NSW government’s “War on Festivals” blamed for Mountain Sounds’ cancellation

Today’s devastating news about the cancellation of Central Coast Mountain Sounds Festival raises many more questions about the NSW Governments festival safety regulations and approach to tackling drug deaths. Just one week out from the festival, Mountain Sounds, originally budgeting for 11 user-pay police report being blindsided with a $200,000 in upfront costs for 45 user-pay police (in 2018, costs were less than 10% of this).

With the Liberal Government ideologically opposed to pill testing, instead of focusing on harm minimisation, the NSW government continues to try and stop drug takers by increasing the police presence and introducing harsh licensing laws. As Mountain Sounds becomes the second victim of these regulations in the last week, it seems increasingly suspicious that forcing festivals to close down due to unrealistic costs is the Government’s way of preventing drug deaths. People are now calling this “The War on Festivals” and Sydney’s lock out laws are an example of how well-intended but out of touch government action can destroy an industry.

We need to look at the effect of this strict policy on the whole music industry and not just the loss of one great festival at Mountain Sounds next weekend.

The huge costs for festivals will inevitably lead to the cancellation of more festivals as forced increases in ticket prices become too much for punters.  Those that manage to absorb these costs will have to compress lineups and weaken the overall experience just to make ends meet.  Similarly, a lack of diversity and competition in the festival scene will arise as the start up costs are too much for new companies bringing new initiatives to the industry.

From an artist perspective, many acts get their first big break from getting booked on a festival lineup. Without this step up in a cut throat industry, artists with the talent to succeed lose huge opportunities and the Australian music scene will stop thriving as people look internationally. This is why the cancellation of Mountain Sounds saddens me particularly, as it is one of the best festivals in the country at promoting up and coming artists. This year I was particularly looking forward to The Moving Stills, Pacific Avenue and Wales really breaking in to the scene after their inevitably brilliant Mountain Sounds sets.

For many people, including me, festivals are a first experience of how good seeing live music and specifically Australian music can be. Without this platform for music discovery many of us would still be at home listening to Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift, completely unaware of the vast amount of talent our country produces.

In what should be an effort to save lives, festivals become the innocent victims.  Blue Mountains festival Psyfari and Mountain Sounds Festival have been struck the hardest with the time restraints to enact changes. In their statement Psyfari explained this by saying, “We are unfortunate to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when festivals are the new scapegoat of a failed government and their failed war on drugs.” Hopefully future festivals manage to rework their finances to accomodate these new costs.

In the meantime, the exact consequence of government action is unclear. But.. there are two things we as music lovers can do to help. Firstly, ALWAYS SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL and remember to PARTY SAFELY!

Even if the costs are higher now than they have been previously, supporting your favourite artists is not only essential for their career but for the future of Australian music as a whole!

To see the full statement from mountain sounds visit their Facebook page HERE.

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