Avoiding the Slow Death of Local Music – By: Brian Lawrence

Rome wasn’t bilked in a day; the death of local music and why no one wins.

We’ve all seen it. The slightly crooked closed signon the door of our local venues, the Facebook invites saying “Come to our (club’s/band’s/promotion company’s) last show!”. Promoters are folding one after another. Local bands are just reacting to the general apathy of music fans with transparent digital desperation.

The question of what went wrong seems less important than the question of how to fix it. Whether the chicken or the egg came first, it’s clucking in front of us. When you couple the rising costs of owning and operating a venue with the diminishing ability to make a profit doing it, it’s understandable why so many have been closing. And the lack of potential for profit trickles down. Promoters have seen crowds shrink. The bands have seen it as well. The crowds haven’t though. They weren’t there.

Obviously the thousand pound gorilla in the room is the economy. Less jobs means less expendable money and generally entertainment is the first thing to suffer personal budget cuts. Promotion is more important than ever in these situations, yet it seems most bands and promoters feel that booking shows, posting internet invites and waiting for people to show up is enough.

The idea of being more hands on seems like a no brainer. Those people that are sitting on the internet talking?  That’s all they do… they’re not coming. Facebook Event Invites are today what flyers were 10 years ago. People don’t look before they trash them which lead to an incongruous fact. Flyers are no longer as ignored as they used to be.
In fact, many of the older methods that stopped achieving results in years past currently work wonders as attention getters. Flyers, for instance. Except for ease of use and to reach new people, why would you fire off invites on a computer to people who may or may not actually go to shows when you could be handing flyers to people who are actually at one? Or word of mouth. Going to shows and telling people why they should check out whatever you’re doing and why shows involvement. Music scenes are communities and owe you nothing when you’re fresh out of the gate. You have to give before you take.
Quality is the final and most daunting issue. Before you book an eight band show honestly ask yourself how many of these bands you would want to see. Forcing a band to sell tickets to play only shows they’re willing to hustle or pay to play the show. It does nothing to speak of the band’s quality or ability to motivate people to want to come to your events again.
The bad news is that there’s a lot going wrong and compounding the problem is a business as usual attitude. The good news is this isn’t beyond repair yet.

-Brian Lawrence

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