Fears a new licencing scheme could stifle live music by overcharging venues to host acts have been voiced by a leading industry body.
The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) says plans to merge licencing bodies into one entity with a simpler fee structure must ensure venues are encouraged to support Australian music.
CEO Stephen Ferguson argues a proposal to charge music fees based on capacity rather than attendance has “immediately raised red flags across the industry”.
Currently, music licence fees are paid to both APRA AMCOS and PPCA by venues featuring anything from background music in dining areas and lobbies to live music.
The two organisations are merging into OneMusic Australia in an overhaul supposed to streamline the system and make it fair and easy-to-use for venues and artists.As a participant in the review process, Mr Ferguson says AHA fears the changes could stymie the performance of live music.
“Our main concern is that hotels don’t pay more than they’re required to,” he said.
“It’s important to ensure that hotels are encouraged to play music and support Australian music, and it not be so expensive that people don’t put live music on.
“After seeing venues such as The Basement close, we don’t want venues discouraged, especially from playing live music.”
Matt Mullins, director of the Melbourne group Sand Hill Road, told Australian Hotelier he was apprehensive about how the changes would impact business.
“Australia has one of the most expensive licence regimes on earth,” he said. “A similar scheme in New Zealand for instance, sets fees at a fraction of Australia’s.
“We are very worried about the risk of unsustainable licencing fees and the impact they could have.
“Sad to say, in our industry, live performance rarely pays for itself.
“An increase in licence fees, albeit inadvertent, could put an end to a lot of live music in the first instance, and a lot of live music venues in the second.”
The AHA says plans to charge music fees based on capacity rather than attendance fail to take into account the volume of people through a venue.
“Just because you’ve got a venue licence to hold 100 people, doesn’t mean you’ve got 100 people there, so you shouldn’t have to pay 100 times the fee to do that,” said Mr Ferguson.
“So that’s an issue. I think that’s the greatest problem we have.”
A spokesperson for APRA AMCOS defended plans for a proposal based on capacity but indicated OneMusic would look to amend the structure following industry feedback.
“The reason we suggest pegging fees to a capacity figure is for simplicity – it saves licensees keeping track of nightly attendance and gives us an indicator of the scale of an operation so larger and smaller hotels are treated equitably,’ they argued.
Ferguson says that while OneMusic Australia may want to get the new structure rolled out by the end of the year, the AHA will push for a proposal that is sustainable for the industry.
“The day it’s fair and equitable, that’s the day we’ll close the deal,” he said.
The second consultation paper is due for release shortly.