Adjusting the limits on live music
By María Vila Rebolo
Over the past two years the Sant Josep council has undertaken measures to control the noise level from music in its municipality. Responding to many complaints from residents, an ordinance and subsequent amendments were passed to regulate the volume of music. The regulations required all establishments with sound systems to install noise limiters with a maximum sound level of 65 decibels (dB). The Local Police were authorized to take action against establishments that: 1) did not have limiters fully operational, or 2) exceeded 65 dB in the immediate area around the bar or restaurant before 11:00 pm. After 11:00 pm the noise limit went down to 40 dB. There was some flexibility based on the location of the venue, with more or less noise allowed depending on the character of the neighborhood. The restrictions were stronger in areas that were residential, close to hospitals or schools, and less restrictive in areas designated as industrial or recreational.
What do these decibel levels mean? They measure acoustic pressure, and experts say that sound becomes annoying at over 75 dB
and painful at around 120 dB. To give you an idea, here are some decibel levels from everyday life: 10 to 30 dB is like a quiet conversation in a library. 30 to 50 dB is the range of normal conversation or household appliances. 55 to 75 dB is considered somewhat high - for instance being near a vacuum cleaner generates 65 dB (which is the limit they were applying to local musicians and bands that perform live).
These bylaws began to be implemented in a somewhat arbitrary manner during the summer of 2018. Live concerts at smaller venues seemed to be targeted the most. Performances were interrupted, musical instruments were confiscated and the establishments were given hefty fines. This caused outrage among professional musicians as their livelihood was being threatened. It was also protested against by people who love live music as they felt this would greatly inhibit the development of musical culture on the island.
Meanwhile, the beach clubs, recreational yachts and mansions that play their DJ music at levels greatly exceeding the permitted decibels seemed to remain exempt from any enforcement. This was despite the fact that one of the most important factors that led to the new regulations was the desire to limit the noise caused by parties in private homes. This type of activity was classified as a serious infraction that empowered the police to stop the music, and carried a penalty of up to €12,000… yet these big venues were not the main focus of enforcement.
The musicians of Ibiza came together to voice their concerns in this matter. In April 2018 they formed the “Associació de Músics d’Eivissa” which has successfully carried out various actions such as collecting signatures, meeting with representatives of political parties and organizing a campaign to present arguments against the ordinance. In September 2018, the association and various establishments on the island submitted formal protests and suggestions to the town council. They felt that their proposals were the basis for an equitable solution to the situation - offering reasonable hours and volumes of music, while taking into account the different needs of various neighborhoods.
Briefly stated, they proposed three modifications to the regulations:
1) That the council recognize the cultural and social importance of live musical performances.
2) That a fair balance be struck between the rights of residents to have peace and quiet in their homes, and the development of live musical activities.
3) That the current noise ordinance be modified to give clear guidelines with regard to live music performances. That new dB levels will be respected without the necessity for limiters which interfere with the quality of the music.
The mayor of Sant Josep invited the leaders of the association to a meeting to discuss their proposals. The representatives of the mayor’s office said that the underlying problem is the excesses that have been committed by certain tourism businesses - a situation that has led to the tightening of municipal ordinances to avoid the proliferation of clubs and beach clubs. The association agreed that Sant Josep has a problem with the excessive noise that causes discomfort to its residents. However, they pointed out that the problem does not primarily emanate from relatively small live music events, but from the clubs and other large events.
The results of the meeting were quite positive as the council agreed to adjust the regulations to make it easier perform live music in Sant Josep.
One of the new terms allows musicians to play from 1:00 pm to 11:00 pm without the need for limiters, but at a reasonable decibel level “that guarantees good coexistence and respect for the neighbors”. Notification of live music events must be given to the Town Hall at least 48 hours in advance, but events that are organized regularly may present monthly or annual programming schedules. All other music venues that are not live still need to have a sound limiter. Both sides agreed that it is right to protect people’s peace by doing something about the noise levels, but that the original regulations needed to be adjusted to support the long tradition of music and musicians that adds to our culture. •