Shonen Knife @ GoMA, 23.01.2015

However badly the previous year went from a photographic perspective, the start of a new year always brings new hope.  It’s a bit like the first day of the football season, that sunny day in August when the outlook is unduly positive and anything is possible.  This year is different though as unlike any in recent memory, it’s a very slow start to the new year.  Although overseas at the very start, unlike some other years, there was an early return to Brisbane but not to photographing any shows.

Over the last few years there was always the Big Day Out to look forward to but in 2015 that festival has gone the way of Parklife, Good Vibrations, Harvest and Sunset Sounds and disappeared from the summer festival season.  The fairly sudden drop in the strength of the Australian dollar might also be behind the absence of overseas acts touring Australia and it’s never helped by tour promoters increasingly bypassing Brisbane, even for small tours, and that hated phrase of “Exclusive to Sydney”.

Getting back to photographing has to wait until the twenty third day of January, indeed the last week of the month, with Shonen Knife at GoMA as part of the Up Late season for the Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion exhibition.  I always enjoy the Up Late shows at GoMA. They’re great value when you get bands and the exhibition for the same price as the exhibition entry.  That they happen on a Friday night and the bands finish by 9:30pm is an added bonus.  It means being able to stay in town after work, have dinner, see the exhibition, see the live act and then either go and see another show or head home at a sensible time.

Having said all that, I’m still really surprised by just how busy the night is.  It’s packed and I don’t do the sensible thing by claiming a space in a good spot against the stage until after I’ve had a bit of a look around the exhibition and it’s far too late.  Instead I end up in a terrible position, but make the executive decision to squeeze around to the other side into a only slightly less terrible position and also one that has me right up against the speaker.

The night is obviously subsidised by the income from the entire exhibition income but it’s interesting to consider the implications of the pricing point of live shows.  Tonight you get a show and exhibition for $20.  If this gig had been in the Valley, it probably would have been in the $40-45 mark.  If it had been a $45 show in the Valley, it’s unlikely that there would be anywhere near the number of people there.  Yet, if it had been $20 at a venue in the Valley, you would have expected to bring in a lot more people and, based on that, also assumed that merch sales would be higher.  I’ve no idea how gig pricing is arrived at but would love to know how it’s done (or if there’s something like an industry standard spreadsheet program for working out all the financials.

Sadly the days of the strong Australian dollar are over for now (and probably for some time) and based on how the rest of 2015 went, it’s clear that the economics of the matter are making Australia a less attractive destination for touring acts and much higher prices for tickets for those that do come to tour than in recent years.  The other interesting observation from this is that Australian acts have decided that they can also make the most of the increase in costs to bring in overseas acts and increase their ticket prices in line with the international acts.  2015 saw a lot more triple j-approved landfill acts charging $45 upwards for a ticket, in some cases even up to $65, when a couple of years ago you would have expected probably pay $25-30 for those same bands at those same venues.  The situation probably isn’t going to get any better in 2016.

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