Parlour Gigs — a business launched in my backyard in 2015 has come a long way in the last 2 years.
The premise was always simple. We wanted to create a platform that empowered artists to play meaningful gigs and be paid well. The latter point was vital for me. Almost everything in fact.
When I launched Parlour — I had come to the end of a long and frustrating road as a full time musician. The reason it got so shitty? Mostly money. It just became too difficult to tour and play venues. Even if the room was full — after paying your band, sound engineer, direct venue costs, the support act(s), travel, agency fees, your managers cut — you were often in the red — ie: Paying to play. Even if you played an incredible show, the glow wears off pretty fast when you realise you don’t have enough money to eat the next day. As a result my mental health suffered a lot. I drank my rider each night and wondered how I had ended up in such a difficult situation. I was depressed and in perpetual debt. My friends and family didn’t get it — But this is what you wanted — right?
After a few years of touring around this country I got to talk to a lot of other artists (some established household names, and many emerging acts) and I learnt that everyone was pretty much in the same position. Broke or close to it and often working second jobs just to get by. It’s expensive to tour Australia. Even established artists find it tough to break even at the end of a tour — the more successful you become — the bigger the gig needs to be. The more you invest in production, the less you get paid at the end of the night.
And then I discovered House Concerts. And they saved me. The first one I played was in Austin, Texas — I needed some cash to get to Nashville so my friend offered to put on a gig for me at his house — we invited everyone we knew via a Facebook event. Around 50 people turned up — each of them putting $10 into a hat. I made $500 and played one of the best gigs of my life. It seemed so simple. Why wasn’t everyone doing this? Well, plenty of people were — I just hadn’t met them yet. The more house shows I played, the more I fell in love with them. I started to attend them whenever I could — being in a hosts home — experiencing their hospitality and creativity in setting up the gig was pure and wonderful — I knew I had found a new path.
When I returned to Australia in 2015 I launched Parlour in my backyard. I wanted to create a simple platform that made it easy for artists to connect with hosts all over the country — and handled ticketing and payments. I wanted to pay artists what I believed they were worth.
I asked my friend Jess Ribeiro played for 30 of my friends and family. We didn’t have any technology set-up then, so guests just put $10 in a jar at the door. I still remember the beautiful feeling of paying Jess at the end of the night. It felt right. She’s an unbelievably talented singer/songwriter — one who lives and breathes her art. Her music and songwriting is great because of her dedication to it — and for 1 hour, in my backyard, we got to bare witness to it. That’s is a valuable experience that needs to be paid for. And the majority of that money — should be paid to the artist. After the gig I had a few friends approach asking if they could host too — and on and on it went.
Over the past 2 years, we’ve facilitated 500+ gigs all over the country — in backyards, lounge rooms and kitchens. We’ve worked with the likes of Boy & Bear, Bob Evans, Lisa Mitchell, Fraser A. Gorman, Sally Seltmann , Nicky Bomba, Jordie Lane, Liz Stringer, Jen Cloher and many, many more brilliant artists. We’re just getting started in NZ — but the prospect of empowering artists in a new country is a wonderful thought.
It’s been a hell of a journey. And it’s miraculous that we’ve survived. For the first 18 months, my co-founder Glenn Luck and I didn’t pay ourselves. We were dirt poor. Things were bad for quite a while there when I think about it. But most weekends we would buy a ticket to a Parlour gig and immediately be reminded of why we were doing it. All of the doubt disappeared as soon as we witnessed an artist perform for a small group of friends in a living room or backyard. We were reborn. Magic. When we went back to work each Monday at my place we were filled with new ideas and enthusiasm for what Parlour could achieve.
We are transparent about our fees — we take a 20% service fee and pay 80% of ticket sales (see more about our fees here). Our service fee is put on top of an artists required fee. We also love to reward our amazing hosts with products and services that help to enhance their experience too.
In a $2 Billion dollar industry, Australian musicians make less than $10,000 per year. And less than 16% make more than $50,000 per year (source: Music Australia).
How can we expect the quality of Australian music to continue if we don’t pay artists properly to perform? I know so many of you pay to see live music — it’s just that very little of what you pay at the door ends up in an artists hands.
On average we’re able to pay our artists $800 per gig. But many make over $1000 per gig. And more. That feels right to us.
The simple fact is — that when you buy a ticket to a Parlour gig at your friends house — you are supporting live music. When you host a gig — you are doing even more. You are a part of change.
Our mission is to create a new middle class of full time creatives. Artists that can afford to refine their craft full time — and support themselves and a family while they’re at it. We’re about empowerment.
Musicians are up to ten times more likely to face mental health issues. And there is a direct relationship between low income and depression and anxiety.
Music is a $2 billion dollar industry in Australia because people need it. Music is essential. Without it — life is meaningless and bland. It brings purpose to our lives — and helps us to further connect with ourselves and those around us.
So let’s start paying artists what they’re worth.