Parlour, the “AirBnB of gigs”, picked up a bit of attention recently due to a piece running on musicfeeds.com.auamong other sites. In case you didn’t see it, the basic gist is that local Melbourne singer-songwriter Matt Walters launched the platform in January in order to cut out the middlemen (venues, booking agents and the like) and make the planning of gigs a simple transaction between artists an fans. The artist? Anyone you want. The venue? Your house (or kitchen, or backyard, or granny flat).
Honestly, it’s an incredibly exciting idea, made even more exciting by the sheer enthusiasm and smiley disposition the whole project transmits. Scrolling through the little website Parlour’s put together, you’ll see images of candlelit hallways, smiling bearded men sitting on upturned milk boxes, and quaint stages adorned in fairy lights. We’ve all had this idea at one point or another in our lives, and Parlour seems to be making a real run at actually having it happen.
Admittedly, even I, while taking notes and meandering around my house after looking through Parlour’s blog posts on past shows, started hypothetically planning where the best place to put my stage would be for my entirely hypothetical singer-songwriter, and what kind of food I’d provide. But then I started to think about the problems, and there are a few.
I’m not about to defend financial practices undertaken by certain venues, nor am I in support of, in some cases, the pittance that local artists receive for being a lifeblood of culture through Melbourne and cities the world over, but venues have one thing that Parlour hosts probably do not, accountability.
The constant battles that venues like The Tote and Cherry Bar have fought against local residents are often solved in most minds by the fact that many of these venues are institutions in place for years, serving as the beating hearts of the Melbourne music scene, and basically, if you move nearby then complain, you can fuck off. But what happens when gigs are popping up all over Melbourne, in the quiet streets of Thornbury or Clifton Hill? And what happens when those gigs are being played by explosive post-hardcore bands or your cousins seven horn ska band, instead of quaint singer-songwriters? Basically, venues can, and should, be held accountable for their bands and patrons, but the question of accountability is harder to answer when locale and clientele are as fluid as this.
In various blog posts on the site, Parlour has also claimed that a private hosting tool will be rolled out in the future, allowing hosts to tweak pretty much all the information about their upcoming event, much in the same way as a Facebook event. But until that happens, Facebook events galore it shall be, with Parlour advising, “We suggest you use text message and or private Facebook events to invite your friends to your Parlour show”. I’m sorry, but, doesn’t this sound like a disaster waiting to happen? This is where the concept of “AirBnB of gigs” doesn’t quite sit well with me, because it reminds me of this. When Parlour addresses this issue of complete random individuals trashing your place, they reply with a simple “We hope not!”
I hope Parlour is a huge success, and I hope they get their infrastructure off the ground to make the process safer and easier than it appears right now, but as it stands, gaining publicity for a project which has got vital parts of its experience missing is never a good idea.
By Nicholas Kennedy