Crowd raising arms to musicians on stage in Badlands, Perth

In a small studio in Perth’s inner south, local rock band Nylon Ströke are rehearsing their crowd favorites for an upcoming gig.

But after hearing another popular Perth live music venue, Badlands Bar, would be closing its doors in December, they’re worried they’re going to run out of places to perform.

“I think it sucks that I’ve had to watch venues that I’ve played and that I love close [their] doors,” frontman Adam Healy said.

“I’ve always kind of imagined the Perth CBD having all these different places and all these different bands playing at the same time and that’s slowly starting to fizzle away and that makes me sad as a musician and as a fan of live music.”

Two guitarists with long hair rehearse in a rock band, with one on the right wearing a denim jacket, singing into a microphone.

Adam Healy (right) is worried Perth is running out of original music venues. (ABC News: Tabarak Al Jrood)

Venues left with no choice

As local businesses try to recover post-COVID, live music venues are struggling to keep up with increasing costs.

For Badlands Bar, a “whopping tenfold increase” in its public liability insurance premiums left it with no choice but pull down the curtains.

A large crowd at a music venue shot from behind.

Badlands Bar announced it will close in December. (Instagram: Badlands Bar)

“This was the only insurance coverage we were able to obtain to ensure the venue could continue to operate,” the venue’s management said in a statement.

“This is a known, but rarely spoken-about issue that has been impacting live music venues across Australia to varying degrees for the last 18 months or so.”

Badlands is the latest casualty of increasing costs, following the recent closures of The Sewing Room in Perth, and The Aardvark in Fremantle.

Mark Neal, the former booking manager at The Sewing Room, said he expects more venues will follow suit.

An empty room with wooden floors sits empty.  There are sofas on the right and a music stage on the right, divided by a pillar.

The Sewing Room was a live music venue in Perth that closed in April. (Supplied: Blue Gray Pink)

“I think it’s bound to happen,” Mr Neal said.

“There’s so many options for people these days … and it’s harder and harder to support all the spaces you love.”

Despite hosting some of the state’s top acts, from Spacey Jane to Voyager, Mr Neal said The Sewing Room also became financially unsustainable.

A packed crowd in a live music venue cheers on a band.

Spacey Jane playing Badlands in September 2020. (ABC News: Kenith Png)

“The owners were really passionate about the space and what we’d built … but we weren’t getting enough people through to cover the overall expenses,” he said.

“Even when we were doing well, as the costs went up, it just wasn’t enough.”

A man with graying hair, dark-rimmed glasses and a red flannel shirt poses for a photo sitting down indoors.

Mark Neal says getting enough people through the door to cover costs proved challenging.
(ABC News: Tabarak Al Jrood)

Devastating for live music

The state’s peak body for live music said the trend was “devastating for our live music ecosystem”.

WA Music executive director Livia Carré admitted the industry was struggling.

“What we’re hearing across not just in WA, but across the country, is that live music venues post-COVID are really finding it difficult with increasing operational costs,” she said.

A woman with long dark hair and dark-rimmed glasses smiles as she poses for a photo indoors in front of picture frames.

WA Music executive director Livia Carré says musicians across Australia are struggling post COVID. (ABC News: Tabarak Al Jrood)

“And with increasing cost of living, interest rates, and now public liability insurance, it’s much more difficult to make a living out of live music.”

Ms Carré said there was no answer as to why insurance costs have dramatically increased, but that it was impacting local artists as well.

“Artists need to perform, streaming revenue isn’t really going to cut it these days,” she said.

“They need to be out there performing and getting their music to new audiences, so one less venue means one less place they can play.”

Nylon Ströke frontman Mr Healy believes more support is needed in WA for local bands like his.

A rock guitarist with long hair and a beard stands posing for a photo holding his guitar in front of band equipment.

Nylon Stroke frontman Adam Healy. (ABC News: Tabarak Al Jrood)

“I think it’s kind of ironic that there’s so much great music in Perth, in in your own back garden, and yet there are people going mad because Taylor Swift is selling like $300 tickets over east,” Mr Healy said.

“It’s easy to say just lower the premiums but I think the other half of this solution is us as patrons, as customers, because every single dollar that these venues make and these bands make, comes from everyone who comes through the door.”

‘We will survive’

The news of Badlands Bar’s closure also shocked other live music venues across the city.

Kabir Ramasary, the owner of The Bird, a small live music venue in Northbridge, described it as a “really sad” situation.

A man with a green jacket and dark-rimmed spectacles sits posing for a photo inside a live music venue in front of a stage.

Kabir Ramasary says the music business is “more of a passion industry”. (ABC News: Tabarak Al Jrood)

“It’s really, really devastating for the industry [because] we don’t see each other as competitors, we see each other as supporting partners in a game of trying to support live music in our state,” Mr Ramasary said.