OPINION: Venues in Wollongong
January 3, 2012 5 Comments
I thought I’d try out something new; a totally biased, subjective, personal piece. It’s not meant to be objective, or balanced. This is 100% my own opinion. Feel free to leave a comment below.
Putting together the first gig guide of 2012, I found something encouraging; the Glasshouse Tavern was hosting a gig on Thursday night. Typically a hotbed of ear-splitting Bruno Mars/Lady Gaga remixes (or, if you’re lucky, mashups!), vomit, and questionable lifechoices, the venue would host Curious Temple, the Vicious Dickens, The Walking Who and others. It was the second time the Glasshouse had hosted a music night in recent weeks, with A Cat Named Kesey, Gravity Takes Over among those playing a week or two previously.
Normally, the Glasshouse isn’t somewhere this writer would frequent; but you’d be a fool to say that it’s not a well-equipped and stylish venue. It has a large dancefloor, a large bar, a spacious outdoor area, and obviously good acoustics and a decent sound system. While not having a reputation for local music, I was happy to see that the venue was at least trying out a live performance evening; no matter what, more venues supporting live music is a good thing in my books.
Then, basically just as the gig guide went live, the event was cancelled.
“We won’t be able to get enough money to hire gear, a sound guy, promotion and pay the bands,” went a post on the Facebook event page for the gig. The Vicious Dickens were a little more forthcoming with information: “the glasshouse didnt want to fork out any dollars for sound/lighting, but were happy to charge $10 entry. Weird that.”
Sadly, it’s not a story uncommon to Wollongong. Many similar band nights have popped up in recent times – Midnight Kamikaze at Hostage X, Face/Off at Fever – only to be immediately cancelled after poor showings (i.e. door and bar takings) in the opening week or two. This is the absolute biggest problem in Wollongong music; that the overwhelming percentage of venues see live music as merely a commodity to be exploited, a resource to be picked up and sucked dry. We hear the usual PR spin bullshit; “we support live music,” “XYZ club loves local music,” but as soon as the venue doesn’t make the profits they want, as soon as the cash dries up, so too does the venue’s “passion for live music” dry up.
Like the place or not, the Glasshouse would be a decent venue for live music. It’s large, has many different areas, a bar, and is central to town. Maybe the owners saw the success of Yours & Owls, or the Patch, or Dicey Riley’s ‘Live & Local’ nights, and saw another opportunity to squeeze some money out of punters. Yet – after zero promo, zero exposure, and booking what was honestly a lineup of lesser-known local bands for its first night – management decided to more or less force the night to shut down by making bands pay for their own lighting and sound; a pretty piss-poor attitude from the venue. The moment a band night fails to turn a profit, it shuts down (see Midnight Kamikaze, Face/Off etc). The venue say “we didn’t get people through the door, we didn’t sell drinks – live music isn’t profitable.”
But what they fail to see, is that starting a new music night is never going to be instantly profitable. It’s not meant to be, and any venue that initiates such a night for this reason is surely doomed to fail. Such ventures succeed only after convincing music fans that it is a worthwhile project, after encouraging people to respond to and support the night. If a venue is ever to pull a crowd aside from the friends and family of the bands playing, it takes time (see Yours & Owls, Music Farmers, the Patch). Live music in Wollongong is never going to be instantly profitable. It takes time. Which is something that these greedy venues should begin to understand and appreciate, before raising the hopes of local music fans and bands, then dashing those hopes away as soon as the weekly bar sales spreadsheet comes back.
What do you think? Got an opinion? Leave a comment below.