After the Harbour Fest, inevitably, comes the inquest. When $100 million of public money has been spent, taxpayers have a right to know where it has gone. But it would be a pity if the commission of inquiry established by Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen concerns itself chiefly with a post-mortem of this year's shambles. There is little to be gained from crying over spilt beer, or conducting a witchhunt. The organisation was a shambles, the overall strategy of the four-week fest flawed, the pricing wrong and the publicity and marketing inadequate. Many people voted with their feet by staying away. But anyone who danced their way through Prince or the Rolling Stones in the spectacular venue would agree: this is exactly the kind of gig Hong Kong needs more of. But not just once a year; we need it regularly. The question is how to make that possible? How do we build a sustainable environment for world-class acts? While the commission will look at how to avoid repeating mistakes if there is another Harbour Fest, at present, it is not tasked with looking at the bigger picture. This would be passing up another chance to address a long-overdue issue. When I wrote before the Harbour Fest that it reeked of missed opportunity, squandered cash and short-sightedness, my concern was that it would, at best, do nothing to improve the all-round music scene and, at worst, further damage the city's already terrible reputation in the entertainment world. Some from the American Chamber of Commerce suggested that such views merely gave voice to disgruntled local promoters. They miss the point. If you want expert knowledge and opinion on how to stage a rock concert, you ask those who know - promoters, record companies and artists. If you want advice on how to move home, you might ask AmCham chairman James Thompson, who made his fortune with Crown Worldwide removal company. What is interesting about the comments from the music and events industry - both locally and internationally - is they have a familiar ring. The ring of truth, perhaps. Chief among them is a lack of venues and poor government support (Harbour Fest excepted). So what can we do to change that? If there's one thing Harbour Fest got spectacularly right, it was the venue. The Tamar site was turned into the best concert stage Hong Kong has ever seen. It wasn't just the magnificent harbour setting - which must have impressed the acts as much as the audience - but the sound, lighting and seating arrangements. People danced freely and the beer flowed, a vital ingredient to the atmosphere of rock'n'roll events. What a pity that the stage will soon be dismantled and sent back to Australia. That will leave us with the Coliseum - which promoters complain is booked out when most international acts pass through town - and the Convention and Exhibition Centre - a makeshift venue at best and also not always available for concerts. The independently organised Rockit Festival two weekends ago showed how good a setting Victoria Park is, while the Hong Kong Stadium has the infrastructure to host really big acts such as U2 or a two-day festival for 40,000 people. The issue of noise, however, seems certain to keep these off limits. Perhaps money could be spent putting a roof on the stadium. More use of other occasional venues could also be supported by officials. One positive proposal apparently being considered by the government is a law exempting such venues from noise restrictions a few times a year. This would be a start, although which events benefited could be a contentious matter. The best possible solution would be for the government to build a replica of the Harbour Fest stage on the Tamar site - which has been wasted as a car park for the past few years - and rent it out to promoters at a reasonable rate, with a balance between local and international acts. It would rank as one of the best concert venues anywhere. The government, having underwritten Harbour Fest to the tune of $100 million, could also consider giving long-term assistance to more than just one event. The Arts Festival benefits from tens of millions of dollars in subsidies and, since the government is now of the view that live music is worth supporting, it could support a varied range of events, from hip-hop, to classical to rock. Even without dipping into its pockets, there is a lot more the government could do. It could set up a small, but powerful, office to help event organisers co-ordinate licence applications and smooth the bureaucratic obstacle course. To achieve this, there needs to be a fundamental shift in official thinking. Before Harbour Fest, events of this nature were dealt with as more of a potential nuisance than a benefit to the city's culture and tourism. In future, there must be a will to help organisers put on shows of all types. These measures will help, but they won't achieve miracles. Not every star passing through the region will come to Hong Kong. Some are just not commercially viable. Without government help, acts such as Craig David would not have had enough fans to justify their fees. Most western acts appeal to an almost-exclusively expat market. Supply and demand will rule, but if a spanking new venue is available at cheap rates, more organisers will be likely to take the risk. There are many other issues to address, but the government - and the commission of inquiry - could start here. Time will tell whether Harbour Fest has done good or harm to the city's music scene. There are no signs yet it will lead to anything more than a few bruising Legco encounters for the beleaguered organisers. But it is time to learn from the experience and move on. It would be a heavy blow if the government washed its hands of supporting music festivals. It would also be sad if others were discouraged from gallant attempts to organise world-class entertainment. Before Prince opened Harbour Fest, Mr Thompson said he hoped to see another Harbour Fest. Of course, we didn't know then that AmCham had already pocketed the rights to it for the next five years. But while many critics have heaped scorn on the idea of a repeat performance, I agree that an annual rock festival in such a magnificent setting would be music to all our ears. As Henry Tang admitted, the government 'overestimated that they [AmCham] would be able to pull off such a complex event in such a short time'. There is no such shortage of time next year. Nor should there be any closed-door deals. It is time to invite everyone with an interest to see what they can offer. This time, it should be done properly, with many more people on board. Whether there is another Harbour Fest or not, the bigger issue remains: how to permanently wake Hong Kong from its live-music slumber? Jagger, Santana and Carreras have given us a taste of what it could be like. Now it's time to work out how to put Hong Kong not just on the music map, but on the calendar as well.