from Uncle Chris Owens, in regards to Cahoots in particular but all shows in general:
Wrote this for someplace else, but thought it relevant here too....
A general word of advice for bands seeking shows, and comments on the future workings of Cahoots:
Cahoots started doing shows in November of last year....people had been trying to talk marsha in to this as long as the bar has been open, but it wasn't until the smoking ban and the consequential steep drop in business that we were able to finally able to convince her that shows were a good idea.
Even then, though, Marsha agreed that shows could happen on a sort of trial basis...and if they worked out well she would continue to allow them. At that point I sat down with her and gave her a list of specific things to do and not to do if she wanted Cahoots to become a sustainable, successful venue....all of which would be systemically ignored over the coming months until a few weeks ago when Marsha told me that she was ready to give up on having shows...citing a list of problems that were all direct results of not following the most basic and important points of advice that I had given her:
-Buy a real PA
-Build a stage
-Only work with trusted bands and promoters
Not wanting to see what could be Louisville's premier mid-sized live music venue go down the drain because of obvious and preventable mis-management I decided to step in, twist some arms, drop some science and step on a few toes...and hopefully keep the venue alive.
As anyone who has worked the trenches should know, democracies do not succeed in the music business....so though some significant progress has been made as far as to turning Cahoots around, there still remains what I consider to be a flawed booking and show management system....and as I do not currently have the time or broad sweeping totalitarian authority to change this, I will appeal directly to bands and promoters to exercise the common sense and responsibility that will ensure that this venue will exist 10 years from now, instead of closing shop 10 months (or weeks) from now.
(I know I will be over-explaining some of these points...but I just want to make sure that less experienced bands and promoters fully understand the situation)
1. In order for shows to be profitable for the bar they need to bring in AT LEAST 50 people on a weeknight and 75 people on a weekend. The bar looses business from some of the regulars and walk-in's on show nights because the pool tables are closed and some people aren't in to the music. So show's have to attract enough drinking people to not only make up for the loss of business, but to exceed bar sales of normal nights. For the record, the bar only takes $50 from the door to cover soundman and pa expenses, so drink sales are still the only source of income the bar has during shows.
The bottom line is that if the show you want to set up can't guarantee 50 people on a weeknight or 75 people on a weekend then don't book it at Cahoots...because you will be contributing to the closing of this venue which isn't doing yourself or anyone else any favors in the long run.
If you're one of the few people who are able to put together a smart bill that will likely bring people out and make for a good show...then proper promotion is the next hurdle that you're likely to stumble on. Putting a post on the Internet and 1 flyer in Ear-x-tacy doesn't do shit anymore, here are some pointers on how to do it right:
-The single most effective way to promote a show is to make hand bills and PHYSICALLY PUT THEM IN OTHER PEOPLE'S HANDS. Dropping hand bills on a counter is about as effective as throwing them in the trash. This means you have to get up off of your ass and go to other shows, bars, any place or event that people who might be interested in your show will be and put in the foot work. I can count on one hand the people I know who actually do this...and that is why they consistently put on better shows than anyone else.
Beyond hand bills, you should make some 11x17's for business that people who might be in to your show patronize. A few staple places I always hit for shows that I do at Cahoots are:
Cahoots (duh...but believe it or not a lot of dumbasses book shows there and don't even put a flyer in the window)
Home Skate shop
Wild and Wooley
Doo Wop Shop
In general, put them up any relevant place that will let you.
- Call LEO, Velocity, Louisville Music News and get your show listed in the events section...if you bother them enough the might even do a write up on it. These things alone don't ever seem to do that much but they will definitely help to reinforce a flyer campaign. Despite (or maybe because of) the extremely high ratio of good bands per-capita in this city, the general show going populace is inherently apathetic, lazy and forgetful....so the more ways you can shove the show info infront of their face the greater the likely hood that 1/3rd of the people who say they'll come out actually will.
- The internet....this seems to be the only thing that bands and promoters have a firm grasp of understanding on these days.
- Lastly, flyer design is an important issue...despite what many of us might want to call it, at the end of the day it's still "product marketing". Of course if some one likes a band, they're going to the show no matter what the flyer looks like...but an eye catching design that in some way visually reflects the sound and attitude of the bands can attract interest from people not already familiar with the music...peer identification dude.
3. Running the show.
If you've made it this far, put together and properly promoted a good bill...don't start patting your self on the back yet because you can still fuck shit up by mis-managing the actual day of show events.
- Show / Set length
Having sat through and played many hundreds of shows, at hundreds of clubs in 47 states and 17 different countries I have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't. A good show has a "flow" to it...it maintains momentum and keeps the people there entertained and interested and wanting more. The average persons attention span for a bands live set is about 20 minutes...after that, never fail, the crowd starts to dwindle. If you're not a headlining band who has 20 years or more of popular back catalog to cover then you have NO EXCUSE to be playing an hour long (or god forbid longer) set....and just because your girlfriends and two drunk buddies say they want to hear 1 more song doesn't mean it's a good idea.
3 hours is about the average attention span that people have for an entire show...no one wants to stand around for 5 fucking hours to see a rock show....when this happens people either show up late just to see the headlining bands, or they leave early. So do the math, and see how much stage time you can alot to each band in that time frame.
Also, for bar shows in Louisville the prime window for attendance is usually between 11pm and 1 am.
If you can back line the amps, make sure the drums are set up off stage and are willing and able to crack the whip on lazy, bitchy bands then 15 minutes is a realistic breakdown/setup time allotment. Otherwise you're probably looking at between 20 and 30 minutes in between sets. You need to figure this in when dishing out set lengths. I'll show you a mock show time line to illustrate how you should deal with a 4 band show at a venue like Cahoots:
8:30 - 9:45 Bands start loading in and backline amps in order of last to first.
9:45 - 10:00 Soundcheck first band
10:00 - doors open
Band 1 - 20 min set 10:30 - 10:50
Band 2 - 30 min set 11:05 - 11:35
Band 3 - 30 min set 11:50 - 12:20
Band 4 - 45 min set 12:35 - 1:20
...and when Band 3 says "...but all our songs are 15 minutes long" you tell them that they can only play 2 songs.
A common practice of good promoters is to print out a set time sheet and post it some where in the venue where the bands can see it...sometimes I like to bring a clock and set it somewhere on stage so that the bands can keep track of their own time while they're playing.
4. General notes for bands -
DRUMMERS - DO NOT BREAK DOWN YOUR DRUMS ON STAGE!!!! That has got to be one of the most annoying dickhead moves in the world. Unless your the last band of the night...don't be a douche, get your kit off of the stage and out of everyone elses way before you start taking your cymbals off and breaking down your hardware. Really this sentiment applies to every band member...when your done, I know you want to take a rest / talk to girls / listen to your buddies jock your set / get a drink or whatever...but again, don't be a douche....get your shit off stage so the next band can set up and you don't kill the general momentum of the show as a whole....drummers just seem to be the worst about this.
VOCALIST - I know some of you think it's real cool to cup the windscreen of an sm58 in your hand like a ball because you saw Phil Anselmo doing it in a video or something....but this will often result in annoying feedback that you will then proceed to bitch about to the soundman, when in fact the feedback is all your fault and he is powerless to do anything about it. The reason for the feedback is that by blocking the rear of the microphone capsule with your hand you are changing the pickup pattern from cardioid to omni...in laymans terms that means that instead of just picking up what the microphone is pointing at...it will pick up sound 360 degrees around the microphone...which will often include both your own voice as well as the signal from the microphone that is coming through the monitors and main speakers....this in turn creates what is called a "feedback loop".
MUSIC BETWEEN BANDS - put some thought in to this...blasting loud hardcore and metal in between a bunch of loud hardcore and metal bands usually ends up just grating on every ones nerves...if you can keep the audience in the room and entertained between bands then there's a much greater likelihood that more people will stick around for the whole show and not leave after their friends bands play....try to create an atmosphere and "vibe" if you will that everyone wants to hang out in. Last LORDS tour we prefaced and ended the set with Thriller, to great success.