Live Music - Voices of Change

By Simon Barnett

Live music in St Kilda has partly been affected by existing and out of date residential and sound restrictions laid down by the state government in 1989 and policed by the EPA, police, council and Liquor Licensing. At least one venue owner has had fines withdrawn and criminal charges substituted.


However, the first day of May saw the Espy in St Kilda hosting a new direction for St Kilda’s live music industry, which was the brainchild of the City of Port Phillip.


Organised and run by Music Victoria, this was the first time where venue owners, various live music interested parties, St Kilda Live Music, the City of Port Phillip’s Art and Soul Advisory Panel and the council were able to hear about each other’s issues and begin an open conversation on how some of these problems may be resolved.


The state government and local councils have realised that live music can play an important part in strengthening the state’s economy.


The Mayor of the City of Port Phillip, Dick Gross agrees that a plan needs to be put in place so that live music is reinstated as vital and vibrant as it could possibly be and that residents support it.


Patrick Donovan, CEO of Music Victoria, realises the pressure that venue operators are having with many of the current compliances and their own time availability and encourages these venue operators to work with his organisation to help workshop the issues to avoid future problems.

Pictures by Simon Barnett

Owner of the Vineyard Johnny Iodice said, “We’re here mainly because there are things of concern at the moment in St Kilda, noise. Lately everyone’s been hit with these sound restrictions that seem to be affecting the whole atmosphere of the St Kilda music industry.”


All these issues have had an effect on general business in St Kilda and no doubt is part of the reason that live music in St Kilda has suffered.


“St Kilda use to be the incubator of popular rock music in Australia ... and there are a couple of issues. First of all, we’ve lost our primacy in the field and secondly, we’ve got the eternal problem of balancing the needs of residence versus the problem with noise and the rock industry,” said the Mayor. “Melbourne is a live music hub and now St Kilda shares live music with the northern suburbs ... and with the city, so we use to monopolise it. Live music is really important for internal tourism, people don’t come from overseas to listen to local music ... people from the other side of the Yarra do, people from down south do and we have to build that back up again in St Kilda and Port Phillip generally.


All the council members in attendance at the Espy on that day agreed that the issues around Live Music in St Kilda and the venue problems need to be prioritised and fixed.

About 70 people attended this special event at the Espy. The proceedings were moderated by Patrick Donovan and began with a few guest speakers giving some background and information with a discussion panel that included representatives from St Kilda Live Music and The Palais. But the afternoon workshop was where the real action occurred and what the event was all about.


Suzi Q P Dhol, President of St Kilda Live Music said, “It’s been an us and them situation, I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about the way we present and program our music in St Kilda and I think today was a great step forward in some venues not feeling alone in that presentation of music. We’re all in the same boat and we have similar issues.”

Picture by Simon Barnett

The second part of the event was a workshop where blank sheets of paper were used to create lists of problems and resolutions where everyone had the opportunity to add to the lists. The themes covered were; Live music as part of a business growth model, audience growth, regulations and compliances (noise, residents, access) and people and place: Build our reputation as a music destination.


How does live music contribute to the City of Port Phillip’s landscape and culture? (developing artists, creating a vibrant music city/precinct, growing the economy, marketing this to the world).


“We’re all residents, we all want to get some sleep at night so it’s basically a bit of give or take … at some stage the residence will be represented as well before some of these things are passed by the council. It’s all about basically trying to work together understanding each other’s needs,” said Patrick.


Sally Jones, Manager Cultural and Economic Development at CoPP said, “While this is just one action it is a really meaty action, it’s really important. You can even listen to people in the room ... there’s so many things they’re been wanting to say for so long and now we’re asking them, it’s really really good to get it on the table.”


“I was really really thrilled with how everyone got engaged and how people weren’t slagging off council unnecessarily, I think they realised this is the opportunity for council to hear and actually to listen and to see how they can help so I was really happy with the tone of the day,” said Patrick.


“Five years ago, we had no support from government or councils and we’ve come a long way and they’re listening and they’re understanding and appreciating the value of music to communities. We feel like we’ve turned the Titanic and now it’s basically just making sure that everyone’s consulted. The fact that council are listening I think was very positive for a number of people in the room today.”


Sally said, “We’re the offices I suppose that are given the opportunity to do [work this problem] but it really is to make sure we are addressing what council have asked. They’re representing people, everyone in the community as well as the performers [and] venue owners.


Vivienne Corcoran, from the City of Port Phillip Art and Soul Advisory Panel said, “I just think it’s been a really good chance for everybody to have input. There was some update stuff [at the beginning] that you know probably not all of us needed to hear, but it was a really good chance for them to have input and find ways of making it work.”


Suzi.Q said, “I think Music Victoria did an admirable job as did the council. They (Music Victoria) are doing and instigating something that obviously they have done many times before in other council areas and getting everyone together under the one roof is very admirable. I think every area has its own unique issues and that’s something that I think we managed to get across today with all the venue owners being here. St Kilda is not like any other suburb, our set of issues is completely different to every other suburb issues.”


The Mayor summed up and said, “My hope is that we can support the live music industry as much as possible and deal with the amenity issues, it will never be perfect. But rock music’s been here longer than a number of unit developments so the pre-existing use has to be acknowledged.”

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