Positive Music Place

An open letter to McGarry Productions

Posted by dlockeretz on September 28, 2014

Dear Sirs and/or Madams,

Thank you for contacting South Bay Blues Authority about performing at Lucky Strikes, House of Blues and the other venues you book. In light of the fact that our band has virtually no chance of drawing the one hundred people you request for a Monday night show, I am going to decline.

I would also like to respectfully suggest you reconsider your expectations of bands’ draw. I’ll admit I have been out of the L.A. club scene loop for some time and perhaps have an outdated idea of how many patrons are required for live music to be economically sustainable at your venues. Perhaps what I am going to say is wildly off the mark and if so I apologize for wasting your time.

Based on my experiences in the music business, which include many performances in California and my native Boston, plus nation and world wide tours, my belief is that very few local bands will be able to attract 100 out on a Monday night. At the risk of being blunt, the bands that do are likely to be touring or playing more established local venues or perhaps taking high-paying corporate gigs.

Perhaps there are bands in the L.A. area who can bring 100 people to a weeknight show. On the surface, that would seem like an ideal fit, but it begs deeper questions. Will these 100 fans come back to the venue to hear other bands about whom they know nothing? Will the band be good enough to keep patrons in the venue for other reasons there and to inspire them to come back?

I don’t mean to suggest that a band’s popularity and their quality are mutually exclusive, but let’s look at this objectively. For a band to spend the time and energy necessary to develop that large a following – be it by social media, innovative branding, catering to the latest trends or any number of other methods – odds are something else, such as the actual musical quality of their work, has paid the price. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule – Felsen, a great Bay Area band, has (in my opinion) managed to craft a sound that is contemporary but also is rooted in the rich tradition of the best singer-songwriters of the past and the results speak for themselves. If you can find bands such as this who deliver a genuinely high-quality show, more power to you. Occasionally the hottest girl in high school is also an exceptionally wonderful person.

That being said, even if you can find a high quality band that can bring 100 folks out on Monday, will that ultimately reflect well upon the venue? When people go out, they don’t always like to feel crowded in. Sure, when we see U2 or Bruce at the Bowl we don’t mind being part of a crowd, but for individuals who might be seeking a more intimate weeknight on the town, is being hemmed in with 98 other customers an ideal experience? In final analysis, the number of drinks sold will effect your bottom line but the number of customers to whom they were sold won’t. Shifting your focus from quantity to quality of patrons might help you become open to a variety of bands which, while unable to meet your request of 100 people, could draw individuals who are more likely to stay longer and buy more–and by playing excellent, honest music, can help cement the venues’ reputation as a great spot for live entertainment.

About all of the above, I might be completely full of crap, and it wouldn’t be the first time. All I can say is that I do deeply care about the availability of great live music to the general public. If high end bands are discouraged from opportunities reach new audiences that will inspire potential customers to go out to support live music and local businesses, I hope it’s for the right reasons.

Thank you for reading.

All the best,

David Lockeretz


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