With the launch of Moore Park venue Max Watt’s (formerly the Hi-Fi) and its Melbourne and Brisbane counterparts truly underway, owner Kate Hamblin is keeping a steady eye on the business.

She’s been working hard to create a good experience for anyone who walks through the door – be it a band member, patron or promoter. She’s also taking notes on external issues that have affected other venue and event managers, and there are external powers at play that are changing the booking game as we know it.

“With the Australian dollar, summer festivals over in the Northern Hemisphere and so many festivals going broke, many promoters aren’t taking the risks of bringing bands overseas,” she says. “Some poorly aligned stars there caused a lot of problems for the industry in general, but October and November are looking exceptionally strong.”

The perceived risk of bringing international bands to Australia is one that Hamblin is working to beat. It’s an issue that’s affecting not just her as a business owner, but her perceived competitors as well. Instead of going straight for that market, she’s taking a smarter approach to carve a niche out for her own venue.

“The music industry hasn’t got a lot of margin in it – we want to work together,” says Hamblin. “Something that pleases me about working with The Venue Collective; you could say that other businesses in the area are working as direct competitors, but we had messages from them welcoming us to come in with the Collective. Our attitude isn’t to compete with existing market share, our attitude is to make the pie bigger – anything we can do to encourage promoters to take that risk and bring bands out. We want to work together. That’s my saying: ‘Let’s increase the pie.’ We’re not going to fight over pieces of pie, let’s increase it.”

While Hamblin understands what needs to be done to expand her market, she also realises that captivating an audience is an equally strong tool. Bands are already holding the venue in high regard due to fun stage shows, sound quality and lighting, and she’s continuing the tradition.

“We’ve retained all the critical staff – the venue staff,” says Hamblin. “It’s very smooth in the point of view of promoter and performer. We’ve also put a lot of effort into the sound and lighting in all three venues, particularly in Melbourne. There’s improvements in look, performance and safety. We’ve put a capacity on it to make the punter’s experience a bit better as well – the punter’s experience obviously drives the performer’s experience to a major degree … People are already coming in and complimenting the lighting and the sound.”

The straightforward approach to creating a good venue experience would most likely target the patrons. Hamblin says this is critical to the success of Max Watt’s, but is ambitiously trying to manage it from the back end as well. “There’s a lot that we’ve done to improve the employees’ experiences,” she says. “You’ve gotta have happy employees, and you’ve gotta have happy customers. And we’re willing to learn – we don’t think we have all the answers. I think potentially that’s a fresh approach too. I say to staff all the time, ‘What’s your experience?’ We have a feedback report that asks questions like, ‘What can we do better? What about if we try this?’ to our staff. We don’t want to limit the music either. It’s a room for hire, and we’re looking for anyone that it suits to use any of the venues.”

For live music, head to Max Watt’s at the Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park and see more info atmaxwatts.com.au.

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