‘Don’t Kill Live Music’ rally to attract thousands in Sydney

NSW youth take to the streets to protest at the NSW government’s “war on festivals”

Thousands of people are expected to rally in Hyde Park in central Sydney on Thursday evening, outraged by new laws which they fear will damage the live music scene.

The organisers of the Mountain Sounds Festival, which has been affected by the laws, have described them as “diminishing” the festival climate in NSW, while prominent musician, c, has labelled the laws as “backwards”.

The NSW government has unveiled the new laws affecting NSW music festivals, which it says are aimed at minimising drug-related harm at such events. It comes after a string of drug-related deaths at music festivals.

Under the new laws, to take effect on March 1, the NSW Liquor and Gaming department will have jurisdiction over entire events, not just their sale of alcohol.

Each festival will be rated from low to high risk, and a user-pays policy on police and medical costs will be imposed, with the festival footing the bill.

The laws have sparked a backlash from the music industry, spearheaded by the “Don’t Kill Live Music” campaign.

change.org petition protesting against the laws gained more than 111,000 signatures in the days before the rally was due to take place.

The rally has support from a number of prominent figures in the music industry.

Jon Perring, owner of live music venues in Melbourne, says that “destroying musical culture will not prevent deaths related to drugs”. He says only one per cent of drug-related deaths in NSW occur at festivals.

MusicNSW, the industry body, says the changes to the law have gone ahead without industry consultation, and without a regulatory impact statement.

Australian Festival Association’s spokesperson, Adelle Robinson, says the changes will have a profound social and economic effect on NSW. Festivals, he notes, “contribute millions of dollars to rural, regional and urban communities in NSW”.

So far, in 2019, the Mountain Sounds and Psyfari festivals have been cancelled,  while other festivals have moved interstate (Rabbits Eat Lettuce) or threatened to move (Bluesfest).

Mountain Sounds was rated as high risk under the new policy and reportedly charged $200,000 for increased policing, only one week out from the event – a sum not not within their budget. Musicians and promoters were shocked that the event was deemed high risk, with musician Reuben Styles noting that it had “a five-year track record of no safety issues”.

At a press conference following the recent festival cancellations, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian argued that it “isn’t fair for festival organisers to blame anybody but themselves”.

She added: “The festival organisers just have to obey the law … We now have laws in place to make the event safer, and if you can’t spend money on making the event safer, that’s a decision for you but you can’t blame the government.”

The rally kicks off at 6pm and will feature high-profile Australian artists including The Reubens and Triple J Hottest 100 winners Ocean Alley. Former Wiggles Murray Cooke, music promoter Michael Chugg and City of Sydney Councillor Jess Scully are among the speakers.