(Disclaimer: Please note that the following are just my opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of anyone I work for or am associated with.)
So, yeah. The #Gatesmithgate thing was really something wasn’t it? It seems like every two years we have the whole “our music scene sucks” debate that inspires general rolling of eyes and wringing of hands (for example, Ari Herstand’s farewell two years ago inspired a similar round of wailing and teeth gnashing.) While I can see all sides of the issue (from Jordan Gatesmith’s “This scene is incestuous!” screed, to Andrea Swenson’s rabid response, to all the various rebuttals and what not), I am growing weary of this debate.
Rather, I’d like to channel Jeff Gage’s rational take on it in City Pages and see what we can do to improve the scene. In the vein of Christian Erickson’s smart Facebook note on what bands can do that was reposted on Cake in 15, and Becky Lang’s equally smart retort on what journalists can do for The Tangential, I’m going to take on the third piece; what we can do to improve the music scene from the venue’s side (with a few side notes to bands and journalists).
(Disclaimer: Once again, these are opinions of mine and do not necessarily reflect those of anyone that I am associated with or work for. These are meant to be things that we can all improve on. Including me.)
1. Venues need to stay hungry for new local music, and not just for the flavor of the moment. Yes I know it’s risky (since venues are in the business of selling tickets and/or drinks and what not) but it’s our responsibility as a presenter to be aware of what is new and what is coming up locally. Booking the same local bands over and over again is reinforcing the notion of incestuousness in our scene. Now am I saying that we should turn, say, the First Avenue mailroom over to some band that’s never played a show before? Absolutely not. But I am saying that we all need to be better informed.
Side Note To Journalists: That last paragraph applies to you to. Yes I know you’re over-worked, under-paid, and you’re being mobbed by bands with shitty press materials (and I’ll get to that with the bands in a bit), and it’s easy to talk about your friend’s band, but it’s your duty to not be lazy and default to the same bands over and over again.
Side Note To Bands: This is something I’m going to harp on a lot, but you need to be more professional in the way you approach venues in trying to book a show and in how you publicize it. And like Christian said in his post, you need to also be supportive of your fellow local musicians.
2. Venues need to actually promote the local shows that they book. Now I am well aware that local bands do not do nearly enough to promote their show due to trying to book as many shows as possible to get their name out there, but if you’re going to commit to a local show, you should do everything in your power to push it.
Side Note To Bands: Just because I said that venues need to push your show more, you the band need to take a hell of a lot more initiative in promoting it yourselves. Let’s put it this way: you have one big show to promote, they have maybe 30 at a go to deal with. Trust me when I say this, you will get a lot father with venues if they see you hustling and working to get a crowd to your show than if you do nothing.
3. This one’s for bands: if you want venues to treat you like professionals, then act like one. Be on time for meetings, do the legwork and hustle to get a crowd to your show, show up on time for soundcheck, etc. Just like I said in my last side note, venues appreciate it when you treat your gig with them as something special and you are bringing your A game at all times. It will make you more attractive to the venue and more likely to get rebooked again either headlining or opening for a national act.
I could go on and on and on about this, but I don’t like beating a topic down to the ground. But I will leave this offer on the table; if you’re a band and want my opinion on what you’re doing, let’s talk. We all should be working together to hold ourselves (and our scene) at a higher standard. It’s the only way that we can rise above this.
(Disclaimer: The following were opinions and not necessarily reflective of any clients or associates.)