The state government of Victoria has pledged to soften the much-derided liquor licensing regulations that have put the pinch on Melbourne's live venues.

After weeks of public protests and industry wrangling, the government has signed a "Live Music Accord" with the Melbourne music community.

The accord is effectively an olive branch to the region's live scene, which has rallied for change following the demise last month of the Tote Hotel, the highest-profile casualty of toughened policing of live music venues. Other venue operators who spoke with Billboard.biz have recently pulled the plug on their music programming -- or are considering such a move -- to avoid the imposition of extra costs.

Victoria's alcohol licensing authority launched new conditions on Dec. 31, 2009, which meant those venues which served alcohol after 1am would need to fork out more for a new "late night" license and beefed-up health-and safety compliance.

Ahead of a street protest in Melbourne today (Feb. 23) organized by the local music community, campaigners on Monday (Feb. 22) signed the accord with Victoria's minister for gaming and consumer affairs Tony Robinson.

The new accord -- in which both parties agree that the current application of security conditions is having "unintentional consequences on some live music venues" -- heralds a new era of compromise and communications between government and the live scene.

Among the new recommendations is a government declaration that no new or additional security restrictions be imposed on venues playing live music or licensed to trade after 1am. Also, "high risk" security conditions relating to crowd controllers are to only be applied where there is a demonstrated need. The government is also considering placing a music industry representative on the board of Liquor Licensing, the department which administers licenses to live music venues.

The agreement will be reviewed in 12 months' time.

The other signatories on the document are venue owner and Fair Go 4 Live Music representative Jon Perring; APRA executive Kirsty Rivers, a representative with the newly-created lobbying body Music Victoria; and Quincy McLean, a rep with Save Live Australia's Music (SLAM), organizers of today's rally in central Melbourne which gathered thousands of supporters, including members of Australian groups Midnight Juggernauts, Cut Copy and Architecture in Helsinki.

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