Soundwave is dead — what next for SA’s music scene?

Enjoy this scene while you can, it may not last. Photo: Noelle Bobrige
SEE, this is why we can’t have nice things, Adelaide.
First the Big Day Out, now the once hugely popular Soundwave music festival has gone the way of Rebecca Black’s recording career and, according to promoter AJ Maddah, won’t be back in 2016.
Those in the industry say the writing has been on the wall for months, but as a casual music fan, the news caught me off guard.
Not just because this weekend’s event will be my first time at Soundwave (yeah, I’m part of the problem) but also because, as far as I understood, the success of newer festivals like it was partly responsible for the demise of the tired old Big Day Out, which many said had come to the end of its natural life.
Music is an emotive force but at the end of the day, money matters and clearly the organisers of Soundwave have counted all the beans and decided that, for Adelaide at least, they don’t stack up.
“We can’t bring a show of this magnitude down again for so few people,” Maddah tweeted.
Just exactly how many people will trickle through the gates this weekend remains to be seen.
Last year’s event reportedly drew a crowd of more than 25,000, better than the estimated 15,000 who attended the last, terminally ill BDO in Adelaide, an event which just a few years ago could pull a crowd of more than 30,000.
Festival organisers like Maddah might bemoan slow ticket sales.
But others have also questioned whether running the event, for the very first time, over two days instead of one has also served to split the small Adelaide market.
Did this scare away music fans who maybe would have gone along on two days, if only they could have afforded the $200 asking price just to get inside the gate?
Organisers may have believed extending the festival across two days would mean they could wow Adelaide music fans with more big-name acts than can reasonably be crowbarred into a traditional one-day format.
But instead, if my experience is any guide, it has merely forced fans to choose between the Saturday and Sunday line-up, making it impossible to avoid the feeling that, whichever way you go, you’re missing out.
And that’s the other thing.
With big name acts like Soundgarden, Slipknot, Faith No More, Marilyn Manson, Slash and Judas Priest on the bill, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this year’s line-up if that kind of thing rings your bell.
Is that the problem? Have tastes in music changed? Or, as The Advertiser’s Sam Kelton argues, is the media (particularly the street press) partly to blame for failing to support festivals like they once did?
Or maybe it’s not a festival problem at all.
In 2014, a clearly miffed Elvis Costello cancelled a planned show in Adelaide, citing a lack of interest, and warned fans it may be a long time between drinks.
“We are sorry not to be visiting your fair city and state, as the opportunities to do so in the future may not be numerous,” he said.
But angry fans blamed a lack of promotion and said they would have gladly gone along to see Costello, if only they’d known about it.
And somewhere in the middle lies the truth.
If SA’s festival culture is out of tune, don’t blame the promoters, musicians, media or fans.
Blame everyone who cares about live music.
If we are every going to find the harmony again, we’ve all got a part to play.
What do you think? Have your say below.
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