Opinion //

DJ dreams dashed by lockout

Frances Magiera on the unintended consequences of Sydney’s lockout laws

Cecil Rhodes, atop a Washington Monumentesqe chair, DJs like no other. DaRhodes Sandstone, Katie Thorburn

Festivals, nightclubs, parties… all shut down. It’s no new topic of debate, but, despite the heavy media coverage of Sydney’s lockout laws and consequent nightlife crisis, few realize just how much these changes have impeded the future of young DJs.

Music is an integral part of Sydney’s nightlife. A lot of the Australian artists who have spoken out in opposition to the lockout laws have produced some incredible electronic and acoustic music. It is both shocking and saddening to think, had these laws existed in their time, these artists may have never emerged.

The pressure on venues to keep afloat has resulted in managers choosing to book fewer DJs. Lach Mackay is a Sydney DJ who had a residency at SOHO, a nightclub that closed last year as a result of the lockouts. Since then, he has been struggling to get regular gigs in the city because the demand for DJs has decreased dramatically. “Personally, I think it’s shocking that when you go walking around Kings Cross (and the rest of the CBD) on a Friday or Saturday night, it literally feels like a ghost town… there’s no liveliness and people walk around cautiously,” he says.

There has already been a 19 per cent attendance decline for live venues, and this vicious cycle will only continue. “I’ve just come back from a six week Europe trip, and the nightlife over there is really exciting, but you also feel comfortable walking around the streets,” Mackay tells me. “For us DJs and producers, it makes it really hard to not only get gigs, but we also have to rely on things like social media and word of mouth to get our music out to people and create a fan base.”

This leads me to question the future for budding DJs and other musicians. Had it not been for the once-vibrant Sydney nightlife, many of our homegrown and now internationally recognised electronic artists may not have made it. Who will we be listening to in five or ten years?

A close friend of mine is an upcoming Sydney artist. Yes, he shares his passion through online mixtapes and DJing at friends’ parties. Yes, he goes clubbing and networks with those at venues to get a foot in the door for prospective gigs. Yes, he saw clubbing in Sydney before the February 2014 lockout laws were introduced. But sadly, no, he will probably not get the opportunity to perform at such venues.

Unfortunately, we can’t all move overseas or interstate to further our nightlife pursuits. The less drastic option is to fight to keep Sydney’s nightlife open. Acclaimed artists, including WhatSoNot, Alison Wonderland and Flight Facilities, have publicised the #keepsydneyopen campaign via social media.

The lockout laws affect so much more than just the mass of club-goers no longer having a “proper” night out. Fighting the lockout laws may be the last viable solution for Sydney’s upcoming DJ’s, because at this rate, there is no future in nightlife entertainment.