With the increased recognition of potential damage to listeners when subjected to excessively loud sound, software-based sound level management systems can be viewed as a component of a strategy for reducing sound exposure to patrons and staff in live music venues. However, the use of level management tools in small indoor music venues, which represent a unique environment, has not been systematically explored. In an experimental approach for sound level management, a software system was tried in six indoor live-music venues in Melbourne. Comparing a control (without sound level management software) and the experimental condition (using the software), there was no reduction in mean LAeq,T, although there was a reduction in the number of events with extreme volume levels. Subjective questionnaires indicated that one-fifth of the patrons preferred lower sound levels than they experienced. The findings suggest that modifications to the software system may be necessary if the aim of the system is to reduce patron and staff sound exposure rather than simply to avoid exceeding legislative sound level limits. Recommended alterations could include greater flexibility in choice of target, matching with context of the performance, or changes to the system's visual display so that staying below, not at target, is positively reinforced.
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