisbane and the Gold Coast have all implemented plans to make live music a part of the city. There is a genuine push from a range of interested peeps to ensure that Newcastle continues to raise its voice in song for a whole new generation of venues and performers.

Wanna do your part? Come along to the council meeting next Tuesday at 5.30pm. We’ll be there.


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  1. Newcastle has more venues per square metre than any other city in our country. Newcastle is the live music capital of Australia. This needs to be embraced and promoted in our tourism as it’s something to be proud of and something other cities would envy. Majority of Novacastrians are ignorant to this statistic. Austin TEXAS is the official live music capital of the USA, Newcastle is the Australian equivilant and we should encourage this to flourish. Venues with more live music and less pokies, less tv screens and TAB is a win for everyone.

  2. This is why we started Newcastle Music Week many years ago. It was a week long celebration of live music that we put on for 10 years. We brought the music industry to Newcastle including The A & R reps for major companies and artists like Renee Geyer and others to run workshops. We had live music every night in venues and restaurants.

    I played in bands for many years and have watched as bands play for a case of beer. Screens (gambling and sport) have filled venues. People preload so venue owners find it hard to make a living. The education has to happen with the entire community in mind.

    We have recently started the #whatsyourworth movement for all creatives to value what they do and charge accordingly.

  3. Musicians and Artists are the storytellers and keepers of our history. Music links our memories and emotions.It connects us to our past and documents lifestyle eras.
    Music soothes and heals.
    It motivates and calls to action.
    The benefits of music and art should never be underestimated..
    This threat is calling us to action…

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