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Published on 13th July 2017

What The **** Does The Music Industry Have To Do To Catch A Break With You People?


Originally published on Pulse.

To the Daily Telegraph, and the wider conservative media and its readership; to the stubborn state government, and the entitled residents of The Toaster; to the fiscally blinkered local Sydney councils, to the unchecked property developers, the over-zealous police and to those absolute neck beards who demanded the Keep Sydney Open banner hung from Kings Cross Hotel be removed…

Oh and you there, comfy on your inner city couch, on the blower complaining to the police because a distant melodic rumble around 9pm is underscoring your Grand Designs re-runs. Yes, I’m talking to you most of all.

What the fuck does the music industry have to do to catch a break with you people?

We are not defined by the illegal activity and bad behaviour which sometimes occurs in our scene, as it does when any large group of humans collects en masse. We celebrate creativity and community; we employ, we entertain, we bring huge amounts of joy to huge amounts of people and sweet baby jebus why do you make it so hard for us to do it?

Our inner city festivals co-operate with local police and comply with regulations to the nth degree: finishing before most of our European friends would have sat down to dinner, capping sound levels and allowing police to intimidate and conduct invasive searches on clientele. And yet the point from which local police begin discussions with organisers is to state that their ideal scenario is for everyone to stay at home and the festival not to go ahead. We bring the biggest music acts in the world to our city and host landmark performances, and yet in mainstream media the events are reduced exclusively to their incident statistics.

Our club scene weathers closure after closure, as lockout laws and property development create an almost untenable climate in which to operate a business after dark. Our musicians leave the city because their opportunities are dwindling and their financial support has been cut. Our venue operators wade doggedly through a jungle of over-zealous health and safety hoops, bureaucratic red tape and inflated licensing fees set in place by councils with an agenda to shut them down. Police aggressively storm our clubs, intimidate patrons and shut premises down when they find evidence of drug dealing nearby, and when they don’t find evidence, they do it anyway.

Happy campers at Meet Me In The Cross, a Keep Sydney Open festival - by Scott Bruce

We acknowledge our industry’s drug culture is dangerous, and try to take proactive steps to increase safety like introducing festival drug testing capabilities already proven to be effective overseas, but the government thwarts our attempts at harm minimisation every step of the way, believing it’s safer for police to apprehend approximately 3% of the total amount of drug takers at an event than for its attendees to have the means to test their substances for life-threatening unexpected contents.

Club owners employ on-site paramedics to assist patrons with everything from blister bandaids to the dreaded overdose, but instead of approval the club receives a front page spread on The Daily Telegraph attacking it, using a responsible decision and out of context statistics to paint a sensationalist and misleading picture of the venue as a "notorious, over-dose plagued” den of iniquity - and you lap it up.

And when you’re not on the attack, you’re patronising us. Our State Premier takes to commercial radio to discuss lockout laws and refers to the diverse group of people over 18 who enjoy going out to drink and hear music late at night as “kids” for whom lockouts are the only solution, because “mums and dads in the suburbs are worried about what their kids are doing”. “Kids” who apparently need lockout laws to “tell them it’s not OK to get drunk and hit people”. I am a tax paying, non-violent working professional pushing 30, Gladys, I just don’t feel like going to bed yet, alright?

Daily Telegraph front page on Sydney's Home nightclub - via inthemix

I wish we could say we don’t care about what you think of us, but we do. There’s only so much disrespect a body of people can take before they start to get really demoralised, or they get angry, or they move to Melbourne.

Perhaps the hardest to bear is the hypocrisy. I’m sick to death of being told my habits are unsafe by high functioning alcoholics sitting over their second bottle of red on a Wednesday plotting how they're going to negative gear the universe.

The government lifts lockout laws for major sporting events, but not major music events. It inexplicably exempts the Star City Casino from the lockout zone which applies to all venues surrounding it, despite the casino’s under-reporting of its high rate of violent incidents. You hear about that, and maybe you frown, maybe you raise an eyebrow, but generally you accept it, and months, now years go by and nothing is done. But woe betide the venue owner who raises a banner for Keep Sydney Open without filling in the correct forms—an outrage like that is dealt with in hours.

Nevertheless, we persist. We respond like the adults we are, because despite what the Daily Telegraph preaches, all over the world the nightlife industry has transitioned from unregulated subculture to responsible industry. We protest peacefully and we march in great number which the media under reports and the government ignores. We throw multi-venue music events in full compliance with whatever red tape is thrown our way, and we devise a critically acclaimed plaque campaign, receiving international attention. We launch fundraisers and we point you towards the many, many examples in other parts of the world of how a flourishing music and nightlife industry can also be a safe one. But none of this seems to reach you.

Keep Sydney Open protest concert - by Ryan James Kenny

You attack us ethically, you prohibit us physically, and you ignore us intellectually, then you throw us a half-hour lockout extension bone, and we are supposed to say thank you?

We want our turf back. Hell, we just want some turf - any turf - where we can feel free to be noisy, weird and uninhibited.

And for that, we need to you compromise. Yes, even you there on the inner city couch. Stop calling noise complaints in before 9pm during major cultural festivals. Stop calling noise complaints in at 7pm for acoustic music in a pub. Stop calling noise complaints in for a busker playing classical piano at 11pm on a Friday night on King street, Sydney’s busiest nightlife strip since the government reduced George street to scaffolding and choc tops.

You no longer value the aspects which attracted you to inner city living in the first place but you're too damn trendy to move 20 minutes further out and raise your family in the suburbs where it’s supposed to be quiet - and it’s kind of selfish.

I know the music and nightlife scene is not perfect. I know we get too wasted sometimes, and we make poor decisions, and I know some of us have bad habits of trashing fields and trashing our bodies. I know sometimes we hurt each other, and sometimes we lose control, and occasionally, tragically, we die.

But the vast majority of the time, we just dance.

We live here too. You may own all of Sydney’s property, but we are as much a part of its identity as you are. This is our city. You’re going to have to share.

Sydney music industry's front line of defence - by Sam Whiteside

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