Lockdown winners: 3 ways event agencies and musicians stayed relevant

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Event organisers and musicians found innovative ways to connect with their audiences so they'd be ready when lockdown ended. Travis Stacey reports.

When the coronavirus closed the live music and entertainment industry in March, Hudson Watts thought it wouldn’t be too long until his day party events business, Doctor Daytime, was up and running again.

“I had already started planning large-scaled, public events” for spring, Watts said.

It has ended up being most of the year before even medium-sided outdoor events were possible, with lockdown and social distancing rules making it impossible. Major outdoor events are still some time off.

In June, singer Guy Sebastian stood beside Prime Minister Scott Morrison when he announced a relief package of $250 million for emergency funding to the arts and culture sectors hit hardest by the pandemic.

However, the Government admitted in the Senate on October 22 that while just $49.5 million of the rescue package had been allocated to the film industry, none at all had been given to the music industry.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed in April that 53 per cent of the arts and recreation sector was no longer functioning – before the lethal second wave shut Victoria down even more tightly.

It was tough for everyone, but some event organisations and musicians found innovative ways to keep their audiences engaged and build their brands.

Packed crowd at a Doctor Daytime day party in February. Picture: Doctor Daytime

Launching a new beer

Watts, who is a marketing student at Deakin University and co-founded Doctor Daytime, used to run popular events every second Sunday in summer at the Captain Bar in Geelong, showcasing local DJs and dance music.

“Obviously we can’t run the event any more and if we didn’t want to lose our following or people forget about us, we had to adapt to the brand a bit to stay relevant,” Watts said.

Doctor Daytime began uploading mixes with local DJs as one way to keep the community engaged while large public gatherings were banned.

Then, wanting to do more and stand out from the crowd, they decided to launch beers allied to the Doctor Daytime brand.

“Everyone is doing mix series at the moment and we want to do something a bit more large-scale and a bit more personal,” Watts says.

The beer is called Docs Daytime Ale, brewed at Bells Beach Brewery in Torquay. It will be available to order online soon, once the website is launched.

Hudson Watts talks to Travis Stacey.

Watts said he hopes to get the beer into some local Geelong venues and bottle shops. “This is another pathway for the brand, I guess, to keep the relationship with the community.”

“When this is all over, we want to have a following, so we had to put ourselves out there and be a point of difference for when we come back, and in best case we hope to have even more of a following,” he says.

Watts described Docs Daytime Ale as a fruity and refreshing summertime beverage that reflects the vibe and atmosphere of their summer day parties and the Doctor Daytime brand.

“We wanted to put everything Doctor Daytime was known for and condense it into a delicious flavour,” Watts says.

Facebook live streams

Josh Brown is a co-founder of the Raglan Presents a boutique events agency based in Warrnambool, which filled a gap in the live entertainment industry by bringing day festival parties to southwest Victoria last year.

Brown says Raglan Presents had been building momentum over the summer as an events agency, selling out their Client Liason event with more than 900 tickets. 

Party-goers were presented with fireworks, a full stage and sound production and big-name DJs such as international artist Rafael TopSecret and Morning Maxwell.

But the pandemic stopped everything in its tracks.

Brown says event agencies can’t afford to be doing nothing. Through the lockdown they were “doing live streams to keep our brands relevant”.

“You can’t make much money out of it, but we want to keep growing and be top of mind for when people are able to come out,” he says.

The Facebook live streams are a high-quality pre-recorded series of DJ and music sets, showcasing the coast line of Warrnambool.

“The live stream Mind Sets was in partnership with Headspace, so it’s also great to follow an alternative way to strengthen the brand whilst also being beneficial for the community,” he says.

“Our main clients or patrons are 18-25 years old and they are probably the ones most affected by the pandemic and are probably the most likely to have lost their jobs or be feeling socially isolated.

Liam Gubbins talks about his Changes film clip.

“So, if we can provide some entertainment via our live streams as well as some mental health messaging, we hope it will help people feel connected.”

The live streams have also provided a platform for DJs and musicians in the music industry to perform.

“Everyone needs a hand getting through this and coming out the other side,” Brown says.

With lockdown over, he is planning small seated events this summer through his smaller events brand, Groove.

Releasing new music

Caulfield Grammar sound technician Liam Gubbins, the son of the Goanna band singer and keyboard player Marcia Howard, used lockdown to release his six-part EP titled Gub.

Gubbins says he’s been envisioning the newly released album for the past four years, but finally finished writing and recording four of the six songs during lockdown.

While there were some practical problems, such as being unable to have face-to-face mix sessions, Gubbins says the lockdown allowed him the time to be more creative.

“Things in my personal life changed and then lockdown happened so I guess it gave me the opportunity to focus on my music without the distractions of normal life,” Gubbins said.

It was hard to reach audiences and generate income without live shows. “Not being able to play shows is like your bread and butter and without that kind of an income stream, I’ve had to pick up other jobs to fund the EP,” Gubbins says.

Musician Liam Gubbins. Picture: Patrick Staggers

Gubbins says he also had a publicist help him adapt to using online platforms to promote his EP.

“It’s cool to be keeping relevant and putting stuff out there, but in terms of the return on your work you kind of expect to not see much, the way it is at the moment,” he says.

“However, I am stoked with the timing of my release … it was more of something I’ve been wanting for so long” Gubbins says.

Gubbins featured in a Raglan Presents live stream.

“The timing of that was just perfect being the Saturday after I released the EP on the Thursday and a live stream is really the best platform to engage with audiences when releasing new music at the moment.” Gubbins says.

Planning for the future

The latest Covis-19 rules allow for bigger crowds to attend outdoor events, subject to social distancing and other rules. Organisations have to submit plans to public health authorities for approval, but in principle, at least, hundreds – even thousands – of people can now attend a music event.

Raglan Presents stream Mind Sets featuring Gub and single Changes from his EP is available via Facebook, YouTube and Sound Cloud:  https://www.facebook.com/raglanpresents/ .

Gubbins’ album Gub can be found on any major music platform or at gubmusic.com