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When a venue sux…

February 20, 2012

LA Musician and blogger Dave Goldberg wrote an article the beginning of this year called “Why LA club owners are totally lost and some advice for them from a professional musician.”  Please take some time to read his rant, as it hits home for so many musicians.  I asked Dave if I could repost some of his comments to show how it relates to the Denver market – and he said “go for it, man!”

The Gist

So here’s the gist of his sentiments:

  • Clubs have reached the point that they pay incredibly low fees and even expect the bands to promote their establishments.  No surprise there, right?  But you should be outraged – we’ll talk more about that in a minute…
  • There are musicians out there so desperate to play that they will do anything, and the clubs take advantage of this.  Again, no new revelations here, right?
  • Clubs even expect the bands to design, produce and distribute the promotional materials for the show.  Are you hearing those little violin strings?  I repeat, however, that you should be outraged…

But here’s Dave’s golden quote, in the context of when the band has to supply the audience:

“The crowd is following the band, not the venue. The next night you will have to start all over again.  And the people that were starting to follow your venue, are now turned off because you just made them listen to a bad band.  The goal should be to build a fan base of the venue.  To get people that will trust that you will have good music in there every night.  Instead you’ve soiled your reputation for a quick fix.”

Bingo!  This is the essence.  This is the lesson for any business:  short-sighted goals cost money in the long run.  And every business has marketing obligations if they expect to survive.  Sure, bands should be viewing themselves as businesses, but shouldn’t the clubs as well?  Aren’t the bands entertainers first and foremost?  Are bands really your best promotional efforts?  Doesn’t the club want to develop a strong reputation?  As a club owner, are you happy with crappy (music)?  Am I asking too many questions?  Then let’s break it down…

Businesses and marketing

All businesses need to know how to market themselves.  This is an ongoing, never ending process.  Some local clubs run ads in Westword and other local publications, some don’t.  Most call it good after that.  Does the club feel any further obligation to network, constantly develop quality, try multi-pronged media efforts?  Most businesses do…

Entertainers or marketeers?

Do you want good music coming out of your club, or would you rather have an act that sux but can promote the be-jesus out of themselves?  Sure, the answer is both.  But we all know that the truly professional musicians in the world are working hard on their craft and can’t be both.  If you opened a club because you love music then embrace this and support the artist.  If you opened a club to sell booze then you might at least think about cleaning up the bathrooms!

Your club’s reputation is at stake

Think about the many music venues that have come and gone in Denver.  Was there an emphasis on quality music?  Was there at least some other aspect of quality to the joint, like good food or atmosphere?  Were they known for something?  Like a big dance floor, or lots of girls, or…something?!?  Or were they just hanging on by their fingernails?  (Or to quote one ex-club owner: “I’m playing with fire, with gasoline soaked undies.”)

Cause and effect

If we were to boil all of this down to the simplest issue, short-sighted behavior is the reason a venue sux.   The venue absolves itself of basic marketing responsibilities, attempting to transfer the onus onto their entertainment.  The venue doesn’t think about their customer and how best to serve them (with good music).  The venue spends the least amount of money and effort and expects some miraculous return.  In the business world, this is a definition of insanity.

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