Years have passed since the peak of the pandemic, but the impact of COVID-era lockdowns is continuing to echo in unexpected places.

For decades, a mainstay of Adelaide’s live music scene was the adolescent ritual of going out to gigs, dressing up for concerts and slinking into band nights in the back rooms of pubs.

But for venue owner Craig Lock, that tradition was disrupted by COVID — young people missed out, and many haven’t come back.

“They missed that whole rite of passage,” Lock said.

“A link has been broken.”

Inside the Jive music venue in Adelaide’s west end.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Lock’s venues include the 500-capacity Lion Arts Factory and 1,800-capacity Hindley Street Music Hall, and he has seen first-hand the impact of changing audience habits.

“There’s … not a whole generation, but several years of people that maybe were 16, 17 years old, turning 18,” he said.

“[They] really would’ve started to go out to these types of events and they just didn’t have the opportunity to do that.”

He is not the only one to notice the decline — on the subject of young concert-goers, Tam Boakes, the owner of venue Jive, is singing from the same hymn sheet.

“They were very much forced to turn to online channels, so they kind of discovered things through TikTok and streaming,” Boakes said.

Tam Boakes says young people are tuning in to social media to find music.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Demand is still “really high” in South Australia for bigger acts, Lock said — but he added it had become harder to sell tickets to smaller and medium-sized shows.

He says part of the problem is the rising influence of social media on what music is becoming popular.

“Lots of young people are finding out about music through it going viral on social media,” he said.

“Nobody has any control over that, so it means the likelihood of Australian acts being in people’s faces is much lower.”

Did TikTok kill the radio star?

Melbourne-based Adelaide indie rock artist Ricky Albeck said social media was disrupting the traditional ways musicians connected with their audience.

“Getting a play on Triple J or Double J used to be this sort of ticket to selling tickets to your gigs but I think that’s changed,” Albeck said.

“The onus is more on social media promotion and that makes it hard because it’s not for everyone.

“It’s getting harder and harder for smaller emerging bands to sell tickets to gigs and it’s getting harder as well for the bigger bands to try to make a living from it.”

Guitarist for Adelaide rock band West Thebarton, Josh Healey, has just returned from a national tour with another music group and said they made major sacrifices to save on touring costs.

“We simply could not afford flights; it was much cheaper to hire a van and drive the whole way,” Healey said.

‘It was about 5,000 kilometres in about 10 days, but it saved us about $5,000, which made us just break even.

“It’s become less and less affordable because everything is just going up. And if you raise the ticket price you risk not selling as many tickets.”

Live music venues at risk

Healey said he had played at Adelaide’s historic pub the Crown and Anchor, aka the Cranker, more than 100 times.

“It’s got that community behind it,” he said.

“When West Thebarton put on some special Christmas shows at the Cranker a few years ago we did it because we knew it was going to be an awesome show.”

Josh Healey says he has had to find cost-cutting ways while touring.(ABC News: Carl Saville)

SA has lost 86 mid-sized live music venues since the start of the COVID pandemic, according to statistics from the Australasian Performing Right Association.

The Crown and Anchor could soon join that list – it is the latest live music venue at risk of closure because a developer wants to replace it with student accommodation.

“It’s a shame that something as important as the Cranker needs to be sacrificed to grow the state,” Healey said.

“If we keep losing these small venues, you’re going to see less and less bands come through.”

Artists need that “ecosystem” of live venues to hone their craft, said Lock, who feared losing them was “going to impact the ability for Australia to actually develop artists on an international level”.

“We have a lot of acts that have come from places like this and are really successful, like Tame Impala and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard who are huge globally, they played at venues like this to start with,” he said.

Festivals doing it even tougher

The cancellation of this year’s Splendour in the Grass — the largest music fixture in the Australian calendar — due to lack of ticket sales prompted fears for the country’s live music industry.

There were concerns its sister festival, Spin Off, would follow suit but organisers, including co-founder Craig Lock, are pressing on.

“We had to re-book our entire line-up and start again,” Lock said.

A national survey by marketing researcher Stage and Screen of young people aged 18 to 35 revealed almost 90 per cent of respondents felt deterred from going to a festival because of factors including security and costs.

“It’s not just the cost of a ticket to a festival but it’s the cost of getting there, having to pay for accommodation,” said CEO Adam Moon, who added that festivals are up against international acts like Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift performing at the MCG during her Eras Tour in February. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica)

“When you have an international act that comes once every four years, and a big name, then that’s what we call the ‘FOMO effect’ and it’s really hard to compete.”

Lock said the public response to Spin Off had been “solid”, and he hoped ticket sales would pick up ahead of the event in July.

“It’s definitely a tough time for festivals, people’s expectations are very high for what they want you to deliver and it’s extremely hard to do that right now with the costs of artists and the costs of running a festival higher than ever,” he said.

“It’s not possible to deliver what festivals were three to five years ago.”