Sandalford Wines has vowed to continue its concert partnership with high-profile promoter Paul Dainty, despite the winery going from being one of the busiest concert hosts in the state to having just one event during the entire 2012-13 summer season.
When Sandalford and Dainty Consolidated Entertainment (DCE) signed a partnership agreement in May 2010, the aim was to deliver about 12 concerts a year at Sandalford’s Swan Valley winery and its Margaret River venue.
Sandalford also planned to invite other promoters to stage a further two events at each of its Swan Valley and Margaret River wineries.
Those predictions built upon the steady growth Sandalford had achieved over the previous decade as a major concert venue.
Sandalford chief executive Grant Brinklow concedes the 2012-13 season was a challenging period, but insists the partners have a long-term commitment.
“We’ve just been through a highly extraordinary season on a number of levels,” Mr Brinklow told Business News.
“I’m confident we will return to a more normal supply next season.”
Mr Brinklow said the opening of Perth Arena was one factor that adversely affected Sandalford; another was the tougher economic times.
“People are more discerning, their budgets tightened up,” he said. “We’re not on our own in this respect.”
Perhaps more telling was a third factor he cited – a shortage of talent – particularly for Sandalford’s failure to host a concert at its newly developed Margaret River venue.
“That was simply because we couldn’t find an act that was suitable on that March Labor Day weekend,” Mr Brinklow said.
Although offering fewer performances, arch-rival Leeuwin Estate, which has been staging successful concerts at its Margaret River winery every year since 1985, had no such trouble last season.
It hosted Carole King in February, drawing sell-out crowds at its 6,000-person venue over two nights.
Mr Brinklow also suggested Mr Dainty had been busy working on other parts of his business.
Along with Virgin Music, Mr Dainty was the promoter of five 50th anniversary Rolling Stones concerts in New York and London last December.
“His focus was on that for a long time,” Mr Brinklow said.
When Sandalford partnered with DCE and local promoter Zaccaria Events in 2010, its stated goal was to ensure a good supply of quality acts.
Mr Dainty said the market had changed since the deal was signed, and particularly in the past year.
“There has been a lack of great talent to deliver, it’s as simple as that,” he said.
“We only wanted premium talent; hopefully the future will deliver more.”
Notably, DCE is the only major concert promoter in Australia yet to bring an act to Perth Arena.
Other promoters have been busy bringing acts to Perth Arena, which has hosted 45 major ticketed events in its first six months of operation.
Despite the opening of the arena, however, Perth is still missing out on some of the biggest music concerts.
Bruce Springsteen and Coldplay bypassed Perth on their recent tours, and Bon Jovi, which is being brought to Australia by DCE, will also skip the city.
(Update: DCE announced on Tuesday 7 May that Bon Jovi has added Perth to its Australian tour schedule, and will perform at Perth Arena in December.)
Mr Dainty said the decision to include Perth on tour schedules was influenced by many factors, including cost, time and the performer’s own schedule.
Mr Brinklow said Sandalford was in the process of extending its three-year agreement with DCE and Zaccaria, despite Cliff Richard being the only performer they brought to its Swan Valley winery last summer.
He anticipated Sandalford would host half a dozen shows in the Swan Valley and two in Margaret River every season, including some in tandem with other promoters.
Sandalford’s former partner, Mellen Events, continues to be a competitor through its Day on the Green concert series at Kings Park.
It had also planned to compete on Sandalford’s doorstep by establishing a new concert venue at Lancaster Wines in the Swan Valley.
That plan came to an end last December when the State Administrative Tribunal upheld the City of Swan’s opposition to the new venue.
One reason for the SAT ruling was that the rural character of the area could be adversely affected by having up to 16 concerts at two venues near to each other.
Sandalford has planning approval to host up to 10 concerts per year, with up to 12,000 people at each event, while Lancaster was seeking approval for six concerts per year, with up to 8,000 people.
Mr Brinklow told the tribunal that Sandalford had “a very significant commitment and genuine intentions” to hold 10 events per season, regardless of what alternative venues exist.
He said Sandalford had never hosted 10 events in one year; the Perth market was not large enough to support 16 outdoor shows; and that Perth Arena would attract some of the concerts that would otherwise have been held outdoors.
Despite this ruling, Mr Brinklow said Sandalford was intending to apply for increased capacity at its Swan Valley venue, most likely in the range of 14,000 to 15,000.
Sandalford already has parking capacity for 8,000 vehicles and has purchased neighbouring properties to allow improved ingress and egress.
Extensions to Reid Highway would also improve traffic flow, he told Business News.