Why don’t bands go to Perth?
Perth has given the world Tame Impala, The Drones, The Triffids, Birds of Tokyo, and The Sleepy Jackson but when it comes to big international tours the city too often misses out.
For the 1.9 million potential punters in Perth – the world’s most isolated continental capital – that means that tours from acts like Bruce Springsteen, Tool, Kanye West, and Eminem are little more than wishful thinking. In recent weeks two major festivals – Harvest and the Warped Tour – have been announced, but neither will be heading out west.
Following the announcement of additional dates for Tool in Sydney and Melbourne earlier this year, Frontier Touring apologised to irate fans in Perth, blaming the “many factors involved in the scheduling of tours”. Frontier also issued a statement apologising to Springsteen fans in Perth, explaining that while the tour wouldn’t be heading out west it wasn’t due to “disrespect or lack of love”. Production costs and time constraints were blamed for the apparent snub. “As the tour can only be in the country for a certain period of time it has therefore been limited to the east coast of Australia,” Frontier explained.
Simon Collins, music editor at The West Australian, says that in recent years, Perth punters bought more tickets per capita than any other market to the big festivals and mega-tours from acts like U2, AC/DC, and Pink. “The dance fests – Parklife, Future Music, Stereosonic – really boomed here in parallel to the mining boom … [but] perhaps we’re returning to pre-boom demand?”
So what’s keeping tours and festivals away?
Long haul flights and desert drives
To get to Perth, a band faces more than four hours on a flight from Melbourne or a five-hour journey from Sydney. Even if a band decides to play a gig in Adelaide they still face another three and a half hours in transit to get over to Perth. That’s a lot to time to be stuck sitting next to your drummer especially after you’ve already spent 14 to 15 hours listening to screaming children and eating reheated pasta on the trip from Los Angeles to Australia. Even in first class that’s a loooong haul.
If your favourite band isn’t too keen on flying (Hello Travis Barker) the distances become even more dramatic. The journey across the Nullarbor Plain by road from Adelaide to Perth adds several days and 2692 kilometres of desert driving to the trip.
Time (and distance) costs money
Beyonce will be heading over the Nullarbor in November, but she’s charging her fans an extra $2.50 to cover the “transport levy”. Perth Arena can hold up to 15,500 screaming Beyonce fans, so that means that dragging Beyonce’s live show to the end of the earth adds around $35,750 to the cost of the already expensive production. Even allowing for the fact that Beyonce’s staging is likely to reduce the capacity of the venue, her promoters Live Nation are still looking at an additional risk in excess of 30k. That’s probably only enough to cover the cost of one Beyonce costume change, but more than enough to derail most other tours.
As far as ticket prices, Simon Collins notes that if the punters will wear a transport levy then the promoters will keep charging it. It’s hard to imagine anyone starting a petition to boycott a surcharge that’s cheaper than a cup of coffee.
The wild west?
When a band does make it over to West Australia they have to keep a close eye on their gear. Both Mumford and Sons, and The Flaming Lips have been forced to contend with thieves in the “wild” west. What exactly anyone was planning to do with Marcus Mumford’s in-ear monitor or Flaming Lips’ giant hands is anyone’s guess.
Where’s the next gig?
If a band does actually make the long haul over to Perth where do they go next? West Australia is a massive, underpopulated state that comfortably outsizes England, Scotland, Wales, France, Germany and Japan combined. Why would a band make the effort to travel to Perth for one show when they could make another jaunt around Europe or Japan in less time for more profit?
It’s quicker for a band to fly from London to Kiev than it is to fly from Melbourne to Perth, but how many bands actually bother to visit the two-and-a-half million potential fans waiting for them in the Ukraine? Do Ukrainian punters gleefully pore over the Glastonbury lineup anticipating all the amazing sideshows they’re about to receive? Some bands do make the journey: If you wait until September you can catch a bumper month of gigs in Kiev including shows from Swedish death metal mainstays Hypocrisy, Finish rockers The Rasmus and Justin Bieber’s girlfriend Selena Gomez (sadly not on the same bill).
Online petitions don’t fill venues
The decision to leave Perth off Tool’s tour schedule angered many West Australian fans, so much so they decided to create a petition to convince Frontier to bring them over. It attracted just 850 signatures, but at least that was 350 more than a similar petition to lure Bruce Springsteen to Perth. Facebook is littered with petitions from Perth’s music fans begging promoters to bring the Warped Tour, Rodriguez, Eminem, Kid Cudi, Crazy Town and even Hawaiian a capella crew Rebel Souljahz to the city. It’s a nice gesture, but the lukewarm response doesn’t exactly enhance Perth’s image as a place where people are desperate to pay to see shows.
Dear promoter, please bring [insert name] to Perth
Rodriguez petition (1192 signatures)
Tool petition (850 signatures)
Warper tour petition (628 signatures)
Bruce Springsteen petition (476 signatures)
Rebel Souljahz petition (257 signatures)
Eminem petition (216 signatures)
Kid Cudi and Crazy Town petition (17 signatures)
It’s not so good for punk rock, apparently
According to Warped co-promoter and Soundwave boss AJ Maddah, his pop-punk shows simply don’t sell enough tickets in Perth to justify the expense of taking them to WA. “To be quite frank, the past few years, Perth hasn’t been particularly kind to punk bands or to punk events,” Maddah told themusic.com.au. “For example, I had a bill of Panic! At The Disco, All Time Low, Yellowcard and somebody else [at Counter Revolution] that couldn’t sell 1000 tickets in Perth … Perth is great for P!nk and what have you, but it’s not so good for punk rock.”
Maddah says there’s no market for Warped Tour or a band like All Time Low in Perth, although he has promised to take a few Warped sideshows out west.
Regulations, red-tape and retirees
Maddah has repeatedly attacked the West Australian state government for failing to address the difficulties of taking shows to Perth. “State laws have made it just about impossible to do all ages shows, and what’s that done exactly is that a whole couple of generations of kids have missed out on going to shows when they’re young,” he said earlier this week. “Therefore [they] have grown up being into shit music, quite frankly, in terms of what’s on at 94.5 and various other stations in Perth.”
In addition to complaining about the “shit music” on Perth radio and the lack of underage shows, Maddah was also vocal about the “election grandstanding” that led to the early closure of at least three stages at Soundwave’s finale at Claremont Showgrounds earlier this year. That disruption prompted Maddah to suggest that the festival’s days in Perth were numbered. “Sadly if the State Government is against events coming to Perth then we can’t fight them,” he tweeted.
Then there’s Claremont Mayor Jock Barker who has fought continuously to keep music festivals off his lawn claiming that they bring “appalling antisocial and criminal behaviour into a residential area.” The Town of Claremont had wanted to deny Big Day Out’s application to use the Claremont showgrounds earlier this year, with Barker declaring that the festival was not welcome: “I don’t want to see it back in Claremont. I was happy to see the back of it. It does nothing useful for the town.” Claremont councilor Peter Browne also opposed the festival’s return and complained that the benefits of concerts such as the Big Day Out were “hopelessly outweighed by the intolerable noise, the late finish, the high level of criminal activity and general social misbehaviour in and outside of the grounds.”
Despite the ongoing battles between promoters and politicians, a recent study found that large-scale events such as the Big Day Out contribute about $5.2-million to the state’s economy, as well as creating jobs and encouraging tourism.