Has Melbourne become a victim of its own success?

Queuing is now the new weekend routine. Have we reached peak Melbourne?

I’m walking down Moubray Street with some friends, the sun is shining and we’re excited about the idea of chowing down on donuts and drinking some beers on an incredible day like this. Then we see the line of fellow donut-lovers winding back onto St Kilda Street. It’s 20 minutes before the much-touted Donut and Beer Festival is meant to begin and the line is already 45 minutes long. Our response isn’t disappointment – hell, it’s not even a surprise – it’s just an ‘I told you so’ resignation that this is just how things are now.

Now take this tired routine, rinse and repeat every weekend.

Thanks to the rise of niche foodie media in Melbourne, it isn’t long before small events become over inflated with publicity and ultimately buckle under the weight of public demand. We’ve seen it before in the aftermath of the Yarra Valley Chocalaterie’s Ice Cream Festival (where punters waited with small children for ages in return for a scoop of ice cream), and to a lesser extent the Night Noodle Markets, where crowds mean wait times for food can be ridiculous.

The wait times at the Donut and Beer Festival.

A lot of this can be put down to poor event planning, and the events are usually improved the following year. But it turns out there’s another term for this. It’s called the Broadsheet effect, or being ‘Broadshat’ if you work in the hospitality industry.

While Broadsheet was the city’s first big successful food media, it’s now become the Corey Worthington of Melbourne’s social life. But it’s not fair to just blame them. This is an accumulative effect created by a wave of new media outlets (Local Eyes included) competing for readers, social-media savvy PR teams, and a bevy of ‘influencers’ who race to the next big thing in an effort to keep on trend. #youknowwhoyouare

The effect has now become so pronounced that marketers and PR people are actively taking advantage of it. Just look at the Bon Iver ‘listening party’ in September last year, when music fans were made to huddle around a cassette player in a Fitzroy laneway and listen to the musician’s new album after it was vaguely reported something would be going down.
 

Bon Iver listening party

A post shared by Emma Neale (@emma.neale) on

If you’re an entrepreneur you could easily use this hilariously ironic ‘Hipster Pop Up Event Idea Generator’ to create the next queue-bending event. It’s a sign of the times that ‘Urban Waffle Car Park Cinema’ and ‘Gourmet Yoga Rave’ sound like legitimate events in town right now.

So what can be done about it? Not a whole lot. In a digital age it’s difficult to keep a lid on things, and even hapless small businesses have been caught in this whirlwind of public demand and viral success.

Ultimately, while it’s easy to complain about the queues and missing out on donuts, it’s important to remember that we’re lucky enough to even live in a city with this kind of vibrant culture. Not so much a culture of waiting and media saturation, but where there’s always something to see and do. If you don’t want to queue, the beauty is that there’s something else happening just around the corner, or you can just make your own fun elsewhere.

For us, that meant going to Gelato Messina for donut-infused ice creams and a few golden pints at the pub. It’s donuts and beer, just done differently.

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