Over recent years, much has been reported across Australia on the viability of live music venues. In Perth, two established live music venues - The Bakery and Deville’s Pad - announced in early 2015 they would close their doors.
The closures led representatives of the live music industry to organise a ‘Perth Venue Action meet’ held on 23 February 2015 at The Bakery. An action group, ‘More Music Arts Venues Perth’ was established, as well
as a website and a Facebook page with over 3,000 followers.
This paper represents a desktop review of the live music venues in Western Australia (WA), examining whether the recent closures represent a trend and if so, what policy or other considerations may be taken into account to support venues
that showcase live music.
The review defines live music venues as venues presenting original live music performances on a regular basis, including pop, jazz, blues, country, rock, folk, soul, R&B, techno, hip hop, heavy metal and/or electronic dance music.
Live music venues can include bars, hotels, nightclubs, music clubs, wineries, cafes, theatres, community centres, halls, pop-up venues and other spaces that host regular original music performances. The department acknowledges that
non-original music (such as cover bands) is also performed live in venues, and while this category is not the focus of this review, these venues have been included in the data analysis as they have the capacity and opportunity to support
the performance of original live music.
Based on the data reviewed, there is no evidence of an overall decline in the number of live music venues in WA. The venues which have closed appear to represent natural fluctuations in the market. However, since 2008 there has been a decline in live
music venues in the outer metropolitan suburbs of Perth, where there have been 23 closures with only two new venues opening. The reasons for this require further investigation.
The closure of The Bakery may have created a gap in medium scale venues (400-600 pax capacity) in the entertainment precinct of Northbridge. The lease of Rechabites Hall has not yet been announced but may provide an opportunity for local
live music previously performed at The Bakery to be re-accommodated.
Ongoing regulatory reform provided by state and local governments to support the music industry is important in providing increased opportunities for musicians to play. While there may be some issues around planning and approval processes, there is
no suggestion that these are more prevalent in Western Australia than in other States. WA’s contemporary music industry has benefited from substantial State Government investment and support since the establishment of the Contemporary
Music Taskforce in 2001, which identified issues and opportunities for the sector. Available data suggest there has been strong growth in revenue and audiences in the contemporary music industry since this time.
There are some potential barriers to continual growth in live music due to the impact of residential infill, rising venue establishment costs and potential increased rents in successful precinct areas. This paper presents recommendations for
further consideration of these matters.