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Are Musicians to Blame? #3005169 08/26/19 07:42 PM
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GuardiansGuitar Offline OP
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I had an interesting interaction with a local venue manager as I was inquiring about bookings for a couple of '60s- and '70s-styled rock acts.

Here is his email response:

"I would really like to stay away from the 60s and even early 70s. Even the [band name redacted] are selling out to customers that may have one drink if any, bitch about seats, and tip poorly. It's beyond depressing. It's personal and sad to me what has happened to music in this market. What was once a thriving live music scene has been reduced to two-day-a-week tributes. The torch was not passed and now it's flaming out. I thought that in a decade I could break one new band, or help someone besides a tribute band grow. I was wrong. My stage sits empty most of the time, like a big nest waiting for a bird to lay an egg."

Now, not every city has a live scene that's challenged or diminishing. Bravo to those live-music scenes that are thriving! But the home base of Bill Graham and ballrooms and tons of once-buzzing music clubs and bars is struggling—as you can surmise from the venue-manager's comments above.

Of course, many folks love to blame Millennials, electronic music, DJs, and greedy club owners when discussing a live scene teetering on the brink of oblivion, and there are definitely bits of truth in all of those arguments.

But can a good chunk of the blame also be laid at the hands, feet, and ambition of the musicians seeking employment in those venues?

A casual peek at the many reality shows focused on bar, restaurant, and club businesses will tell you that churning up success in the night-time entertainment field is a brutal endeavor. It doesn't help when the entertainment isn't doing its part to bring in patrons.

So I think in the case of my town at least, rather than moaning about diminishing gigs and crappy club owners, musicians should look inward to see how much of the problem they might be causing themselves. For example...

DON'T THINK IT'S ALWAYS THE VENUES' JOB TO PROVIDE THE AUDIENCE
I hear this a lot: "It's not my problem. The club should take out ads in the media to promote the shows." Really? It's great when a venue DOES promote the acts it is presenting BEYOND mentions on the venue's social network and web site. But why not look at "audience acquisition" as a joint partnership? When clubs are shutting down and gigs are scarce, it's no secret that times are tough. Don't put the whole responsibility on the struggling club community—do your part to make things happen with your own promotion and marketing.

DON'T LIE TO THE BOOKER ABOUT YOUR DRAW
Yes. Some acts continue to misrepresent their audience base. It's a shame. And stupid. You can lie about your number of fans, and hope that some miracle brings significant traffic into the club, of course, but if your show tanks, all you've likely done is very selfishly get a show ONCE at that venue. And, actually, you may be doing more damage than that, because your untruth may have cost the club the "promise" of much-needed revenue. Too many nights of poor crowds and increasing losses, and that club could be done. Proud of yourself?

IF YOU DON'T PROMOTE YOURSELF...
I have no words. I talk to bands all of the time who begrudgingly put up Facebook pages and don't populate them with daily news and things of interest. They don't study how to grow a community that might actually come out to see them play. They don't keep their data updated or regularly refresh their band photos and audio tracks. I'll stop here. In short, those bands DON'T DO MUCH OF ANYTHING to generate interest in what they do. And when those types of business "checked out" artists badger bookers for gigs, what do they expect will happen? Venues depend on a healthy community of live-music lovers who want to see awesome bands and who will spend money to see them. If the bands aren't doing their part to keep those music lovers thrilled, intrigued, and INTERESTED, there is not much a club owner can do to fill the void that the musicians have created for themselves.

GP Island
Re: Are Musicians to Blame? [Re: GuardiansGuitar] #3005188 08/26/19 09:28 PM
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Dave Bryce Offline
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Great topic, Mike. It's getting harder and harder to book bands in our area as well. It seems like more than a few club managers don't exactly have the most supportive attitudes either. rolleyes facepalm

One of the bands I play with is moving away from clubs and more towards parties and private events, with the ability to be 2, 3, 4 or 5 pieces depending on the gig. Most of us are multi-instrumental and sing, which helps.


Quote
If the bands aren't doing their part to keep those music lovers thrilled, intrigued, and INTERESTED, there is not much a club owner can do to fill the void that the musicians have created for themselves.
yeahthat rocker

I'll never understand bands who don't want to promote themselves. I'm usually chomping at the bit to tell as many people as possible about what my bands have been up to, if for no other reason than I'm proud of it and wanna share it.

Additionally, I know that if I'm not only willing, but enthusiastic about promoting my band that there are a whole bunch of other bands who are more than ready to take the air time.

dB

Re: Are Musicians to Blame? [Re: Dave Bryce] #3005193 08/26/19 10:06 PM
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GuardiansGuitar Offline OP
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Dave—Awesome stuff. A lot of bands here are going the private/corporate party route, as well. Cheers -- Mike

Re: Are Musicians to Blame? [Re: GuardiansGuitar] #3005223 08/27/19 12:33 AM
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J. Dead Offline
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I don't book bands anymore, but when I did, I always tried to make it a collaborative effort having regular conversations with bar owners managers and booking agents. I always printed posters and hung them up and created events on social media, as well as collaborate with owners on things like specials that we could promote, etc. but I would also give them feedback that we would hear from our regular fans - like girls were complaining about the cleanliness of the bathroom, people said drinks were taking too long, etc. we played often enough that if they don't like where we are playing Saturday night, they'll just see us someplace else on Friday night instead.


Dan

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Re: Are Musicians to Blame? [Re: GuardiansGuitar] #3010382 09/30/19 03:00 PM
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We play one local venue that's more of a Community Center than a club, or even a coffee shop; FWIW, they don't even have coffee. They also do little or nothing in the way of advertising or promotion. In short, if we're not promoting our shows, no one is going to hear anything about them.

Right around the corner, quite literally on the same city block, there's another venue, more of a Performing Arts center, but still, little or nothing in the way of amenities. OTOH, they have a very active Website, email outreach, advertising, even listings in the main D.C. newspaper. With the same group of performers, same block, same cover charge, we'll often have a packed house at the latter location.

If you don't toot your own horn, no one will hear it.


"Monsters are real, and Ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win." Stephen King

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Re: Are Musicians to Blame? [Re: GuardiansGuitar] #3010921 10/03/19 05:39 PM
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KuruPrionz Offline
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There are far too many factors at play to come up with a simple response.
It can be (and is) different in different areas.

The band I am in is centered in a small city with a university, a community college, a technical college and a tribal college. College students are nearly a quarter of the population and they disappear for the most part during the summer (the busy season).

We do better playing the outlying areas than we do in town. There are not a lot of live music venues in town, many are genre specific or have untenable business plans - one large local club books 3-5 local college bands a night 5 nights a week or so. They split the door somehow, we don't play there ever. Some places want easy listening jazz only, or have a budget that is kind of OK for a duo or single.

A smaller city north of us had a thriving music scene primarily at one location and a few other clubs. An over-zealous fire marshall has killed the music there, we still do a duo at one taproom that has a roofed patio with heaters but we are not allowed to play inside anymore.

Most of these places have a customer base because they are good places to hang out and there is always some live music on weekends. We drive a bit but they are happy to have us and word gets out that we can turn on a dime and play rock, country, soul, blues etc. We also take requests. Tips are usually pretty generous.

We are also a first choice for a couple of local Harley dealers south of us, those are outdoor summer gigs but we'll book an evening show at a nearby favored biker bar and plug it at our Harley event. That works well, it is of the moment.

As everybody does, we circulate announcements on Fakebook. Some clubs will post our flyers if we email them the files.

I am certain other places are different.


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