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  • Music Venues: RIP

    Since last summer, my area has lost two substantial live music band venues and several solo/duo venues. This is on top of the few that went away last year, and the year before. The ones that are left, especially band ones, don't pay squat because they can't. We are lucky to get 400 a night and usually 300 is more the norm. There is one place that pays 500/night but you had better pack the place your first time in (and hope nothing else is going on in town) or you won't get a second chance. This makes it rough for newer bands who are already shut out of playing anywhere except little dive taverns, or benefits for free.

    I know why we aren't drawing huge crowds. We are a four piece blues band, a pretty good one if I do say so myself, but the reality is blues has not been a popular scene here since 2003. Our fan base is somewhere between 50 and 70, and if they go out to bars at all they are heading for the door to go home at about 10 or 11 PM. But the dying venues syndrome is catching up with classic rock and 80s hair metal bands, too, as their fan bases are entering their 40s and 50s as well. And who is coming along to take their place? No one. that's who.

    I asked my kids what they thought of live music. They all more or less shrugged and said "meh." They range in age from 32 to 27, and none of them even have live music on their radar. None of them have friends that are in bands. In fact, even with my solo gig I often see groups of millennials either get up and leave or move to the back of the room when the music starts. Oh, they will go to a concert hall to see some band they saw on youtube or heard on Pandora, but locals? Hardly. I asked them why, and each of them gave me the same answer: the stuff they are into is so varied and unrelated, and so much of it is nearly impossible to duplicate in a club with a 4 piece band, and because anyone can find anything online to listen to their tastes vary so widely that a cover band would be hard pressed to make many of them very happy. One of my kids really likes Avett Brothers/My Morning Jacket/ Gregory Allen Isakov kind of stuff. Another likes alt country (but despises commercial country) and my daughter's tastes are all over the place. So even the classic rock cover bands are starting to dwindle.

    I realize music is a regional thing in the country. Just curious if others are seeing the same thing.

  • #2
    Live music is bars/casinos around here has been only a fraction of what it once was for at least the last 10 years, but I don't know that it is much worse today than it was in 2005, so I guess there's that?

    ​Yeah, younger kids don't really care about live music. I put a lot of that on the bands/musicians themselves who have spent the last few decades gazing at their shoes and not putting out a product that the kids can get excited about, so we all have to take at least some of the blame. Used to be the back in the day, the old guys playing blues in the corner bar would feed off the nightlife scene driven by the younger bands playing the hot venues. Those bands would catch some overflow or be the "hey, now let's check out some REAL players!" act across the street. I don't think it's really fair to blame us old guys for the fact that music scenes aren't vibrant anymore. I already put in MY years of making it happen for the bars up and down the west coast!

    ​A lot of it is, of course, the declining bar scene, period. Blame DUI laws or Netflix or whatever but when I was a kid I grew up in a small farming town of about 800 people. There wasn't much going on in a town that small, but we DID have four bars. And one of them had live music every Saturday night. (I developed my chops in part by the owner letting me in when I was 15 to sit in with the 3 piece country band that played there and I'd jam along on the piano that was set up in the corner of the stage. Guitar player was a good guy who showed me all about I-IV-V patterns and the like.) But now not only is there no live music in that little town, but there isn't a single bar that is still open. You gotta drive 10 miles to the next town just to get a drink. So it's not just the live music part of the scenes that have died.

    ​Classic rock had its heyday when most of that music was about 20 years old and you had 35-45 year old musicians playing the stuff they grew up on for audiences that were both of a similar age and the younger crowds just old enough to remember the songs from when they were little kids. now that material is 40-50 years old in most cases and there just isn't a sizable audience for it like there used to be. It's like playing Big Band stuff in the 80s. There's still a niche for it, but it's getting smaller and smaller by the day. There's some action with 90s music that is now "classic" but its not the same was playing 70s material in the 1990s was. Most of the 90s 'classics' you hear on TV/movies now is the rap/pop stuff anyway.
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    • #3
      Originally posted by Pat'sStrat View Post
      I know why we aren't drawing huge crowds. We are a four piece blues band, a pretty good one if I do say so myself, but the reality is blues has not been a popular scene here since 2003. Our fan base is somewhere between 50 and 70, and if they go out to bars at all they are heading for the door to go home at about 10 or 11 PM.
      The music scene here still has a fair number of guitar solo acts, but as you say, they roll the sidewalks up early. I haven't played past 9PM since I've been here.

      About the blues. . . I'm wondering how much license you take with the blues genre. I would think that older songs with turnarounds and a bridge like "Please Send Me Someone to Love" would do better with the older crowd than "Messin' With the Kid."

      We've been working up a few Robben Ford tunes with my trio. They went over well as a solo, so why not.
      Last edited by senorblues; 03-02-2017, 04:54 PM.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by guido61 View Post
        Live music is bars/casinos around here has been only a fraction of what it once was for at least the last 10 years, but I don't know that it is much worse today than it was in 2005, so I guess there's that?

        ​Yeah, younger kids don't really care about live music. I put a lot of that on the bands/musicians themselves who have spent the last few decades gazing at their shoes and not putting out a product that the kids can get excited about, so we all have to take at least some of the blame. Used to be the back in the day, the old guys playing blues in the corner bar would feed off the nightlife scene driven by the younger bands playing the hot venues. Those bands would catch some overflow or be the "hey, now let's check out some REAL players!" act across the street. I don't think it's really fair to blame us old guys for the fact that music scenes aren't vibrant anymore. I already put in MY years of making it happen for the bars up and down the west coast!

        ​A lot of it is, of course, the declining bar scene, period. Blame DUI laws or Netflix or whatever but when I was a kid I grew up in a small farming town of about 800 people. There wasn't much going on in a town that small, but we DID have four bars. And one of them had live music every Saturday night. (I developed my chops in part by the owner letting me in when I was 15 to sit in with the 3 piece country band that played there and I'd jam along on the piano that was set up in the corner of the stage. Guitar player was a good guy who showed me all about I-IV-V patterns and the like.) But now not only is there no live music in that little town, but there isn't a single bar that is still open. You gotta drive 10 miles to the next town just to get a drink. So it's not just the live music part of the scenes that have died.

        ​Classic rock had its heyday when most of that music was about 20 years old and you had 35-45 year old musicians playing the stuff they grew up on for audiences that were both of a similar age and the younger crowds just old enough to remember the songs from when they were little kids. now that material is 40-50 years old in most cases and there just isn't a sizable audience for it like there used to be. It's like playing Big Band stuff in the 80s. There's still a niche for it, but it's getting smaller and smaller by the day. There's some action with 90s music that is now "classic" but its not the same was playing 70s material in the 1990s was. Most of the 90s 'classics' you hear on TV/movies now is the rap/pop stuff anyway.
        Great assessment I think.

        SOOOOO.... if one were so inclined both in attitude and capability as an ensemble... is 90s the new 80s?
        Last edited by MikeyParent; 03-03-2017, 11:34 AM.
        Vocal Gear: Audix OM3xb, Boss VE-20 | Synth Gear: iPad and apps | Controllers: M-Audio Axiom Pro 61, Roland AX7

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        • #5
          90s the new 80s?

          yeah I'd say so at least from what I am seeing. But a lot of 80s songs are still HUGE.

          what is also interesting is I see its moreso 90s pop/rock than 90s grunge/rock even though grunge was HUGE. Sure the big ones will get a reaction (the hits from nirvana, pearl Jam and so on) but overall its the pop/rock stuff and 1 hit wonder stuff over the "heavier" stuff... At least that's what i'm seeing YMMV
          Last edited by jeff42; 03-03-2017, 11:24 AM.
          www.ostrichhat.com

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          • #6
            Originally posted by MikeyParent View Post
            Great assessment I think.

            SOOOOO.... if one were so inclined both i attitude and capability as an ensemble... is 90s the new 80s?
            ​Oh, no doubt. Look at the set list Jeff42 posted in the other thread as a good example of 90s stuff that is working the way 80s stuff did 5-10 years ago. It looks to me like his band has pared it down pretty well.

            ​The trick with the 90s stuff is (at least in my opinion and experience) that it is much slimmer pickings for great material. It wasn't a "party" decade musically the way the 80s were. Especially when it comes to rock stuff. The most fun classics seem to be the pop/rap songs.

            ​But I can tell you that when we kick into "Wannabe", every 30-ish female in the place will be on the dance floor dancing around and singing all the lyrics and getting in touch with her inner Spice Girl. And if you have someone who can rap pretty well and you can do stuff like "Bust a Move" and "Baby's Got Back"?

            ​Those are the new "Jessie's Girl" and "Pour Some Sugar On Me"s , IMO.
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            • #7
              OK this is good stuff. This relates to the other thread I was asking about (set lists). My dream band right now would be a 80s/90s/current dance/party band.

              I would love to see the reaction of a crowd to a band who could break out Barbie Girl or "What is Love" (Haddaway) live.
              Vocal Gear: Audix OM3xb, Boss VE-20 | Synth Gear: iPad and apps | Controllers: M-Audio Axiom Pro 61, Roland AX7

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              • #8
                Originally posted by jeff42 View Post
                90s the new 80s?

                yeah I'd say so at least from what I am seeing. But a lot of 80s songs are still HUGE.

                what is also interesting is I see its moreso 90s pop/rock than 90s grunge/rock even though grunge was HUGE. Sure the big ones will get a reaction (the hits from nirvana, pearl Jam and so on) but overall its the pop/rock stuff and 1 hit wonder stuff over the "heavier" stuff... At least that's what i'm seeing YMMV
                ​That's because the basics of what we do haven't changed since Elvis took the stage. It's still about finding songs that connect with the girls. Which means danceable and usually means something kinda sexy/naughty about the song.

                ​Pearl Jam had some great songs that a lot of people remember fondly and will respond well to when played, but "Evenflow" isn't going to pack the dance floor with the drunk girls the same way "I love big butts and I can not lie" is going to.....
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                • Pat'sStrat
                  Pat'sStrat commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Yeah, you hit it on the head. In fact, one of my good friends has a show band he's aiming at corporate things, and they play casinos too. They play nothing but hits and do costume change tow or three times a night and choreographed moves. But my buddy said even beyond all that, the biggest thing is that the millennials, the boys and the girls, want to be part of the show. Thus, his band does a lot of singalongs and have people come up and dance on stage, They have contests, create dances for people to do, and so on.

                  I just don't have that in me, and never did, but it is pretty clear that this is what it takes to be successful as a band in a lot of places. Funny how things change. I recall as a 12 year old kid in 1967 walking through the city park by Lake Coeur d Alene, and seeing some long haired guy with no shirt on just sit down on the grass and start playing his guitar. He did nothing flashy, and seemed to only know how to strum and play the simple chords. And in less than 5 minutes, he had about 20 people sitting around him digging on the tunes. I thought "That's what I want to do!" Back then, playing an instrument even moderately well was enough to make you special and something for people to listen to. Now, not so much.
                  Last edited by Pat'sStrat; 03-10-2017, 12:01 AM.

                • guido61
                  guido61 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Yep. "Interactive" is the key word. I have no doubt whatsoever that the difference our shows being "meh" and going over huge is the degree to which we get the audience involved. Dragging people up on stage. Handing out blow up guitars to the kids. Etc. and we don't even really do all THAT much of it. Just a few bits throughout the night. But the people eat it up They all wanna be part of the show.

                  A good friend of mine that I've played with since we were kids runs sound for us sometimes and can't stand that we do that stuff. He's still of the mindset that he wants to get on stage and perform the music he likes but and have everyone pay attention to HIM.

                  I tell him "dude, you gotta get over yourself if you wanna make any money"

                  His 3-piece struggles to make more than $250 a night and find any gigs at all.

              • #9
                Originally posted by guido61 View Post

                ​That's because the basics of what we do haven't changed since Elvis took the stage. It's still about finding songs that connect with the girls. Which means danceable and usually means something kinda sexy/naughty about the song.

                ​Pearl Jam had some great songs that a lot of people remember fondly and will respond well to when played, but "Evenflow" isn't going to pack the dance floor with the drunk girls the same way "I love big butts and I can not lie" is going to.....

                Exactly!!!

                That's why when asked what kind of music we play I respond with a smile and say "Music for Girls"
                www.ostrichhat.com

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                • #10
                  LOL! Nice
                  Vocal Gear: Audix OM3xb, Boss VE-20 | Synth Gear: iPad and apps | Controllers: M-Audio Axiom Pro 61, Roland AX7

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                  • #11
                    The music scene is still pretty good where I live. I live about 10 miles from a college town and during the week end there will be people doing the pub crawl. Last night I played at the American legion with a 3 piece band doing mostly classic rock with a few country songs thrown in. We had a good crowd with a lot of young people most of the night dancing. The pay isn't great maybe $400-600.00 depending on the band and venue.

                    ​Still a lot of people who like classic rock around. Elton John will be playing a concert next week and later in March Journey and Asia will be in town. My main band is a country band that doesn't play bars much. Most of our gigs are private events mainly in the summer. We have only had one bar gig since October but another bar contacted us to play St.Pattys day. We will get paid $850.00 for one night. They want us to play about every 2 months so we will see how it goes. It was in the paper today that a Restaurant /bar a few blocks from my house is shutting down do to the loss of their hard liquor license. They would have music on weekends but didn't pay much if at all.

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                    • #12
                      Originally posted by jeff42 View Post


                      Exactly!!!

                      That's why when asked what kind of music we play I respond with a smile and say "Music for Girls"
                      Our unofficial response is “dance floor hits, for drunk white chicks”

                      Around here we’re seeing the same as guido mentioned. Not just live music, but bars in general are declining. I blame overly sensitive noise laws. People buying into “cool” neighbourhoods, that were cool because of the scene, then complaining when the venues that created the scene make any noise.

                      It also comes down to disposable income. I’ve got younger cousins (16-25) who all “love live music” which means they go to festivals at $150-$300 each and munch ecstasy and drink warm beer out of cans. There are bands playing somewhere near them as well, but the photos for Instagram are the most important part. After paying for the festival tickets, the mobile phone plan, the subscription to Netflix, $9 for the pre-mixed drinks there isn’t a lot of disposable income left. What is left they probably blew on ticket to watch Adele on a bug screen from the back an arena, because “atmosphere”. None of them will ever know the true atmosphere of 200 people jammed in a room designed for 150, while their favourite bands tears into their favourite songs 3 feet from their face.

                      Turned into a bit of a get-off-my-lawn rant. I’m not even 40 yet.

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                      • #13

                        Pat round here (NYS) we are not doing badly I would have to say. Some live places have closed and the other ones bands compete to perform in the ones open. It’s heavily saturated with blues/rock and some Jazz here and a little conservative. We have found our own niche though and so far so good after 5 years on the scene. I think the big thing is just general apathetic attitudes out there concerning entertainment. With the internet people are entertained for hours, smart phones, IPads, binge watching on Netflix, you name it, it’s out there. You see a lot less social type interaction and people going out. People hardly even want to pick up the phone at all, I have to get my daughter to stop texting when dealing with adults. When you have that attitude out there it’s hard to get people to come out to see live music, they’ll act like “so what who cares about a live band” They don’t get that not too many years ago that is what people did to be entertained and I was on the tail end of that generation that started it all. Certain pockets of the state do well. Luckily I live between two other cities so we can play there or throughout the Finger Lakes provided we get booked.
                        "Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"

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                        • #14
                          Definitely a declining scene here. Massachusetts suburbs. Can't say what the cities are like - Worcester, Boston, Providence. I don't bother much with those. But the suburb live music scene is dying for sure.

                          In the last three years, I've seen places that were staple venues for my last band either close, or end live music, or move to the solo/duo'/trio acoustic format. Or...gasp...the dreaded Karaoke.

                          By my rough count, we lost five venues (stopped having live music or closed entirely), and three others (one of them a chain of 5 bars) moved to acoustic only. Of all the places I used to play, there is only one left that has live full bands. There are a few other venues around, but they are a drive to get to. Not too long ago on a Saturday night we'd look up who was playing where and decide who we wanted to go see. Now it's a question of is there anyone even playing tonight, and if so, how far a drive is it. Very discouraging.

                          One result of this is that the venues that do have live music basically have turned to agent only booking. We are seeing more and more of the city bands (music school kid bands) being represented by an agent travel all the way out to the suburbs to play the gigs. If you don't have an agent, getting a full band booked is very hard unless you already have a long history with the venue. So the quality has gone up. I haven't seen a bad band in a while. There's that.

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                          • Outkaster
                            Outkaster commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Where in MA are you?

                        • #15
                          Originally posted by Monsoon View Post
                          If you don't have an agent, getting a full band booked is very hard unless you already have a long history with the venue. So the quality has gone up. I haven't seen a bad band in a while. There's that.
                          ​That can't be a bad thing. Better quality bands is only going to increase demand for them in the long run.
                          Last edited by guido61; 03-07-2017, 03:03 PM.
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