Too little too late? Crisis meeting held to revive NSW music festivals

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A group of representatives from festivals across New South Wales have gathered today to call on the NSW Government to scrap new music festival licensing regulations.

UPDATE: It has been revealed that Mountain Sounds has gone into liquidation after having to cancel its February event. 

Documents obtained by Music Feeds show that the festival owes over $1.5 million to hundreds of creditors, including $893,000 to ticketing company Eventbrite, $89,000 to the Australian Taxation Office and fees to artists the featured on the 2019 line-up.

Representatives from more than 30 music festivals held across New South Wales have met with the state government today, to address recent changes to festival liquor licensing laws.

Last week, the Berejiklian government announced a new ‘user pays’ clause to be added on to existing laws. The addition would see ‘higher risk’ festivals be required to pay for increased emergency services on site.

Mountain Sounds and Psyfari - two festivals recently cancelled over the higher costs - claim the last minute changes contributed to their shut downs.

Changes to music festival laws include a 'user pays' clause for more emergency services.
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“As a direct result of the NSW Government’s rushed new music festival licensing regime, scheduled to come into effect on 1 March 2019, numerous music festivals in NSW are being forced to close or look at options outside NSW,” the group’s official statement read.

There has been no public consultation and no genuine engagement with industry on the proposed changes.

Mountain Sounds representative Nathaniel Holmes described being handed the new requirements mere moments before festival construction began.

“Every communication to date gave us a certain figure, even 15 minutes before walking into the meeting we were sent the invoice,” Holmes said.

Today’s meeting group, hosted by Greens MP Cate Faehrmann and Independent MP Alex Greenwich, expressed concern that the licensing updates were not being subjected to a regulatory impact statement.

Despite the grave topic matter, MusicNSW managing director Emily Collins has praised the meeting for attempting to clear up the confusion surrounding the new liquor licensing laws.

It was great to see this discussion happening at the NSW Parliament House.

“There has been minimal consultation with festival promoters and broader industry around this significant regulation change. It’s incredibly important for us to make sure that businesses impacted by this get a chance to share their concerns,” Collins told The Feed.

Collins remains concerned about just what the licensing update will mean for festivals - given the very little info they have to work from. The full details of the changes will be announced on February 28 - just one day before they come into effect.

“There is widespread confusion about the details and impact of the new regime …. the industry is just asking for transparency and certainty,” Collins said.

Today, the group also affirmed their support for the Don’t Kill Live Music petition. More than 100,000 people have signed on to the appeal, calling on the government to rethink the stricter conditions.

Signatories includes Australian music royalty like Bernard Fanning and Vance Joy, as well as major festivals including Byron Bay Bluesfest and Splendour In The Grass.

For those affected - including MusicNSW - it’s a waiting game.

“It seems as things will push full steam ahead on March 1st and that’s bad news for the NSW Festival industry.”