City music boost hope for industry summit

Edinburgh could one day have a festival like SXSW in Austin, Texas. Picture: Getty
Edinburgh could one day have a festival like SXSW in Austin, Texas. Picture: Getty
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SOME of the most influential musicians and concert promoters in the Capital will take part in a cultural summit aimed at boosting Edinburgh’s live music scene.

The news comes days after it emerged the city was set to draw up a five-year masterplan emulating live music meccas such as Austin in Texas and Sydney, Australia.

Renting out empty council buildings as performance and rehearsal space, altering licensing laws to make it easier to lay on gigs, and introducing loans to support noise reduction are among the proposals being examined.

A live music taskforce comprising councillors and industry professionals is set to be established under the plans.

The first step is a round-table summit, the details of which are yet to be announced.

The city has previously come under fire for embracing comedy and theatre – especially in August – while ignoring the needs of bands and concert promoters. Promoter Mark Mackie of Regular Music, the firm bringing Tom Jones and Elvis Costello to the Capital later this year, said the city should start with a blank canvas and build from there.

“I think everyone needs to approach this with a clean piece of paper and really get to the bottom of how we can make it better,” he said.

“The council has to be open to listening to people, though.”

Nick Stewart, manager of famed Cowgate hotspot Sneaky Pete’s, welcomed the fresh approach to live music but railed against the city’s noise pollution policies.

He said: “The problem is a lack of a gig-going culture, not helped by the council’s ‘inaudibility’ condition placed on licensed premises. It’s a condition that is not placed on venues in other cities, and has had a clear impact on the live music scene here.

“Music is audible, it deserves to heard.”

Tim Brinkhurst, who manages hiphop stars Young Fathers, said: “I would be very interested in talking about using council property for music uses. It is great news, if followed through.”

Cities like New York and Toronto excel at promoting live music, while Sydney has already adopted its own five-year vision and musical taskforce.

Last month, the News told how ambitious plans to build a world-class concert arena on the outskirts of the Capital had been shelved amid fears the project would face a funding shortfall of up to £100 million.

Councillor Norma Austin Hart, vice convener for culture and sport, was pleased with the music industry’s response to the city’s plans.

She said: “It is fantastic that the sub-committee’s initial strategy has been so well received and it is only right that any recommendations are also led by local professionals, fans and residents.

“The principle of an open forum where people could generate their own ideas and suggestions which the live music taskforce can look into, is one we would hope to consider. We could also look at bringing music professionals together as part of the taskforce.”