Why Perth Is In Danger Of “Disappearing Off The Touring Map” Altogether

Written by Emmy Mack on July 13, 2017

So what exactly is the problem?

Basically, not enough punters are buying tickets.

Chris O’Brien: “Not enough Perth people are going out to support the shows when all other cities are.

“It purely comes down to ‘bums on seats’ — promoters will keep putting artists through there if enough people are coming through to at least break even.”

Luke Logemann: “Perth fans have always been last minute ticket buyers. It was always tough, but the shows would eventually come home. The problem is now those shows don’t always sell at the end.”

What’s Causing It?

From the sounds of things, the issue of unpredictable ticket sales is currently being exacerbated by the mining economy decline and licensing issues hampering promoters’ abilities to put on all-ages shows.

Damian Costin, 123 Agency (Stonefield, Killing Heidi, Kingswood, Tash Sultana): “The signs aren’t good and the market is soft, no doubts about it. The mining economy decline has affected nearly everything, including house prices, so people are cash sensitive.”

Chris O’Brien: “The Perth market has the same licensing issues as Victoria, where you can’t run an all-ages show. For a lot of international acts that we tour, generally speaking, there’s a decent under-18s following, so you’ve gotta do an under-18s and an 18+ show. If you’re just doing an 18+ show, then there’s a percentage of crowds that just can’t go to the show.

“And not just that — it means that the under-18 kids struggle to have enough shows to go to, so they’re not that often in the market for them, so it’s an issue that a lot of the venues over there have with the local government… I know they’re lobbying to get that changed.

“…And also the mining boom. Going back a few years ago, people would come out of the mines for two weeks and have a lot of money to spend, so they would then go to more shows and our numbers were quite healthy. But because of that as well, it just means that it’s become a market that’s just really not worth our while.”

What’s The Solution?

Promoters seem to agree that local governments could definitely help improve things by removing some of the red tape around licensing for all-ages shows, and in the meantime promoters need to be strategic about which tours they send Perth’s way.

Damian Costin: “Ticket prices need to be considered and only acts that are resonating need bother. We just need to adjust our thinking to the WA market. All is not lost though, it will get better in time.”

Chris O’Brien: “I actually sat down with one of the bigger venue operators in Perth [recently] and had a long chat with him about it and he certainly gets it from our perspective. He completely understands why it’s not financially viable for us, and he and a few other venue guys are gonna get together and try and lobby the government even harder to try and get the de-licensing of venues happening.

“It’s something we’d love to see rectified obviously, but until the numbers start coming back it’s certainly a market we’ll be staying reasonably clear of.”

Is There Hope?

The latest live music figures out of Perth paint a surprisingly hopeful picture, with research published by West Australian Music (WAM) in 2016 showing that WA comprised 15 per cent of contemporary music ticket revenue in Australia in 2015, and 15.1 per cent of all attendances. That’s despite having just 10 per cent of the population, meaning that, relatively speaking, the WA contemporary music industry revenue is still higher per-capita than for the rest Australia as a whole.

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What’s more, around half of WA’s ticket revenue is going into contemporary music, compared to around 40 per cent when you look at Australia as a whole.

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Promoters, too, are keeping their fingers crossed that things could shift with a little massaging from the government, and will happily start throwing more tours Perth’s way should things start changing for the better.

Luke Logemann: “Every once in a while we will try and put something on there. If tickets start selling earlier and quicker, that will be encouraging.”

Mike Harris (Chief Executive, WAM): “The WA music scene remains strong… The key issue is that of audiences and converting music consumption from streaming/recorded music to live attendances.

“We must ensure we are nurturing the next generation of live music fan or any gains on the venue scene will be lost. The challenge is to break down the wall of regulation that is a barrier to live music. This includes all-ages gigs which are a crucial element of developing new audiences.”

Aarom Wilson (Marketing & Communications Officer, WAM): “It’s definitely not a simple economy the music industry, as there are indeed both positive and negative perspectives existing over here, yet I guess that’s always going to be the case when it comes to competition.

“On one hand you have numerous new venues opening and festivals pulling in record crowds, including WAMFest, and then you have a few venues closing or suffering and festivals collapsing, like Southbound. On the whole though, I would say things are rather positive over here, and luckily nothing serious like lockout laws have affected the music scene’s vibrancy.”

Perth’s live music future is a complex issue. but, for now, the city can comfort itself knowing that it’s still about to get hit with tours from the likes of:

So, punters still have plenty of opportunities to show that they’re thirsty for live music before the live music well (possibly) dries up even further.

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Additional reporting by Tom Williams

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