Plan to change noise rules to boost live music

A MAJOR shake-up of late-night noise rules is being proposed by culture chiefs to boost Edinburgh’s flagging live music scene.

The city wants to copy the success of Austin. Picture: Getty
The city wants to copy the success of Austin. Picture: Getty

The vow comes as some of the city’s biggest promoters came together to thrash out ideas on how to revitalise the Capital’s gig circuit.

An open debate held at the Usher Hall yesterday – dubbed Live Music Matters – saw city officials and around 100 music industry big-hitters meet to address long-held complaints that stringent noise rules and a lack of venues stifled live music potential.

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Promoters and musicians branded current noise rules “draconian” and claimed they promoted a “zero-tolerance” approach that led to small venues being shut down after just a few complaints.

The council admitted the current situation “can’t continue” and pledged to set up a working group.

Culture chiefs also promised to look into options that could see new residential buildings set up near established music venues forced to foot the bill for soundproofing following complaints – a rule already enforced in Australia.

Yesterday’s meeting was held after it emerged the Capital was set to draw up a five-year masterplan to revitalise the city’s gig circuit and emulate live music meccas such as Austin, Texas – where the internationally renowned South by Southwest music festival is held.

And city chiefs said the new working group – formed from licensing experts, politicians and industry insiders – could even involve input and advice from Austin’s rulers.

Councillor Norma Austin Hart, vice-convenor for culture, told yesterday’s meeting: “I get the noise thing. It’s not just something that has come up today, it’s something that has come up in the past. This is something that we’re going to have to do something about.

“I’m going to make a few personal commitments for some actions within the council. I don’t have a magic wand, but I do have suggestions about what we can do.

“The first thing I’m going to suggest is that we set up an internal working group in the council – specifically on the noise issue. We need to get together people from licensing, the noise team, and some input from the industry itself, so that we can finally move this on. This can’t continue.”

She added: “We have had communication from Austin Council and they have volunteered to work with us.”

Jack Hunter, a musician and vice chair of Leith Theatre, said: “We must review the licensing policy. This whole issue of inaudibility seems to us draconian and zero-tolerance.”

Speaking after the meeting, Kevin Buckle, owner of Avalanche Records, insisted the conference had been “incredibly successful”.

He said: “I think it was very useful. And I think something concrete will come out of it, it’s just a case of timing. We are pushing at an open door.”