Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery gave a rock-star pep-talk to thousands at Sydney's Hyde Park on Thursday evening, calling for the Berejiklian Government to not kill live music.
A passionate Cr Bradbery joined an impressive lineup of speakers condemning "ill-conceived" changes to music festival licensing which are set to come into effect on March 1.
Others who addressed the crowd included head of Chugg Entertainment Michael Chugg, Julien Hamilton of ARIA-winning duo The Presets, Dave Faulkner of the hoodoo Gurus, Murray Cook of The Wiggles, among others. There were reports 20,000 were in the crowd.
"We are alive because of music, every generation including [Premier Gladys Berejiklian]'s needs to sing," Cr Bradbery yelled. "Live music brings people together ... it’s also an opportunity to celebrate our identity.
"It’s not going to be wiped out Gladys, it might go underground but it will still be there."
The movement claims the government is "vilifying" live music as a "knee-jerk" reaction to recent drug related deaths at festivals, with the new regulations made without consultation with industry stakeholders.
Supporters want the government to put a hold on the new regulations - which deem festivals from low to high risk, with expensive "user pays" safety measure for high risk events - until proper research and consultation can be conducted.
Organisers of the award-winning Byron Bay Bluesfest have vowed to move their event interstate if the regulations are enforced, as have organisers of Berry's Fairgrounds festival.
Mountain Sounds and Psyfari festival organisers have cancelled their events citing excessive costs including huge bills from NSW Police.
Cr Bradbery believed forcing some events out of business or to move would be detrimental to local economies but would also hurt the national economy, live music scene and freedom of expression.
“... at a festival, you might not only experience the live music but gee, you get some good ideas," he said.
"I think that’s the problem - you’re a mob of 'submersives', you’re thinking alt ways, you’re coming up with new ideas on how to lead this world out of the bloody mess it’s in.
"Music will lead us on to opportunities, music liberates us, music stretches the mind and the soul, and all I can think of is this is an attempt to shut us down and shut us up."
The message from several of the speakers was for young protesters to enrol to vote the government out.
"There’s an election just around the corner, make your voice heard. If you’re not enrolled to vote, make sure you enrol to vote. Make it the first thing you do after this rally," Mr Hamilton said.
MC Rhys Muldoon said Sydney was in danger of becoming like the fictional town in the film Footloose, which outlawed dancing and rock music.
The state government has tried to hose down outrage over the changes. They've admitted the regulations have been "confusing" while their risk matrix is now under review. On Tuesday Minister for Racing Paul Toole announced "low risk" music festivals would be exempt from a $650 licencing fee, though not from safety measures.
MusicNSW, alongside the Australian Festival Association (AFA), Live Performance Australia, APRA AMCOS and Live Music Office released a joint statement highlighting the government has still failed to provide clarity and certainty around its risk categories.
"It’s a fact that well run festivals with excellent safety records are already being affected by these new guidelines," they said. "Despite the industry’s willingness to work constructively with Government on these issues, the Premier’s approach to the festival industry has been an uncooperative and heavy-handed ‘put up or shut down’."
Among other issues, the rally called for the government to form a music regulation roundtable to review all regulation impacting live music, develop a transparent industry standard for user-pay policing and medical services, and work with the industry to develop achievable, effective and robust safety protocols for festivals.
Contemporary music and music festivals attracted six million attendees and generated $325 million in revenue for the NSW economy each year, according to the AFA.
- with SMH