by Joe Motor
Seattle's music scene(s), hit & miss ?
|Seattle and Rock & Roll
So, you're in a rock & roll band, well, who isn't. It seems everyone is in a band. Seattle has a lot of bands and quite a few good ones. The problem is, attendance at shows is down. There are a many reasons for this. Money is tighter these and clubs are between a rock and a hard spot. We could waive the cover charge and pay bands from the bar. Personally, I think this is a bad idea, for various reasons. For one, clubs would raise drink prices to make up the difference.
Despite what some think, most clubs are not raking in the money. They have to pay for rent, business insurance, liqueur liability insurance, sound, security, licensing, taxes etc, it is a real struggle. Most good club owners give all or most of the door money (cover) to the bands. The problem is some bands want big guest lists, drink tickets, and won't self promote. Then, they are disappointed when only a few friends show up. In today's market, promotion is everything, clubs need to promote, as do bands. I know some bands feel this is not their job, but it is. Bands need to stick around and not just leave the venue when they are done playing. It's called "working the crowd". In the 70's when clubs were usually packed, bands understood this. When they were not on stage, they were meeting and greeting people, it's politics. I know it is hard to build a fan base, especially these days. Bands need to work harder than ever.
Seattle is lucky to have clubs that still consider themselves rock clubs and support local music. It is generally not a profitable scenario. Many clubs are going the way of the DJ. Most of these clubs do very well. Sadly, this is what a lot of people want. Rock & roll is getting older and so are those that like it. Raves are packed for many reasons. Tekno is big business, like rock used to be, things change. I am not saying all rock shows have small crowds, some do well. Some bands play to often and they saturate their market.
Bands need to promote their asses off. They also need to be more than just really good. They need to stand out and be unique. They should have merch if they want to make money. The best touring bands I have worked with had merch, really cool merch, I mean stuff you really want to own and or wear. And they "work the crowd". When you see a touring band for the second time, and they remember you from their last show, you are not just a fan, you are friends. Successful bands have many friends, in many cities. I am not saying they are getting rich, but they can survive on the road.
Are you serious enough to hit the road ? If you are not, that's OK, just don't expect to be even semi-big, like the bands that attract semi-big crowds in semi-big and small clubs. Local shows are fun and can be successful, if done right. As a club owner, here is what I like to see. A band contacts me with an idea for a show. They know some other bands with different friends (fan base). The band puts together a line-up. essentially, they are the promoter. The bands don't saturate their market prior to the show. They promote their asses off, the club also promotes and advertises. The band sets a fair price and gets the door or most of it. If you provide a door person to handle the money, this takes a load off the club and can get you a better deal.
I know this is not the way some do it, and there is no "set in stone" procedure in this business. There are no rules. We are all trying to think outside the box, it is survival of the fittest. Clubs come and go, as do bands. I have said "Support Local Music" 'till I was blue in the face. It doesn't make people come out. I think local bands and rock & roll will be around for some time to come. However, shows with very small crowds are not a lot of fun and like I said, it is a struggle.
It is expensive to set up a band, rehearse, get your gear to the venue and now some asshole is telling you to be a promoter. Sorry, this is rock & roll in the 21st century, and almost no one gets famous or rich anymore. It has become a labor of love. But to some it is a way of life and they would not trade it for anything. I know so many truly talented photographers, musicians, models, burlesque entertainers, promoters, and journalists, all working in this industry. All of us have day jobs, like I said, it is a labor of love and that is what keeps rock & roll alive. Nothing really great comes easy in this world.
No one knows what the future holds. I am amazed when I see young people playing rock & roll. There are some kick ass kids making music that will knock your socks off. Thankfully, not all young people are raving to DJ's, rock and roll will survive. Someday it may even be big again, you never know. Things are changing faster than ever, what with the internet, Youtube, Facebook, how many people pay for music nowadays? It's no wonder people don't want to pay a cover to see local talent, we all want in free. Hell, most of us are broke. I know I am, but I wouldn't trade this life for anything.