Weekend Concierge

Nov 052012
 

I want to send a message out to all the musicians and venues who host bands week after week. Clean up! I know that you are artists and sometimes care more about your music than how you look, but keeping a clean stage can make a big difference in how you are perceived. I know that not every venue even offers a stage – sometimes it’s more like an 8 x 8 piece of floor space and an outlet that is a mile away.

messy stageBands need to come prepared, not only with the right equipment for making a restaurant or bar sound like a jazz hall or concert venue, but also creating a stage setup that partially hides where they really are. I have seen all types of efforts, spanning from a simple banner covering a window to black curtains and LED stage lighting. Some of you do a better job than others so I commend you on your efforts.

messy stageIt may take an extra hour or two of setup time, and a little back-end investment, but the extra efforts should pay off if your band is any good to begin with. I remember that when I was a teenager playing records at weekend parties, my friend and I would invest a portion of our earnings back into our little business to ensure that we always had the most up to date music. As for hardware, there’s always a market for used audio and visual equipment because not everyone stays “in the biz” forever. There are also lots of places that will rent equipment so you can always offer “upgrade” options to your venues if they are willing to pay a little more. Wouldn’t a laser light-show add a new dimension to your stage presence? Does your band or venue set aside a percentage of earnings to re-invest? It might be a good idea!

messy stageYou don’t have to spend a lot of money to make a decent impression. Run wires so that people do not trip on them or distract viewers. Use DUCK tape to hold them down. Set lists should not be flying around either. A power strip holding six heavy duty cables should not be hanging in the air unless someone was in such a hurry to setup that they couldn’t tape it down or find a longer cord. I have seen boxes and carts piled up next to speakers instead of hidden in backrooms or, at least, somewhere other than the front area.

Rosco Martinez at The Funky BiscuitFind good examples of clean stages by visiting other bands and venues on nights that you are not working. Use the calendar at WeekendBroward.com to find out who is playing where. Look at some of the more experienced bands or the venues that have earned a reputation for hosting better known acts. There’s no reason you can’t steal some of their better ideas for a cleaner look and become an example for the next guy who comes along and uses you as his baseline! After all, what comes around goes around, right?

 November 5, 2012  Posted by  Weekend Blog No Responses »
Sep 272012
 

Hiring a band for your bar or restaurant can be compared with gambling at the casino – sometimes you win and often you lose! However, unlike the slot machines where you have little control over the results, a little skill can go a long way towards making sure you have the winning hand or should I say band?

There is no question whether or not hiring live entertainment can bring in extra customers. The  big question is how do you want to recoup the investment?  You pretty much have three choices: Food, Alcohol, or Cover Charges.  Combine all three or pick just one.  If you choose to make your money only on alcohol, you need to make sure you sell a LOT of it to cover the extra expense of a band.  If you have FOOD for sale in addition to the alcohol, and it’s reasonably priced, you are well on your way to making back the investment in a live band.  The third option, cover charges, can either attract a greater audience or be a deterrent.  In order to understand why some venues choose to implement the “pay at the door” fee,  I asked a few owners and managers what kind of thoughts went into their decision.

First, I asked Al Poliak,who has been quite successful in filling his club, The Funky Biscuit, even with cover charges ranging from $5 to $15 on Friday and Saturday Nights.  Here is his response:

Hmm, cover charge…always a tough topic of discussion. Here’s what it basically comes down to. If people are content with, and are satisfactorily entertained by your every day run of the mill garage band playing the same old worn out cover songs through a suspect sound system, then there are certainly plenty of venues that do not charge a cover and provide that type of entertainment. On the other hand, if music lovers want to enjoy quality musicians, performing quality music in an environment specifically created to enjoy music at its highest level, then folks have to be willing to pay a little extra…especially at a local / musician owned venue. Large corporate owned venues sometimes offer great entertainment, and they have the $$ to provide the entertainment often below what it may cost a small locally owned venue like ourselves. However, if you ask the musicians (both local & national acts) where they would rather perform, who treats them better, and what is a better overall musical experience for both them and their audience, I believe you will find the overwhelming response will be a place like ours. At the end of the day, we struggle financially here at The Biscuit to continue to provide the type of entertainment  we constantly have here and that people have come to expect. I can assure you, it’s more about our passion and far less about the $$. That being said, we cannot do it without the support of the local community. We seem to be getting that support, we are certainly grateful for it, and we will continue work hard to provide it!

Al is not alone in some of his views.  Here are a few thoughts Kilmo Doome, musician and owner of Native Florida Tap Room & Music Hall shared with me:

I feel a cover charge is essential to remain profitable if you want to maintain quality entertainment. For some reason, South Florida audiences seem to remain resistant to paying for a band. It defies logic. Why should you expect to pay a favorite artist at a concert venue but not a smaller charge at your neighborhood music spot. Don’t they think an artist deserves to get paid? In reality, a GOOD band that is creative and interesting as opposed to a mundane weekend warrior cover band will eat up the lion’s share of your cash register ring making it impossible to maintain high quality entertainment and production without a cover charge. Casinos are a big part of the problem. They can afford to pay local and national artists out of huge gambling proceeds making it impossible for independent local venues to compete. They are the Walmarts of entertainment and are literally responsible for the decline of overall quality and choice in local music venues, thus driving them out of business. Local artists would serve their best interest if they were to insist on venues charging a cover for their performance, maintaining the value of their performance in the market. I’ve frequently seen such venues give away performances for no cover for artists that once got one. When they either change their booking policy or close up after achieving their real financial goals they leave an artist no longer able to get the money they could once demand now that the public is used to seeing them for free and legitimate venues not being able to afford them without charging a cover – consequently, fewer gigs.

Did I mention the 4th source of revenue, gambling?  Unfortunately, not too many venues have that option!

Most venue’s that do charge a cover usually reserve that option for the weekends.  However, Boston’s on the Beach recently begun charging a cover on Tuesday nights, so I asked General Manager, Mark Deatley, to explain.  Here is what he said:

We added a  nominal cover charge on Tuesdays to help offset the increase in costs of producing the events. We have been bringing in higher profile national and regional touring acts, so the door charge goes to cover the additional expenses of those bands, as well as their  hotel rooms, since we no longer have our motel. The cover will normally be 5-8$,with a couple of exceptions, such as 2012 BMA Soul Entertainer of the Year BMA Curtis Salgado, and later in October, Trampled Under Foot, we will be charging $10.00. These acts normally command ticket prices of $25-$40 in other venue, so we still believe there is tremendous value, and a unique opportunity to see these acts in such an intimate setting.

Lastly, I wanted to give some balance to this blog, so I asked Don O’Hina, Entertainment Director at Venom Rock Bar why their most recent event poster says “Never a cover”.  I wanted to know if he had good or bad experiences in the past with cover charges.

I personally do not like charging a cover for Bands. There are so many choices when it comes to Live Music, I think it’s better to get people in the door so they can see what your Venue has to offer! I don’t ever like to turn anyone away over a Cover!

As someone who visits more than one venue a night, I have to agree with Don – why should I pay a cover to see a band I have never heard of before?  On the other hand, you can side with the track record of a venue – some are better than others at picking the kind of bands that suit your style, even if you have never heard of them before.  If they do their research right, managers should know which bands are worth the extra charge because if they get it wrong, the fans will not return and they lose their gamble.  As you can see, there are two sides to every story and I hope that by shedding some light on the question, everyone will win!

 September 27, 2012  Posted by  Weekend Blog 2 Responses »
Jul 152012
 

You might be interested to know that we live in a county that holds approximately 1.7 million people of which, according to our last census, 63% or approximately 1 million of us are between the ages of 18 and 64.  Starting with this number and trying to estimate how many people will go out to see local bands can be one “heck” of a challenge.  Judging from what I see, around 80% of the people who hang out in the venues with the mainly rock cover bands are Caucasian and 20% other races or ethnicities.  Knowing the makeup of Broward County, this immediately brings the total potential number of fans down to around 480,000.  I also know that the two biggest age segments for the types of music promoted by Weekend Broward are 35-44 and 45-54 according to some Facebook stats I pulled up.  Let’s estimate that these two segments make up around half the population between 18 and 64, which brings me now to a total potential market of 240,000 who might be interested in seeing a live local band.  Unfortunately, there are so many other factors to consider which are difficult to calculate.

 

I would guess that the number one most popular activity is……… staying home!   Let’s face it, television or reading a book in the privacy of your own home is probably the least expensive form of entertainment, and in this economy, that may win out in the hearts and minds of many.  Published statistics also show us that there are around 375,000 kids under the age of 18, which means that the adults watching the kids would have to either leave them home alone or hire a babysitter to have a night out on the town – another deterrent to getting some people out to see live bands, especially at late hours.

Other popular evening activities include going to one of the thousands of great restaurants in and around Fort Lauderdale, seeing a movie, browsing some great shops, or even going out dancing in one of the many clubs that feature heart thumping music thanks for our wonderful area Disc Jockeys.

So, how many people are left to visit the many great live, local bands which we have in our local bars and restaurants?  On any given Friday or Saturday night, I will see many bars half empty while a few lucky ones get overflowing crowds to see a popular band.  Knowing how many venues feature the bands promoted by Weekend Broward, we’re not talking more than a few thousand patrons spread out throughout the County, even if you consider that some of the population will venture North or South of the County lines.

My next question is, “Are you one of us?”  Are you part of crowd of less than 1% of our population who goes out and supports the local music scene?  As you can see, we are quite a select group of people – perhaps just lucky enough to have overcome all the deterring factors to be able to get out every Friday and/or Saturday night to experience the fun that comes with supporting local bands by our mere presence.  If you are one of us – thank you friend! If you are not one of us, we need you to consider joining our small group.  We need more members.  I promise you won’t be disappointed!

 July 15, 2012  Posted by  Weekend Blog 2 Responses »
May 312012
 

Amazing things happen when you have the right friends.  Not only can friends bring you up when you’re down but they can really motivate you to pursue your dreams and encourage you to go further than you ever thought possible.  I was thinking this week that bars and bands also benefit from having loyal friends and customers.  Facebook and other social media sites have proven that if you take a handful of people and entrust them with the power to easily spread good words to their friends, a simply seed can grow into a tree within days instead of years.

FriendsDo you have a business that needs help growing?  Have you built an infrastructure that supports a loyal fan base?  In other words… Are you making friends?  I’m not talking about sharing all your personal secrets with people you never met before.  I’m talking about finding out what people like to see and hear so that they will come back to see you over and over again.  If you don’t do anything that people really like, how are you going to build up a fan base that will make you successful?

 

Dancing FansIf you are in a band and you play songs that you like but nobody gets up to dance and all you get is polite applause, should you keep playing those songs?  I find that many businesses operate like a band that plays songs that they like even though nobody is getting off their butt and onto the dance floor.  You know those businesses that keep running but are usually half empty on a night when similar businesses are booming.  When you do things that make people want to put down their drink and cheer for you as loud as possible, you know you are doing something right.

 

Wozniak and JobsSome people are in a hurry to get as many fans (ie: customers) as quickly as possible.  They may print flyers, place ads, hand out the glossiest business cards, but did they take time to find out what people liked and disliked?  Steve Jobs felt that people didn’t know what they liked because they had never seen his products before he invented them. That’s not really true.  You see, people did like the original Apple computer that Jobs and his friend Steve Wozniak built in their garage.  He just kept building upon his successes to come up with the Apple Macintosh followed by the Ipods, Iphones and Ipads.  Are you building upon your successes?

Everyone says that you should do something you enjoy to be happy.  I say, make people happy and before you know it, you will enjoy!

Have a great weekend!

Rob aka The Weekend Concierge

 May 31, 2012  Posted by  Weekend Blog No Responses »
May 052012
 

Have you ever asked yourself “I wonder what day is the MOST popular night to go out for a drink?”  or “Where does Cinco de Mayo rank among the most popular drinking nights?”  I have put together an unscientific survey and here are the results:

1. St. Patricks Day

St Patricks Day

2. Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo

3. Halloween

Halloween Party

Halloween

 

 


4. Night before Thanksgiving

Thankgiving at Chit Chats

Pre-Thanksgiving

5. New Year’s Eve

Cagney's Saloon

New Years Eve

Some things to think about: A lot depends on what night of the week each of these days falls on.  For example, if the day falls on a Monday, you can expect a lot less people to go out for a drink.  On the other hand, it if falls on a Friday or Saturday night, beware of large crowds and expect some very BIG parties.  This is why Cinco de Mayo, or the 5th of May is a big one this year.

On the other hand, weather can play a big factor in the success of the party.  For example, last October, Halloween was a rainy night.  Even if it falls on a weekend, rain can definitely ruin your party, especially if it’s outdoors!

Lastly, a big warning: Just because the beer is cheap, it doesn’t mean that you need to get drunk!  I’m not sure why, but it seems that the greatest number of people who don’t drink much during the rest of the year decide that they are going to start on New Year’s Eve.  That’s not the kind of New Year’s resolution most people make on January 1st but if you aren’t the type who drinks much the rest of the year, don’t start on December 31st!

I had fun putting together this little blog and hope you enjoyed reading it.  You can leave comments below.  Have a great weekend!

The Weekend Concierge

Find all the best bands in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and Delray on the Music Events Calendar at www.weekendbroward.com 

 May 5, 2012  Posted by  Weekend Blog No Responses »
May 012012
 

As anyone who has ever tried to take pictures of a band knows, the hardest shot can be the drummer.  First, he (or she) is usually blocked by two or three other band members.  Sometimes, I need permission to either go on stage or climb on top of a speaker or stool to get high enough to get a good angle on the drummer.  Often, they are on risers which makes them stand a little higher than the rest of the stage, making me even more creative with my attempts to get a glimpse of their faces.

Then, there’s that cymbal that is positioned at exactly the same level as the drummer’s face!  On top of that, drummers are not always looking up so their heads are often burried in a sea of snares.   Often, the camera’s light is either blocked by the drum-set or bouncing off the shiny cymbals, resulting in a dark shot.  So you have to either take that shot at just the right time or take as many as you can get until it comes out right  – which is my strategy!

Here are a few of the many shots I took this past month that I shared recently in an online album called That Elusive Drummer.

Robert Darmanian of CRT

Robert Darmanian of CRT

CJ Wereski of Riverdown

CJ Wereski of Riverdown

 

Kent Blakenship of Soulicide

Kent Blankenship of Soulicide

 

Chuck Doty of The Double Standard

Chuck Doty of The Double Standard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find the complete album of both good and bad drummer shots I took in April, on the WeekendBroward Photos Page on Facebook.

I would not feel good about writing a blog about drummers this month without mentioning a local artist who was brutally murdered only 1 year ago while trying to calm a situation at a local bar in Fort Lauderdale.  I’m referring to a guy who was a friend to all musicians who live for the joy of playing to crowds large and small – Jimmy Pagano.  Here’s a picture I took of him only a few weeks before his untimely death.

Jimmy Pagano jamming with friends

Jimmy Pagano jamming with friends

Last year, thousands of his friends and friends of friends attended a memorial jam at America’s Backyard in Fort Lauderdale.  This year, a 2nd annual jam will be taking place at the same venue on Sunday, May 20th starting at 1pm and going on for 10 straight hours.  More information can be found on the Facebook event notice.

As with last year, I will be there snapping pictures of musicians, friends of Jimmy Pagano, fans of great live music, and of course, that elusive drummer!

‘see you there!

Rob, The Weekend Concierge

 May 1, 2012  Posted by  Weekend Blog No Responses »