The Sunshine Coast’s recovering music industry has been dealt a major blow with the largest live music venue in the region suddenly shutting its doors permanently.
- Live music venue and entertainment precinct NightQuarter is closing its doors
- Co-owner Michelle Christoe says the business has run out of money
- Owners say COVID restrictions, cost of living and poor weather contributed to the closure
NightQuarter co-owner Michelle Christoe said the Birtinya entertainment precinct fell prey to slow economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, floods and the rising cost of living.
“We are heartbroken,” Ms Christoe said in a statement.
“We’ve sold our home and put it towards the business to assist through this time.
“However, the attendance rates for live music events and night markets have been volatile coming out of COVID and we’ve run out of runway.”
The 1,500-capacity venue was built from shipping containers and opened during the pandemic in November 2020.
The owners had operated a similar venue on the Gold Coast from 2015 to 2019.
The venue was shut down by Queensland Health for being in breach of COVID-19 restrictions in June last year.
“In hindsight, we could have done better to manage our ‘crowds’, but we did our best,” Ms Christoe said.
“We still feel like we were unfairly targeted … that incident has been a shadow over us ever since.”
The Omicron wave last festive season resulted in 11 concerts being cancelled at NightQuarter in early 2022.
That was compounded by damage from the February floods.
“One of the events that we did host was a Triple J most played artist in January that had a 60 per cent non-attendance rate,” Ms Christoe said.
“This was a terrible outcome for everyone from the customers to the artist and crew, but particularly for the venue that makes income from food and beverage sales made during concerts.”
Ms Christoe said the venue commissioned a study by the University of the Sunshine Coast to “investigate consumer confidence and purchasing behaviour on the Sunshine Coast”, which showed lack of transport, inflation and the rising cost of living acted as a barrier to crowds.
“A string of recent cancellations from acts such as The Whitlams and Sunnyboys and disappointing sales from national tours like Thelma Plum and James Reyne have cemented the decision,” she said.
All tickets for coming shows will be refunded via Moshtix.
Resilient industry lives on
Sunshine Coast Music Industry Alliance academic chair Andy Ward said it was a devastating blow to the local music sector and would mean job losses.
“In a study we did earlier in the year, we found the Sunshine Coast has the highest density of working musicians in any region in Australia,” he said.
Dr Ward, who is also a lecturer in creative industries at University of the Sunshine Coast, said audiences needed to be educated about the impacts of buying tickets at the last minute.
“What we’re seeing now is people are waiting and holding off to see whether or not the show’s going to be cancelled,” he said.
“Major music promoters … if they don’t see ticket sales two to three months out from that gig, then they’re actually going to cancel that show.
“Not just because of COVID influences, but because they’re worried they’re not going to be able to cover their costs too.”
Dr Ward, however, said there was hope for the future.
“The good news is the Sunshine Coast music industry is pretty resilient,” he said.
“It’s really in its emerging stages.”
He said there needed to more small to midsize events to start building an audience.
“We have to make a big noise as consumers of music, that we’re willing to pay for tickets, buy the beer, buy the food, stand in line and do the work,” he said.
“Because it’s not just a cultural picture. It’s an economic picture for the region starting.”
Cultural change needed
Sunshine Coast-based musician and music producer Andrea Kirwin said the region may miss out on big touring acts originally attracted by the large venue’s crowd capacity.
“It definitely leaves a big hole in the touring circuit, which means less money for our industry and our hospitality,” she said.
“We have so many good bands and yet so many of us play to a room that is only a quarter full … because people just aren’t going out and they’re not willing to pay ticket prices when they could just get some drinks and just be home listening to Spotify.
“It’s a whole cultural change that needs to occur.”
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