We need to talk about underage shows

In Victoria you can drink among kids at the MCG, but you need an expensive permit to de-license a venue for an underage gig. Music Victoria CEO PATRICK DONOVAN on why that needs to change.

Can you remember your first gig? Back in the 1980s, there were ample opportunities for a teenager to experience live music – whether it was Painters & Dockers “Rockin’ the Rails”, or spiderbait playing at Fitzroy’s Friends of the Earth warehouse. In the 1990s there were unforgettable FreeZa gigs featuring the likes of Living End, 28 Days, Magic Dirt and Regurgitator at Ashburton Recreation Centre or Eltham’s infamous Fruitbowl. Opportunities like these left an indelible imprint on a teenager’s mind, setting them up for a lifetime of gig-going. They may have even started a band or got a job in the industry.

But there are less opportunities for young people to experience underage gigs these days because of the prohibitive compliance burden on de-licensing a licensed venue. While it would seem less complicated to take alcohol out of the equation and hold shows at halls, licensed venues have the infrastructure and equipment to be in the best position to host these events.

However, licensees have to pay $183 and wait for 45 days to receive a permit to de-license a venue to hold an underage gig (much higher and longer than other states). Music Victoria argues that venues with a good track record of holding underage events should be able to bypass the application process and just inform police of events.

“There seems to be one rule for sport and another for art.”

We believe that young musicians and music fans have been discriminated against for long enough. How the live music capital of Australia can continue to ban all-ages gigs, while adults and teenagers safely mingle at all ages-gigs in other states such as NSW and global music cities such as London, is frankly a farce. There seems to be one rule for sport and another for art: adults in the vicinity of children can drink at sporting games (which you could argue are far more dangerous), but not at small live music venues. They can drink at festivals and larger venues such as Rod Laver Arena and Festival Hall, but not at smaller venues where most all ages gigs take place.

A once in a generation opportunity

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) is asking for your input into a public consultation paper about underage live music events in licensed premises. If you’re under-18 and want to see more gigs, a promoter who wants red tape cut to make it easier to put on under-age gigs, a band that wants to play more gigs to under 18s, or you want to see all-ages gigs re-introduced, then you have less than a week to let your voice be heard.

Questions range from whether you support venues or promoters with a good track record to be able to by-pass the application process and merely notify police of events; whether the turn-around time between an under age gig and over 18 gig could be reduced to 30 minutes; and whether capacity levels and female security guard numbers should change.

Click here to download the Victorian Commission for Gaming and Liquor Regulation’s Consultation Discussion Paper and make your submission by June 18, 5pm. This is a once in a generation opportunity to reform all-ages gigs and ensure the next generation of music fans, bands and industry workers get the same opportunities as kids did in the past.

Patrick Donovan is the CEO of peak industry body Music Victoria.