South Australian contemporary live music: What needs to be done

Build on the Small Venues Licence


  • Issue: A Small Venues Licence was recently introduced in South Australia, enabling 120 person bars to host live entertainment. However, the licence is only available for small venues in the CBD area. Further, while the new Small Venue License should allow small bars to host music, this can be denied if the local government sector blocks planning and development approvals. 
  • Action: The Small Venue Licence needs amendment to ensure it fulfils its objectives.


Support Small Venues in the Liquor Licensing Code of Practice


  • Issue: SLAM was alarmed to see a draft code of practice for late night trading that would require all venues open past midnight to hire ‘Drink Marshalls’ to ‘continuously’ wander the venue for no apparent purpose and other, high cost, draconian measures.
  • This approach might be necessary for high risk venues with a track record of violent and anti-social behaviour, but for smaller venues with little or no history of such problems they’re extremely expense, unnecessary hurdles.
  • Ultimately, ‘Drink Marshalls’ will price smaller, lower profit and more community focused spaces out of the market and reinforce the dominance of the big beer barns.
  • Action: If South Australia wants a vibrant evening economy, it needs to support small venues with a tiered approach to liquor licensing, not automatically assume all businesses open at night are inherently high risk.


Repeal the 'Need Test' in the Liquor Licensing Act


  • Issue: The Liquor Licensing Act 1997 still includes a ‘Need Test’, which was abolished in other States after it was deemed anti-competitive by National Competition Policy. Under this test a new licensee must prove there is a ‘social need’ for their licence to be granted. Other, larger businesses in the area use this to claim there is no ‘need’ and argue no new licences should not be granted.
  • As the costs of licensing lawyers and the associated delays in trading time can drive smaller businesses into bankruptcy, the ‘Need Test’ is used by larger venues to effectively block applications for licences by new venues, which has a negative impact on the regeneration of live music venues in South Australia.
  • Action: The Need Test must be repealed in the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 in line with practice in other States.


Amend local government licensing and planning policy


  • Issue: The Adelaide City Council declared its intention to produce a Live Music Action Plan for 2012-13, however, the lack of action on the Action Plan has been disappointing. The Council's major outcome for the year seems to be investing in a temporary Fringe venue that will host Irish singer Ronan Keating, which isn’t exactly a boon for the local music industry.
  • Local governments in South Australia have retained problematic licensing policies that can deny planning permission to licensed venues based on arbitrary things such as “No Grunge Music” and “Only one and two piece groups”.
  • Action: Archaic anti-entertainment clauses within the Development Act 1993 and local government policy must be reviewed and amended or repealed as appropriate.



Amend relevant legislation to help protect small and medium sized venues


  • Issue: Like most Australian States, South Australia requires a higher level of building compliance for venues wishing to host live entertainment than those who focus only on television screens or pokies. This occurs regardless of venue capacity.
  • In effect, the way the law works now means 200 people can gather in a bar to watch a screen or play the pokies, but as soon as a band steps on the stage the venue enters into a higher level of building compliance and must undertake serious upgrades. Most small venues simply can’t afford those upgrades.
  • Action: South Australia needs to revise definitions of entertainment in both the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 and the Development Act 1993 and follow NSW’s lead in producing a Building Code variation to protect small and medium sized venues.


Support the establishment of new music venues


  • Issue: South Australia has reasonably strong recognitions of prior occupancy to protect existing venues from noise complaints. However, as venues have shut down, the Environment Protection Act 1993 and concerns from residents have inhibited the capacity of new venues to open. 
  • Action: The Environment Protection Act 1993 should be reviewed and amended as appropriate to ensure it does not unreasonably hinder new music venues from opening.


Increase funding for local music


  • Issue: The South Australian Gaming Machines Act 1992 provides a community benefit fund of $20 million dollars including $500,000 per annum to contemporary music from pokies revenue.  However, this funding doesn’t appear to have been indexed since it started, which means the financial contribution to the music industry has decreased in real terms. ArtsSA and MusicSA work hard to support live music but the investments in infrastructure are inadequate.
  • Action: South Australia needs support from other key government departments, like planning, and greater local government support directed at the local music scene and the venues that support it.