Australian News 3/29

Forum To Revitalise Live Scene

Revitalising the country’s live scene will be the topic of a discussion forum held April 5 at the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA)’s inaugural three-day Song Summit Sydney, which is aimed at songwriter issues.

Discussing the problems the sector faces and ways to go forward, the "Live Music Revolution" forum will include Bill Healey, the Australian Hotels Association’s director of national affairs; Anthony Ball, Clubs NSW’s executive manager of policy and government; and John Hart, chief exec of Restaurant & Catering Australia.

Dean Ormston, APRA’s Director of Communications, said songwriters also need a healthy live scene.

"Music creators and venue operators have common concerns about the shrinking opportunities for punters to enjoy live music performances," he said. "In recent years, venues have struggled to comply with a host of onerous regulations that have made the decision to host live entertainment difficult and expensive."

APRA in recent weeks received data from hotels, clubs, restaurants and catering businesses in an online survey.


Changes Triggered For Live Scene

The Live Music Revolution forum to take place on April 5 is timely, given that the Australian Hotels Association’s multimillion-dollar appeal against new licensing fees was recently rejected by a court.

The record companies’ licensing arm, the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia, successfully won a 1400 percent increase in the copyright payment for recorded music in live music and dance venues. Fees will rise from the 1994 figure of 7 cents per person to $1.05 by 2012.

The AHA’s director of national affairs, Bill Healey, told Pollstar that the decision would seriously change the live music sector.

"Venue operators don’t have the margins to pay these higher costs," he said, adding that venues would either close their doors to music or move from dance music to featuring only bands.

Other strategies are for venues to approach record companies individually to lower their fees, or play copyright-free material from the U.S. or hire acts to do cheap versions of current club hits.

Venue operators and Terry Noone, secretary of the Musician’s Union, called the cost hike an obscene money grab by the record companies.

But the PPCA’s chief executive, Stephen Peach, suggests it is a bluff.

"These clubs charge $10 per person to enter, and $5 to $10 for a drink, yet they have a problem with a 50 cent rise per person who come to their venues because of the recorded music being played," Peach said.


Arrests At NZ Shows

Twenty people were arrested at the two day old-skool rock Rock2Wgtn festival at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium – mostly for trespassing, New Zealand’s The Dominion Post reported.

Three were charged with breaking into cars outside the venue.

The March 22-23 festival included KISS, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Poison, Whitesnake and Finland’s Lordi, as well as NZ acts.

Despite the arrests, Wellington Regional Stadium Trust chief executive David Gray said that generally the crowd was there "to have a good time," the paper reported.

The audience over the two days totaled 43,000, according to promoter Phil Sprey.

Weeks before the show, the Pentecostal Lifepoint church tried to have some acts banned, claiming they would be a "negative influence" in light of the Easter holiday. KISS’ Gene Simmons joined local punters in trying to beat the world record in pizza eating, while Alice Cooper jammed with a busker.


Short Notes

The American share market turbulence is a boon for New Zealand concert promoters. Many U.S. private investors are putting money into tours in New Zealand.

This has led to a greater buoyancy for the NZ tour scene, which is already experiencing growth due to the local dollar’s climb to US$0.80. Investment is attracting more major international acts than before, as is the arrival of first-class venues like Vector Arena in Auckland.

Celine Dion was to celebrate her 40th birthday March 30 after two shows in Sydney with a quiet intimate party. Guests will consist of her husband Rene Angelil and 7-year-old son Rene-Charles, who made the trip downunder for the event.

It is Dion’s first tour here since 1996, but printed reports suggested that the high ticket price (ranging from $399 to $1999) ensured it was not a sellout.

The Mountain Goats’ planned visit for Handsome Tours through April was canceled, with band leader John Darnielle citing "personal medical reasons." Handsome Tours is keen to reschedule the act, which has enjoyed strong sales in past visits, but said in a statement, "Until the medical situation is resolved we don’t know when that will be, so all tickets will be refunded."