Going out in Sydney is certainly not what it once was. Whatever type of nightlife you look for in the city, it’s inevitable the lockouts laws have impacted it.
One very unfortunate casualty over this time is Sydney’s live music scene. With fewer venues and more red tape, the once vibrant scene all but disappeared. Or so it seemed.
Music mogul Stephen Pavlovic, responsible for touring influential artists like Nirvana, Beastie Boys and Daft Punk, said that the scene is still there, it’s just underground.
“People have been forced to be a little more creative. I think we’ve seen an emergence of a lot of sort of underground parties, warehouse parties, strange parties even,” Pavlovic said.
“They’re not as obvious, unless you know about it you just wouldn’t know that they’re happening… I feel like there’s been heaps of things going on sort of underneath the radar, and then probably not as much as the obvious sort of stuff.”
With last month’s announcements by the Joint Select Committee to roll back many of the regulations, what’s bubbling under the surface in Sydney’s nightlife might be about to burst free. The committee’s report specifically called out the detriment of the regulations to the city’s music and creative scenes and recommended several areas where the government could help support the industry.
Acknowledging the impact on the live music industry and fostering it moving forward is a great first step. Sydney’s night time economy is obviously struggling, fighting a battle with the TV and food delivery which they’re currently losing.
Getting the upper hand in this fight is about making it more attractive to go out and stay in, and what better way to do this than by offering effortlessly great nights out?
Music is the key
Sydney as a whole has been impacted by the lock out laws, inside and outside the lock out zones.
The Joint Select Committee heard this year from the City of Sydney, who said almost 500,000 fewer young people have visited Sydney since the lockout laws created a negative perception of the nightlife. That’s a huge loss of potential patrons to venues anywhere in the city.
Coogee Bay Hotel is outside of the CBD lock out zone and although they weren’t directly impacted by the regulations, they understand the negative implications it’s had on the city. Christopher Cheung, Managing Director of C!NC Hotels (who owns and operates Coogee Bay Hotel), said music could be key to reversing these impacts.
“Live music is an essential part and imperative ingredient in any hospitality venue. The night-time economy in Australia has been founded on live music. In many ways, it’s engrained in our culture,” Cheung said.
Pavlovic agreed and said that people have to work too hard to experience music right now, and that’s a huge reason why the night time economy is struggling.
“It’s important for Sydney. We’re a world class city that has a below world class night life,” he said.
Mary’s Group also recognises the power of music for boosting the CBD. Their venues Mary’s Underground and The Lansdowne (both finalists for Best Live Music venue at ALIA) are within the CBD lockout zone, but continually create musical experiences and events for patrons.
The Group’s Director of Music and Entertainment, Josef Muller, said they’re trying to create easy reasons for people to get out of the house again.
“We want to make sure these venues are undeinably fun. That we are delivering a generosity to the experience, a sense of nurturing community and elevating and uplifting… so that patrons come in and enjoy themselves in these venues,” Muller said.
“Go see gigs and support live music. Ultimately the responsibility rests on each of us to get out there with our body and put bums in seats and stimulate the economy the best way that we can which is by going and interacting with it and participating in it.”
Another Sydney venue that is an ALIA finalist for Best Live Music is Merivale’s Vic on the Park. They say that music is the key to getting all ages, backgrounds and groups of people to boost the night time economy.
Events and Community Manager, Alex Smith, said: “we definitely see a desire from all demographics wanting to come and watch live music.”
Unite to fight
At this symbolic turning point for Sydney’s night life, the industry recognises that we’re stronger together. We’ve lost too many great venues in recent years.
Cheung said that while Coogee Bay Hotel wasn’t directly impacted by the CBD lockouts, C!NC recognises that the laws segmented venues and discouraged fair competition, which ultimately puts the consumer at risk.
“At Coogee Bay Hotel, we continue to promote Australian music so that everyone is able to enjoy this rite of passage in a safe environment,” he said.
Vic on the Park is also outside the CBD lockout zone. Smith said they’re lucky not to experience this segmented issue.
” We are lucky in the inner west that there are so many great live music venues that people can go to during a night and not feel restricted to pick one venue over another because of lock outs,” said Smith.
Muller meanwhile said that having healthy competitive venues means that the industry can nurture more artists in the community and boost the economy even further.
“If there was another touring ticketed music venue across the road from the Lansdowne, that would be a good thing,” Muller said. “Just because the more venues that are out there creating meaningful late night music events, the better for everybody. So just be bold and imaginative and not afraid to colour outside the lines a little bit.”
The Lansdowne is a great example of the potential opening up for Sydney venues once laws roll back more. Having recently received a 5am operating licence for Friday and Saturday nights, the venue partnered with Pavlovic and Baron Samedi to bring all night music event, ‘Dance Till You’re Dead.’
The free weekly event sees programming from a variety of well-known and emerging local DJs, alongside rum cocktail specials, until 5am.
Muller described the event and said: “its pretty fucking incredible really. I think it’s a really important stride forward for the city, to have this return to late night programming.”
Pavlovic said it’s a pivotal point for the city, including the collaboration between a brand and a venue for the purpose of supporting artists and consumers.
“The fact that Baron Samedi, are kind of resurrecting these moments of nightlife in Sydney and wanting to support that sort of essence of that with the Lansdowne, provides sort of an avenue for people and DJs, artists and musicians to continue to develop their careers in a really core club, without the restrictions of what the lockouts have done to a lot of other venues, it’s a really great thing.”