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Vicki Anderson blog | Sound Ideas

VICKI ANDERSON
Last updated 18:13 22/08/2012

In tomorrow's edition of The Press, Christchurch musicians have been given a voice in our entertainment section, GO.

I asked a wide variety of people from our music scene - musicians, promoters, record label and venue owners - three questions around what they consider to be the biggest problem they faced, how they would fix that problem and I also sought their opinions on the Performing Arts Precinct, proposed as part of the Central City Blueprint.

You'll be able to read their insightful, clever and interesting responses tomorrow, but for now I'd like to give you a little preview by offering Ben Edwards' view.

Edwards' popular recording studio The Sitting Room was knocked out for the count twice - first by the September 2010 quake and then the February 22, 2011 quake - coincidentally his birthday. He lost priceless vintage, rare and sentimental studio pieces.

Since then he's recorded albums for Christchurch groups on borrowed gear in lounges and red-zoned homes, including The Eastern and The Harbour Union, amongst many others.

He is on the way to setting up a new studio, a record label and artists' accommodation - stay tuned here www.thesittingroom.co.nz.



Below Edwards responds to my questions:

''To be honest, the biggest issue right now is the same biggest issue that has always been here in Christchurch. Firstly an aside... You're expecting me to say that we need a cohesive decision making process, more venues, better venues, more support from the council blah blah.

Awesomely none of this matters, I believe. The music and creative industry here in Christchurch (and much like the rest of the world) is one of the most agile industries on the planet. It moves and changes so quickly, it takes the ups and downs in its stride as it always has. Proudly much of Christchurch has been like this anyway.

The fact is we're not a charity, we're getting on with things. We're dealing with the crap, we're learning and growing and maturing as a city. We're not sitting and whinging and crying and asking for hand outs and nor should we. I'm proud of us. Now to answer you.

The biggest issue is that the canterbury public as a whole do not value ''entertainment''... now music is just a part of that but generally I believe as a society we do not value or celebrate entertainment (other than large concerts, events or sporting fixtures).

What I'm talking about is the punter that moans or refuses to pay $5 to get into a bar when there's three fantastic bands playing... despite the fact that those three bands are probably made up of 12 or more people between them.

The fact that those three bands have probably spent over $30 000 on their equipment between them (probably in local stores). The fact that those three bands have spent time and probably money learning and fine tuning their craft, their love, their passion... NOT to try and sell it to the punter for $60/hour like a plumber but to fight for the opportunity to share their passion and craft and entertainment to the public.

The fact that this idiot punter is annoyed that he has to pay $5 to get in to a bar and will probably think that the bands playing are an annoyance rather than a feature or a focus. The fact that the punter would rather spend that $5 on alcohol or a burger or smokes than sharing it between 12 people who are there to entertain him. THAT is our biggest issue.

To fix the problem we need to consider where this has come from. There's any number of reasons for this. I believe the major factor is the Dux de Lux. Not the Dux itself but the awesome and genius fact that it had to make good live music FREE 20 years ago. What a ''great'' idea... in principle.

However, I believe that we're now dealing with two generations of people that believe that they shouldn't ''have'' to pay to see good music. Sadly the exact reason that the Dux set up what it did has come to haunt this city's music industry and hang over our heads like a quivering axe waiting to drop.

Any bar or venue that has tried to open in the last 20 years that DARED attempt to charge a door charge for its entertainment has failed... miserably. This is not on! Any other city in the world that has a pumping and thriving creative heatbeat has an appreciation of its creative industry.

In Germany for example it is now multiple generations deep of people ''going out to see bands'' at the local pub.
German people more than happy to pay good money to see local and touring acts come through town. It's a part of life, they drink, they dance, they enjoy the art, the music. Many of these cities and villages being much smaller than christchurch in terms of population... so please let's not start using that as an excuse.

The simple fact is that this town has been ''blessed'' by having a good old shake up... let's be honest. And the awesomest thing is that the people of this town have dealt with massive change so well. I am very proud of that fact. Those that have left, have left. Those that want to stay and make good of this place, have stayed.

So with that in mind, these people have dealt with massive change AND they've decided to stick around and make good of this town. Not JUST to stay alive but to make this town a better place. And if you want to invest in this town you need to invest in its art, its creativity, its music.

I therefore propose something that I thought of two years ago (before any earthquake) as this was just as big an issue then as it is now, however RIGHT now we have the ability to make big changes and people just seem to deal with it in their stride.

I propose that all venues, music, art, theatre, poetry, comedy (why the hell isn't there a comedy club here!?) I propose that all venues band together with the support of the artists and musicians that perform there.

I propose that they band together with the support of the council and the rest of the country to make major change, change that will go down like a cup of cold sick for a month or two, but I believe now's the time to deliver that cup of sick.

I propose that all venues - no matter what or where or why or how - should charge a minimum of $10NZD door charge if there's any performance that night. If it's acoustic. If it's rock. If it's comedy. If it's four fat kids playing ukuleles. $10 minimum, that's all. $10 these days is a boutique beer. $10 is a glass of nice wine. $10 is a burger meal. $10 isn't even some smokes.

If every venue does it at the same time there will be a backlash I know... but don't forget that people get over this shit quickly. If every venue does it they won't stay at home for longer than a few weeks, they'll eventually suck it up and pay and then, before you know it, they'll appreciate what they're paying for rather than whinge about it.

$10 isn't going to make these bands rich... that's to be divided between two or three bands PLUS a sound guy. realistically you're paying $2-$3 per band.

Gold coins. Come on!! That's mental!! Would you work for gold coins? But ''the bar pays the band'' you say? Yeah, they do at the moment and it's a massive burden on the bar which generally sees them cutting corners and resenting that the band is there.

This isn't that radical... it happens all over the world. This is the chance for our city to change and make something good of ourselves. If you want change.. make it happen.

Regarding the proposed Performing Arts Precinct. Short answer: I have owned and run a recording and production studio for the last seven years in this town.

I've recorded some of the country's most loved and respected musicians. Like them I struggle from day to day. Cheap words from the council or the government claiming that the creative industries are crucial to a city's growth and development are tainted to me.
I've had no support or financial help. An arts precinct on paper is cool... but is wrong.

Again the biggest issue I believe is our mindset. An arts precinct to help ''certain'' parts of the creative industry is bull...t and wrong and criminal. Who's to say that that the Court Theatre or the Isaac Theatre Royal should get any help or money over my studio? The Isaac Theatre Royal is a gorgeous venue... a VENUE, it's not creative. It's simple venue management.

If you want to support the arts or the actual creative industry and stop the flow of the arts moving from Christchurch or Auckland or Wellington  or Melbourne or New York.. then fund it, back it, help it. Help at the ground level.

Not a ''precinct''. Not fixing a venue. Not just finding a venue for our theatre company.

Fund from the ground level, talk to the creative people and ask what ''they'' want and need.. not what you think ''fits'' on a piece of paper.

- The Press

2 comments
Post a comment
Ash   #1   01:13 am Aug 23 2012

Ben Edwards - that's a terrific piece of writing.

I agree with everything apart from the bit about money. People aren't skimping on entertainment - there's just a load of other things to do with your money, mostly involving keeping shelters over heads, and food in stomachs.

A 'like'-based creative economy would be a different kettle of fish.

Have the gigs for free, but pay up and coming bands people out of a centrally funded creative fund pool, that's based on audience feedback. Big bands can look after themselves if they get popular enough.

Until that point, people still want quality, and quality should be rewarded.

An English Werewolf in Christchurch   #2   11:56 am Sep 05 2012

"But ''the bar pays the band'' you say? Yeah, they do at the moment and it's a massive burden on the bar which generally sees them cutting corners and resenting that the band is there."

I think that the above is far too generalized a statement really. The majority of the article is coming from the right place but really what about all those venues that refuse to offer bands a rider or meal and in some cases charge the performers a fee for PA hire??? Is it really a massive burden for a bar to pay a band a guarantee? I think not. There are a few small to medium sized bars in chch that pay covers bands up to $800 a night if they have a proven track record and a residency.

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