Two to Tango: A panel discussion on musicians and venues

photo by Chris Familton

Last night at Sydney’s Annandale Hotel a panel of musicians, venue owner/bookers and industry people was convened to discuss the state of the live scene in Sydney and in particular the relationship between musicians and venues.

The genesis of the discussion was a FasterLouder opinion piece by musician Brendan Maclean detailing his frustrations with The Sandringham Hotel when news came to light about their current financial problems. The Annandale’s Matt Rule took Maclean to task via an open letter online which resulted in the two meeting in person (mediated by FasterLouder) to clear the air and discuss some of the points raised.

The panelists were the host Jay Katz (musician/DJ), The Doctor (Triple J), Matt Rule (The Annandale), Brendan Maclean (musician, actor), Urthboy (musician), Siobhan Poynton (MusicNSW), Dave Rennick (Dappled Cities), Tony Gosden (Jam Music/ The Beresford).

Much of the discussion revolved around the importance of the relationship between bands and venues and the need to treat it as a business partnership between the two parties. Siobhan Poynton made some very pertinent comments about the need for both musician and venue to create a worksheet detailing all facets of the performance from arrival times, the payment deal in terms of dollars vs expected crowd and who will pay them and when to avoid any confusion and miscommunication. She also pointed out the roles MusicNSW can play in assisting new bands to understand the machinations of the live music scene and the types of funding available to musicians.

The musicians on the panel stressed the need for acts to do their research before approaching potential venues and to make sure they were being realistic about the crowd they could pull and clear on how they could promote the event to ensure they had a good audience and the venue would get numbers through the door and to the bar. Rule and Tony Gosden both made additional comments on the importance of the approach bands take when it comes to talking with venues and the shared responsibility for promoting gigs.

In response to a question from the audience Rule gave an insight into some of the battles the Annandale (and many other venues) face from external factors such as residents and councils and the often crippling costs that go with defending their business that is contributing economically and culturally to Sydney. Urthboy backed up those comments by reminding the audience of the cultural significance of a venue like the Annandale to a large number of people that have experienced life-changing music and forged friendships and relationships within its brick walls. He also made an important point that ‘supporting’ the live music scene shouldn’t be seen as a charitable act. It should be part of one’s life and social experience and the quality of the music should engender passion for it in the hearts and minds of music fans.

Hopefully this event was a kickstart for more dialogue on the issues raised and most importantly continued action by the Sydney live music scene from the musicians, the venues, the media, local government and the people who are passionate about hearing and seeing musicians performing on stage.

photo by Chris Familton
photo by Chris Familton

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