Home Silence to headline at the Medley

Silence to headline at the Medley

by admin November 17, 2009

The building that houses The Medley has been through several incarnations in its long history. This coming Dec. 31 marks the end of its third life, as a popular concert venue, and its beginnings as a residential development.

The Medley took up residence 13 years ago and replaced the legendary Old Munich bar, near the corner of Rene-Levesque and Saint-Denis. Since then the venue has hosted numerous concerts and corporate events, but co-owner Paul Matte says that running the venue is simply no longer profitable.
“We’re strangled by Montreal taxes. We’re talking about $90,000 in taxes every year and that’s just municipal taxes. The municipal tax is huge, it represented $600 per event. A standard store is open 350 days a year. The Medley is open when there is an event, which was on average between 150 and 170 events [per year],” said Matte.
In addition to the burden of municipal taxes, he said concertgoers are not spending as much money as they used to. Matte pointed to falling liquor sales as just another example of changing consumer habits. “They consume less because of stricter drunk driving laws, which makes sense. But still people don’t drink as much when they drive. The average was $15 per head 20 years ago for a rock show. Today it is somewhere between $5 to $10 and it’s a dollar that is worth much less. It gives you an idea of the impact on the revenues,” Matte said.

Ironically, there is no lack of demand for venues in Montreal. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Scott Phinney, a production manager with large events promoter Gillett Entertainment Group, says the live music scene is booming in Montreal.
“In the past four or five years at GEG the amount of shows we do is just going through the roof. Every year I think “my god, how can we do more?’ And every year we do end up doing more. Some nights we’ll have upwards of six shows going on in the city alone,” Phinney said. Matte concurs that there is a heavy demand.
However, a high volume of bookings could not save The Medley because of the enormous price tag of renovating the aging concert hall. Renovations were needed for the building’s plumbing, electrical wiring, security system, and even the building’s structure. Matte estimates that the price tag of the restoration to be an investment of $8 to $10 million, well out of the reach for a small venue without government aid.
“There’s no concert hall that can afford that without most of it coming from the government because you can’t just live with a $4, 5, 6 million dollar debt,” Matte said.
He pointed out that The Medley was never intended to become a concert venue; it had originally been a fur market but was then refurbished to become The Old Munich in the 60s.

Phinney has worked with The Medley for the past 12 years and according to him, The Medley, like every other venue in Montreal, suffers from a lack of adequate parking. The problem for The Medley was much more acute since the property is near Rene-Levesque.
The building’s layout also proved to be a minor concern for Phinney. “The stage is in an awkward position in the room. Originally it wasn’t designed for live shows. It was a small issue we had to deal with,” Phinney said. “However the venue was very helpful and extended the stage a little bit to try and accommodate things.”
The venue is working to relocate events scheduled for next year and for promoters looking to book shows. Matte said that Club Soda would likely gain the most in terms of clientèle and bookings from the closure. The annual New Years Eve party will be the final event held at The Medley, something Matte says will be more special to him in particular then previous years have been.

The Medley, a venue with a capacity of about 1,800 standing, is the second mid-sized venue in two years to be bought and redeveloped. The Spectrum, a venue that had a capacity of 1,200, was torn down in August of 2007 after 25 years and is being developed to house a shopping complex and office building.

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