It’s been ten years since Melbourne’s pivotal SLAM Rally, here’s what’s changed since then
21.02.2020

It’s been ten years since Melbourne’s pivotal SLAM Rally, here’s what’s changed since then

Photo by Nick Carson
Words by Kate Streader

Proving people really do have the power.

On February 23, 2010, 20,000 music lovers took to Melbourne’s streets to protest policies forcing the closure of live music programs and venues. Led by musicians including Paul Kelly, Missy Higgins, Dan Sultan, Dobe Newton and Paul Dempsey, the SLAM (Save Live Australia’s Music) Rally was the largest cultural protest in Australia’s history.

In a crackdown on live music venues, the government had enforced strict liquor licensing regulations which deemed late-night venues ‘high-risk’ and therefore requiring CCTV, security guards and increased insurance premiums. For many small live music venues, these costs simply weren’t viable. Among them, The Tote announced it would be closing its doors as a result of the legislation.

As the news rumbled through Melbourne’s music community, punters and musicians took to the streets. The brainchild of Bakehouse Studios owners Helen Marcou AM and Quincy McLean AM, the SLAM Rally was a pivotal moment for Australia’s live music culture. Marching through Melbourne in protest of the Victorian government’s policy link between violence and live music to AC/DC’s ‘Long Way to the Top’, Melburnians proved the power of music as an agent for change.

On the eve of the rally, the state government signed a Live Music Accord which stated no new or additional security restrictions be imposed on venues playing live music or licensed to trade after 1am, ‘high-risk’ security conditions regarding crowd controllers only be enforced when deemed necessary, and new liquor licensing restrictions applied over the past 12 months be revoked.

“The SLAM Rally was one of the most pivotal moments in the history of Victorian culture,” says Music Victoria CEO Patrick Donovan. “It was the catalyst for the music community galvanising and standing up for the music they hold so dear. It forced the industry to get its act together and plan for the future through the Victoria Live Music Ten Point Plan.”

“While the music sector will always face challenges, we have non-partisan governmental support and investment, solid data and development programs which makes us far better placed to meet them head on,” he says.

Across the past ten years, Victoria has welcomed a number of positive changes as a result of the SLAM Rally and the passionate community that made it such a powerful protest. In an Australian first, Creative Victoria’s Music Works program received $22.2 million in funding from the Victorian government in order to support musicians, music industry professionals and organisations through a series of grants, mentoring and development programs, and initiatives.

There has also been funding for peak music body Music Victoria, legislative change ensuring development protections for venues, the re-instating of all-ages gigs, and recognition of live music as a viable and vital economic industry.

Further, a permanent exhibition showcasing the past, present and future of the Australian music industry has found its home in Melbourne in the form of Australian Music Vault.

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the SLAM Rally, Australian Music Vault will host a special 360-degree experience, taking you back to 2010 and putting you on the streets alongside fellow passionate punters, musicians and live music advocates.

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This Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the SLAM (Save Live Australia's Music) Rally. Were you there? On 23 February 2010, 20,000 people marched through Melbourne alongside musicians and industry heavyweights. It was the largest cultural protest in our country’s history and helped change the live Australian music landscape forever. From this Saturday, visit the Australian Music Vault to see and feel what it was like to actually be there with our new 360-degree experience celebrating this anniversary in The Amplifier. 🤘⚡️🎸 ⁣• ⁣• ⁣• ⁣• #SLAMrally #australianmusicvault #artscentremelbourne #ausmusic #australianmusic #dontkilllivemusic #musicvenues #melbourne #melbournevenues #musichistory #melbournemusicscene #australianmusicscene #livemusic #gigs #rocknroll #whatsonmelbourne #whatsonmelb Music by @cable.ties

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The tenth anniversary of the SLAM Rally is on Sunday February 23, visit Australian Music Vault to relive the iconic protest.