Who REALLY should support live music venues?

Is it really up to the public to ‘support’ live music venues?

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If you follow any working musicians or live music pages on social media, this kind of image will be very familiar to you. It’s musicians crying out for ordinary, every day, music loving, people to come out and see them play. Despite live music bring more frequent than it’s ever been, since the law was relaxed on regular pubs presenting live music, live music venues continue to suffer. Mind you, the public house industry in general is suffering and has been since the beginning of the last recession.

But is it really the fault of the every day people that live music venues are suffering? These images and memes are aimed at the everyday person so I can only surmise that those posting think it is. I’d like to present an alternate view, from a business perspective. Because, after all, no matter what your views... the music industry is a business.

On the surface, you’re begging for punters to come and enjoy (support) live music but the subtitle reads “please come and invest your time and money in our product”. How many times have you looked at a product on a shelf, or in an advert, and said to your self “I don’t like that”, or “That looks rubbish.” or “That’s too expensive for my taste.” ? Probably a lot. These are the same thoughts that people have when thinking about going out. “I don’t want to go there....” “It’s rubbish there....” “It’s too expensive there...”

News Flash - people love live music! They love seeing and listening to bands. They may even dance!

But if people aren’t going to live music venues - it’s because they don’t want to!!!

And, you know what, it’s not their fault!

You can’t fault or blame a normal person for not wanting to do something or buying your product. If no one is buying, you have to go back to the product and look at ‘why’ people aren’t buying. The product has to be enticing enough to convince people to go out after a long day at work.

So, if it’s nothing to do with the public.... who really needs to ‘support live music’?

The venues, the promoters and the bands themselves!!

So let’s look at ‘live music venues’ as a product and why people may not being going.

a) They’re tatty
b) There’s always limited seating
c) The price of entry
d) The price of drinks
e) The type of act
f) The quality of the act(s)
g) They require travelling to get to
h) Parking is usually impossible!

a) Tatty Venues: (Responsibility of the venue)

Most live music venues I go to are just that. Tatty. People like nice surroundings. I go to places I feel comfortable in and like the surrounds of. I don’t go to places I don’t like. The live music venues I do frequent, are ‘nice’ places.

b) Limited seating: (Responsibility of the venue)

This is almost a connundrum: bands want people to dance and sing along, but audiences generally want to be able to sit down and watch in comfort! Of course, there are people standing up at gigs, but do you see any empty seats? Nope! Those standing are standing because they didn’t get in early enough to get a seat/table. I personally hate standing up to watch a show (apart from Barenaked Ladies gigs... I’m happy to stand and watch those guys!). I would suggest that most people are like me - they want to sit down and watch a show. They don’t want to stand around after a long day at work.

c) Cost of going into the place: (Responsibility of the venue)

It almost seems normal for a live music venue to charge entry. If there’s one thing that turns me off ANY venue (night club, music venue, etc) is paying an entry fee. I’m going to be buying drinks! The financial arrangements between the bands, promotors and venues should really have nothing to do with the punter.

Unless it’s a ‘named’, successful act or someone that I specifically want to see, I don’t want to pay an entry fee and I suspect that most people don’t either.

d) The price of drinks: (Responsibility of the venue)

This has been forcing people out of pubs for the last 10 years - the increase in drinks prices. £3.50 a pint... £4.50 a bottle??? Actually, why should I pay this when I can buy the same product from Co-Op for less than half pub prices and be entertained at home with a couple of drinks. And if I want to go out, there are plenty of places that charge £1 - £2.50 for my regular tipples!

Much like the entry fees, if there’s someone I specifically want to see, I’ll resign myself to the fact that I’m going to pay those prices, but I’m not going to be doing it on a daily, or maybe even a weekly, basis.

I don’t have a solution to this one. I have no experience of the fundamentals of the trade. I can only express the general views of the public from my experience, and it’s summed it with two words: “How Much???”

e) The type of acts: (Responsibility of the Promoter)

If live music venues are to make money enough to stay open, they need people... lots of people. Lots of people have different tastes. Some music genres are more popular than others. Unfortunately, the tastes of musicians don’t always marry up with the tastes of the masses. If a music venue continuously programmes Indie bands, punk bands and metal bands - you can’t blame the majority that enjoy “pop music” if they don’t want to come out. “Pop music” is called ‘pop music’ because it’s popular and it’s a broad description that covers multiple genres.
Could more punters be tempted out if the music on offer was more to their tastes?

f) How good are the acts: (Responsibility of the Promoter and the acts themselves)

So a person decides that they’re going to swallow the entry fee, they’ll stand in a tatty bar and pay higher drinks prices because they want to experience some local live music. What do they get...? A band that obviously haven’t practiced enough. Their songs are poor. Their stage performance is unexciting or cliché. They can’t play very well.... and this is the headliner!

Do you think this guy is going to come back and give it another go? Not for £15 or so (including travel costs!)!!!

Bands and acts seem to have a belief that if they’ve written songs, they deserve to be on stage and have people play to watch them. No matter how bad or good they actually are.

This isn’t really their fault if they don’t know how bad they are. It’s really down to the promotors or venues that agree to let them play. And it’s likely because it’s the only option they’ve got.

In today’s market, where there are some stunningly good musicians, artists and acts, being mediocre won’t cut it. Even in the ‘have-a-go’ open mic nights. I’ve experienced very little quality control in the local music scenes. Some promotors are great. Others aren’t.

Who wants to go and see an act that can’t play their instrument very well or doesn’t sound very nice? (Family, that’s who!!)

g and h): Travel

Live music venues are never close to your house and they’re usually always impossible to park near. It’s unlikely the venues fault if they don’t have space for parking, but they could give thought to the issue and offer suggestions of where their punters can park nearby.
There has to be a reason to drag somebody miles from their house.

In conclusion, the question really should be; how are those involved in the industry going to support themselves? You can’t expect regular people to buy into a substandard product in the name of support. It seems to be all take and no give.... a music scene has to give people what they want:

• A nice place, worth visiting, with plenty of seating.
• A reasonable spend expectation.
• Good quality entertainment.

...and our civilisation advances, we demand more and more.

Don’t think I don’t want music venues to be supported. I do. I’m a musician after all. I’m suggesting that the responsibility of support may be aimed in the wrong direction. Let the respectful discussion commence!