The SLAM (Save Live Australian Music) rally that was held in Melbourne on February 23rd 2010 was the largest cultural protest in Australia’s history. More than 20,000 marched through the streets, with AC/DC’s ‘Long Way To The Top’ playing in accompaniment as they protested against the Victorian Government’s “misguided policy link between live music and violence,” as the SLAM rally website states.

So why did so many people get behind the cause? SLAM co-founder Helen Marcou explains:

“It was quite a unique time politically, and that was because basically we had an election coming up. It was a time when a lot of venues were closing down their live music program in Victoria. The publicity was triggered by the closing of the Tote at the time, which was quite an iconic well-loved venue, but once it got out there that up to 80 venues had actually reduced their live music programs or cancelled it altogether within that six-month period, it made it so obvious what a crisis it was, and once these venues are gone it’s very difficult to reopen them again.”

“I think that people really stood out because the reason it was closing was because of government regulation and not just economic turns or lack of punters or anything like that. There was just ridiculous government regulation that made it virtually impossible for small venues to run.”

The independent collective, in conjunction with lobby group Fair Go 4 Live Music (FG4LM) and Music Victoria, successfully managed to negotiate the Live Music Agreement, and it was admitted that live music does not cause violence. Since then, SLAM has brought about several other important changes within the Melbourne music scene, such as contributing to the Busking Policy and the Live Music Strategy for the City of Melbourne, the City of Yarra’s Live Music Working Group and the Music Council of Victoria.

This year, to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the SLAM rally, the rest of Australia has been invited to join in; SLAM is going national.

“It’ll be celebrating the anniversary of the SLAM rally, getting a general awareness out there for people to get into music venues, and an idea of the value of music and how important it is,” says Marcou.

“From there, once we’ve got people back in the venues [and] people participating in this campaign, each state can individually take the tools of SLAM and use it to lobby in their own neighbourhood, and that’s a really important thing to do while we all have a national voice. When the music community governors come together and speak as one voice it gives them a much stronger negotiating and lobbying position with government, particularly at a federal level.”

SLAM will also be calling for a national live music coordinator, who can collect all the information that has been gathered from each state and council involved and compile it together so that it can be accessed from all around the country. Another thing they plan on doing is take an audit of “unkept promises” and policy gaps and asking for responses from the government.

The national support for SLAM has proved to be strong, with venues all around the country signing up to participate in the anniversary celebrations and plenty of coverage from the media.

“As with the rally and the spirit of the rally, there’s no exclusivity with SLAM,” says Marcou. “Everybody owns it and I think there are issues that are recurrent throughout the whole country. Live music is so much part of the landscape and people really want to get behind it and support it.”

Check out what artists think about SLAM, read about other venues in crisis and support SLAM rally day by heading to one of the registered gigs listed on the National SLAM Day gig guide and having an awesome night out. Long live the Australian music scene.