Letting the Music Play On

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Thursday, December 11th, 2014
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Let the music play on
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People are increasingly attracted to the buzz of inner city life, but are less impressed when that buzz is ringing in their ears at three in the morning.

A vibrant live music scene adds zing and zest to a city’s cultural life. It attracts a diverse mix of people, provides entertainment options, generates jobs and provides many small businesses with valuable income streams.

There’s a growing conflict between music lovers soaking up the sounds at pubs and clubs, concert halls and stadia, and with residents wanting silence.

It isn’t just an issue for the denizens of inner city precincts, either. Live music can be heard throughout Australian suburbs – from choir rehearsals and tap classes at community halls to primary school pianists and garage bands jamming in suburban streets.

A single complaint can cost music venues thousands of dollars. In some cases, conflict between residents and venues has only abated when the music has been switched off permanently.

As the land use patterns of our cities change, we will need to grapple with this issue. Larger houses are being replaced by town houses and units, bringing neighbours closer together. Commercial and industrial areas are being rezoned for residential development.

Investment in sound proofing is an obvious solution, and governments should consider financial support for smaller venues to help them upgrade their acoustic treatments. But there are other solutions too.

The City of Sydney, for example, has recently released a report which recommends planning changes to “create a receptive environment for live music and performance venues,” managing noise level expectations among residents living near music venues and promoting alternative dispute resolution processes. Mayor Clover Moore has warned that the city’s live music scene would die without the changes.

In Melbourne, new planning laws place the responsibility for sound proofing squarely with the new development. This means developers of new apartments need to invest in soundproofing from the outset. It also means new venues cannot open without considering the impact on their neighbours.

In Canberra, meanwhile, a pilot study of the capital’s commercial areas is examining current regulations and potential changes to noise levels in areas such as New Acton, which is the site of rising tensions between residents and music venues.

Live music brings vibrancy and vitality to our cities, and adds heart and soul to what would otherwise be bricks and mortar. Balancing everyone’s needs can ensure peace, harmony and lots of lovely live music.

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