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WCC payments to four music venues helped local bands to keep playing

beths at san fran
The Beths at San Fran

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With 20,000 gigs cancelled in New Zealand during covid-19 restrictions, the Wellington City Council supported local independent music venues and talent to help the bands play on.

San Fran, Meow, Rogue & Vagabond, and Valhalla were given funding to help keep their doors open while physical distancing requirements were in place – and their reports show this support was hugely appreciated by the venues and audiences.

With social distancing restrictions in place, independent music venues in the city were struggling, so the City Council stepped in to offer a helping hand.

“Music venues don’t have the turnover of multiple patrons over one night like bars and restaurants, and they and the musicians rely heavily on door takings which was seriously impacted during the transitioning alert levels,” says Mayor Andy Foster.

“As these venues are self-sustaining for the most part, council officers worked to understand their business models and each venue’s specific issues and costs to allocate the compensation.

“We’re so pleased to see all the venues achieved the targets outlined in their funding agreements, which included specific numbers of events and audience numbers.”

The grants to support independent music venues were redirected from the 2019/20 venue subsidy – that would normally be used to help arts and community groups access Council venues but wasn’t spent due to the lockdown.

The Council paid $25,000 to San Fran, $25,000 to Meow, $10,000 to Rogue & Vagabond, and $7,000 to Valhalla, to help with overhead costs and to support live events and local artists post lockdown.

Valhalla venue owner Ben Mulchin says he is happy to report on the good results thanks to Council’s support.

“Certainly having WCC social media help and the fact everyone wanted to party post COVID-19, we got well over 350 people attending all the events combined. All acts and artists were extremely happy to get paid, and have followed up with future bookings so the good vibes keep spreading.

“Overall, I believe this funding not only gave the six sold out shows a bigger profile but also increased interest in booking and playing shows. Very useful – thanks guys,” he adds.

Support for local music talent continues, with arts and culture funding recently going to a number of musical projects including the Wellington Symphonic Bands, Jazz Kōrero, Choirs Aotearoa NZ Trust, and the Hothouse Crew series – a group of recent music graduates running a series of gigs for emerging musical talent in Wellington.

This funding supports our hothouse for talent priority and is a great follow up to the compensation we provided to musicians and music venues emerging into level 2 lockdown, says Grants Subcommittee Chair Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons.

“Council funding has gone a long way towards providing additional support to the creative community which has been seriously affected by the challenges of COVID-19.

“Independent venues in Wellington play a critical role in our music scene. Council support means they will contribute to our economic and creative recovery.

“Access to the arts is a high priority for the city’s residents, so providing this support ensures local talent continues to be local, is diverse and available to all, strengthens our economy, and maintains our identity as the cultural centre of the country.”

Applications are open for the next round of Arts and Culture funding at wellington.govt.nz/funding.

The following are some comments from the venues in their report back to Wellington City Council.

MEOW – Rahine O’Rielly:
Overall I believe the series were very successful, the live streams were watched just shy of 15,000 times. Anecdotally we were told stories of people internationally tearing up watching the live streams as both playing or watching live music were still a long way off for them and we also heard from a lot of people within New Zealand how much they enjoyed watching the live streams. Talking to other business’ who also received financial support from WCC it made us all feel valued and appreciated as part of the creative community in Wellington and the value of this can’t be undervalued. The grant from the Council made it financially viable to provide work in these events but also provided a space to come together.

San Fran – Ziggy Ziya:
All the shows went very well and the value of the venue funding agreement was immense in the success of these shows. It allowed better production, reduced venue operating costs, better promotional spend by us and helped to build better existing relationships with you (WCC), local acts, promoters and technicians. Thank you so much. Your assistance with our business and the support is amazing.