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'Face The Music Gladys': Thousands Rally To Change Government's Tune On Festivals

Thousands of revellers gathered in Sydney to protest the NSW Government's live music regulations, insistent the incoming restrictions are another nail in the coffin of the live music industry.

"They say Sydney doesn't turn out in the rain," Tim Levinson -- better known as Aussie hip-hop artist Urthboy -- said in front of a crowd which was seemingly undeterred by Thursday night's weather.

Image: AAP
Images: AAP and 10 daily.

READ MORE: Peking Duk, Festival owners Slam Government Over 'Killing' Music And Events

Reminiscent of when 4000 people turned out to protest the lockout laws in 2016, the Don't Kill Live Music Rally in Hyde Park called for a re-think of a new festival licensing regime announced in response to a recent spate of drug-related deaths.

Holding signs which read "rock out not lockouts", "save our sounds" and "Gladys killed the radio star", attendees heard from speakers including The Presets' frontman Julian Hamilton and Dave Faulkner from the Hoodoo Gurus.

A festival-worthy lineup was also on offer, with Hottest 100 Winners Ocean Alley and The Rubens performing alongside Cloud Control, Urthboy, Bertie Blackman and Olympia.

Dan Sultan and Polish Club warmed the crowd up with a cheeky rendition of Footloose.

Former Red Wiggle Murray Cook also addressed the crowd, which organisers estimated reached up to 20,000 people.

"You probably know me as a Wiggle but I've been playing music other than kid's music for over 40 years," Cook said.

"So this is an issue that's really important to me. How dull would our lives be without music and live music especially?

"An attack on live music is an attack on our culture, our voices as Australians, it's a dulling down of our lives."

Having lived through the vibrant pub and nightlife scene of the '70s and '80s, Cook recounted how music festivals gradually grew to pick up where pub gigs left off, now serving as a vital element not only to the Aussie music scene but for regional tourism and employment.

"These proposed laws are framed as a response to safety issues," Cook said.

"Of course, everyone here would agree that safety is a very important issue, the problem with it is how the government's gone about it.

"It's quite obvious there's been no consultation with the industry or any due diligence in researching what the effects might be of these laws."

Image: AAP

Under new regulations, each organiser will need to apply for a specific liquor licence for its event, as well as see new rules round policing, ambulance and harm minimisation measures enforced.

The NSW Government appeared to soften its stance on music festivals on Thursday, announcing events deemed to be low-risk will obtain a free license, while high-risk ones will pay a standard $650.

"For festivals that have a good track record and good practices in place it will be largely business as usual," Racing Minister Paul Toole said in a statement.

READ MORE: Music Festivals Call On Government To Halt 'Rushed' New Laws

However, the Australian Festival Association claims the industry was not consulted on the changes and that festivals with excellent safety records are already feeling the burn.

Two NSW events -- Mountain Sounds and Pysfari -- cancelled their 2019 festivals, citing regulation hurdles and "impossible" financial demands including bills from NSW Police.

READ MORE: Music Festival Cancelled After Organisers 'Blindsided' By $200,000 Cop Bill

Another NSW festival, Rabbits Eat Lettuce, announced this month it will move to Queensland, citing rising costs over legal battles with police.

Image: AAP

READ MORE: 'Just Like The Lockout Laws': Aussie Music Industry Gears Up To Fight NSW Government

More than 117,000 people have signed a Don't Kill Live Music petition in a bid to convince the state government to change its tune and delay the introduction of "knee-jerk" regulations.

Attendees to Thursday night's rally told 10 daily they're worried more festivals will soon fall or be forced to move interstate if the changes go through on March 1 as planned.

"Those are the best memories, music festivals," 24-year-old Allie, told 10 daily.

"They bring happiness to a lot of people and if you take that away people are going to be outraged, and that's why we're all here today."

TJ and her partner Dan, a musician himself, say they have watched the Sydney music scene steadily decline over the years. Image: 10 daily

Meanwhile, TJ, a mother in her 40s, fears her young daughter will not be afforded the same music experience she grew up with.

"I take my daughter to music festivals. It's a bonding experience for us, being in the moshpit, enjoying the same music, having a great time. This war on festivals is killing that," she told 10 daily.

"We don't endorse taking drugs but the war on drugs and the war on festivals, it's not the right message. You can't shut down festivals because five people died. More people die from alcohol, from car accidents, from drugs outside of festivals."

Contact the author: vquested@networkten.com.au