Chapter 1: Sound Management
Managing sound effectively in your venue will enhance the live music experience for patrons, help you attract quality performers, and reduce the potential for conflict with neighbouring residents and businesses.
This chapter provides background information on the regulation of noise in the Northern Territory and achieving best practice sound management in your venue.
It is important to note that every venue has a unique set of circumstances in relation to sound management, so it is wise to seek advice from your local authorities to ensure that your venue is compliant.
Managing Noise/ Sound in the NT
In the Northern Territory (NT), the NT Environment Protection Authority (NT EPA) is the main regulator that sets standards, assesses, manages and regulates noise issues and resolves complaints under the provisions of the Waste Management and Pollution Control Act 1998 (WMPC Act).
Licensed venues also have to comply with conditions for undue and unreasonable noise under s. 93 of the Liquor Act 2019.
A licensee must not cause or permit its employees or patrons to cause undue and unreasonable noise on or in the licensed premises that affects the amenity of the neighbourhood.
Examples for section 93
- The delivery of stock and the removal of rubbish must be at appropriate hours.
- Live music must be at a reasonable volume.
Causing annoyance or disturbance to persons residing, working or conducting a business in the vicinity of the premises can be grounds for a complaint against a venue and disciplinary action can be taken across a number of avenues.
The NT EPA Provides directions for addressing noise/ sound and amenity issues visit: https://ntepa.nt.gov.au/make-a-report
There are a number of steps that you can take to manage sound effectively in your venue, which are outlined next.
- Consider the proximity of neighbours and how it will affect your live music schedule. Remember that businesses generally have the same rights to neighbourhood amenity as residences.
- Assess the building’s acoustic insulation to determine if any renovations will be required to comply with noise regulations. See the Resources section of this chapter for further information.
- Remember to check the building’s electrical supply, plumbing and other utilities to ensure they comply with the Building Code of Australia. It is worth ensuring compliance on these levels before installing acoustic insulation to avoid expensive retrofitting.
- Engage an acoustic consultant to establish sound limits for your venue that ensure you comply with noise regulations. Acoustic consultants can also provide advice on reducing the sound that emanates from your venue.
- Upgrade the building as needed.
- Install high-density acoustic insulation in the walls, ceiling and floor surrounding live music areas, particularly external walls that are close to neighbours. Ideally, you should be able to walk the perimeter of your venue at any time and hear minimal sound emanating from the premises.
- Install sound absorbing materials such as heavy drapes and carpet in live music areas to reduce reverberation and minimise the build-up of sound.
- Install acoustic or ‘air-lock’ doors at the entry points to the live music area, venue, or other outdoor areas to limit the break-out of sound.
- Seal any gaps where sound might be escaping, including around doors and windows, or utility inlet and outlet vents, particularly through air conditioning ducts.
Use Appropriate Equipment
- Use a PA system that is appropriate for the size of the venue and relevant noise limits. Devices such as limiters, warning lights, compressors and cut-out switches can also help you maintain PA volume at a suitable level.
- Use equalisation devices to control the low frequency sound generated by drums and bass instruments, which is difficult to insulate against and is often accompanied by vibration.
- Enclose or replace noisy utilities such as air conditioning units and compressors that may disturb neighbours.
Develop a sound management strategy
- Use a sound level meter to take regular sound measurements from reference points both inside and outside the venue during live shows and adjust sound levels accordingly. Keeping a record of these measurements in a ‘noise diary’ also demonstrates your commitment to noise compliance, which will be useful if dealing with any noise complaints or planning to upgrade the entertainment area in your venue.
- Educate staff on sound management principles, such as monitoring on-stage sound levels, managing patron noise in outdoor areas, and disposing of recycling quietly.
- Ensure your booking agent only books acts that are appropriate for your venue. For example, hosting a metal band in a venue set up for folk music will invariably result in noise complaints.
- Inform musicians at the booking stage (possibly as part of the performance contract) about sound management practices in your venue, including relevant noise limits and any PA limiting devices, such as compressors and cut-out switches.
- Manage outdoor areas to prevent large groups of patrons gathering and making noise that could annoy neighbouring residents. This could include not permitting alcohol in outdoor areas after a given time, mounting signs that encourage patrons to be quiet in outdoor areas, or installing Perspex reflectors to reflect crowd noise away from neighbours.
- Be proactive in building a positive relationship with local authorities and residents to address noise related issues before they escalate (see chapter 2 of these guidelines for further information).
Noise - licensed venues and patron noise
NT Licensing Commission Phone: 1800 193 111 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Noise - party noise and anti-social behaviour
NT Police, Fire and Emergency Services Phone: 131 444
Information on the acoustic properties of building materials, visit: https://www.gyprock.com.au/solutions/acoustic considerations
For information on complying with the Building Code of Australia, visit: www.abcb.gov.au