Live Music Matters - Edinburgh
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The first steps towards hopefully breathing new life into the Edinburgh rock and pop live music scene were taken on Monday 17th November at The Usher Hall. The City of Edinburgh Council decided to host an open “Live Music Matters” forum for musicians, promoters, venue owners and others to discuss and learn more about where the Edinburgh music scene is at the moment, as well as how it can be improved.
With the initial ticket allocation of 60 being snapped up in 2 days, around 100 eagerly anticipated guests took their seats as the forum kicked off with a brief introduction from the chosen panel of Counsellor Norma Austin Hart (Culture and Sport Committee, Vice Convenor), Karl Chapman (Usher Hall, general manager), John Stout (Regular Music, promoter), Kevin Buckle (Avalanche Records) and Olaf Furniss (Born To Be Wide, director).
Each panel member gave a quick 5-minute speech on their profession and area of expertise before talking about their experiences of the live music scene. The room was then split into groups to discuss what we thought about the live music scene and how we thought it could be improved before providing our answers to the group as a whole at the end of the session.
The general consensus from each group was that the current live music late-night “noise” laws in Edinburgh need to be changed ASAP. Edinburgh is the only city in Europe that has a “zero audibility clause”. Also, an apparent single complainer can not only stop certain music venues from advertising right outside its premises (The Queen’s Hall), but can also cause live music venues to be closed down by the council. Some pubs and clubs in Edinburgh are unable to have amplified performances if they are located in a residential area (The Pear Tree isn’t allowed a drum kit on its beer garden stage), yet these rules appear to be relaxed during August, which begs the question at to how and why?
Glasgow’s iconic live music venue King Tut’s was apparently almost closed down years back due to one man from the licensing department of Glasgow City Council’s obsession with the venues noise levels. A local counsellor at the time intervened, the matter was quickly resolved and the rest is history.
Musicians have been making changes to their sets and performances to fit in with council regulations for a while now, but the general vibe from many was that the council haven’t been meeting them half way. This needs to change if anything is going to be achieved and the impression from Counsellor Norma Austin Hart was that it would.
The council is currently looking to redesign its “Cultural Policy” (last amended in 1999) and it was also suggested that a plan be put in place to prevent venues being sold to companies looking to use them for an alternate purpose i.e. The Picture House.
On Tuesday it was announced that the council had granted JD Wetherspoons planning permission for the internal and external alterations of the former live music venue, thus paving the way for it to be turned into a public house.
Now is very much the time for the City of Edinburgh Council and the public to work hand in hand to try and improve its live music scene and make every month a reason for people to visit and enjoy live music, not just the month of August.
Monday was the first step on that road…
*A further meeting is due to be held in around 4 months time.