The closure of the Tote Hotel in January shocked music fans across Melbourne. For more than 20 years the pub has been at the centre of Melbourne’s live music scene.
Since then the Arthouse has announced it will close this year and several other venues have complained that they can no longer afford to host live shows. On every occasion licensees have blamed higher operating costs due to the State Government’s new liquor licensing conditions.
Many pubs that host live music have been characterised as ‘high risk’ alongside trouble spots like those on King Street. This means that they face an increase in liquor licensing fees and a requirement to provide extra security guards as well as CCTV cameras in the venue.
The Labor Government’s ‘one size fits all’ approach to liquor licensing is damaging live music. While failing to give any support to the live music scene, they roll out the red carpet for the likes of the Crown Casino who have just been allowed to open up another 150 gaming tables!
The new liquor laws, and the government’s claims to be cracking down on violence, have more to do with chasing votes in the outer suburbs than they do with reality. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that live music and violence are linked. Trouble free venues should be immediately removed from the ‘high risk’ category.
The Labor Party has already been taken aback by the mass outpour of support for live music. In an election year, they are trying to minimise the loss of votes in their inner city seats. Hypocritically, several MPs are now pretending to be supporters of live music. This is despite the fact that they are the ones who introduced the laws!
The Greens are also opportunistically jumping on the bandwagon. Green MPs have supported Labor’s liquor laws on every occasion in Parliament, but now, in an attempt to win votes they have since changed their tune.
The Socialist Party recognises the important role that live music venues play. We want to see more venues, not less. This is just one reason why we are campaigning for the Fitzroy Town Hall to be opened as a venue for music and the arts. We are also keen to work with others in the scene to campaign for the re-establishment of the Brunswick Street Festival which can be used to promote live music in Yarra.
If nothing else the closure of the Tote raises broader questions about how to best promote music and the arts. We firmly believe that the market system is incapable of developing a vibrant live music scene. More needs to be done to provide bands with venues that are not governed by the law of making profits.
What music fans have already shown is that mass action can get results. In the lead up to the election we need to step up the campaign and force Labor, the Liberals and the Greens to give live music the respect and support it deserves.
Attend the Save Live Australian Music (SLAM) rally. Meet at 4pm on Tuesday February 23 outside the State Library, corner of Swanston and Latrobe Streets City. March to Parliament House.
By SP reporters