In my September 2009 article Certifying Outdoor Live Music Venues, I suggested that, rather than creating an acoustics training and certification program for sound engineers as the Live Music Task Force suggested, it would make more sense to certify the venues themselves. The subject has come up in recent conversations so I went ahead and fleshed out the idea to a fully developed system for analyzing and certifying venues. The slideshow presentation below explains my proposal for a system where issuance of outdoor music venue permits are contingent on a noise impact analysis being performed on the venue.
The impact analysis considers potential impacts to nearby residences and, based on a relatively simple and repeatable analysis method, determines sound level limits specific to that venue. The sound level limits for each venue will be specified in multiple locations, including at the mixer, and will be back-calculated from the maximum allowable residential noise impact. The presentation goes far more detail and discusses my reasoning for the idea. It might be a bit of a thick read, but there is a step-by-step example with pictures that starts on slide 15.
What I want people to take away from this, more than anything, is the idea that basing the conditions of a music venues permit on its actual residential noise impact implicitly encourages owners to locate and build music venues with noise as an initial consideration. Currently in Austin there are too few venue owners who are concerned about the noise impacts they create and are willing to take steps to be better neighbors. Under the current system there is little incentive to operate this way outside of accumulating karma and receiving fewer angry phone calls. Under the system I am proposing, venues that are located, built, and organized in ways that reduce noise impacts will reap tangible benefits in the form of higher sound level limits at the mixer. Being a better neighbor is automatically incentivized.
When reading through the presentation, don’t put any weight on the specific sound levels that are used as examples. They’re just examples. The important idea is using a procedure that is objective, fair, and repeatable from venue to venue. When a procedure like this is implemented by the City, the specific sound level criteria can be later decided based on a careful study.