Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Friday Music: Good ideas and grumbles

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  • Geoff Lealand, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I am not so sure about this explanation Ian, if my students are any guide. They will freely (as in free) download films & TV series, but make a curious exception for local music-especially if they know some one in a band, want to be in a band, or are commuted fans,
    But I do agree with some other explanations; my last experience (The National) of standing around impatiently on a sticky plastic sheet for 2 hours waiting for the band to deign to join us has rather put me off live music.
    It was a nice surprise, however, to pick up the Guardian Guide in London yesterday, to see Lorde's face looming large.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2560 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Jorgensen, in reply to Geoff Lealand,

    Hey geoff. I think you entirely just missed the point of what i said. Have a read again. I dont think illegal downloading of music has any negative effect on the music scene... I believe the opposite to be true. Its that people watch so much tv these days that is hurting the live scene

    wellington • Since Apr 2010 • 34 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    No, I don't think I have missed any point. I was just suggesting that a single, untested explanation doesn't explain anything. There are a myriad of possible explanations (including g a number you have pointed to), working in concert against drawing crowds to live music eg cost, competition from touring overseas acts (both ancient and breaking); late starts by bands; obnoxious crowds (especially the cellphone prodding, yakking variety); shit venues etc etc.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2560 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Jorgensen, in reply to Geoff Lealand,

    sorry Geoff, i didn't pick that up from what you said.

    You're totally right, of course its just a theory and yes, its just one small part of the problem and totally untested other than some observations I've made (and explain in the essay) but yeah, haha, i don't blame game of thrones for everything, its partly breaking bad's fault too ;)

    I had quite alot of international response to those interviews around those theories and they created quite a bit of interest, I received a bunch of emails from people who hadn't thought of that connection before but could really see a correlation between declining attendances at underground live shows and the advancement of decent television programming and broadband...however, it could just be a coincidence, and like most of my essays, just fodder to get people talking.

    wellington • Since Apr 2010 • 34 posts Report Reply

  • Samuel Scott,

    I like the way this topic has shifted. I am utterly perplexed with how the live scene has dipped.

    I'm not gonna name names but there NZ bands I really like, who get great reviews, get played on BFM and Active a lot, get features on Music 101 on National, have a good grasp of social media, make great music and yet struggle to get 150 people to their shows. And every established band that I know is seeing a reduction in ticket sales in the last year.

    This is where I really connected with your book Ian (and I guess we have talked about this stuff a lot over the years) in terms of venues and how they could evolve. Small towns need a super passionate venue owner and then everything slots in to place. When TPF was first touring we could sell out Oamuru Penguin club and the Mussel Inn not because of who we were but because of the venue and the community that a venue can create around itself.

    There was a New Plymouth facebook page setup to try and encourage TPF to come play a show their. We still haven't, primarily because we have connected with a venue, this sort of thing is actually quite common and so frustrating. (tragically the women who set that page up recently died in a car accident, we are talking with her friends about finally putting on this show as a kind of memorial).

    The Cabana in Napier is a good venue and we always seem to get a crowd there these days. Again I think it has almost as much to do with the venue as the band.

    Why don't Taupo/Whanganui/New Plymouth/Hamilton/Tauranga/Rotorua all have 150 capacity venues run by enthusiastic music heads (wether young hipsters or old flying nunsters it doesn't matter).

    Enthusiasm is almost all the counts.

    South Wellington • Since Feb 2008 • 315 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Sjorn,

    Old Flying Nunsters spent all their spare money on records and beer. Young hipsters are spending it at online furniture stores and hairdressers. In a small town , surely rents would be very reasonable so what are the basic start up costs to get something up and running? I guess you would need a PA at the very least as a significant cost - I guess I HAVE to read that book.

    New Zealand • Since Sep 2013 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • Samuel Scott,

    In a small town , surely rents would be very reasonable so what are the basic start up costs to get something up and running?

    Ian has put ball park costs for setting up venues in his book.

    South Wellington • Since Feb 2008 • 315 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Sjorn,

    Yes. Thanks. It does just seem a shame because there seems to be so many empty spaces around so many NZ towns - sad failed businesses and the like- that could be put to a good cause.

    New Zealand • Since Sep 2013 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    This is an interesting debate for me.

    I think there are a few different things happening. Firstly, music is shifting on to computers and electronic devices. There are still plenty of radios in the country, and will be for many years, but the consumption of music is an entirely different thing than it was ten or even five years ago.

    When I go out to a venue to pay money to see live music, I like to know that I'm going to get quality. That comes in the form of either reputation, or having heard their music - usually on Active or bFM. I don't have a radio at the moment having come back from overseas it is a priority but nowhere near the top - therefore that sound isn't getting through to me yet. A radio is no longer an essential item for young people, and that makes a difference.

    I imagine that most New Zealanders are in a position where they are affected by these. Shifting digitally, and underexposed to local music through radio. This is why things like the Audience ( which promoted here) are important, for creating spaces which people frequent and are able to expose themselves to content. That exposure then directly translates into familiarity and willingness to see musicians.

    The functional death of the record store, and the end of free to air music television in New Zealand are both similarly contributing factors.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    It’s well established that venues make their money from alcohol (and in some places, food). Since rents are high and door takings are low, it makes sense to put the bands on later, in order to maximise revenue coming in over the bar.

    The problem is that all of this has to compete with other forms of entertainment. It also has to compete with incomes that are pressured by high rents or mortgage repayments and other cost of living pressures.

    Suddenly the dynamics of a live venue change, and its hospitability and warmth become important. Different things are going to work with different people, but having more formats with which to experience music is definitely a good thing. It isn’t summer time year round, but most of the time I’d rather see the same band at 7pm outdoors at Splore.

    Edit:

    I'm also in the position right now of organising a fundraising gig, in a traditional venue with a traditional format. In order to fill the venue sufficiently, we need a good headliner, or several relatively well known bands. We're getting there, but it's hard work - not many musicians guarantee a crowd. (The ones we know are all at a wedding that weekend...)

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Ian Jorgensen,

    I dont think illegal downloading of music has any negative effect on the music scene

    My based on nothing much theory is that there's been a shift in perceptions of value. When people bought physical records and CDs, there was an acceptance that $20 or whatever was a fair price for a tangible item. For a download, people aren't prepared to pay anything like as much. This has also happened in software and will happen in books, I think.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Samuel Scott,

    Since rents are high and door takings are low, it makes sense to put the bands on later,

    Except that people just show up later. I always post set times to twitter so that the audience can actually make up their own minds. I find it quite odd that so few venues in NZ run a bar or restaurant adjacent but slightly separate to the music room. I would say at least 50% of the venues I have played in outside of NZ have a music room and a bar (many don't even have a bar to sell drinks in the music room, which is great from a show perspective as it gives you more control over sound pollution and lighting).

    If you have a bar that can happily fit 80 people and music room that can fit 150/200 then you can service that music room from the bar, ie punters can choose to leave the squishy music land to buy a drunk in a calmer environment. I think you'd potentially sell more booze. I know many venues sell less drinks when shows are sold out as the bar areas get swamped by static humans watching the show. Having a separate bar means you potentially run ticketing just from the music room and have a floating drinking crowd. It also means you can put the focus on making the bar a better place to hang out. Great music spaces are not always great social spaces.

    I now SFBH have really tried to improve the hangout vibes on their re-opening.

    South Wellington • Since Feb 2008 • 315 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to George Darroch,

    Another part of the book I liked was Ian's explanation of how to make a basic listings zine by photocopying and folding an A3 sheet.

    I had an interesting discussion with some music publicists at a media lunch this week (we all paid our own way) and I don't think I'd registered how challenging it can be to get press these days, but the Dom Post, for example, pretty much only has Tom Cardy on staff covering music now.

    Things have become quite fragmented: the people who want to know read Cheese on Toast and Under the Radar -- they're a small but very targeted audience -- and student radio is still there, but it seems harder now to get in the papers,

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Just to note that you can also buy Ian's book in digital form at a price of your choosing, here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It's part of the general hollowing out of the press in NZ, no? Certainly the position in Chch for the visual arts has dramatically worsened over the past 10-15 years.

    I have a vague feeling students' associations are weaker these days as well, which hurts student radio and chances of them running successful shows themselves, although that may be general political bias.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    I have a vague feeling students’ associations are weaker these days as well

    That's true. It's partly funding changes. But it's also down to a shortage of passionate radicals. Enthusiasm is a commodity you can't buy, but a little can generate more, and it can achieve things money can't. (Which I guess is pretty evident on this thread.)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2110 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    I have a vague feeling students’ associations are weaker these days as well, which hurts student radio and chances of them running successful shows themselves, although that may be general political bias.

    This is true. As a kid, I'd sneak in with my friends to things like Orientation gigs at Canterbury University -- there were plenty of them, quite big bands played and it was a circuit.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Sam Bradford,

    Sorry to return to APRA, but I have an opinion to share, damn it.

    I'm an APRA and RMNZ member, and in many respects they treat me well. They send me small amounts of money. If I email them or visit their office, they reply promptly and do their best to help. I don't doubt their goodwill towards me at all.

    BUT I don't feel like they're connected to the scene that I'm part of -- which is a formless and boundaryless entity I'm loath to try and describe, but basically it's the bands that play shows at Whammy Bar, the bands that release records on MUZAI, the broke-ass bands that get a little bit of bNet airplay, that know they'll never be Lorde, who go to shows every week and who never see anyone who looks like an APRA representative (middle-aged, well-dressed, the inscrutable confidence of the Arts Professional or 'advertising creative') at any of these shows, which are sometimes grim but sometimes a shitload more exciting than anything that would be allowed onstage at the Silver Scrolls. The kinds of bands that Blink frequently deals with, in other words, and I've played at a couple of his events, which he really does run with a refreshing organisational skill and attention to detail that is far beyond the average capacities of our cashless and booze-ravaged scene.

    It's a cultural thing, is what I'm saying. The Silver Scrolls mean nothing to me, and yeah, given that some of my favourite bands struggle to afford petrol money to get to their own gigs, it does look kind of extravagant. I realise that this may be hard to fathom for grown-ups who work in the media or advertising rather than wasting their time making unpopular music; to them, with their stainless-steel fridges and solvency, the event probably looks like a rustic, low-budget knees-up. I'm not calling for the Scrolls to be scrapped, just pointing out that they're about as irrelevant to the people I know as the Grammys; and it's the people I know that keep small venues open by actually going to shows, often, sometimes (incredibly) even when they don't know what the bands will sound like because they've never been on the radio.

    Practically speaking: Blink's vision for universal exact tracking of playlists might be a bit ambitious for now, but it's worth working towards. The suggestion in his book that APRA collect fees from venues based on performances actually registered for the venue by artists makes complete sense to me; it means venues don't pay more than is fair, and in the current system, artists who don't register their performances don't get paid for them anyway. The APRA web interface for artists is also really bad. Painful. The whole process seems designed for artists who play a few well-paid festival shows each year -- you have to log each individual song performed, which is extremely bloody tiresome if you're gigging a lot, pointless if you improvise, remix, or perform a set of 40 nine-second thrash tunes, and completely unverifiable anyway.

    As for the vexed question of why more people don't go to shows, the 1:4 price ratio for a beer at home vs at a bar is a big part of it. There's a shortage of good venues for many reasons, including people who move into the central city and complain about the noise from an existing venue -- which really should be illegal, and I'm not joking, because the level of selfishness and anti-social sentiment that such an act betrays just blows my mind. Finally, bands need to be more interesting, and those few remaining public outlets for 'music criticism' in this country need to be a lot more adventurous and maybe get out of the house more often.

    New Zealand • Since Jul 2014 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sam Bradford,

    who go to shows every week and who never see anyone who looks like an APRA representative (middle-aged, well-dressed, the inscrutable confidence of the Arts Professional or ‘advertising creative’) at any of these shows, which are sometimes grim but sometimes a shitload more exciting than anything that would be allowed onstage at the Silver Scrolls.

    Which is as it should be.

    But Apra staff are nearly all music people. Rita Luck has probably been to more gigs than any of us, Petrina George runs the Pacific Music Awards (which are a big deal southside) and I’m sure you’ve been at the same gigs as Trilby Crowther. Ant Healey is an IP lawyer, but he’s an (unpaid) board member of the New Zealand Music Commission and a trustee of the SOUNZ Centre (classical and art music) and the New Zealand Music Foundation, which provides financial assistance to musicians in need (funeral and medical expenses, etc). They’re involved, but not in the same places as you.

    If there's a gap, I suspect it's more age-related than cultural per se.

    As for the vexed question of why more people don’t go to shows, the 1:4 price ratio for a beer at home vs at a bar is a big part of it.

    Hours are sometimes an issue for me at Wine Cellar/Whammy, so I really like what Matt at Flying Out is doing with those monthly shows where bands stick strictly to advertised set times.

    Finally, bands need to be more interesting, and those few remaining public outlets for ‘music criticism’ in this country need to be a lot more adventurous and maybe get out of the house more often.

    If you’ll forgive me yet another “back when I were a lad” moment, when I was a 19 year-old cadet at the Christchurch Star I was interviewing bands my age most weeks and David Swift was doing the same thing over at The Press. That forum doesn’t exist any more.

    And, of course, there’s Game of Thrones and the lure of staying in. (NB: I don’t like Game of Thrones at all)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Jorgensen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    haha, another rant I left out of the book was how I saw the death of nzmusic.com as having a HUGE effect on the music scene. It was a site that music fans of all types would come together to discuss music. If you saw a band get a good review on there, people paid attention. These days, people just pay attention to the artists they already "like" (on FB or in real life). It seemed like everybody was on that site and bands got big just on the back on good feedback on that site. It was massive. People left nzmusic to carry on the discussion on myspace, but the forum to discover stuff they didn't already know was gone. Now you need to be a dedicated passionate music lover to discover stuff, Nzmusic was a site where just casual fans could discover stuff and engage with it.

    Maybe its just me, but I saw the death of that site and Channel Z around the same time as massive blows to taking bands from the underground to that next level.

    wellington • Since Apr 2010 • 34 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Jorgensen,

    Why don't Taupo/Whanganui/New Plymouth/Hamilton/Tauranga/Rotorua all have 150 capacity venues run by enthusiastic music heads (wether young hipsters or old flying nunsters it doesn't matter).

    I am pretty confident taking just ONE months funding from NZOA I could establish ten "pop-up" 150 cap venues around NZ that could present shows every Fri/Sat for at least a year and be part of a network linking together to put together easy tour routes for bands presenting 1000 shows a year in towns without existing live venues. Sure, its not NZOAs responsibility given their current mandate, but just food for thought.

    wellington • Since Apr 2010 • 34 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew, in reply to Ian Jorgensen,

    I dont think illegal downloading of music has any negative effect on the music scene… I believe the opposite to be true. Its that people watch so much tv these days that is hurting the live scene

    I think you can add social media to the mix there. Back in the 90s, to catch up with your mates and what they were up to, you had to catch up with them. Meeting at a pub or gig had a social aspect, sharing interest you have in common. Now you can download whatever you're into from the band themselves, through Spotify, Youtube, or embedded in your favourite social platform. Then you Tweet about it, post it on Facebook, share it with your mates online, listen to it on your 7.1 surround headphones, play the video on your 55" flat screen, and drink your favourite craft beer for half what you'd pay for an ice cold Lion Red at a pub.

    By the time you've watched the video, seen the live performance on Youtube, posted it on the Public Address Friday music post thread, followed the artist on Twitter, actually getting off your couch, going to a gig that'll run well past your bedtime, getting gouged for crap beer seems less attractive.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Samuel Scott,

    Why don't Taupo/Whanganui/New Plymouth/Hamilton/Tauranga/Rotorua all have 150 capacity venues run by enthusiastic music heads

    Went to Napier for the weekend a while ago and the only thing on was a covers band playing in a 50-capacity bar down by the waterfront.

    The problems of those places go deeper than a lack of live music. No university and a lack of interesting jobs means that most people who can leave at 18 do so and don't come back until retirement. So you're left to some degree with old people, bozos and thugs. Which in turn creates problems for bars (not to mention increased licensing restrictions. Councils have now started identifying areas, such as Newtown, as having a collective drinking problem and forcing their bars to close early. Next thing, it'll be fencing them off).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Jorgensen, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    No university and a lack of interesting jobs means that most people who can leave at 18 do so and don't come back until retirement.

    yeah, I've always believed a wee bit in this as well, however, there are quite a few exceptions to the rule, towns and communities which don't make sense. There are quite a few bands who have done monstorous tours of NZ and found great audiences, prob is making that a regular circuit. Trying to create twenty Barrytowns, but also, partly why those shows go off is due to them being so irregular, so would putting on shows every weekend kill what was already there? Haha, this has literally haunted me.

    wellington • Since Apr 2010 • 34 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Ian Jorgensen,

    Attachment

    haha, another rant I left out of the book was how I saw the death of nzmusic.com as having a HUGE effect on the music scene. It was a site that music fans of all types would come together to discuss music.

    The new NZ On Air audience survey has some interesting insights on that. The music discovery graph above (click to embiggen) shows a very fragmented environment of sites used to find out about music.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

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