There's a dearth of live music in Australia, and it's not because we don't have any musicians, or because Australians don't want to hear live music. It's because of politicians, bureaucracy, local councils and the intolerance of ordinary Australians. It's getting so bad that about the only way you can hear live music now is to cough up a couple of hundred bucks to visit one of the 'sanctioned' (as in 'we make a lot of contributions to political parties') commercial venues in your capital city, or hop into your car and drive several hours out into the countryside to attend a music festival... except that in NSW, you won't even be able to that, because the Berejiklian government has introduced new licensing requirements that make it virtually impossible for such festivals to continue.
But by far and away the biggest problem facing live music in Australian cities is that it's now illegal to make 'loud' sounds. If you turn up the volume on your stereo in my neck of the suburban woods, you'll soon be getting a knock on the door from a representative of your local constabulary telling you to 'turn it down.' And there's nothing at all you can do about it. I was recently on the receiving end of just such a visit, and when I protested that the sound was not loud, which I could prove as I had a sound pressure level meter, I was informed that the policeman standing in front of me was the sole arbiter of what constituted 'loud' sound. When I presumed to debate this point with him, I was curtly warned that if I continued to argue I would be arrested. At least turning down the sound didn't cost me anything. If I had hired a live band I would have been out the money I had paid them.
And if you think that there are different rules for commercial venues, you'd only be half right. I recently heard of a hotel in Sydney that had been having regular jazz afternoons in its beer garden for more than twenty years. Then the long-term resident in the house next-door to the hotel moved out. Guess what the new tenants complained about? Yep, got it in one. The noise from the jazz band. And guess what? The council ruled in favor of the new tenants and that was the end of Saturday afternoon jazz at that hotel.
Then there's the new rule that says if your venue provides entertainment, you have to provide security guards. This means, according to one publican, that 'If I have a ukulele player in a bar attracting 20 or 30 people on a Saturday afternoon, I also have to wear the cost of two security guards from half an hour before the music starts until an hour after it ends.' And guess what? Unlike musicians, security guards get paid award rates.
So how is live music managed in Europe? Obviously much better than it is here. Live music is everywhere in Europe — in restaurants, hotels, bars, coffee shops, parks, street corners and private residences. There are musicians everywhere. In Denmark there's even a law that the government must provide a grant of money to anybody who wishes to establish a school, club or similar organization where music will be taught or rehearsed. The result of this far-sighted policy is that there are more choirs in Denmark (per capita) than there are in any other country in the world. How many? At last count, just a few shy of 12,000!
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