By Madolline Gourley
In 2007, Billboard magazine named Brisbane as one of the world’s top international music destinations.
Billboard, a US magazine devoted to all things music-related, said the city’s successful acts, such as Powderfinger, The Veronicas and Pete Murray, and booming music scene assisted in securing Brisbane a top five placing.
Four years on, and several of Brisbane’s key music hotspots have or are in the process of closing.
First it was Club 299, a live rock and metal music venue in Fortitude Valley, shortly followed by the closure of the Troubadour in November 2010; now one of Brisbane’s longest-standing live music venues has shut its doors.
Rosies, located at 235 Edward Street, held its last club night on May 27, 2011.
Considered to be the home of Brisbane’s alternative music community, the venue’s new owners, Paul Johnston and Austin Ward, will transform Rosies from a weathered music venue into a sports bar, similar to their former project – The Fox Hotel.
The Rosies closure has sparked concern with many Brisbane music lovers saying the current trend is worrying.
X and Y Bar Booking agent Trina Massey said: “I do find it worrying that the number of live music venues closing down or struggling over the past year has increased.”
Located in Fortitude Valley, X and Y has only been around for a short while, but has already managed to establish itself as one of Brisbane’s premier live music venues.
The venue’s credibility as one of the best live music venues was affirmed last year when X and Y won the title of Best Music Venue at the 2010 Bartender Magazine Australian Bar Awards.
Supporting both local and international talent, X and Y offers patrons live music five nights a week.
“X & Y have been really lucky to have had some outstanding local and interstate talent play and go on to achieve varying levels of success,” Ms Massey said.
“Some of these bands get national airplay on various radio stations and some even have singles on the charts.”
While X and Y endeavours to keep the quality of their music bookings high, Ms Massey ultimately believes Brisbane’s downfall lies in the amount of music fans “actively participating” in the scene.
“Brisbane is one of those cities that can generate amazing musical talent consistently,” she said.
“Honestly, I hope the Rosies closure affects the Brisbane live music scene in the sense it will force people to realise that venues need support. It’s time to start going to more gigs, stop bringing in smuggled booze and start paying on the door.”
Looking to the future, Ms Massey says “house parties, DIY secret garden gigs, warehouse parties and small hidden venues” are going to serve as an interim platform for live performances.
While Ms Massey remains uncertain on where the Brisbane music scene will go from here, The Record Exchange sales assistant Laura Devine thinks she knows.
“I don’t think this is the end of the local music scene; it’s just heading in a different direction now,” Ms Devine said.
The Record Exchange, Australia’s largest second-hand music retailer, has been in business for thirty years and recently embraced the online trend with the addition of a purchasing section on their website.
Like The Record Exchange, Ms Devine feels the local music scene and its followers are embracing the internet.
“Online avenues are increasing more and more for local bands. If you have a good website and good recordings, your band will be popular online,” Ms Devine said.
Ms Devine also pointed out local music stations are quick to get behind Brisbane talent.
“4ZzZ have always supported live music, and I think entering competitions through QMUSIC and other organisations is a great way to progress in the industry,” she said.
Established in 1975, 4ZzZ’s main objective was to provide listeners with an alternative to mainstream news and to place a strong emphasis on promoting Australian music.
Thirty-six years on and 4ZzZ is still a key supporter and promoter of local music, providing constant airplay, promotion and gig opportunities to local talent.
4ZzZ’s Chris Cobcroft said: “Where other radio and media outlets are constrained by commercial interests or commitments to national markets, 4ZzZ puts a sharp focus on emerging local artists and music that really benefits the Brisbane scene.”
“Brisbane musos have never lacked talent – it’s the ability to promote their music on the world stage that has traditionally been lacking. Here at 4ZzZ we have been looking to the future, placing a special emphasis on its growing online presence so that it can take local music to all the corners of the globe.”
In relation to the recent increase in Brisbane’s live music venues closing down, Mr Cobcroft said Brisbane has a “perennial problem” with this happening, but “on the upside” new music venues open up in their place.
“It would still be great if there were more government support for promoters and venue operators, providing stability and certainty for an industry that traditionally lacks it,” Mr Cobcroft said.
“I think that would really help cement the culture and solidify Brisbane’s growing reputation as a musical city.”
Judging by current trends, Brisbane music venues will continue to close and new ones will open in their place, with the industry now placing a strong emphasis on online presence.
While online platforms increase in popularity, there will always be a demand for live performances.
“Brisbane is more of a hotspot now than it was in 2007,” Mr Cobcroft said.
“Every year there is an increased demand for live music in Brisbane. While the demand does not yet match Sydney or Melbourne, the phenomenal growth in the size of Queensland’s population will see it continue to grow strongly in years to come.”