Why paying artists properly to perform matters  —  a lot.

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.

5 Artists we're listening to at Parlour HQ

Article by Leonard Bernardone

Leah Senior has recently released her sophpmore album, 'Pretty Faces'

Leah Senior has recently released her sophpmore album, 'Pretty Faces'

The superbly melancholy and under-recognised Leah Senior has only recently dropped her sophomore album “Pretty Faces”, continuing to deliver with her signature folk sound. Leah Senior draws inspiration from classic folk singers such as Nick Drake and Joni Mitchel, and although her inspirations are clearly present in her music, she still does more than enough both lyrically and in her acoustic offerings to wholly distinguish herself from her roots and the current Australian folk market. 

Leah eloquently captures tones of regret, love, love lost and woeful nostalgia over beautifully soft-spoken fingerstyle guitar. Leah’s storytelling style of music is very immersive, often describing a setting, environment or point of focus rather than a strict narrative. In doing this, she offers a very personal look at the emotions behind her song.  Leah goes as far as describing the way she’s treated by a lover as being akin to a winter coat left in the cupboard, and through very sincere twists of poetry backed by her lovely vocals, she makes it work! 

Her production is also quite varied, utilising studio-quality string arrangements, drums and piano sparingly throughout her latest tracks. Even when she does utilise these elements, it is to a quaint effect. Not to say that the arrangements are not powerful, they most certainly are, just that she never uses more than necessary. Leah takes a skeletal approach to instrumentation, and completes her songs with her strong range of evocative vocals. 

Bringing a sound that is relaxing and emotionally intriguing, and swooning emotional tales of love and longing, Leah Senior is a go-to pick for reflecting, indulging in emotion, or relaxing to some soothing, dreamy music. 

The Rollercanes have an album set for release later this year

The Rollercanes have an album set for release later this year

Bringing a distinct pop-rock/garage-rock sound to the table, and firing it at the audience with charming charisma, the Rollercanes are definitely a band to stay tuned in to. 

I first saw the Rollercanes front-lining for The Vanns sometime in 2016. We were a small crowd (as frontline crowds typically are), but frontman Daniel Wright and band still bought an energetic, confident performance. Thrashing their guitars and shouting their vocals, they engaged with the few of us that they had to work with to bring the room to life and get things popping.

The biggest difference between their performance and the headliner for the evening was simply the mixing. The talent, the swagger and the energy were all there in full force and with the appropriate hype and set-up, the Rollercanes could have very well been an awesome headliner!

Their recently released single “I Know You’re Lonely” teases their upcoming late 2017 album, which we’re anticipating with bated breath. If the tight structure, solid vocals, punchy drums and melodic licks layered throughout this track are any indication of what to expect from their next album, we’re in for a great listen.
 

We're keeping our ears peeled for more from Jade Imagine, after her debut EP, "What The Fuck Was I Thinking?"

We're keeping our ears peeled for more from Jade Imagine, after her debut EP, "What The Fuck Was I Thinking?"

Jade Imagine dropped their debut EP only recently in May, titled “What The Fuck Was I Thinking?”.  A fuzzy dream-pop collection of tracks vaguely exploring self-esteem, aspirations and life-directions. Normally these kinds of themes would make for an anxious listen, but front-woman Jade Mcnally keeps it cool and breezy, delivering an album of the same qualities. Sleepy, dreamy, and totally befitting of this drifty, Winter season, Jade Empire makes a quiet racket that soothes the senses and rides along with the listener.

The band utilises a lot of instrumentation, but to a very quaint effect. Electric guitars, bass, drums, synths, piano, tambourines and a collection of soft, quirky sounds comprise this album, yet it never feels cluttered or over-packed. Without intentionally trying to pick out the instrumentation, every track floats by as smoothly as a cloud of smoke. 

It’s hard to distinctively critique Jade Imagine’s sound, because it down-right demands the listener to chill out. As soon as that signature dream-scape sound hits my ear-drums, I’m relaxed and in tune with the rhythm at a thoughtless and automatic level. Whatever McInally was thinking, she’s gotten herself and the band signed to Courtney Barnett’s Milk Records label and has kicked (or casually nudged) down the door to our playlists, and we’re eager for more.

Going Swimming have just come off supports for Polish Club at the Corner Hotel.

Going Swimming have just come off supports for Polish Club at the Corner Hotel.

Punk rock outfit, Going Swimming, deliver such energetic and fast-paced tracks, and produce so many anthem-worthy thrash-a-long moments, it’s a crime that they haven’t received suitable recognition outside of the punk-rock and gig-goer communities. 

The band is currently performing from their debut self-produced and self-released LP, Deadtime Stories (with an album cover that any 90’s baby will gush over). Frontman Nicholas Leggatt howls about coming-of-age struggles and shortcomings over some speedy, radical instrumentation. Sharp guitars, punchy bass plucking, and tight, tight drums are the game here. Charismatic and rhythmic bass/guitar licks bridge tracks together, entering and exiting in a way that demands repeat listens. You’ll find yourself thrashing along involuntarily while you wait for that one awesome lick or solo, and before you know it you’re hooked.

The lyrical content fits perfectly with the band’s high-energy performances. The track ‘Careers Counselling’ brings me back to that high-school uncertainty in an appropriately noisy and anxious rhythm, and hearing Leggatt shouting down at the counsellor in this track gets me pumped enough to call my old career counsellor and retroactively tell him to "fuck off". They make for a great group-listen as well, with moments such as the anthemic “Oi, Oi, Oi”  chants on ‘Hooligan’ that are sure to get any beered-up Aussies shouting along in unison. 

The cherry on top of Going Swimming’s style is that they manage to blend in some surf-rock to their punk, and although I was initially apprehensive to the concept their intro track “Them Shakes” quickly proves that surf and punk blends together as unexpectedly well as peanut butter and chocolate! They aren’t the only doing it, but they’re one of the only contemporary Aussie bands to do it right. The band is currently touring Australia with their latest single “Debt Collector,” which we’re hoping is an indicator of another upcoming thrasher!
 

Ziggy Ramo released a new tune, 'Same Script' last week. Go check it out!

Ziggy Ramo released a new tune, 'Same Script' last week. Go check it out!

Last but certainly not least of these up and coming Aussie musicians, is the talented hip-hop conscious rapper Ziggy Ramo. Ziggy is not only an interesting listen, but also a vastly important one. He primarily delivers on the topic of Indigenous Australians and black rights in Australia, pulling no punches and always cutting right to the point. With presence, punctuality and passion, Ziggy responds to the current treatment and perception of Indigenous Australians and brings to light social behaviours or issues that the Australian community at large is not appropriately aware of. 

Ziggy wears his inspirations on his sleeves, with flows akin to that of Nas, Common, or the more recent Joey Bada$$. Classic piano-laced hip-hop instrumentals back Ziggy up he slams out statement after statement on Australian and Indigenous relations, each one solid and nearly irrefutable. He delivers these statements with some clever word-play, utilising double-meanings in almost every verse, and does so with some sincere passion and anger. To quote the man himself, he doesn’t “beat around the bush” in regards to his frustrations with Australia. 

Through his use of music, witty lyricism, passionate delivery and some shocking samples which highlight cases of Australian racism, Ziggy spreads awareness and empathy for his culture to an Australian audience, much alike the work of many American hip-hop artists and civil activists are doing for theirs. An important and topical artist that we hope to hear more from soon! 

A Q&A with Nicky Bomba

What's the biggest difference between playing a Parlour Gig and playing a venue show?

Definitely the intimacy you get when you are in that environment  People also seem more relaxed to let their hair down amongst friends and in a familiar environment.

I've had some classic scenarios where the host has come up to me after the show saying...'That is the first time ever that we've seen so and so have a dance'

 

What was the best thing about your Parlour Gig?

They are all different in their own little way but I did one out bush and the whole place was decorated like a Calypso party and they even learnt 3 of my songs.

(I had to learn the words in a hurry to save face!) 

 

What was the most difficult thing about the shows?

Getting the flow of the evening is crucial. You don't want the performance happening while people are queuing at the BBQ for food. It happened once... and only once..

 

Is it weird to play at people's houses?

Not at all. I'm very comfortable with that environment. I always manage to get into the kitchen to see what's in the fridge too. Sometimes even during my set..

 

Would you do it again? Why?

Absolutely! I think these type of performances are close to what music and songs are designed for. Storytelling, singalongs etc in a small group where you can feel the energy 

 

What would you change if you did it again?

I'd have someone set up and set down the sound gear for me.   It's the last thing you want to do when you're energy is spent!


Any other comments/feedback about Parlour?

I think you could develop a national touring circuit of house parties. Australian House Party tour. I'd do it in a flash!

A Q&A with Fraser A. Gorman!

Fraser A. Gorman has just wrapped up his first Parlour Tour and we've had one of the best responses from hosts and guests yet! So we thought we'd ask him a few questions about his experience; here are his answers.

What's the biggest difference between playing a Parlour Gig and playing a venue show?

I'd say the biggest difference is the space and the intimacy that comes with it. Obviously playing in people's houses/backyards is usually a smaller, more intimate affair so the literal connection between you and the audience is up more close and personal. I say that in a nice way, it's a lovely environment to play tunes to a really receptive audience.

What was the best thing about your Parlour Tour?
The best thing about the parlour tour was the lovely reception from the guests/punters, the very adequate and efficient payment system and the super fun shows I got to play and music I got to share with heaps of really nice people from across the country. Also at pretty much all of the shows, I got fed a meal (or some kind of food, that was lovely, thanks hosts!).

What was the most difficult thing about the shows?
To be honest, nothing was really difficult about them at all. 
I had to set up and pack up my own PA at the gigs, but that's no big deal. As a musician, I'm used to bumping in and bumping out of venues so doing more or less the same thing in houses and backyards was just as easy. I had no crew so I had to do sound too, but my PA is very simple and I know how to make it sound great.....
So nothing was difficult about the shows at all.

Is it weird to play at stranger's houses?
This question comes up a lot from many different people... and the answer is, not at all!!
I'd played a few house concerts in the past, and they were always wonderful experiences. It's basically the purest exchange of music you can have with someone, so I really like it.....
And as far as "weird" goes..... try doing a regular extensive tour of Australia in regional venues.... then you'll really know what "weird" is... haha
Playing original music outside of the capital cities of Australia can be quite difficult sometimes, for a variety of reasons.

Would you do it again? Why?
Absolutely, I honestly had a really fun time doing the tour and found it to be a really positive experience. I want to try and figure out a way to do one with a band one day...

What would you change if you did it again?
THIS IS KEY (for musicians considering doing a parlour tour)
You can get an iPhone attachment from Officeworks called "square" I think, it's an EFTPOS machine for your phone.
It allows you to sell merch after your gigs to people who don't carry cash (AKA everybody in the world these days).....
I only had this EFTPOS attachment at my last 2 shows of the tour and it made a big difference....
Every working musician in the world should get this app/attachment thingy.....

Seriously.

Any other comments/feedback about Parlour?
I think the concept is great and especially important for being a touring artist living in Australia where there are very limited cities and venues to play music in nationwide.....
I would strongly suggest to any musician that I know considering doing a parlour show or shows to get out there and do it. The Parlour staff are total legends too and are very helpful and easy to work with, for the musician and for the gig host.