Deville’s Pad last week joined a growing number of live music venues that are closing or have closed in Perth over the last six months. Local promoter, Dave Cutbush (Life Is Noise) immediately started a Facebook page, ‘Perth Needs More Music And Arts Venues’, as the first step in a process to stir up improved support from Government, corporates and audiences. BOB GORDON chats to him about the conundrum.
You created the Facebook page ‘Perth Needs More Music And Arts Venues’ last week and it’s over 2,000 likes already. That’s great, but do people need to vote more with their feet than with their mouse?
This is all about voting with the feet, Bob. Undoubtedly, part of the problem is attendances at ticketed shows in Perth. Whether this be tours or local events we need more people getting involved, and supporting music and art. Without this nothing can survive. However, with the closing of two significant venues in a short period of time, I think we need to become active as a community, we need to lobby government for support and help business owners to provide venues. And wouldn’t it be great for governments to provide some venue options when they are needed.
Things like PIAF, Fringe and even the likes of Perth Arena get big bucks poured into them. And hey, they are totally great. But at the other end of town we are really missing venue options. There needs to be a coordinated approach by government to facilitate the opening of small to medium sized venues for local and touring artists.
The page is the first step in a process to apply pressure on the State Govt to get behind a venue/offer venues support. What are the best ways to go about this?
At this stage the group and the page is only in its infancy. This is a reaction to The Bakery and Devilles closing down. We are looking to have a meeting of interested persons within the next week or so and then we will start forming plans. This is very much a grass roots thing at the moment. We see a problem and we want to fix it. Watch this space.
Ideally, what support would you like the Govt to offer?
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if local and state governments stopped putting hurdles in front of potential new venues? The small bar licensing of recent years has been great for Perth but has done very little for the live music and arts scene. The Bird is the only venue that I can think of that is an exception to this. We would also like the authorities to help local venues that support culture instead of hindering them. How good would it be to see government subsidies for those places supporting local artists. I know it is a pie in the sky idea but how good would it be if the government subsidised or even developed a local music precinct or a multipurpose arts space?
In Europe there are lots of state owned venues and arts spaces of this nature. In WA we often focus on the big projects EQ, Perth Link, Burswood Stadium, Perth Area etc, at the detriment of the smaller and medium-sized projects. This would be relatively inexpensive but would make a real impact. Over recent years we have seen a State Theatre built and money put into PIAF and Fringe but what about local music? Where is the local music venue? In order to help foster local artists and be inspired by touring artists we need spaces where they can play. It is not all about the big ticket stuff. We need multiple venues of differing sizes and a state government that wants to make a coordinated difference on a micro and macro level.
As a promoter, how dismaying is it to see venues closing like this?
I tour medium-sized international bands in Australia. Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide have better small-to-medium-sized venue options than Perth. For my business it is unfortunately going to be the case that we are going to stop bringing some acts here. This is for two major reasons. Firstly, there has been a decline in attendances of the last 12 months and secondly, there are not enough venue options. As a Perth-based promoter I want to bring these acts to my home city.
Identify the typical pressures venue owners/management face in running regular shows?
I think it is probably best to speak to them about this. But my guess would be the normal red tape and expenses running a local music venue or business. It is not an easy thing to do.
It always happens over time, but the last 6-12 months have been particularly harsh with venue closures, why do you think this has been such an unfortunate period?
Bob we have all been through this before. Venues come and go and we all remember places like The Grosvenor and the Hyde Park Hotel stopping their support of live music. We need to protect our cultural landscape at every turn. The Melbourne music community is a great example of this. Every time a venue is threatened there are online and on street protests. They value their culture. I think Perth people do too, but we need to have a more focused approach to saving our venues and helping foster new ones. The ‘Oh well’ approach does not work. Our apathy will not make things better. We need to organise, lobby and attend if we want things to improve.
How much does the run of festival-related entertainment in Perth/Freo during January/February/March impact on the regular flow of things?
It undoubtedly impacts on venues. Look, Fringe and PIAF are awesome. At both ends of the market they provide Perth with something that punters want. I think we need to take that kind of funding and inspiration and spread it out for 12 months of the year. We need to support existing venues and help new ones get off the ground. And why can’t we help fund a new live music venue? This money is after all, ours.
What can we all do to get things rolling effectively for the whole 12 months of the year?
Great question and this is one we are yet to find out. I think we need to meet, talk, get active and don’t lose the passion. We will be planning a meeting very soon. We want to get people inspired. This is something worth fighting for. I suppose we should take the Sea Shepherd approach about this and get involved. It is all well and good to sit around and chat about this problem but let’s get out and take some action and save our artists and those who inspire them.
A Perth Venue Action Meeting is being held at The Bakery on Monday, February 23, from 6pm. Head to the ‘Perth Needs More Music And Arts Venues’ Facebook page for more details.