The Sound Check Symposium took place on  10 April 2015 and was hosted by RMIT in Melbourne. 24 delegates (50% industry, 50% academics) attended. It was funded by a CAESIE priming grant.

Primary aim was to share best practices and how they are informed by regulation (which vary greatly country to country in the EU and interstate in Australia) and how they should inform academic research into the problems.

Special guest Marcel Kok from dbControl Netherlands presented an overview of his work in Sound Level Management at music events and his involvement in new regulatory frameworks in the Netherlands and Belgium. Five local stakeholders (Hearing CRC, Marshall Day Acoustics, Music Advocacy and HuonLabs) presented a shorter talk highlighting their perspectives on the issues (including noise pollution and hearing damage risks). The event finished with a round table session and a specialised software demonstration at a music venue in inner city Melbourne.

Each session of the event alternated with networking opportunities, which resulted in new formal and informal dialogues between delegates.

Different outlooks on sustainable cities and healthy aging were discussed in an approach that wants to find synergy in the combination of actions dealing with noise pollution on the one hand and hearing risk damage on the other (both of which are covered by, again, different regulations).

Although not surprising the foremost aspect that emerged from the meeting is the need to facilitate meticulous stakeholder communication, before and during an event but also in the evaluation or development of regulations and policies. Good communication may not prevent noise pollution and risky sound levels per se, but it will allow stakeholders to find the best possible compromises between the desired outcomes of the many stakeholders. Good compromises avoid concerts that are unnecessarily loud, alleviating noise issues for neighbours and hearing damage risk. Understanding that every concert is different understanding the process of stakeholder communication is important time and time and again in order to optimize the compromises for each event.

In addition, another A further opportunity for research that came to the fore is the need for musical dynamic range at amplified concerts. Dynamic range (the difference in sound level between the quietest parts and the loudest parts) implies that concerts are not extremely loud all the time. The combination of smart software interfaces and time-based (noise) regulations provide an opportunity for performing musicians and sound engineers to have an informed approach to the dynamic range of a concert.

The next step for the research trajectory enabled by this priming grant, will be working towards an application for EU Horizon 2020 to fund a project that looks to evaluate the many different regulations that are currently in place. The project will include a survey of best practices that emerge from the regulations in place; sharing such outcomes will be an important outcome of the project.

Live Music in the Sustainable City  

Melbourne 10 April 2015

This symposium addresses noise issues associated with live music performances at inner city music venues, by identifying collaborative solutions that empower stakeholders (musicians, technicians, management) to monitor and take remedial action as necessary. Tackling the issue at the source can contribute to the prevention of hearing loss associated with concert attendance be it patrons, staff or performers. The ability to monitor and attend to noise issues before and during an event is desirable, since violations are usually penalized after the fact, potentially leading to the loss of the venue’s license. The issue is independent of venue size, whether a small pub, theatre or stadium. Since regulations vary internationally a bottom up approach would establish best practices that will help abate the issue independent of specific local rules or guidelines.

A recent example of a ground up approach is found in Victoria’s adoption of the Agent of Change Principle as a way of sustaining inner cities’ creative economies and cultural viability. The new policy puts Melbourne on the forefront of international developments and as such makes that city a great location for this gathering.

The event aims to develop integrated approaches, targeting a wide audience that includes members from within the industries (musicians, venues, sound hire companies, festivals and related cultural practitioners) along with policy makers, educators and researchers. This symposium is intended primarily as a network event, to bring together different stakeholders and to share experiences and best practices. It is supported by a CAESIE (Connecting Australian European Science and Innovation Excellence) priming grant that is being used to invite an industry expert from Europe. Invited guest speaker is Marcel Kok, MBA, M.Sc (Acoustics), of dBcontrol, a Dutch firm specialized in sound level measurements at live music events, indoors and outdoors. Marcel has many years of experience in supporting and advising concert organizers in Europe and beyond, in realizing maximum quality without violating environmental and health and safety regulations. In the Netherlands Marcel was actively involved in establishing the successful ‘Hearing Covenant’ between concert production stakeholders, hearing protection advocacy organization (NGO) and national government, which will be one topic of his presentation. One particular aspect of Marcel’s approach is the use of innovative measurement software offering continuous feedback to staff, using what can be called a ‘decibel banking’ approach. This technology is commercially available and proven in different contexts. The finer point is applying it effectively in the practical interactions between stakeholders.

The secondary goal for this symposium is to bring together researchers and industry to invigorate existing research and develop new research avenues and strategies. These might include wide ranging disciplines from technology and design (dreaming up the venues and technologies of the future), music (bringing back dynamic range to amplified concerts), education (teaching live sound engineers and performers) to policy and grass-roots projects aimed at developing industries and audiences.



  • Dr. Jos Mulder (Lecturer in Sound, Murdoch University)
  • Associate Professor Lawrence Harvey (SIAL Sound Studios, RMIT)
  • Associate Professor Cat Hope (WAAPA, Edith Cowan University)
  • Jeffrey Hannam (MA (Design), B.Sc (Applied Chemistry), G.Dip Dramatic Art (Sound design) (SIAL Sound Studios, RMIT)
  • Jon Perring (Venue co-Owner, Live Music Round Table, Fair Go 4 Live Music)