This information is for people who own, operate or manage:

  • entertainment venues
  • outdoor entertainment events.

The information relates to assessing music emissions from your venue or event. It will help you understand what an alternative assessment location is, and when you can use one. 

These guidelines are in accordance with the Noise protocol.  They should be read alongside the Entertainment venue and outdoor event music noise guidelines (the guidelines).

If you own, operate, or manage an entertainment venue (venue), or an outdoor entertainment event (event); you are responsible for:

  • managing risks of harm from your music emissions
  • ensuring your music noise doesn’t exceed noise limits.

Noise limits are the maximum effective noise level (e.g. decibel value) music noise must not exceed in a noise sensitive area. See the guidelines section 4.1 for information on indoor venue noise limits and section 5.1 for outdoor venue and event noise limits. It is important to note, noise limits are not intended to be levels a person can ‘pollute up to’. They must not be interpreted as levels below which no action is needed.

A noise sensitive area refers to a location where people are expected to be most at risk of being impacted by noise. See regulation 4 of the Environment Protection Regulations 2021 (the Regulations) for the definition including the list of locations. 

What is an alternative assessment location

When taking noise measurements to determine noise limits, or assess your compliance with noise limits:

  • you must do this in accordance with the methods set out in the Noise protocol.
  • you must find your measurement point, where you set up your microphone to measure the effective noise level or background level, as determined by the noise protocol. You may have more than one measurement point.

The Noise protocol prioritises locating your measurement point(s): 

  • within a noise sensitive area
  • where they represent the greatest intrusion of music noise 
    • For indoor venues, the greatest intrusion of music noise is the highest emergence of music noise over the background level. For example, outside the bedroom window of a home near your venue, where your music noise is loudest. 
    • For outdoor venues, this is when the highest music noise levels occur during your operating hours.

Despite this priority, there are situations when this is not suitable. When this is the case, the Noise protocol allows the use of an alternative assessment location (AAL).  

An AAL is a point where you take noise measurements, that is either:

  • not located within a noise sensitive area
  • is located within a noise sensitive area, but not at the point that represents the greatest intrusion of music noise. 

Whether your AAL is within a noise sensitive area or not, the noise heard at your AAL must still represent what is heard at the noise sensitive area.

When and how you use AALs, must be in accordance with the Noise protocol. You must be able to justify why an AAL was used.


Alternative assessment criterion

If you use an AAL, you must also set an associated alternative assessment criterion (AAC). An AAC is the maximum effective noise level (e.g. decibel value) your music noise must not exceed when measured at the AAL. An AAC is calculated to ensure your music noise is within noise limits when it reaches a noise sensitive area. 

Calculating an ACC can be complex and requires: 

  • the use of recognised sound modelling systems 
  • detailed understanding of how sound will spread and travel from point A to point B
  • detailed understanding of the factors influencing how sound travels e.g. physical structures that may reflect or absorb noise and surrounding environment.

You must calculate a separate AAC for:

  • each different AAL
  • all noise limits that apply during your hours of operation, i.e. the day/evening period limit and the night period limit.

When you must use an alternative assessment location 

The Noise protocol states when an AAL must be used. It must be used where it is not possible to measure the noise at a measurement point that represents the greatest noise intrusion within the noise sensitive area.  

This applies to all venues and events and could include when:

  • access is not permitted  
  • the location is not accessible. 

Refer to Case study 1.

Conditions when you may use an alternative assessment location 

The Noise protocol also defines when you may use an AAL.

Venues and events:

  • If music from other venues or events combines with your music and contributes to the effective noise level at the noise sensitive area:
    • The combined music noise from venues and events should be within noise limits at the noise sensitive area.
    • Each venue or event operator contributing to the music noise may need to use an AAL closer to their site. This can allow each operator to measure their individual contribution.

Refer to Case study 2.

  • When a more suitable measurement point is required to facilitate the assessment of the noise. This could be:
    • if another source of noise is impacting noise measurements (excluding other sources of music noise). For example, a continuous barking dog or people talking.
    • if the location within the noise sensitive area is not readily accessible.

Refer to Case study 3.


Indoor venues only: 

If atmospheric conditions influence what is heard at the noise sensitive area. This can happen when:
  • there are changes in the atmosphere, like wind, cloud cover, air pressure, and temperature, affecting how sound travels 
  • the further sound travels, the more influence these conditions can have
  • if you take measurements at a noise sensitive area far from your venue. It might not represent the noise under different conditions. This could include if your noise sensitive area is located over 300m away from your indoor venue.

Refer to Case study 4.

Conducting music noise assessments
You can do your own assessments to determine noise limits and assess your compliance with these limits. However, this must be done in accordance with the Noise protocol. 

EPA has produced a Technical guide: Measuring and analysing industry noise and music noise. This guide can help you understand the Noise protocol and how to measure and analyse music noise.

To conduct music noise measurements, you will need to:

  • use a suitable sound level meter calibrated by a NATA-accredited laboratory. Beware of smartphones or off the shelf sound meters as they would not provide the required accuracy for a suitable measurement 
  • understand the accuracy of the sound level meter you use, so you factor in the relevant margin of uncertainty to your results.

Music noise assessments are technical. You need access to suitable equipment. Using AALs requires additional resources (see alternative assessment criterion). It is recommended you engage an acoustic consultant to help you with music noise assessments.


Engaging an acoustic consultant

Acoustic consultants, or people with suitable experience in assessing music emissions, can help. They can:
  • identify noise sensitive areas
  • determine noise limits and assess compliance with the Environment Protection Act 2017 (the Act) and the Regulations
  • identify whether the use of AALs are appropriate
  • identify AALs and calculate AACs for your AALs
  • make recommendations to be compliant. For example, configuring sound equipment, noise attenuation and administrative actions
  • provide advice on how you can conduct ongoing monitoring using AALs
  • provide advice on sound monitoring equipment.

Ways you can find a consultant include:  

  • word of mouth –contact individuals or businesses you know have engaged a consultant
  • online search – searching acoustic or noise consultants will give many results. You’ll need to check their credentials and experience with assessing music noise
  • expressions of interest – open tenders for an acoustic consultant in a major newspaper. Make sure you assess the quotes received against the scope of the work
  • professional associations - they can often provide members’ contact details. For example, the Australian Acoustical Society

Proactive noise measurements 

To determine noise limits and assess compliance with these limits, you must follow the Noise protocol. However, you can measure your music at any time and location as a proactive step towards understanding your emissions. 

To make these measurements as indicative as possible for assessing potential risks of harm from your music, refer to the tips below:

  • follow the Noise protocol to determine the noise limits that apply during your operating hours
  • if you measure music outside your venue, do this when and where your music noise is loudest:
    • if the measurement is lower than the relevant noise limit, this is a good sign your venue will likely be compliant with the noise limits
    • if the measurement is higher than the relevant noise limit, this may show you need to reduce your music emissions. You may need to conduct a noise assessment
  • note where noise sensitive areas are located for your venue 
  • consider the path that your music will travel. Measure your music where it will best represent the impact on noise sensitive areas
  • consider surfaces that can absorb and reflect sound. These might skew your measurements i.e. take measurements away from walls and hold microphones away from the body
  • make a record of all your measurements noting the days, times and type of music being played.

You might only have access to your noise sensitive areas for a short period of time. This might allow for an initial assessment to set noise limits and assess compliance, but not for ongoing monitoring.

In this case, you may be able to identify other locations for ongoing monitoring. A simple method that can give an indication of whether you are close to, or above the noise limits, could include the following steps:

  1. follow the Noise protocol to determine the noise limits that apply during your operating times
  2. review the Technical Guide to help you identify locations for ongoing monitoring. Make sure you can access them during your different operating times
  3. during the times each noise limit applies, change (increase and decrease) the music volumes at your venue or event. While doing this, take music noise measurements within your noise sensitive areas. At the same time, take music noise measurements at your ongoing monitoring locations
  4. change the music volumes until your music noise is within the noise limits at your noise sensitive areas. Then record the corresponding measurements (levels) at your ongoing monitoring locations. Use these levels for your ongoing monitoring
  5. monitor your music emissions at your ongoing monitoring locations. While monitoring, if your music levels are measured to be close to the levels you recorded, it may mean you need to reduce your music emissions.

If your venue, sound system and speaker set up is always the same, monitoring levels at your mixing desk may also help you to manage your music emissions. 

As per step 4 above, when you record the levels at your ongoing monitoring locations, also record the levels at your mixing desk. Monitor your mixing desk levels. If your music goes above the levels you recorded, it may mean your music noise is above the noise limits at your noise sensitive areas. You may need to reduce your music emissions.


Case studies

  • Case study 1

    Joline’s Bar operates Wednesday to Sunday 3pm – 11pm and plays music through an audio device. The bar is indoors and is located at the base of an apartment building.

    People living in the apartment directly above the bar complained about the music. The owner turned down the music, but the complaints continued.

    The owner called an acoustic consultant who said they could do a noise assessment for the bar. It would include checking the bar's layout, determining noise limits, and taking measurements. The consultant would assess the bar's compliance with the noise limits. They would also make recommendations if music emissions needed to be reduced.

    The owner engaged the consultant. The consultant determined the bar’s music had the greatest noise intrusion in the apartment directly above the bar. Sound was travelling through the ceiling, rather than through doors and windows. 

    The people living in the apartment did not agree to the consultant taking measurements from within their apartment. This meant the consultant could not measure where the music had the greatest noise intrusion and so an AAL had to be used. 

    The consultant determined the noise limits for inside the apartment and modelled the sound pathway. They then calculated the AACs for the sound levels inside the bar. The AACs ensured the music was within the noise limits once it reached the apartment.

    The consultant provided the bar owner with the AACs for their music emissions during the day/evening and night periods. They advised on handheld sound level meters and on how to do ongoing measurements inside the bar (the AAL). The consultant also recommended installing acoustic panels on the bar’s ceiling. This would help to minimise the music heard in the apartment above.

    The bar owner installed the acoustic panels and bought a noise monitor. They also created a schedule for staff to take music measurements inside the bar. They did this at different times during their operating hours to ensure they didn’t exceed their AACs and the noise limits. 

  • Case study 2

    The Fisherman’s Pub hosts live music indoors, on Friday and Saturday nights. The pub is close to a residential area and the owner Jen wants to understand if her music could disturb nearby residents.  

    Jen determines her noise sensitive area is the apartment building one block away. One Saturday night, Jen stands outside the apartment building while a live band plays at her pub. Jen notes she can easily hear the live band and moves to the point where she can hear it the loudest (the greatest noise intrusion). But Jen can also hear music coming from two different bars nearby.

    Jen conducts measurements at the same location outside the apartment building. She determines the music level (effective noise level) from the three venues is above noise limits.

    Jen wants to know her pub’s individual contribution to the music heard at the apartment building. She asks the bars’ owners to stop playing music for a short period on a Saturday night, so she can measure her music, but they refused. 

    In this situation, there are multiple sources of music. They are all contributing to the music noise (effective noise level) at the apartment building (noise sensitive area). Jen can use an AAL to measure her music emissions at a location closer to her pub, where the music from the two bars does not influence the measurements. Jen can also use the AAL for ongoing monitoring of her pub’s music emissions. 

  • Case study 3

    The Vino Express wine bar hosts an acoustic guitarist on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. The acoustic guitarist uses an amplifier and plays in the outdoor courtyard. The Vino Express received complaints about the music from a nearby aged care facility. 
    The Vino Express wants to measure their noise to know if they are within the noise limits. They engage an acoustic consultant to conduct a noise assessment. 

    The consultant set up a recording device outside a bedroom at the aged care facility. This location was found to be the noise sensitive area where the music would be heard the loudest (greatest noise intrusion). 

    In the recording, barking dogs were heard so frequently the music could not be isolated and accurately measured. Due to the barking, a more suitable recording location was required and an AAL could be used.

    The consultant calculated the noise limits for the noise sensitive area. They assessed the sound pathway and selected two AALs. Both were closer to The Vino Express and away from the barking dogs. The consultant calculated AACs for the two AALs.    

    The consultant re-took the noise recordings at the AALs and found The Vino Express were compliant with the noise limits. 

    The consultant told The Vino Express that if they wanted to do their own ongoing monitoring, they could purchase a handheld noise meter. They could measure at both AALs using their AACs to assess if they met their noise limits. The consultant also recommended The Vino Express rearrange their courtyard. By changing the courtyard and sound equipment they could reduce their music emissions.   
  • Case study 4

    Sundown Hall is an indoor wedding venue on the edge of a lake with no close neighbours. As part of the wedding activities, the venue hosts DJs, live bands and acoustic musicians.  

    Sundown Hall received noise complaints from people living across the lake. The owner was surprised the residents could hear their music. They were 500m away on the opposite side of the lake.

    A consultant advised the owner that atmospheric conditions would be impacting their music emissions. Conditions could increase and decrease the effects of the noise. This was due to the distance between the hall (source) and the residential area (noise sensitive area). Conditions included:

    • wind speed and direction
    • atmospheric pressure
    • temperature 
    • other natural phenomena.

    The consultant also said their rural location likely had a low background level. This could make the music stand out more, particularly at night. 
    The consultant said noise measurements within the noise sensitive area would not be suitable. They would not provide a complete understanding of the music heard by the residents under different conditions. 

    It was advised AALs should be used to take measurements closer to the venue. The AAC would be calculated to factor in the different atmospheric conditions. The AAC would ensure the music emissions were within the noise limits, once it reached the noise sensitive area across the lake.

    Key terms and their definitions are found in the Environment Protection Regulations 2021 (the Regulations), regulation 4 and the glossary of terms in the noise protocol. Refer to the definitions to ensure you comply with the Environment Protection Act 2017 and the Regulations


Reviewed 14 June 2024