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Buying bricks to save a pub

Iconic Sydney music venue, the Annandale Hotel, has been teetering on the edge of closing it's doors for some time, under continual pressure from existing surrounding residents, future planned development and mounting debt. For it's last roll of the dice, the owners decided to rally some community support — offering people the opportunity to purchase a brick of the hotel.

Nasty "Rav" Nate, long time supporter of the venue and former guitarist of equally iconic Wollongong band, The Wesley Snipers, pulls on his (fitted) business strategist hat and analyses this unusual plan and other possible long-term solutions.

When the owners of the Annandale Hotel recently announced that they would be taking the novel approach of selling the iconic venue's bricks to punters to raise money to lift their business out of debt and hopefully keep this much loved live music home afloat, I instantly joined the Facebook group pledging my intent to buy a brick.

The Annandale for me, like I'm sure it is for many of you, is a place that holds many dear music memories — whether it was watching Gaz Liddiard destroy an audience with his banter and genius songs at a solo acoustic set; seeing one of my idols in Dean Wareham play Galaxie 500 songs that I never thought I'd ever hear live in person; to even recent weeks when OFF! played one of the most explosive gigs I've ever seen — the braingasms I associate with this great place are rich and plentiful.

However, as I read over the "brick" sales plan (the brick is actually a plaque with the punter's name on it, not an official shareholders title agreement) and the prices of $50, $150, $250 etc to get my name inscribed and mounted and hopefully keep seeing killer gigs within walking distance of my house, an uneasy thought crossed my mind.

Firstly, offering to sell bricks and using the proceeds to remodel the venue and relieve some debt is hardly a strategy to ensure the ongoing financial success of the venue. Sure that quick cash injection will secure a new, clean carpet and might redo the toilets so that they work/don't reek of piss. The plan might even give "brick owners" an increased sense of pride and ownership over the venue that will increase their patronage — for a time.

But in reality, the brick plan just doesn't cut it for me. Once they run out of bricks, what's to prevent the owners from plunging further into debt. I don't want to see the Annandale knocked down and turned into a bunch of apartments that will house cunts that would rather drink at the Ivy, but are we really giving thought to the bigger picture with this plan?

I'm not pretending to be an expert on running a business, let alone a live music venue, but I've travelled a bit and I've been to venues that are both great and run well and I feel that the following are some strategies that the business owners could adopt in order to prevent the 'Dale going down the gurgler.

1. Check your beer prices

Not exactly a genius strategy — but for fuck's sake, $6 per schooner of Coopers?! And out of a warm plastic cup! Come on! One of the most frustrating things in Sydney as a whole is the fact that you can be drinking a schooner of beer for $4-$5.50 at one pub, walk 20 minutes down the road, order the same drink, and have it served to you in a dirty, plastic cup for a 25% mark up. The majority of concert goers at the Annandale aren't fucking rich cunts, but they do like to drink. And if we can squeeze in two or three more beers a night, that makes us more likely to stick around/attend more shows.

I've also seen no word of a 'membership' scheme with this whole 'buy a brick plan' either. Wouldn't it make more sense to say, 'buy a membership' that you then get a brick for, as well as a card that gets you cheaper drinks or cheaper tickets to shows? I know I'd be there all the God damn time if I was scoring cheaper booze!

There should also be better incentives to get to the venue earlier — happy hours, student discounts, fuck — even put on a meat tray raffle. It's not the easiest place in the world to get to for many, so get us there early and often.

2. Lower ticket prices

This is a problem for venues in Australia as a whole. Am I the only one that's noticed that our economy has done particularly well out of the GFC, with our dollar remaining much stronger than the American — and yet overseas acts are still calling for a shitload to play shows, when our dollar is worth more to them now than it's ever been. Or maybe that's the promoters and the venue operators not passing on the savings to the punters. I'm not sure — but what I do think is that even local acts have an unreasonable sense of self worth when charging their own ticket prices.

When I lived in Canada, I saw some of the best bands in the world at prices that usually hovered between $15 and $25, location regardless. When I told friends there how much concerts cost in Oz, they'd laugh in my face.

I feel that the whole pricing scheme for ticket sales in Oz needs an overhaul so that we can get a fair sense of how much we should be paying and how much cash artists should be asking for. The whole playing field feels very off to me as a whole.

Again, lower ticket prices = (more punters + more drink sales + more merch sales) = greater profit for (venue + artist).

3. Diversify the use of the space

I once had the pleasure of visiting Portland, Oregon - a beautifully "curated" city that has taken the best elements of cities across the globe and embedded them in its own cultural, social and economic make up - the diversification of the use of spaces was one of the most interesting facets that grabbed my attention.

Because it rains there pretty much the whole fucking time there, the locals have learned to maximise the uses of each indoor space they have. A cafe by day, will also run as an art gallery, then a bar, then a music or stand up comedy venue into the wee hours. Clothing stores act as record shops and in turn also release their own records and compilations — essentially becoming mini record labels. Basements are regularly used for alternate business options/venues for shows or parties. All of these ingenious schemes ensure that each space/business is achieving its full potential, both culturally and economically.

Obviously the Annandale has Pub Cha, which I'm sure rakes in some good cash flow — but where are the incentives for people to visit during the day, especially during the week? Why not take a note out of Douche Ex Machina and run a regular cafe out of part of the joint? Allow local promoters to put on art shows and comedy shows and free music nights in the former pokie area. Run more student friendly events — barbecues/free lunch shows, fuck, buy a shuttle bus to bring the cunts in — there's enough of them in the area.

4. Ask for more corporate support

Am I the only one that thinks Jagermeister go above and beyond for live music in this country? What with the Jager Rising band comps they put on and the Australian Independent Music Awards — they're single-handedly doing more for this country's live music scene than any beer company ever has.

And think about it — who the fuck drinks that much Jagermeister at a show? Especially a week night show? Ya don't! Not unless you want to reek of the stuff at your desk the next morning while you try not to hurl on Becky from marketing.

I'm amazed that so many people are fans of Coopers and Carlton, when as a company, they've been taking the live music scene for a ride for the last few years. I have no official stats, but I'm pretty sure the Annandale goes through a lot more Coopers Green in a week than it does Jagermeister. Where's their contribution to helping out this great venue that I'm sure does them a tremendous monetary service? I mean apart from the couple of full page ads that they buy in Rolling Stone mag - a mag that no-one with any self respect or interest in music actually reads anymore.

I think it's time we started to put pressure on Coopers and Carlton Utd like we put pressure on Kyle Sandilands when he has a crack at fat chicks.

These are just a couple of points I've knocked together off the top of my head — but I'm sure someone with a greater sense of marketing strategy could come up with more. And if you've got thoughts/ideas, I, and the Annandale owners I'm sure, would love to hear them. But I just don't think the "buy a brick" scheme is the plan we're looking for — especially if we want to ensure that the Annandale continues to give us more great memories for years to come.

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Annandale Hotel

 

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Comments

nuckydarmody

Sorry Nasty Nate but you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. I can't see that you are a "long time supporter of the venue" either, bad mouthing the joints scheme to stay afloat. If the Rule brothers are saying this is "the last roll of the dice" it's obvious what they really need right now is local support. Can't you see venting your ignorant negativity in a public forum like this will actually negatively impact the future of the venue? The points you have raised suck the biggest bag of dicks, & I will explain why:

1. $6 for a beer is pretty standard in most Sydney venues these days. A lot of joints are steeper than this. Come on dude, we all know this. The Dale's got other beers on offer for $5, and offers ticket holders a free jug of beer/ bottle of wine with any 2 meals purchased in the restaurant. As a regular I will share with the unknowing that the food is fucking delicious.

Glass schooners at the Annandale? You clearly haven't thought that one through. Imagine bands like Frenzal Rhomb playing to 400 rowdy punks squashed up together throwing glass schooners around. If this is really such a big deal for you it's pretty easy to walk out to the beer garden and enjoy a glass schooner there (and harden the fuck up while you're at it).

"I've also seen no word of a 'membership' scheme" ... it states pretty clearly on the Annandale's website you get a "membership keyring" with every package purchased. Here's a guy who gets to post a big article on a website like this and clearly hasn't done any research. And I'm only getting started ...

2. Venues have very little control over what booking agents/ promoters/ band managers set their ticket price. Shows tend to be more expensive in AUS comparatively to other countries as there are far less venues and towns to play. You're a touring musician. It's pretty embarrassing you didn't know this already.

3. Diversify the use of space? um ... lets have a look at what the venue has catered for over the years: 3 + stage music events, CULT SINEMA, Screw theatre, art exhibitions, pub markets, weddings, TV shows, photoshoots, PUB CHA, band press conferences (including when Powderfinger announced they were breaking up), band rehearsal spaces, recording studios, film editing booth, residencies, and yes Nasty Rav Nate from incredibly high profile band which i've never heard of ... the Annandale Coffee Bar. You can see all this on the website and it's facebook. The Annandale is an INSTITUTION. If you like Portland so much why don't you fuck off back there.

4. You say to "Ask for more corporate support" and then go on to suggest the three corporations the hotel are already sponsored by, and yeah if you do a bit of research you will see they're doing their bit. For instance, Carlton have agreed to re do the hotels cellar once renovations commence.

Yep, you are definitely not "an expert of running a business". Next time an "uneasy thought" crosses your mind why don't you touch base with someone who knows what they're talking about i.e the owners of the Annandale, or at least do a bit more online research. The Annandale surely wont "continue to give us more great memories for years to come" with poorly informed word vomit like yours stinking up this town.

7 years ago

Rav

@NUCKYDARMODY

And you clearly didn't read my article properly.

At what stage did I say "not buy a brick." At no stage was I negative towards this scheme - I just said I had second thoughts. This brick scheme isn't a long term plan though, and they're yet to offer a long term scheme to keep the pub afloat. This article was merely a couple of ideas that they might be able to use/ I still fully intend to buy a brick - but again - NOT A LONG TERM PLAN!

1. Prices fluctuate all across Sydney. I've been to the Oxford Art Factory, to free gigs, and paid $4 for a schooner a number of times.

I never said they should serve glass, I was just suggesting they adjust their prices to suit the fact they are serving them in plastic cups.

I've also been to a million rowdy gigs where they serve the beer in glasses. And how often do Frenzal gigs get played where it's even an issue. Again, not calling for them to have glass - the reason they brought plastic in makes sense for the safety and well being of the punters. But adjust your prices to suit the fact that beer tastes like shit outta warm plastic.

2. Horse shit venues have little control over what bands charge. Of course they do. Venues charge a rental fee to acts to put on a show and therefore can determine part of the pricing. But as I wrote and you clearly didn't read, I was calling for an Australia-wide audit of ticketing prices - something that may help the Annandale and other live venues across the country.

3. Diversifying the space during the day dip shit. Yes I know there's cult cinema and the other things you suggested - but how often do those go on? Not very. Find a long term secondary use for the space that can serve as a revenue generator during the day, thus potentially doubling their revenue.

4. Where the fuck is coopers and carlton utd breweries assisting in sponsorship? Apart from jacking their prices up at music festivals? Oh and once again, read the fucking thing PROPERLY! I didn't bad mouth Jagermeister - I said they do a shitload for live music in this country. I just suggested that it was a drink you don't drink all the time and yet they do a lot of sponsorship - hence the "above and beyond".

I didn't write this article in a negative light. I simply offered some suggestions and some alternative options for them to hopefully generate more income for the place. I even called for more suggestions. Instead I get a retarded essay from a fuckwit that thought they'd make themself look like a hero by taking a stand against the piece using a range of points that were taken out of context of the article as a whole.

If you have a suggestion for keeping the Annandale open - feel free to leave one. Until then I suggest you go back and read the article properly and stop being a fuckwit.

7 years ago

nuckydarmody

Your article places negative ideas around the hotel in its time of need. Your ideas are not constructive. The owners would have thought of them anyway. if you want to help, buy a brick, and suggest to others who care to do the same. If they wanted your opinions on business strategy I'm sure they'd say so. The Annandale never claimed the brick scheme to be it's long term plan to keep the venue alive. Once again, If you want to know what else the owners have in stall why don't you touch base with them.

1. The venue shouldn't have to suffer price wise because of having to use plastic as a safety precaution. Once again, if it bothers you so much walk around to the beer garden for a glass of beer or maybe consider bottled beer.

2. No, you are wrong. Venues have very little control over what bands charge. What they do have control over is the room hire wacked on top. The Dale charges a very reasonable fee of $2 per head which pays for a sound and lighting technician, as well as a door gal. Other venues in Sydney such as Oxford Art Factory charge $3.30. My band has played at both venues a number of times.

3. Cult Sinema, Pub Markets, Screw Theatre, & Upstairs acoustic shows were all weekly in the past. The venue probably hasn't been able to afford to keep cool events like this running. It's not easy to make things like this happen when you're in millions of dollars of debt.

4. Why don't YOU read the thing properly. Not only did I explain an example of what Carlton is doing to help, i never said you had bad mouthed Jagermeister.

You're the one writing "retarded" essays - very mature choice of describing word too mate.

If you want to help the Annandale, use your popular website to inspire punters to buy a brick, rather than opening a forum of suggestion for how the Rule brothers should run their business.

7 years ago

Jim-Jim

@NUCKYDARMONY.

Fuck me mate. You're attacking someone who has written an article which has the sole aim of ensuring the long-term survival of the INSTITUTION you clearly love so much. The 'word vomit' you have provided offers no alternatives to raising revenue which is the very thing Rav's article was aimed at creating.

Anyone can take a whole bunch of stuff out of context and write the sort of trivial shit you've written. Well done dickhead.

7 years ago

Rav

@NUCKYDARMODY

Clearly you're going to read this how you want.

I didn't intend for this to have a negative framing - but you've got to agree your comments provided more negative connotations to the story than anything I actually said.

I do apologise for referring to your essay as 'retarded' and that you are a 'fuckwit'. That was dumb and heat of the moment.

I wish the very best for the future of the Annandale. I hope you can come up with some suggestions to ensure its future apart from selling off its bricks.

Enjoy the next season of Boardwalk Empire.

7 years ago

nuckydarmody

Whatever dude. Rav may have good intentions, but so do I. After reading articles like this and the comments people are posting on the Mess + Noise one (http://www.messandnoise.com/news/4391288) I feel like some point are getting the wrong idea. I live in the area and it's been my local for a very long time.

7 years ago

nuckydarmody

*people ... and im out. xx

7 years ago

QC

As a fellow member of the Wesley Snipers I can assure you the term 'legendary' used to describe us was very tongue in cheek...

7 years ago

andyours

@nuckydarmody.

Wow. What a grand misinterpretation of the article.

7 years ago

Jonny Yes Yes

thanks for stopping by @nuckydarmony,,, i think you raise some decent points...... i know "you're out" now (where you go, mate? disconnect your internet?) but thought i'd also jump in and address some of the thoughts and feelings raised here...

my feelings on this are a little different to Rav's.... i don't particularly like the annandale hotel.. i never really have a great experience when i go there and, although i've witnessed some amazing shows at the venue, its not my place of choice to see bands... thus i don't think i'd be particularly heartbroken if it closed down...

different people like different places though, and i understand that Rav has a deep (deep) lust for "the dale" and his heart is in the right place here. he wants it saved... and is concerned that the venue is putting all of it's energy into a charity style scheme rather than analysing it's overall approach to doing business....

in addition to Rav's list i would also throw in there that the venue also needs to start getting better at booking bands.... or maybe just the bands they book.... appeal to a wider audience... drag some of the "hipster bands" away from the inner-city venues.... i thought they would jump on the opportunity to take over a lot of the old Hopetoun-style bands when they had the chance, but alas, they seem more focused on just putting on British India, The Mess Hall, etc etc.....

some great points in that mess and noise comment thread on the booking side of it too..... worth a read... as well, Adam Lewis from Radiant got a few good points out on his twitter.... eg. https://twitter.com/#!/adam_lewis/status/146052541564715009 ... worth trolling through a bit of that as well.....

7 years ago

Robot Turkey + Mega Goose

I love when people correct other people for being 'wrong' on the internet. I can't help myself I need to get involved.

Annandale is $3 per ticket plus $110 production and $60 for lighting (there was no lighting person)

Oxford Arts is $220 production fee + lighting + Door split + penalties if you don't bring enough (couldn't find the exact door figures, anyone confirm?)

7 years ago

harness yr. hopes

slightly off topic but i find hilarious how many people bitch and moan when a venue closes down about "the state of australian music", versus how little people seem to actually give a shit when it comes to contributing to one that is about to close.

but onto the topic...

---

with cutting beer prices, you need to remember that venues only make cash on beer sales. considering everyone in the room came to see a band, not drink a beer, cutting prices by a dollar or two really wont make that much of a difference to the amount of people there, nor gross revenue from sales.

as an aside, while the oaf is charging less for beer, it charges more to bands with higher per heads. the cost of your cheap beer is effectively being passed to the band........ is that what the australian music scene needs to be?

---

venues have no control over where promoters put ticket prices. promoting is a tough business, and if a venue took their price down, that reduction in price would rarely, if ever, be transferred to the consumer.

overseas touring acts prices arent just related to venues, bidding wars between promoters over the last few years have put the most upward pressure on prices. let alone all the other expenses with lugging gear to the other side of the world, smaller amount of regions to hit, smaller market generally, higher costs for developing markets, etc etc etc. your point number two doesnt really have any legs to stand on. but yeah, if it was possible it would do wonders.

---

have you looked into the costs associated with diversifying with alternative entertainment options? having additional bar staff, security, production people, venue managers weighs up pretty high. especially when you consider that you cant charge fuck all for any of those ideas. $10 per head, with maybe 40 - 60 people if you're lucky, barely any of which will drink, isnt going to even cover staff. let alone utility, admin, marketing, and the opportunity cost of wasting time on a loss.

in terms of running a cafe, or clothes retailer, or record shop, or etc, do you really think it would work in that location? would you really invest the amount of money associated with starting up that business? the guys who run the dale certainly cant, so what external investor would get involved in that? especially when their other business is running at a loss. you've gotta be realistic here.

and remember, this is sydney, not portland. music venues and record stores are closing down all the time, because there just isnt the demand.

---

sponsorship really isnt what i know well. but dude, as a punter do you really want more corporate sponsorship? they have three already, if the annandale came back to life as the McDale, i wouldnt go.

---

running a business isnt as simple as "lower beer & ticket prices! diversify! sponsorship!". you gotta remember, these guys probably have families and mortgages, and just cannot feasibly do these things while throwing their cash at the wall.

i understand you're trying to come up with ideas, but you're article was written quite aggressively, which is why you got a strong reaction from that dude above.

at this point a short term cash injection is the only thing these guys can hope for. and then in a few months the annandale will finally go. the worst thing is, instead of remembering it as an awesome place i saw spoon at, ill remember it as that place that clung on for years too long.

7 years ago

Robot Turkey + Mega Goose

to correct myself.

Oxford Arts is $3.30 per ticket and $150 for lights.

7 years ago

Robot Turkey + Mega Goose

McDale... Gold!

7 years ago

harness yr. hopes

might have old figures on per heads, based it on nucky's $2, so ignore that comment

7 years ago

flukazoid

With all respect to Rav, I disagree with a lot of this article but agree with much of the sentiment. And yes, I most definitely believe it's possible to be questioning this whole approach without wishing for the Annandale's demise. I'd like to see it continue, absolutely. Like this? No.

I think their business needs fundamental changes - but the sorts of changes that don't require council permits and oodles of cash injections. Just a cultural change, a change to the dynamic that makes the venue and its events compelling.

As an abstract example, Sydney's DIY scene is thriving beyond belief - do you think any of the DIY spaces have immaculate carpet? A good sound system? Decent toilets? They're lucky to have any of those things, sometimes not even a building. Yet they continue and build a loyal following. If the Annandale genuinely thinks that replacing their carpet and fixing the loos will get the venue back on track, they're nuts. That's not going to change how many people turn up to a show.

Most of my thoughts have been outlined in my comments on Mess+Noise (URL above), so I won't go over why I have a problem with the actual brick-buying model.

But to take up Rav's arguments I'd say:

1. $6 for a beer is fine by me. Not an uncommon price, and I'll happily pay it to keep the place afloat.

2. As has already been pointed out, we live in Australia. It's a long way from anywhere. Touring is expensive here. That's never going to change in the near future.

3. Agreed. Definitely opportunities here, though as for exactly what would fit the Annandale's ethos - I'm a little stumped. They have tried to make the restaurant happen I guess, although I've never eaten there or heard anything about the food.

4. I guess that's an option sure - but corporate sponsors only back a winner. They'll jump on board with a business that they see as being a winner, and I'm not sure the Annandale looks like a winner on paper. It's not charity.

Anyway, my ultimate opinion on the three things that will make the Annandale sink or float:

1. The bookings. Because, as Jonny said, they're stuck in their own universe and they badly need to break out and diversify. Their bookings are small-minded and massively unreflective of what's happening in music, even just within whatever you call "rock". I mean, they have British India playing their NYE. Who thought *that* was the ultimate booking coup for a New Years gig??

2. The gear. I hear tell on the grapevine that promoters don't want to book their gigs at the Annandale because the venue's equipment is in such a bad way. The good venues in town are keeping their equipment in tip-top shape and constantly revamping it. That's the way to secure confidence and ensure people want to use your venue.

3. Being a trend-setter and staying ahead of the curve. For example, actually fostering musical subcultures that are emerging (Tone was a great example of this, RIP), or doing new things that will reflect the unique aspects of these subcultures. Stop expecting that the tried-and-true model of rock 'n' roll shows from the days of yore will keep pulling in the punters. Try something different!

Yes, the location is out of the CBD but that's not really important at the end of the day. If there's something good happening, people will travel. If there's something that they can't get elsewhere, they'll turn up if they see it as being vital. The Annandale doesn't feel vital. It just exists.

7 years ago

The O

"If there's something good happening, people will travel."

NAIL.

ON.

THE.

HEAD.

7 years ago

whaley

Nuckydarmody's band has played at both the Dale and the OAF a number of times

7 years ago

Royal Milkshake

I have another theory on all of this. I think the struggles of a lot of these smaller sydney venues as you touched on briefly in your opening paragraph, is the gentrification, or as I prefer to think of it wankerfication, of inner city suburbs. This is just a wild allegation that I'll offer no evidence to support, but in my experience working class and lower middle class people are the kind of people that like going to pubs and seeing live music, upper and upper middle class people prefer to go clubbing. For them going out is more about status and being seen in the right places with cool clothes than being entertained. The cost of living in the inner city just keeps growing and yuppies just don't give a fuck about live music venues. I lived in Blacktown for a while and the only music venue anywhere nearby that occasionally played the kind music I was interested in seeing was the Bull n' Bush, which is pretty shit really, not least because it's practically inaccessible by public transport.

As the yuppies infest the inner city the working class people are being pushed further out west and the venues just aren't following them. My mates are constantly bitching about how they can't go out as much as they'd like because they can't afford to live in Sydney, have to take public transport which stops running early and miss the headliner when they do see a gig, or have to drive and stay sober all night, but maybe it's just us.

7 years ago

Royal Milkshake

*Who want more venues out here, not who are constantly bitching. I actually don't mind having to travel.

7 years ago

Royal Milkshake

That first paragraph didn't make much sense, what I'm trying to say is I think a couple of better venues aimed at a youth demographic and booking more original bands in the suburbs would be a good idea and I'm unsure why they don't already exist, not saying Blacktown and surrounds are anything like the inner city suburbs.

7 years ago

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