Live music is not normally difficult to find in Queenstown. Venues like The Find, Vinyl Underground, etc. tend to procure a weekly gig worth mentioning, and that even goes without factoring in the usual suspects they showcase on a weekly bases – here’s lookin’ at you, Shay and Pearly/Pistol Knights/Stubacca etc.. However we do seem to miss out when it comes to larger concerts or festivals, with the selection of the latter being less than slim when compared to the likes of Dunedin, Christchurch or Auckland. Fair enough, their population base is significant, so festival organiser’s can actually warrant dragging artist’s across the world regardless of how well-known they are, safe in the knowledge that with a larger population is an inherent wider variety of musical veneration. Regardless of your admiration, no one is going to bother spending their hard-earned bringing the artist if the people aren’t willing to part with their own hard-earned in appreciation.
As populations grow, so do the festivals/concerts – unless you’ve lived in a epicenter like say, New York or Los Angeles, there’s almost no doubting you’ve uttered the phrase “why does *random city bigger than yours* get *random artist you want to pledge your allegiance to in person* and not us?”. It’s simple capitalism friend, and without a big enough plate you’re never going to get the big piece of musical pie you’ve been eyeing off.
So where does that leave Queenstown? We may be the tourist hub of the South Island, with a population that fluctuates between twenty and sixty thousand people, but those aren’t entirely truthful figures. In actual fact, we have a relatively stagnant population of approximately twelve thousand, with the rest bolstered by seasonal and interim tourists. But what of the rest of the townships within an hour or so from Queenstown that would be willing to make the pilgrimage for a night worth remembering ie. Wanaka, Cromwell, Alexandra, Clyde, et al? Unfortunately it’s difficult for promoters to guarantee a crowd when it is so dispersed, especially when you consider that on top of the average ticket price, the casual festival-goer is going to have to spring for transport and accommodation on top of the usual costs of food and beverage.
So we’re not likely to be the next destination for Coachella or Big Day Out, but we have a proposition:
There was once a simpler time, when festivals like Winterfest were bolstered by major Kiwi artists like Kora and Katchafire for instance. These concerts were simply part a part of Winterfest for the opening ceremony, and have been foregone for cheaper local acts, whilst the money saved seems to have been invested into other endeavours *cough* outdoor icerink *cough*. In this particular instance, would it not be worth considering bringing back the big names to further encourage our close neighbours over the hill to come and increase their average expenditure across the town? And that goes for all of our festivals for that matter – okay, maybe you don’t have to make the concert free every time (just Winterfest, because let’s face it, that ice rink is a excruciating waste of money) – but when we’ve already got a few thousand descending on us for a major event, why not interest a few thousand more by adding a concert to the mix?
It is however unjustifiable for us to get on our high-horse about it when we know less than jack s*@t about the economics of running a festival. We can talk from the punter perspective though, and after enjoying a glorious day at the Blues and Roots festival here in the bubble just last week, it’s difficult to not sit here and ponder “what if?”. Surely artists like U2 would work for food and board just to visit. Hell, that’s basically what the rest of us have done…
Hor D’oeuvres – South Island Style