More than 80,000 people have called on the NSW government to save music festivals


Australian musicians and festival organisers have come together to demand an end to the government's "war on music and culture in NSW".

A campaign to save NSW’s music festivals has gathered momentum after the cancellation of two events in recent weeks. 

In less than a week, the campaign has attracted the support of 80,000 people and more than 100 Australian musicians.

In an open letter - signed by Amy Shark, Bliss n Eso, The Presets, Eskimo Joe, Daryl Braithwaite, Courtney Barnett and Midnight Oil, among others - the Don’t Kill Live Music campaign called on the state government to review regulation affecting live music in NSW.

Musicians and festival organisers have rallied together to call for an end to the "war on music and culture in NSW".
Musicians and festival organisers have rallied together to call for an end to the "war on music and culture in NSW".

"The NSW State Government is vilifying live music with knee-jerk regulation. Instead of consulting with festival experts, the NSW government imposed punitive regulation that specifically targets music festivals, and music fans," the letter reads.

"Festivals are being used as a scapegoat for years of failed drug and alcohol policy."

The letter accompanied a petition, which has been signed by more than 80,000 people.

Julian Hamilton, one half of Australian ARIA-winning duo The Presets, told SBS News that he joined the campaign because was concerned for the future of Australian music.

"We earn a large portion of our income from performing at Festivals … if more and more festivals shut down it could become a problem for bands like us," he said.

"But much more importantly than that, I worry about younger bands, and younger music fans if more festivals close.

"Who knows, the next Courtney Barnett or Flume might have had a ticket to Mountain Sounds?"

The Presets accept the Album of the Year award at the ARIA's in Sydney.
The Presets accept the Album of the Year award at the ARIA's in Sydney.

Central Coast festival Mountain Sounds was scheduled to kick off on Friday, but less than a week out from the event, organisers announced its cancellation via Facebook, citing the "government’s war on festivals", including the requirement to pay $200,000 for user pay police, as the cause.

User pay police is a situation where people hosting large private events are expected to pay for additional police officers to patrol the event.

"Safety has always been of the utmost importance to us, and it was for this reason that we agreed to downsize our festival site, cancelling over 20 acts, to ensure we met newly imposed safety, licensing and security costs, in order to maintain the wellbeing of our patrons and still put on the show," the February 9 post read.

"A mere 7 days out from the event, further conditions and financial obligations were imposed on the festival, which were impossible to meet."

Days earlier, Psyfari Festival announced the cancellation of their 10th anniversary event also in a Facebook post.

On Monday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian hit back, however, and said it was "not fair to blame the government".

"It’s not just about making a quick dollar, it’s also about keeping the people who turn up safe," she said.

Australian electronic musicians Peking Duk condemned the Mountain Sounds Festival cancellation and encouraged fans to vote at the upcoming state election.

"We don’t force roads to close because of road fatalities, we don’t ban alcohol due to (much higher) deaths from alcohol, we don’t shut down casinos because of the trauma and grief they cause to the addicted," they said.

"So why are you targeting music festivals like this? Why are you targeting the events that give so much back to the community?"

New festival regulations are set to come into action from March 1, requiring organisers to apply for a specific liquor license which will be assessed by a panel of experts, including NSW Health, NSW Police and NSW Ambulance.

"It takes decades to create a fertile music and arts culture that feeds itself, rebuilds and regenerates itself over the generations," Mr Hamilton said. 

"Of course there is an economic value that music festivals bring to NSW, but just as important is the cultural value those festivals bring to us all."

Ms Berejiklian’s office has been contacted for comment.

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