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Amsterdam noise law under fire as ‘fans louder than bands’

A Dutch booking agent has harshly criticised Amsterdam’s new noise regulations, saying the 85dB volume limit on concerts or festivals near residential areas could threaten the city’s live music scene by deterring people from putting on shows.

In a Facebook post shared by EventBranche.nl, Wim Franke, owner of agency/event planner World of Bookings, compares the recently introduced noise cap to “asking motorists to drive at a maximum of 50kph on motorways” and says it may lead to live music events “disappearing from our streets”.

Framke was responding to an article by local news site GrootSneek, which reported that artists performing at the SneekWeek festival in Sneek – where the volume was also capped at 85dB – earlier this month were drowned out by the noise of the crowd, with visitor numbers suffering as a result. “When the sound produced by the crowd drowns out the band’s music, something is not right,” writes editor Wim Walda.

The new sound ordinance – incorrectly reported in some publications as being introduced this month – was passed by Amsterdam City Council in July, and allows for three “sound-intensive” days of music per year, such as large outdoor festivals, when the noise cap is lifted. An exception is also made for a number of city-centre spots, including the Zuidas financial district, the Museumplein and the N1 festival park in Westpoort.

“When the sound produced by the crowd drowns out the band’s music, something is not right”

It also bans ‘flown’ subwoofers, which Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad reports will make it difficult to stage concerts featuring genres “that tend to have heavy bass, such as hardcore techno or reggae”.

Despite this, a spokesperson for the city council says it does not expect the lower noise limit to negatively affect the number of concerts held in Amsterdam.

Although Amsterdam is the first Dutch city to pass such a stringent noise ordinance, the Netherlands has led the way in promoting measures to combat hearing damage, especially in the young: Promoters’ association VNPF is a signatory to the Music Industry Covenant to Prevent Hearing Damage and one town is going to so far as to hand out free earplugs to all 16-year-olds to protect against hearing damage “when visiting concerts and festivals”.

According to the Dutch National Hearing Foundation, a third of under-30s have left a festival after not being able to stand the volume.

 


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Vertex future unclear with new 85dB noise cap

Vertex, Madison House/AEG Live’s new festival in Colorado, has been given a one-year permit extension for 2017 – albeit with a new noise limit of 85dB that will make festivalgoers “feel like [they’re] in a living room, as opposed to a concert experience”, says festival director Michael Sampliner.

The first Vertex took place in August, and drew 8,000 attendees to a ranch near Buena Vista with a bill that included electronic duo Odesza, Grammy-winning alt-rockers Alabama Shakes and Phish’s Trey Anastasio.

Promoter Madison House had sought a three-year permit extension, and Sampliner told commissioners (councillors) for local authority Chaffee County last week the stringent new noise regulations – and an earlier curfew – could kill the festival before it reaches its second birthday.

“If we had to play at 85dBs, you’re taking out the concert experience,” Sampliner said. “It’s a level at which you would feel like you were in a living room, as opposed to a concert experience. It’s really untenable in any kind of way to put on a show at an 85dB limit.

“We are weighing all of the conditions the county placed to see if we can make it work. We are working through those scenarios now.”

“It’s really untenable in any kind of way to put on a show at an 85dB limit”

Local paper The Chaffee County Times reports those in opposition to to Vertex “stated several notorious issues, mostly related to drug use on the festival grounds and multiple drug busts related to the festival, noise and light disturbances and the 1.30am curfew Friday and Saturday night” at a council meeting last Tuesday.

One Buena Vista resident, Morgan Mahala, said the tense exchange brought “the tension and animosity between the old and the new to surface.”

“The relentless arguing and name calling is not Buena Vista,” Mahala said. “To move forward we have to push selfishness aside, we all have to give a little something up and get to know each other better. We need to use this time as an opportunity to come together and honour the values and integrity of a community that’s truly [city slogan] BV Strong.”

A decision by Madison House is expected this week.

 


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Lower volume and win new business, promoters told

The Dutch Nationale Hoorstichting (National Hearing Foundation) is calling on the government to create a legal noise limit for live music after finding a third of under-30s have left festivals after not being able to stand the volume.

Surveying over 1,044 18-to-30-year-olds, the foundation also discovered that of those young people who had never attended a music festival, 73% blame fear of excessively loud music as the reason for their staying away – and that while a majority of respondents said promoters should be responsible for providing information on hearing protection, 43% have never seen any such guidance.

“As the research shows, nearly half of festival visitors have never been been informed about hearing loss by organisers,” says Hearing Foundation spokeswoman Kelly Coenen, “yet many young people walk away because the music is too loud. That must change.”

“Because the research shows that many young people who never go to festivals do not only because of loud music, there are clearly opportunities there”

She adds, however, that the figures also a commercial opportunity for promoters: “Because the research also shows that many young people who never go to a festival do not only because of [overly] loud music, there are clearly opportunities there for festival organisers.”

Dutch industry associations VNPF and VVEM committed to tackling music-induced hearing loss with the launch of the Convenant Preventie Gehoorschade Muzieksector (Music Industry Covenant to Prevent Hearing Damage), although Coenen notes that there are “still too many [promoters] who do not belong to the covenant”.

 


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Manchester turns Anti-Rihanna at Old Trafford gig

Rihanna’s Anti world tour rolled into Manchester on Wednesday evening, and while the crowd at the 26,000-capacity Old Trafford cricket ground welcomed the Barbadian singer (pictured) and guest star Drake with open arms – especially those she sent pizza to – other Mancunians weren’t quite so appreciative.

Residents, many living miles from the stadium, vented on Twitter that they could hear the concert clearly  from their living rooms (Karl Bonsworth wrote: “I’m about 10 miles away and can hear the bass from here! That is SOME sound system! #TurnitdownabitRihanna), and one – Jeannette Davidson, who lives in Failsworth, around eight miles away – phoned the Manchester Evening News to complain, telling the paper: “The noise is ridiculous. We are miles away and can still hear the whole thing. The windows are closed, too, and it’s still coming through into the house.

“I’m shocked that it’s this loud so far away. I feel sorry for the people who live right by it. They got a free concert whether they wanted one or not.”

“Noise levels were compliant with the acceptable levels as laid out in the licence provided by the council”

Despite this, a joint statement from the venue and Trafford council said the actual number of complaints was “small in number” and that “noise levels were compliant with the acceptable levels as laid out in the licence provided by the council to allow the concert to go ahead”.

A spokesman for Lancashire County Cricket Club (LCCC), which operates the ground, Lancashire County Cricket Club, adds that the sound may have travelled “due to atmospheric conditions”, but “we do try to mitigate that this as much as possible”.

LCCC communications manager Paul Holliday, who sent the statement to IQ, declined to comment on whether the venue would be implementing any measures to avoid similar sound leakage in future.

 


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