by Sam Smith

Industry Types: Andrea Clark – Owner of Galatos

by Sam Smith

Industry Types: Andrea Clark – Owner of Galatos

In this new series, Sam Smith talks to some of the people who work in the local music industry, discussing their role and some of the issues facing the music industry in New Zealand. These are the people who often work behind the scenes, who often do not get the publicity or coverage of their work. Just off Auckland’s K’Rd, Galatos was built in the early 1900s. Originally a home for the United Ancient Order of Druids, it was soon turned into a dance venue and function centre (“Druid’s Hall”). The modern-day Galatos was relaunched in 1999 as a live music venue, which Andrea Clark and Dean Whaitiri took over in early 2012. Sam talks with Andrea about her role at Galatos, what goes into organising gigs, and the current state of music venues in New Zealand’s largest city.

How did you end up at Galatos?

I ended up at Galatos because my husband is a musician and he always wanted his own venue. We looked probably for ten years at different venues in Auckland, a lot of them had awkward leases and we didn’t really want to buy into a commercial lease so we kept looking until we could find our own building. When this one came up for sale we went for it.

Did you have aspirations to be a venue owner at all before this?

No. Not me. My husband did, that is why we did it.

Was this your first position in the music industry? Had you worked in it before?

I had never worked in it but I used to own a squash club. It is not the same thing but it is dealing with people in the leisure industry. But Dean is a musician and played all through New Zealand in bands so I had sort of been on the periphery of music.

Day to day, what does your role involve?

My role is primarily taking the bookings and organising the gigs. Also, quite often coming in when they are on, running the staff, doing the ordering, doing the books.

Tell us how it works exactly in terms of booking acts. Do people come to you or do you go to people?

They come to us. Promoters and we deal a lot with self-managed bands which we like.

How much time and effort go into getting a show together?

Well, the promoter or the band generally organise the marketing, we do a little bit through our channels, but they organise that. They also organise extra production if they need it, but I quite often put them in the right direction and coordinate the delivery and our bar manager will come over when that is all being done.

Are you much hands-on in terms of organising the actual evening so to speak?

Not really because for a gig they just send you a run sheet of what time they want to pack in and what time the doors are going to open and what time the show is going to start and how it is going to finish. But I tend to coordinate everything else around it like our own staff.

Do you have like a set number of gigs you can take each year or is it quite flexible?

No, we can take three a night because we have three different levels. And seven days a week, but we don’t, we are mainly Friday’s and Saturday’s.

How challenging is it being a venue owner in a city like Auckland?

It is challenging because we have to keep this building running. So financially it is challenging because there is a lot of maintenance on an old building. There is also a lot of competition because New Zealanders tend to spend a lot of money going to see overseas acts and they will spend three or four hundred dollars going to see something at Spark Arena. Whereas twenty-five or thirty dollars to see a local act, even a really good one is quite difficult sometimes to get people to actually pay to come along and see them. But I find with the younger age group, younger acts they have grown up with social media and they are really good at marketing themselves and it is just the way they communicate and so generally most of their shows sell out. The older acts, not quite the same.

Is there a sense of community or kinship among venue owners in Auckland or is it all kind of dog eat dog?

We know our local venues, we all know each other and I don’t think it is dog eat dog. We all have our individual capacities and so because we all vary in that area I don’t think we compete that much. For example, Studio has a much bigger capacity than us and if they get a smaller capacity show they often send it our way, and if we get a bigger one I will always suggest going there. So I think some venues tend to channel I think more on certain genres, but we don’t, we do anything from a choir through to a hip hop show.

Do you think Auckland has a shortage of quality music venues?

Yes. Terrible shortage.

What do you think needs to be done to change that?

Well, it is the cost of real estate that has caused it. Commercial real estate whether you own your venue outright, or have a mortgage, or whether you are paying rent it is all reflected in the price of that piece of real estate. So running a venue in Auckland is much more expensive than running a venue in a smaller town and that is the problem. And so to start up a new venue, first of all to find a spot an pay the outgoings which you will need to whether it is renting or buying, if it doesn’t have a liquor license the cost of getting that etc. it kind of out-ways the revenue and the profits that you can make, it is quite hard. And that is why they are closing down basically.

For example, the Kings Arms closed down because a developer came along with a good offer for the land, so that was their business, they had done it for years and it suited them to move on. And that is the problem, it is all tied into the real estate. Auckland Council wants apartments, they want people to live in the city so they give you incentives to do that. And eventually around here because of the new station going in this area is set to gentrify now and it is starting. That is what happened with the Kings Arms.

On that note do you think moving forward are you optimistic about the future of Auckland’s music scene and venues?

I think to have a venue that is only a venue and that is all it does is always going to be a limited number. A lot of people diversify, for example, Neck Of The Woods is open more nights and runs as a bar but is known for live music, Golden Dawn which is now gone used to do that, and Whammy Bar does that. There is probably only Studio, ourselves, and Powerstation I think might be the only ones left who only open for the event in the smaller venues.