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The new initiative making live music safer and more inclusive for all

Following on from initiatives by Camp Cope, Music Victoria and the Victorian Government’s Sexual Assault Task Force,  music industry is launching the largest campaign to make venues and festivals safer and more inclusive.

The Your Choice campaign involves almost 180 festival and tour promoters, venue owners, artists, promoters, managers, associations, ticket agencies, labels, publicists and music media including Beat Magazine.
 
Unveiled last Friday at a press conference at Bakehouse Studios in Richmond, it is about the industry working with music fans to come together to stop sexual assaults on women and the LGBTQI community, and for people to take accountability for their actions
 
The national festivals who are part of the Your Choice collective include Falls, Splendour, NYE on the Hill, UNIFY: A Heavy Music Gathering), Laneway, Groovin’ The Moo, A Day On The Green, Bluesfest and Woodford Folk
 
Among the Victorian venues are The Palais, The Corner, Max Watts, Festival Hall, 170 Russell, Howler, Palms, Karova Lounge and Northcote Social Club.
 
Birds of Tokyo, Bernard Fanning, REMI, Airbourne, Alex Lahey, Shihad, Pete Murray, Dan Kelly, Ecca Vandal, Gang of Youths, Gareth Liddiard, Paul Dempsey and Mama Kin are also part of the campaign.
 
On July 18, music fans and industry workers are asked to
change their Facebook profile page to the Your Choice logo as a show of solidarity for the whole day. The logo is downloaded at your-choice.net.au 
 
But that’s just the start. The idea is to implement the Your Choice House Rules and the logo on websites, social media, marketing, festival sites and venues to hammer home the message that there is an expectation of accepted behaviour when people come together to enjoy music.
 
People are asked to use the website to have a conversation, including suggesting new ideas and increasing awareness of the extent of the problem with examples of bad behaviour.
 
The idea, explains Rhett McLaren, co-director of The Hills Are Alive Group, is to be “pro-active, rather than reactive” to prevent any nasty moments before they happen. He adds, “We take great pride in providing safe and inclusive environments for all to enjoy.” He hopes the campaign lasts for a long time, and includes the next generation of festival promoters, venue owners and patrons.
 
Sally Mather the music & marketing Coordinator of the Corner Hotel and The Northcote Social Club, emphasises that the safety and anti-harassment initiatives that the two venues have put in place “have definitely seen a change in behaviour (in patrons). They are more likely to report any incidents before they escalate.”
 
Helen Marcou, co founder of SLAM, owner of Bakehouse Studios in Richmond and a member of the Victorian Government’s Sexual Assault Task Force, reveals that an education pilot will be tried out in eight Victorian venues after the state government recently approves $250,000 funding.
 
Marcou points out that sexual harassment and assault is not just confined to the music industry, “It is endemic in our society as a whole and in everyday life. It is gratifying that the music industry is taking the initiative to confront the issue.”
 
Paul Piticco, of Splendour in the Grass and the Falls festivals, agrees. “It is a mass gathering issue,” he says, and one that can eventually be stretched out to include non-music events as well.
 
He sent a message to music fans: “You are our eyes and ears. We can’t have a security guard on every patron. (You) need to be able to own that moment and speak up.”
 
Right now, Australian festivals are well regulated by laws to keep them running smoothly. That’s a good thing, Piticco says. But unless the music community solves the problem, he warned, there could be a backlash where governments will step in and introduce the equivalent of lockouts.
 

For more industry news visit Christie Eliezer's Industrial Strength column.