OPINION: Why Australia Needs More All Ages Gigs

I’ve been to the Newtown Social Club once. Going there for the first time was a strange experience for me because even though I see it so often from the outside, I’ve never actually had the privilege of going in. That one time I went there was for a Japanese Wallpaper gig. He was doing an “under 18” show before his “18+” one later than night. As I walked up the rusty, wooden staircase into the dimly-lit venue, the subtle hum and tireless chatter was different to your run-of-the-mill, regular gig. The coming together of the next generation of music lovers, musicians and industry workers was beyond exciting for everyone and in turn, created this electricity in the air. You could see the bliss pouring out of the “under 18” gig-goer’s faces, everyone was over-the-moon to be experiencing this novelty together.

The gig was great but what really stood out to me even more than the bright, peart sounds of Japanese Wallpaper was the crowd. Everyone was quietly grateful for each other’s presence and everyone took great care of one another in the mosh. I can only imagine that the majority of the people who attended that show are, like me, spending a large portion of their time going onto ticket websites only to see the huge, red “over 18’s only” stamp. The Japanese Wallpaper gig made me realise that maybe it doesn’t have to be that way (in Sydney’s inner-west at least). It made me analyse the reasons why these gigs have to all be “over 18” and inspired me to stand up and try to make a change.

Live music is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever had the joy of experiencing. For the most part religion, sexuality, skin colour, gender all goes out the window when you’re in a raging mosh pit stacked with grins and sweaty armpits. I’ve never felt more free and like myself than when I’ve been surrounded by odorous bodies, watching an artist I admire. Unfortunately, more often than not I miss out on this liberating and soul-rejuvenating experience purely because of my age, and I’m not the only one.

New studies from Victoria’s Deakin University are showing that live music leads to a “happier and more satisfying life”. When “under 18” people are finding themselves, going through troubles with friends, figuring out what they want to do in the future and sometimes dealing with a great amount of unhappiness because of it, a “happier and more satisfying life” sounds ideal. That should be reason enough for venues to open their doors to citizens born after 1998 but that’s only a portion of why it’s crucial.

Putting on more all-ages gigs would benefit the industry. Letting the next generation of music journalists, artists, promoters, managers etc. see and experience the inspiration and bliss that comes along with live music would help the music industry flourish in the years to come. As well as this, it would expose a younger audience to something un-debatably incredible and perspective-altering.

There is also a gap in the industry for venues booking more “under 18” bands. Having a mini-showcase of local “under 18” talent every now and then would provide experience to up-and-coming bands and artists and also encourage them to turn their hobbies and talents into a career in the years to come. If you’re worried about the quality or quantity of the music coming from these teenagers, don’t fear. I encourage you to check out the triple j Unearthed High finalists and winner this year (there were over one-thousand entries).

Whenever I bring this up in conversation with others, more often than not they will inform me of all the restrictions that venues face. It’s true – venues (especially in Sydney) at the moment are under intense pressure, primarily because of the lockout laws. In addition to that, the bar at “18+” gigs brings in the majority of the money for the venue that allows them to put on shows at all and obviously when you’re serving an “under 18” crowd that income disappears. Venues may want to open their gigs to a wider audience but experience licensing issues.

Still, like many things, there has to be ways to overcome these problems. No bar money? Sell non-alcoholic beverages or put on a second-hand record fair. Licensing issues? Close down the bar and put the “under 18” gig on earlier in the day. Worried about money loss? Consider the gig may sell out because of the large amount of young gig-attenders that would be over-joyed to finally see their favourite band live. Venues are struggling, but will creating more opportunities for “under 18’s” to enjoy music would make them struggle anymore?

To be fair, some festivals and venues are making moves in this arena. Yours & Owls Festival that happens in Wollongong every year is putting on a mini “under 18” gig with huge acts such as Hermitude, Nicole Millar, Hockey Dad and Bec Sandridge playing. So it can be done and venues would probably be surprised with the amount of bands/artists willing to participate in an “under 18” day festival.

While there’s a ways to go, the live music industry are making steps and starting the conversation about becoming more inclusive and diverse with increasing the representation of women and the LGBTQIA+ community on stage and in the crowds. Let’s place the “under 18” audience into this bubble of inclusiveness too. Live music should not be ageist.

Isabella Moore is a fourteen-year-old designer, writer and music blogger. Head here to read and sign her petition to encourage music venues in Sydney to put on more all ages gigs, and keep up with her campaign via its Facebook page.

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