3630’s cancellation: A wake-up call for anyone who cares about live music in Shepparton.

Last Thursday, Shepparton’s music scene was dealt an almighty blow as this year’s 3630 Festival was cancelled.  Organisers stated the reason behind the cancellation was the previously-secured headline act (who never got announced) over-committing and pulling out of the event.  It sent a huge wave of sadness through Shepparton’s music community and was a real shame for all the previously-announced local acts who were going to play on the day.

Now that the dust has settled a bit – I’m going to share my detailed thoughts on the festival’s cancellation with you – most of which I scribbled down upon hearing the news on Thursday.   After all, I am a writer, I’m entitled to an opinion, and I am passionate about music in this town.  Take what you want out of this – but this isn’t a personal attack on anybody in particular, and hopefully you’ll read long enough to see the underlying message within this piece.

It was always going to be difficult to see 3630 return again this year – financially and reputation wise.  Aside from the fact that it posted a loss in the tens of thousands of dollars – a number of my music industry pals who were involved in last year’s event described it as a “shambles.”  Which, given the unfortunate mid-afternoon downpour that caused scheduling nightmares and saw two of the big acts (Muscles and 8 Bit Love) not even get to play their sets – is a fair call.  Infact, several people I have discussed 3630 with have wondered why the organisers bothered coming back when they’re already in debt.

For personal reasons, I have steered clear from supporting the festival this year.  I’m not going to go into detail over why I’ve taken this stance –  because that’s not what this is about.  It’s bigger than that.  It’s about how incredibly sad the cancellation of this event is for our city’s music scene.

Shepparton deserves to have an annual event like this to showcase our local talent.  Sure, I founded SheppSounds – but it’s only for a select number of people and certain types of performers.  And it only goes for a week or so, and is on a much smaller scale compared to 3630 and other festivals/major events that take place around here.

Shepparton is also a big enough regional centre to have some of Australia’s most popular bands and artists come and perform for the many live music-starved fans in our city.

On far too many occasions, bands and artists have included Bendigo, Ballarat, Traralgon and even Mildura or Warrnambool  in their tour itineraries – but Shepparton misses out.  And the reason for it is simple – there’s a lack of financial support and people power to lure these big acts here.

We are without an adequately-sized, purpose-built live music venue to cater for these acts, and we are also without anyone with financial muscle willing to part with their money to pay these acts appearance fees.  But then again – why would they want to when so many people in this town don’t pre-purchase their tickets and instead leave it to the day of the event to decide whether to go or not.  It’s just not worth the risk.

I believe the 3630 Festival’s cancellation is a gigantic wake-up call for anybody who cares about live music in this town.  It’s an indication of just how little support there is out there to bring well-known acts to Shepparton and that big changes are needed if we are going to turn Shepparton into a live music hub.

We need people and organisations that are willing to open their wallets to support the people who have the vision and the drive to do big things for the music scene in this town.  There are a select number of people in and around Shepparton – including those involved in 3630 – who are trying to make things happen, but too often, they cannot make their desired impact due to a lack of financial and organisational support – or a few wrong decisions and mishaps.  They put their bank balances on the line to do something for the town, and yet they are the ones who are unfairly burnt at the end because people don’t turn up.

But most importantly, music lovers in this town need to get out there, show their support up-front and buy their tickets in advance.  If they did that in droves, I’m certain that this year’s 3630 wouldn’t have been canned – regardless of the headline act pulling out.

So, Shepparton – if you want our town’s music scene to improve and for events like 3630 to take place again in the future – get your act together.  It’s a terrible shame that the demise of our own music festival is the sacrificial lamb amongst all of this.  But maybe, and hopefully, it’s the trigger point for those who can make a difference to wake up, take action and turn things around – and not let our music scene continue to stutter in its current state.

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