Music Festivals Slam 'Disgusting' Regulations As Campaign Brews To Fight New Laws
A veteran festival promoter has labelled the NSW government "cowardly", as an industry-wide campaign launches to fight proposed tightened restrictions on music events.
Music festivals are back in the political spotlight, with industry icons slamming the NSW government's "knee-jerk" reaction to increase police and health requirements on events.
The enhanced regulations, a response to a number of deaths at festivals, compel each operator to apply for a specific liquor licence for its event. This would be considered by a panel including health, police, and liquor authorities.
It comes after several NSW music festivals cancelled their 2019 events, blaming insurmountable regulation hurdles and "impossible" financial demands.
"This is the proverbial straw to break the camel's back," promoter AJ Maddah told 10 daily.
The new guidelines will apply to every festival in the state, besides the Tamworth Country Music and Sydney Festival, and require events to abide by the new rules around police, ambulance and harm minimisation measures.
Music industry experts have told 10 daily they believe they will not have any recourse to challenge the costs imposed on them.
On Monday, iconic Byron Bay event Bluesfest said it may be forced to move interstate due to the changes. Promoter Peter Noble called NSW a "soon to be barren state".
Maddah -- former promoter of heavyweight festivals Soundwave, Harvest and Warped -- told 10 daily the rules that events must adhere to in NSW are among the strictest he has ever encountered in the world.
"When you have a situation when the police determine how many officers you need, for how many hours, without there being any formula or consideration of type of event, location of event... it's insane."
Maddah, who has promoted events nationwide and across the world, compared NSW to the film 'Footloose' -- where a small town bans music and dancing.
"There needs to be recognition of different events and different organisers. They can't paint every event the same," he said.
The Australian Festival Association -- with members including the Splendour In The Grass, Laneway, Groovin The Moo and Laneway events -- on Tuesday implored the NSW government to roll out the new festival licenses as a trial, so events could adjust to the new laws gradually.
The Good Things festival, in Sydney last December, was forced at the last minute to change its all-ages classification to 18+ after police raised concerns about minors potentially being exposed to alcohol. The festival claimed it had experienced "unprecedented opposition" from police and government.
NSW Central Coast music festival Mountain Sounds cancelled its 2019 event just days out from its proposed start date, claiming police demanded they "pay an additional upfront amount of approximately $200,000 for 45 user pay police on a 24-hour cycle".
NSW Police have disputed this, saying the festival played down the number of attendees, and that police did not direct organisers to cancel the event.
Popular musician and former Triple J radio host Kristy Lee Peters, who performs under the stage name KLP, said the government's stance was disappointing.
"It seems like our leaders at the moment place little to no importance on the music industry as a whole," she told 10 daily.
"It doesn't just affect musicians on a personal level but consumers, people who work in hospitality, down to even people who make posters. It affects the vibrancy of NSW."
The Mountain Sounds organisers claimed there was a "war" on music festivals in NSW. Other festivals like Psyfari claimed the government was waging a "war on festivals" in "squeezing" events to comply with more onerous and expensive regulations.
"We are in total support of safer events. That is not something we have ever disagreed on," Psyfari organisers told 10 daily, but claimed that having a large police presence may cost up to $90 per ticketholder -- a financial impact that could not be absorbed.
"These costs fall onto festival organisers regardless of their event format or size, and will hit smaller scale festivals the hardest."
Maddah claimed the new regulations around police and health would "kill" many events.
"If you're a big festival like Soundwave with 90,000 patrons, you can absorb those costs. But for an event with 10,000 tickets, that will kill a lot of emerging events," he claimed.
10 daily can also reveal a new industry campaign titled Don't Kill Live Music, with members from some of Australia's biggest and most popular festivals, will officially launch on Wednesday morning.
The group claims the changes are "vilifying live music with knee-jerk regulation", and an online petition calling for change already attracted more than 6,000 signatures as of Tuesday night.