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Music industry set to rally as government says low-risk events will be ‘fee free’

Moving forward, festivals that are deemed “low risk” will have the licensing fee waived, while those that aren’t considered low risk will have to pay the full amount of $650 – which the government says is the equivalent of the special event licence fee most operators pay already.

“It is important to understand every event is considered on a case-by-case basis,” Toole said. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to risk assessment.”

Thousands of protesters will rally at Hyde Park on Thursday night.

Thousands of protesters will rally at Hyde Park on Thursday night. Credit:James Alcock

The announcement comes just hours ahead of the Don’t Kill Live Music rally in Sydney, which is expected to draw some 10,000 people protesting the government’s crackdown on festivals in recent months.

The regulations introduced by the Berejiklian government are a response to a string of drug-related deaths at music festivals in recent months, and have been blamed – at least partly – for the cancellation of popular NSW events.

In recent weeks, both Mountain Sounds and Psyfari festivals have cancelled their 2019 events, saying excessive rules and the government’s “war on festivals” had left them with no other choice.

With frustration mounting among musicians and fans alike, a coalition of music industry groups planned the protest at Hyde Park with the aim of delivering a simple message to the government: “Don’t kill live music”.

Last week, some of Australian music’s biggest names, including Bernard Fanning, Vance Joy and promoter Michael Chugg, signed an open letter that declared the government “is killing live music in Australia” with the introduction of the excessive regulations.

Singer-songwriter Olympia – who will perform at the rally along with Ocean Alley and The Rubens – shared the sentiment, describing the government response as a “knee-jerk reaction”.

“This is about cultural attrition,” she said. “Less opportunity for artists to play means there’ll be less artists.”

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Live Performance Australia chief executive Evelyn Richardson met with government representatives on Wednesday to ask that the consultation process with music industry groups be extended beyond March 1.

“There is no transparency or clarity about how this new model is going to work,” Richardson said. “We need to see the total package – in draft form – of what this scheme is going to look like.”

With the state set to hit the polls in just over a month, Richardson warned the industry unrest would develop into a “major election issue” if left unresolved.

A spokesperson for the rally said festivals “are being used as a scapegoat for years of failed drug and alcohol policy” and described the new scheme as “punitive”.

“Instead of consulting with festival experts,” the spokesperson said, “the NSW government imposed punitive regulation that specifically targets music festivals, and music fans.”

High-profile supporters of the Don’t Kill Live Music rally include Amy Shark, Daryl Braithwaite, Peking Duk, Midnight Oil, Rüfüs Du Sol and Vance Joy. Meanwhile, a change.org petition had attracted more than 114,000 signatures as of Thursday morning.

Josh Dye is a news reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.

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