So I heard a rumour that Rocking Horse records is closing down; I always treat these things with a grain of salt. In a music community as small as Brisbane there are always rumours circulating about the death of such and such or the end of some event. Sometimes music businesses around my town announce their demise only to re-emerge in a new form on the other side of town, with the same staff and vibe, albeit with a new name.
The Brisbane music community is one of the most vibrant in the world; (I’m travelled, I should know) the problem is that outside of music reviewers, band managers, other musicians and a small handful of enthusiasts there isn’t an audience to support a community the size of ours. Brisbane can often seem backward and out of touch; to some degree this is true, but it isn’t the case in the Creative Industries. It’s almost a beautiful problem in Brisbane; there is too much creativity for such a small audience.
At least to begin with every artist needs a patron; in Brisbane Rocking Horse has been a patron to many local artists. None of us make any money out of our chosen profession, so we rely on places like Rocking Horse records to give us a job that won’t make us suicidal. I’ve never been lucky enough to work for Rocking Horse, although for three years I worked for another (now – no longer) Brisbane Icon The Troubadour. I am certain the work environment would be similar to that of my beloved workplace; when your bosses are music lovers they will let you come into work hung over (after a big night of playing and the mandatory after party), they will give you some time off work to go on tour, they will let you grow a beard.
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the impeccable selection of music and vinyl, the band shirts from all over the world, the place to hear great new music while you shop, the only place you could see an in-store performance (in the later years). Although these things are part of the beauty of such a place, to me they are of secondary importance. I am not going to make the argument that we shouldn’t shop online or download music off torrents, because, well, I am guilty of both and I would be a hypocrite if I wrote that. I am not going to argue that we boycott chain stores, because yet again I don’t want to be a hypocrite.
Instead I am going to pose a question; with all these Government funded spaces for fine art, theatre, dance and film around Australia why is it that a culturally important space like Rocking Horse records can’t be partially funded by the Government?
I went to an art gallery the other day, and one of the exhibitions was a replica of a Japanese 7/11. I liked this work of art a lot, but it begs the question why we can’t put a replica of Rocking Horse records, staff and all, into the Gallery as well? Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of the arts knows that ranking some art as ‘higher’ than other art is as dead as Realism (so not entirely dead, but you get the idea). So why is it that musicians like us must fend for ourselves while my artist friend can paint with his girlfriend’s menstrual blood and be fully funded by the tax payer?
Some might think it an unrealistic expectation to ask the Government to pay for musicians but, as I have illustrated, the Government can fund whatever it likes. They are going to tax the biggest polluters in the country so we can compensate 18 million of the smallest ones. Why not divert 0.5% of this revenue from Holden Commodores to set up creative spaces for musicians. Start by giving Rocking Horse two million dollars so it can hire more staff and put more vinyl on the shelf.
Not everything has to be a capitalist means to an end; some things are valuable for their contribution to culture. At very least my earlier idea that where we can we move the whole thing to the multimillion gallery across the river, arts for arts sake. Maybe one day it can be moved to the museum and placed in the section about retail shopping next to the David Jones exhibit.