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Demise in Live Venues.


JpScoey

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I know most of you fellas on this forum are from the U.S, but over here in England there's a VERY disturbing trend at the moment...

 

ie: Pubs (Bars) closing down all the time.

 

(I think it's around 35 per week - which in a country of our size & population is very significant).

 

I've just heard the news that another one of my 'locals' has had to call it quits next month 'cos they can't afford to stay open.

 

This is particularly sad, 'cos it was one of the very local Pubs that supported Live music 4 or 5 nights a week -

 

ie: you have to look further & further afield to see/play live music (of a decent quality)

 

Another one gone :(.

 

 

Is this unique to us - or is it happening everywhere?

John.

 

some stuff on myspace

 

Nord: StageEX-88, Electro2-73, Hammond: XK-1, Yamaha: XS7

Korg: M3-73 EXpanded, M50-88, X50, Roland: Juno D, Kurzweil: K2000vp.

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I think you'll find in the US, there are very different economic situations by region. Even just looking by state, Unemployment rate ranges from 4.4% in North Dakota to 14.6% in Michigan. And within each state, certain towns are doing better than others - by Metropolitan area, it ranges from 3.4% in Bismarck, ND to 29.2% in El Centro, CA.

 

In St. Louis, MO where I live, the unemployment rate is 9.9%, which is pretty close to the State rate, and the National rate. One club that we have played semi-regularly is rumored to be closing its doors in May, but as far as I know, that's not etched in stone. However, there have been several new clubs popping up as well. We've added 2 new venues in the last 2 years and have another new one approaching us currently.

 

I do know some bands who have had to take some pay cuts, but they were generally at the top of the scale and struggling to bring as big of crowds as they used to. We're fortunate to be on the upswing and were able to get a 25% increase this year. So I'd say overall, some places are hurting a bit, but not to the point where there have been a lot of closures - it's been fairly stable for now, but that could change if things keep up.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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I think you'll find in the US, there are very different economic situations by region.

 

 

You have to bear in mind that this Country is TINY, in terms of area, compared to the US (but densely populated).

 

The problem I'm really referring to is not so much variations in (un)employment levels or wealth - but the fact

 

that there are a handful of 'big-boy' companies that own most of the pubs.

 

They have tenants/managers, who run their pubs for them - who have to pay rent for the privelige.....

 

and HAVE to purchase ALL their drinks/stock from them... at vastly inflated prices.

 

These managers could buy their stock for half the price or less elsewhere.

 

As a result, the lifetime of a pub 'lanlord's' time is until their lifetimes savings run out - so the company finds another sucker.

 

This has been going on for years, and there are not enough suckers left - so the Pub closes down, and is sold off.

 

It's a disgrace.

 

 

What you say about bands taking a pay-cut is now common-place here - even though live venues DO attract the punters.

 

I really congratulate you on getting a rise - you must be doing something right over there! :thu:!

John.

 

some stuff on myspace

 

Nord: StageEX-88, Electro2-73, Hammond: XK-1, Yamaha: XS7

Korg: M3-73 EXpanded, M50-88, X50, Roland: Juno D, Kurzweil: K2000vp.

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They have tenants/managers, who run their pubs for them - who have to pay rent for the privelige.....

and HAVE to purchase ALL their drinks/stock from them... at vastly inflated prices.

These managers could buy their stock for half the price or less elsewhere.

As a result, the lifetime of a pub 'lanlord's' time is until their lifetimes savings run out - so the company finds another sucker.

 

This is not the case around here. All of them we play at are independantly owned, with the exception of the Casino, which is a Corporation. Usually if a place closes its doors here, it's because the owner just didn't have good business sense. It's a tough market that requires long hours for little return. You get a lot of folks who have a dream to own a bar, but no business sense, or worse yet, they're alcoholics or drug addicts. Those never last long - so you do get some turnover in that respect. But the larger successful venues tend to be pretty stable for the most part because they know what they're doing.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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They have tenants/managers, who run their pubs for them - who have to pay rent for the privelige.....

and HAVE to purchase ALL their drinks/stock from them... at vastly inflated prices.

These managers could buy their stock for half the price or less elsewhere.

As a result, the lifetime of a pub 'lanlord's' time is until their lifetimes savings run out - so the company finds another sucker.

 

You get a lot of folks who have a dream to own a bar, but no business sense, or worse yet, they're alcoholics or drug addicts. Those never last long - so you do get some turnover in that respect.

 

But the larger successful venues tend to be pretty stable for the most part because they know what they're doing.

 

Two or three things to say here, really.

 

YES - in "normal" pubs I've seen many alcoholic-type dreamers who think -

"well I spend most of my life in the pub anyway, so why not spend ALL of my life in one" - they never last long.

 

Then there's the type I'm talking about- who put their heart-&-soul into making the place a successful music pub....

but when they do start making money, the brewery hike their prices - & as a result,

 

they have to put the price of drinks up, and the price they can pay the bands down.

 

RESULT? - loyal punters are paying more to see inferior quality bands

(or even bad quality solo "singers" playing to backing-tracks, etc)..... so the punters go elsewhere.

 

The poor landlord, who's tried his best, is squeezed out.

 

I'm talking here about small venues (100 - 200 folks).

 

The mid-size venues, which are generally indepedantly-owened, can only blame themselves if they fail.

 

PS - Cygnus64 makes a good point too - the smoking ban has hugely affected pub revenues.

Even non-smokers regularly say things like "I miss the old atmosphere, the place gets divided -

smokers standing outside, and non-smokers minding the coats inside" etc.

John.

 

some stuff on myspace

 

Nord: StageEX-88, Electro2-73, Hammond: XK-1, Yamaha: XS7

Korg: M3-73 EXpanded, M50-88, X50, Roland: Juno D, Kurzweil: K2000vp.

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What I've ssen in New England is bars signing a short-term lease to get up and running. If they are successful the landlord (property owner) porks them on the next contract (after year 3) and the owner operator is slowly bled by the new contract. In worst cases the landlord takes over the bar operations and sells it.

 

In the North East there's always new suckers ready to open a club. The bright sleazy ones know how to skim money including firing staff as 'proof' that they are getting robbed and shorted on the reciepts.

 

Places serving food are doing better than pubs so to speak as most chain restaurants double as sports bars with darts and TVs and video entertainment and cheap contests like Trivia Games.

 

Different culture as people don't walk or take buses to pubs in much of the US. New England has 40% of England's population and if we cut Northern Maine above Bangor off the map it's the same land mass as England and nearly everyone drives to a bar outside of some areas of Boston.

 

A one dollar draft beer special is the same price this year as it was 25 years ago. Weekend bands draw OK. College kids are college kids and prefer meat markets with bands or DJs playing music from this Century. Weeknights? Forget it. Open Mics, and some jazz or blues artists that play for love not money.

 

Manchester CT is not Manchester England by any means :)

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but when they do start making money, the brewery hike their prices - & as a result,

 

they have to put the price of drinks up, and the price they can pay the bands down.

 

I'll have to ask some liquor distributors I know, but I think for the most part, they all pay the same price - no jacking up of the prices from the distributor.

 

The Lease situation is another story though. The one bar I mentioned in town that is rumored to be closing is in negotiations for their already astronomical lease, and the rumored closing date is the day the lease is up. However, if they are successful, you can always change locations - granted there are costs associated with a move and you run the risk of not doing the same business at a different location - but you have some leverage if the landloard wants to try to gouge you.

 

I think the bigger problem with this place is management. It's something like 14,000 square foot. They already have a dressing room, good light and sound system. If they added a monitor board and another engineer, they could bring in national acts for crowds in the vicinity of 850 or so... there aren't many places in town that can cater to that size - they're either 5000 seat or don't have adequate accomodations for a national act. Instead, they went the other way. Due to their money problems, they put an artificial cap on what they'll pay bands. So basically, they dropped the top drawing bands from their lineup. When you have a place that size, you need to bring bodies in the door to cover your large overhead. Booking cheap bands may lower your entertainment expenditures, but if they're only bringing in a couple hundred people, you're not paying the bills with your drink sales. They made the classic mistake of looking at band pay vs door money instead of NET PROFIT for the night. If they lose $200 at the door but have 600 people drinking, that's better than making $400 at the door and having 200 people drinking... it's not rocket science.

 

I have not even heard of any of the bands they booked to fill the place of the top bands they dropped - no way they'll have enough people to pay the bills.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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Then there's the type I'm talking about- who put their heart-&-soul into making the place a successful music pub....

but when they do start making money, the brewery hike their prices

 

At one time, I did some consulting work for a beer distributor. I'm not sure if things are different in the UK, but in the US distributors margins are wafer thin, and there really isn't any room to gouge their customers. As an example, this client would send his trucks out in the morning, and at the end of the day, he would have collected $300K. His GROSS profit for the day? $10,000. Roughly 3%. Out of that gross profit he had to pay salarys, rent, insurance, fuel, etc...

 

It just doesn't make any business sense for a distributor to gouge successful bars. It's delibrately sabotaging your best revenue source.

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"Corporate" owned businesses have hurdles to jump prior to taking on the public.

 

In general, venues will struggle and/or close during tough economic times especially if they fail to keep up with changing tastes in entertainment.

 

At one point in time, a bar could afford to pay a band regardless of how well it drew. Folks were were already there drinking, eating, socializing, etc.

 

Nowadays, as Dan mentioned above, a band has to add value i.e. bring paying customers into the establishment and insure they run up a tab. :cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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PS - Cygnus64 makes a good point too - the smoking ban has hugely affected pub revenues.

Even non-smokers regularly say things like "I miss the old atmosphere, the place gets divided -

smokers standing outside, and non-smokers minding the coats inside" etc.

 

For what it's worth: Minnesota is a non-smoking state, and, after initial adjustments, I haven't seem much of a financial impact to the bars (heavy "blue-collar" clientele establishments excepted). Wisconsin is set to go "non-smoking" in July, and the bars (with music) that have voluntarily gone "non-smoking" appear to be doing well.

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PS - Cygnus64 makes a good point too - the smoking ban has hugely affected pub revenues.

Even non-smokers regularly say things like "I miss the old atmosphere, the place gets divided -

smokers standing outside, and non-smokers minding the coats inside" etc.

 

For what it's worth: Minnesota is a non-smoking state, and, after initial adjustments, I haven't seem much of a financial impact to the bars (heavy "blue-collar" clientele establishments excepted). Wisconsin is set to go "non-smoking" in July, and the bars (with music) that have voluntarily gone "non-smoking" appear to be doing well.

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PS - Cygnus64 makes a good point too - the smoking ban has hugely affected pub revenues.

Even non-smokers regularly say things like "I miss the old atmosphere, the place gets divided -

smokers standing outside, and non-smokers minding the coats inside" etc.

 

For what it's worth: Minnesota is a non-smoking state, and, after initial adjustments, I haven't seem much of a financial impact to the bars (heavy "blue-collar" clientele establishments excepted). Wisconsin is set to go "non-smoking" in July, and the bars (with music) that have voluntarily gone "non-smoking" appear to be doing well.

 

It might have a bigger effect in Europe and the UK. In the 90s I spent a lot of time in Europe, and the smoking scene in bars was pretty nutty. I don't recall being in a bar in the US that had the same level of smoke as in Germany.

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I witnessed both Washington and just recently Oregon go non-smoking. The effects it had on the rooms largely depended on the age group that the rooms catered to.

 

Middle aged smokers really don't like to be ordered around and have new restrictions placed on their behavior. Business in three rooms I worked where the clientele was mostly over 35 took a nose dive (off 1/3 or more) and all three closed within the first few months of the new law.

 

The rooms where people are younger fared much better. That age group mostly just shrugged their shoulders and accepted it. I host a karaoke show in a bar where people are mostly in their 20s. Business was off for a few weeks but bounced right back to where it was before - and then some. There's one public live music club left in the area since the smoking ban and it seems to be doing great. But every time I'm in there they all look under 25 - it's a very young room.

 

That's the kind of room that's in demise - the single entrepreneur public lounge. They used to be all over the place. Today my music jobs are in other venues - winery tasting rooms, yacht and country clubs, private dances. If I were younger I could probably work that one public bar that's left but I'm getting to old for that.

 

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The fact that giant flat screen HD TV's have been selling well says that a lot of people are staying in -- watching a movie in 5.1 surround, etc. As Rich says, here in New England -- and much of the US -- going out to a pub means driving. Here in Maine, you might have to drive 30 miles to get to a good pub. That's a long way home if you've been drinking. And, as someone who is driving home after last call, I can tell you there are a lot of police out at 1am, and they'll stop you for anything, just to see if you've been drinking. I got stopped once for "failing to use a turn signal" just to see if I was sober.

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The economy could have something to do with it ... people are cutting their expenses wherever they can. I imagine bar patronage falling off could be partially caused by the fact that for the price of a couple of beers at a pub you can get a 6 or 12 pack; for the price of a couple of mixed drinks, you can get a bottle of liquor and mixer.

 

I don't go out very often, but I was acutely aware of the "bang for the entertainment buck" at NAMM in CA, where beer starts at $5/glass; after two (plus tips), I realized I could have bought a sixer of my beloved Sam Adams and three lottery tickets!

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Around here it seems the bars are doing just as well or better in this economic downturn. People drink when times are tough.

 

However, it seems a lot of the lesser bands in this area are not working or only getting gigs every 4 - 5 weeks or so. I know of at least 4 friends' bands which are just not attempting to get gigs until June or so.

We've actually picked up several new clients for this year, and have a full schedule through the summer. We're actually at a new venue up in Portland tonight ("The Pulse") Venues come and go, but I don't see them closing in droves like the original poster is describing.

 

What's a punter? Around here, it's the guy who kicks the football on 4th down.

Muzikteechur is Lonnie, in Kittery, Maine.

 

HS music teacher: Concert Band, Marching Band, Jazz Band, Chorus, Music Theory, AP Music Theory, History of Rock, Musical Theatre, Piano, Guitar, Drama.

 

 

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An old friend of the family has owned a number of mid sized clubs over the decades. He has been very successful and sticks to a successful biz model and for him that meant moving to well known DJ's or tribute bands. He has noticed that the 19 - 30 age group spends less on drinks per capita than they did in the past. He found that bands just didn't draw and he was tired of cover bands not pulling in a large enough crowd. He also never subscribed to the premise that many mid + clubs have gotten into demanding that a band sells X amt of tickets first. He loves live music but he knows what his clubs can pull in with dj's and tribute bands vs booking a band that caters strictly to one genre. I am wondering if this is the same thing going on where you guys are.
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Bill, I hope you know that you have realigned my goals for my next house. My wife will not be very happy with you. I thought you should be prepared.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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