During the 1970s in Sydney, the live music scene gathered momentum in numerous pubs and large licensed clubs. There were some smaller independent venues around but they often found it difficult to compete with the financial clout of the larger operators. For the pubs and clubs, promoting live music was a lucrative means of attracting patrons and boosting their alcohol sales. All this changed of course when poker machines began to proliferate, especially in pubs during the 90s, and live music gave way to the one-armed bandits.
In the ensuing years, a whole range of factors has seen live music take a back seat within the broad entertainment spectrum. With seemingly fewer and fewer venues for musicians to perform. The positive news is that change is happening, regardless of the state of the current lockout laws. Punters still want to experience the cultural interaction of live music and new venues are appearing to satisfy that demand.
Small bar licences have made the process of starting a venue a lot easier, as has support from local councils, however, it can still be a struggle for the small independent owner. One recent success story is that of The Newsagency in Camperdown and its founder Alison Avron, a musician herself, who established the original venue’s home in Marrickville in a former newsagency.
The initial venue thrived in a suburb that has embraced live music with a passion, taking its place alongside other successes such as The Camelot Lounge, The Factory, The Red Rattler, Gasoline Pony, Marrickville Bowlo and Lazybones.
After a falling out with the landlord over renovations to the premises, Alison moved to her current location in Camperdown. A sympathetic local council helped facilitate the move as Alison recalls.
“Inner West Council did the best they could with the procedures they have. The General Manager at the time Harjeet Atwal and Mayor Darcy Byrne really did their best to make the process as smooth as possible and get the venue across the line.”
However, Alison also points to the red tape and compliance requirements that can make starting such a venue a painful and expensive process.
“It would be great if council could do case by case development applications. Presently, if you want to get a music venue council approved you’re lumped in with the same DAs that are applying to be multi-story apartment buildings and skyscrapers. A lot of the process doesn’t make sense for small operations. It’s pretty off putting and also very costly.”
If you speak with any of the established small to medium venue owners such as Foundry616 or Venue505, they will all tell you a similar story, when it comes to meeting council compliance. As Alison notes.
“It’s difficult at the moment because council makes it difficult. The arts and culture side are still yet to talk with the planning side of council. If the governing body isn’t communicating properly, it’s an uphill battle for anyone wanting to follow in the example of not just me, but other people pioneering and dedicating their lives for live music in Sydney.”
There is a renaissance when it comes to small independent music venues in Sydney and it’s not surprising that it’s the more progressive council areas that accommodate ventures such as The Newsagency. There is still much to be done however in making the start up process a lot easier, less expensive and generally less painful, for owners whose prime motivation in starting these venues is often their sheer passion for live music.
This Saturday, July 6 The Newsagency plays host to the Sydney Improvised Music Association (SIMA) as they present a unique double album launch featuring the remarkable international percussionist and composer Laurence Pike as well as the ground breaking trio, Lumberjack. It’s a great opportunity to hear some cutting edge music in one of this city’s cosiest and most welcoming venues.
Details at www.thenewsagencyvenue.com