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Queensland Lockout Laws Could Force BIGSOUND Interstate, Say Organisers

The head of QMusic, which is responsible for bringing us Australia’s biggest annual music industry conference BIGSOUND in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, says organisers could be forced to move the event interstate if the introduction of Queensland’s lockout laws results in the same level of venue closures as has occurred in Sydney’s Kings Cross.

The State government reached a deal this week to pass the strictest lockout laws in the country, with 1am lockouts and 2am last drinks (3am in some “lucky” precincts) to be rolled out over the next year.

QMusic Executive Officer Joel Edmondson says the Palaszczuk Government didn’t consider the impact that the lockouts might have on Brisbane’s music community before they pushed through with a deal to implement the laws, nor was there any consultation with live music stakeholders, Queensland Attorney General Yvette D’Ath only agreeing to meet the day before the legislation went through Parliament.

“It’s taken a lot for politicians to even give us a meeting,” he said, adding that “No one in government has been able to assure me that what’s happened in Kings Cross won’t happen in Fortitude Valley”.

By “what’s happened in Kings Cross”, Edmondson is referring to the near annihilation of the party precinct’s night time culture, resulting in the decimation of at least 16 venues, hundreds of jobs and an up to 80 per cent plunge in foot traffic.

On top of that, the Federal Government’s Live Music Office today revealed that live music ticket sales in the Sydney CBD lockout zone have crashed by a devastating 40 per cent since the laws were introduced.

While Edmondson is confident that the new laws won’t affect the continued vibrancy of BIGSOUND itself (as the festival’s showcases generally wrap up by midnight) should Fortitude Valley suffer the same devastating amount of venue closures as Sydney’s Kings Cross, he says organisers may have no option but to change location.

Such a move would “seriously damage Queensland’s reputation as a place where arts and culture are nourished,” he explains “and would take over $3 million dollars out of the local economy.”

The QMusic boss says there is a “complete ignorance” in the Queensland government about how live music venues actually operate, citing a common and misguided belief that because most live music events wrap up before 1am that the lockout laws will have no effect on them.

“The argument that it won’t affect live music is a complete fallacy,” he says.

As Edmondson explains, most venues that choose to host live music events make the majority of their money after midnight, between the hours of 12am and 3am, after the music has actually wrapped up.

This means that the most lucrative time slot for the majority of the state’s live music venues will be directly impacted by the lockouts, which could have a severe knock-on effect for their ability to continue hosting live music (or to, you know, survive).

Despite this troubling fact, Edmondson says he’s been told directly by representatives of the Premier that venues will just have to “find a way of incentivising people to come out earlier” or else face their own destruction.

“Innovate or die” is the message, he says.

Edmondson is calling on the state government to work with QMusic and others in the music industry to develop a “contemporary music strategy for the state”, which they hope will encourage the government to finally engage seriously with live music, an industry that generates Queensland’s economy a whopping $1.9 billion per annum.

On Thursday, Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath pledged to work with venues and the live music industry during the implementation period of the new lockout measures. Edmondson says he’s eagerly awaiting her call.

“I’m expecting a call from the Premier and the Attorney General that proves they’re actually serious and committed to engaging meaningfully with the challenges and opportunities for contemporary music in Queensland.”

Meanwhile, in Sydney, the lockout laws which have torn the heart right out of the city are finally up for review, as thousands of punters gear up to participate in a mass demonstration against their continued existence this Sunday.

Gallery: BIGSOUND Live 2015, Day 2 – Brisbane / Photos By Rebecca Reid

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