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Footloose: Sydney music-goers told to “keep dancing”

Thousands of protestors rallied behind Sydney's live music scene at Hyde Park

Protestors attend live music rally, photograph of protestors and some signs taken near Hyde Park Fountain

Thousands of people rallied in Hyde Park last Thursday 21 January in protest of the “death sentence” handed to music festival organisers two weeks ago.

Musicians, entertainers, and politicians alike attended the event organised by Don’t Kill Live Music Australia to express concerns for new festival licensing legislation, effective March 1. The legislation extends the power of NSW Liquor and Gaming, and also imposes costly requirements on festival organisers in terms of security presence, ambulance services, and liquor licensing.

A change.org petition and the recent cancellation of Central Coast music festival Mountain Sounds were key points raised by speakers, who urged Sydney music-goers to “keep dancing.”

The rally’s lineup of speakers and performers included Triple J Hottest 100 winners Ocean Alley, actor Rhys Muldoon, and The Wiggles alumnus Murray Cook, who all expressed significant concern over the new measures that were described as “Lockout 2.0.”

The collective protest, backed by festival organisers, touring companies and 2019 NSW state election contender Keep Sydney Open, said that the new legislation is a “knee-jerk” response from the government that is impacting all festivals and endangering the live music scene. Independent Sydney City Councillor Jess Scully emphasised the apparent lack of consultation with key organisers and experts in the industry.

“Rather than taking an evidence-based approach, this government introduced legislation that just shuts it down,” said Scully in a speech at the rally.

Australian hip-hop MC, Tim Levinson (Urthboy) criticised Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s response as “irresponsible… willing to put livelihood at risk to hide her failure to create safe spaces at music festivals.”

Julian Hamilton of The Presets cited music festivals as a formative aspect of his own interest and career as a musician, saying, “the culture feeds itself… its legacy gets richer and more diverse. It takes decades to build this.”

Gordon Bradbery, Lord Mayor of the City of Wollongong, spoke about the changes seen in regional NSW, fearing for further impacts that the legislation may have.

“Live music festivals are going to suffer under what’s been proposed… [it’s] ill-conceived and not on,” said Bradbery.

Honi spoke to Zac Triantafilis, a third-year University of Sydney student and DJ present at the rally. “DJing is great to do… in public and it’s something that attracts people to Sydney  — it’s always united different people. I rely on live music, it’s what I want to do in the future, it’s what I want to do now.” Speakers urged voters to familiarise themselves with the policies in the lead-up to the upcoming election, and to vote in favour of protecting live music and festival culture to keep Australian music alive.