Watching them walk out taller than they walked in

Sydney's venues in 2016


  • Martin Cloonan University of Glasgow



live music, venues, regulation, industry, lockouts


This article develops recent research in to the live music industry by examining the attitudes of Sydney venues towards the industry in which they work. Based on empirical research conducted on behalf of the City of Sydney Council, the article suggests that venues primarily see themselves as sites of cultural activity, rather than sites of commercial exploitation. The tension between artistic endeavour and commercial reality is evidenced throughout the article. In addition it is also shown that venues feel that politicians and the public have little understanding of this reality. It is further suggested that the notion of a live music ecology provides a useful means via which to understand the workings of the contemporary live music industry in Sydney.

Author Biography

Martin Cloonan, University of Glasgow

Martin Cloonan is Professor of Popular Music Politics at the University of Glasgow. His research interests focus on the political economy of the music industries. His latest book Players’ Work Time: A History of the British Musicians’ Union, 1893–2013 (co-written with John Williamson) was published by Manchester University Press in 2016.


Auslander, P. 2008. Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Society. London: Routledge.

—2012. ‘Digital Liveness: A Historico-Philosophical Perspective’. PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 34/3: 3–11.

Barrie, M. 2016. ‘The Death of Sydney’s Nightlife and Collapse of its Night Time Economy’. (accessed January 30, 2017).

Behr, A., M. Brennan and M. Cloonan. 2013. The Cultural Value of Live Music: From the Pub to the Stadium: Getting Behind the Numbers. (accessed January 30, 2017).

—2014. ‘Cultural Value and Cultural Policy: Some Evidence from the World of Music’. International Journal of Cultural Policy 22/3: 403–418.

Behr, A., M. Brennan, M. Cloonan, S. Frith and E. Webster. 2016. ‘Live Concert Performance: An Ecological Approach’. Rock Music Studies 3/1: 5–23.

Bowen, C. 2016. ‘Dynamics of Live Music and Why Lockout Laws are a Problem’. (accessed January 30, 2017).

Brennan, M., and E. Webster. 2011. ‘Why Concert Promoters Matter’. Scottish Music Review 2/1: 1–25.

Butler, J. 2016. ‘Live Music Revenue Down 40 Percent after Sydney Lockouts’. (accessed January 30, 2017).

Callinan, I. 2016. Review of Amendments to the Liquor Act 2007 (NSW). Sydney: NSW Government.

Carter, D. 2014. The Economic and Social Value of Live Music in Australia 2014. Hobart: University of Tasmania.

City of Melbourne/Music Victoria. 2012. Victorian Live Music Census 2012. Melbourne: City of Melbourne/Music Victoria.

City of Melbourne. 2014. Music Strategy: Supporting and Growing the City’s Music Industry. Melbourne: City of Melbourne.

City of Sydney. 2014. Live Music and Performance Action Plan. Sydney: City of Sydney.

—2016. Live Music and Performance—Status Report. Sydney: City of Sydney.

Cloonan, M. 2011. ‘Researching Live Music: Some Thoughts on Policy Implications’. International Journal of Cultural Policy 17/4: 405–420.

—2012. ‘Selling the Experience: The Worldviews of British Concert Promoters’. Creative Industries Journal 5(1/2): 151–70.

Elborne, M. 2013. The Future of Live Music in South Australia. Adelaide: Don Dunstan Foundation.

Ernst and Young. 2011. Economic Contribution of the Venue-based Live Music Industry in Australia. Sydney: APRA.

Frith, S., M. Brennan, M. Cloonan and E. Webster. 2013. The History of Live Music in Britain. Volume 1. Farnham: Ashgate.

Holt, F. 2010. ‘The Economy of Live Music in the Digital Age’. European Journal of Cultural Studies 13/2: 243–61.

Homan, S. 2000. ‘Losing the Local: Sydney and the Oz Rock Tradition’. Popular Music 19/1: 31–49.

—2003. The Mayor’s a Square: Live Music and Law and Order in Sydney. Newtown: Local Consumption.

—2008. ‘Portrait of the Politician as a Young Pub Rocker: Live Music Reform in Australia’. Popular Music 27/2: 243–56.

—2011. ‘“I tote and I vote”: Australian Live Music and Cultural Policy’. Arts Marketing 1/2: 96–107.

Johnson, B., and S. Homan. 2002. Vanishing Acts: An Inquiry into the State of Live Popular Music Opportunities in New South Wales. Sydney: Australia Council/NSW Ministry for the Arts.

Khoury, M. 2016. ‘How Sydney Scene has Gone from Wild to Mild’. (accessed January 30, 2017).

Live Music Office. 2016a. Liquor Law Review. Sydney: Live Music Office.

—2016b. ‘Sydney CBD Sees Drop in Live Performance Revenue since Introduction of Lockout Laws’. (accessed January 30, 2017).

Music SA/Live Music Office. 2015. Adelaide Live Music Census 2015. Adelaide: Music SA.

—2016. Adelaide Live Music Census 2016.Adelaide: Music SA.

Musicians’ Union (UK). 2012. Live Music Kit. London: Musicians’ Union. (accessed January 30, 2017).

O’Reilly, D., G. Larsen and K. Kubacki. 2013. Music, Markets and Consumption. Oxford: Goodfellow.

Page, W., and C. Carey. 2009. Adding up the Music Industry for 2008. London: PRS for Music.

Smith, J. 2016. ‘Outrageous Law Sending Sydney Parties Underground’. (accessed January 30, 2017).

Standing Committee on Planning, Public Works and Municipal Services (ACT). 2009. Inquiry into Live Community Events. Canberra: ACT Legislative Assembly.

Taylor, S. 2015. ‘Lost Venues, Long Nights: An Introduction to Historical Maps of Live Music in Sydney and Melbourne’. (accessed January 30, 2017).

Titan Music Group. 2015. The Austin Music Census. Austin, TX: City of Austin.

UKMusic. 2016. Measuring Music 2016. London: UKMusic.

Webster, E. 2012. ‘One More Tune: The Encore Ritual in Live Music Events’. Popular Music and Society 35/1: 93–111.



How to Cite

Cloonan, M. (2017). Watching them walk out taller than they walked in: Sydney’s venues in 2016. Perfect Beat, 17(2), 104–123.