I recently polled a few musicians about: 1) what is horribly wrong with our little live music scene, 2) what’s good about it and 3) what could be improved? If you’d care to add your two cents, please add a comment below…
1) There is nothing horribly wrong with the Colorado music scene.
2) More stages and more radio support than anywhere else in the country.
3) More radio support at commercial radio.
Ryan Chrys (solo artist & Demon Funkies):
1) Horribly wrong? ..not much here, it’s a great scene!
2) Updsides are that I think it’s a bit more tight knit than others. A lot of the bands and musicians here aren’t just acquaintances, they’re close friends and any local music lover is likely to see members from not just a few, but lots of different bands jamming together at each others gigs. I love this about this scene.
3) If we could just get corporate media to spotlight the local music and talent more. That’s the biggest thing for me, we have local talent that is equal or greater in quality than a lot of the crap corporate media feeds us. I know the whole battle and the how’s and why’s of it all so I know it’s not something we can just “make” happen, but I can still dream that corporate didn’t have to be so corporate!
Michael Herrera (life-long musician & marketing specialist):
1) To begin, I don’t think our scene is so little. We’ve got tons of bands and tons of venues for a mid-size city. I travel for business a lot and wherever I am I make a point to try to check out the local scene. I can say that Denver holds its own in terms of quantity and quality.
The main issue, in my opinion, is that despite all the above, Denver is still not a live music town like Austin or Nashville are, or even Omaha. By this, I mean by and large, Denverites don’t make special trips to see live music unless it’s a national act or tied to a larger event (Westword Music Fest, Taste of Colorado, etc.). Yes, our friends and our network of fans of our respective bands will represent but very rarely do you hear someone say, “let’s go see who’s playing at 3Kings tonight.” Very different in Nashville/Austin/LA/NYC, etc.
The second problem is that for the most part, original music is a really tough sell in Denver. Denver is a sports bar town and if there’s a band playing classic rock and 80s hits that’s good karaoke when the liquor starts to take effect. I’ve played in very successful (but sloppy) cover bands and very tight but unsuccessful original bands.
2) Tons of great venues – LoDo is as good as any city in the country for live music in terms of quality and quantity of venues
3) I don’t know the silver bullet here but I think we can learn from other cities like Nashville that promote it’s music scene early and often. Social media would be key here.
1) In my opinion, the thing that hurts Denver original music the most is the location of the venues. Most of the venues are in places where one must drive.
3) If there were several original music clubs on 16th St mall, where the walking public was, then people could wander in off the street. This would “bring the music to the people” as opposed to “bring your people to the music” which is much harder. I suspect that the high rent in these places prevents the fledgling bar owners to start there.
David Freshman (professional musician: Shelvis & The Roustabouts – An All-Elvis revue, plus Pilot Theory, Lady & the Tramps, and Frosh):
1) First, there seems to be a specific company, Road Dawg Touring, run by Doug Tackett, that stops 90% of bands from having an opportunity to play many clubs in Colorado. Why? This is tantamount to price fixing or collusion.
Second, the ticket systems that clubs such as Herman’s, Toads Tavern and other main venues use. Most bands in Denver do not know hundreds of people, especially the older, more veteran bands/players.
I would propose a straight across pay the bands for their services with a guaranteed fee. The bar usually makes 5-8 times the amount that they pay a band. They also book bands too frequently. This causes the band’s fans to not develop a natural desire to see their favorite groups.
2) Colorado has a ready, willing and able population that loves music. Allow the people as many opportunities to see groups in all different settings: House Concerts, Festivals, Clubs, Block Parties, Events, Benefits…etc. This will allow the bands the proper exposure they need and the population to view the bands in many different settings, both intimate and more large.
3) First, I would have these bands paid a minimum of $40 per person so that their basic expenses of gasoline, strings, rental spaces, equipment…etc is covered a little bit. Mostly the gasoline, which at $3.75 per gallon almost, costs the bands a fortune.
Allow the bands the opportunity to play out much more. These market inhibitors such as Road Dawg Touring (Doug Tackett’s company), bars that require a band to “sell tickets” in order to get paid $50 for the whole band even, stop the bands dead in their tracks from having some market opportunities.
I would design more intimate settings, (house concerts, school dances, parks, community and church centers so that both the intimate setting and the bands could make a little bit. This is what it was like back in the 1960’s, with YMCA dances, Temple/Church functions, AA functions, and other unusual places to perform.
Also, bands need to work the advertising side. They usually do. The problem is that many of the venues do not help advertise the groups at all. So, people that know the band come to see them. New people are not even aware that there’s a music event happening. This needs to be addressed as well.
So there you have a few opinions from musicians in the local scene. How about you – care to share?