Live performance revenue has dropped by 40% in Sydney CBD since lockout laws: Music industry

Live performance revenue at venues in Sydney’s CBD has declined by 40% since the introduction of the city’s controversial lockout laws, according to data from the music industry.

Figures released by Australian Performance Rights Australia (APRA) and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS) through the Live Music Office, show a 40% overall decline in value of door charge receipts and a 15% decrease in venue expenditure on live artist performances across all premises during a two-year-period.

The figures are based on an analysis of APRA AMCOS licencing revenue from February 1, 2013 to January 31, 2015.

The lockout laws were introduced in March 2014, as a response to alcohol fuelled violent behaviour in the CBD.

Read more: Lockout laws passed in Queensland: “Prepare to see family run businesses go bankrupt”

The laws mean venues cannot serve shots after 10pm, with no drinks to be served after 3am. New customers cannot enter venues after 1:30am.

Other venues with a Live Artists Performance licence that includes hotels, bars and nightclubs have seen a 32% decrease in door charge receipts, according to APRA AMCOS.

Attendance figures to APRA-AMCOS licensed nightclubs and dance venues have fallen by 19%.

Live Music Office Policy Director John Wardle told SmartCompany the figures are of serious concern to venue owners, musicians and audience members.

“[The data] indicates that for touring artists, for profile acts, for ticketed shows in the city of Sydney, the loss is dramatic. The decline is dramatic,” he says.

“The international impact from the lockouts, and the narrative around the lockouts, I’ve been surprised at just how widely known this is. Most days I’ll get contact from an international colleague working in policy asking me what’s going on in Sydney.”

Wardle says the impact on SMEs is serious, with many performance venue owners having to shift their programming from two shows a night to just one.

The lockout laws are also having flow on effects beyond just venue owners, according to Wardle.

“I hope we’d be including musicians in small business owners affected as many people are no longer employed in these businesses … now there’s staffing, suppliers, reduced trading hours, loss of employment across the hospitality industry generally and food businesses,” he says.

“The narrative is that Sydney is unsafe. It’s a place associated with harm and risk and for many small businesses who are presenting live music, they see themselves as being a really healthy and happy and contributing part of the diversity in the night economy.”

Wardle says Live Music Office is looking to work with the New South Wales state government on solutions to support the live music industry in the Sydney CBD and would like to see changes to the 1.30am lockout for some venues.

“More generally we’d like to have the sort of regulation roundtable that exists in Victoria and South Australia,” he says.

“Regulation roundtables in place in these states provide a standing committee where the live music industry can work with states government agencies across liquor licensing, planning, environmental protection, law enforcement as well as local government to not only work for better regulation together but also build relationships, understanding and capacity.”

The APRA AMCOS figures come as around 8000 people gathered in the Sydney CBD over the weekend for the Keep Sydney Open rally to protest against the state government’s lockout laws.


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 22, 2016.

Sixty percent of international students underpaid in Sydney: Research

More than half of the international students working part-time in Sydney earn less than the minimum wage and more than a third are being paid $12 an hour or less, according to research from the University of Sydney Business School.

The survey of 1433 international students found 60% of international students with part-time employment in the New South Wales capital earn less than the national minimum wage of $17.29 an hour and 35% earn $12 an hour or less, according to The Guardian.

The biggest offenders appear to be in the hospitality and retail sectors, with many of the international students surveyed being paid below the base level award wage and not receiving the appropriate casual loading or penalty rates.

The research was conducted by University of Sydney Business School academic Stephen Clibborn, who told SmartCompany the prevalence of international students being underpaid in Sydney is “shocking”.

Clibborn looked at a mix of different businesses, from small privately owned cafes to high-end swanky restaurants, and found the underpayment was “across the board”.

Three quarters of the sample were Chinese students, with Clibborn finding students are aware the minimum wage is around $17 but feel unable to assert their rights.

“Because of their inexperience in the labour market, because of how they perceive their own English language skills they feel that they are not able to find a legal paying job … so they do feel stuck in these jobs that do not pay the award pay,” he says.

Chinese students also suffered the highest rates of underpayments, with the survey finding more than 70% report being paid below the minimum wage.

Three quarters of the students surveyed were aged between 20-24, and for many, this is their first time in the workforce.

“Business owners have a responsibility to follow the law, the regulators definitely play an important role in both providing information to workers and businesses, and ensuring that businesses comply,” he says.

Almost half of the $3.7 million in recovered underpayments from the Fair Work Ombudsman last year related to overseas workers, according to the Fair Work ombudsman’s annual report.

“I think the Fair Work Ombudsman is doing a very good job with the limited resources they have been allocated by the government,” Clibborn says.

“Because those resources are really limited given the scope or the size of the problem they need to be allocated more resources.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman also has information translated into 27 languages to assist international students.

However, Clibborn believes the solution to the problem will rely on all business owners understanding and living up to their legal responsibilities.

“They should pay what the law requires them to pay and they should find other ways of maximising their profit margin through productivity gains rather than through undercutting wages,” he says.


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 17, 2016.