Must be the Summer heat

Mike Curtis ironmanc@JUNO.COM
Sun Jul 20 12:52:39 EDT 1997

On Thu, 17 Jul 1997 11:00:07 -0400 Ivan Pechanec writes:
   <I don't drink; smoke makes me ill; 6/7 clubs w/ live blues too smoky;
only       alternative is a couple of dinky restaurants>
In CA smoking is banned in all public places other than bars, and they're
scheduled to become nonsmoking in 1998 unless the tobacco barons strike
again with court action.  The PEOPLE here want to eliminate public
smoking, so it shows you who is REALLY running things.  If a restaurant
has a bar section, smoking is allowed in just that area.  Most places
that book live music are bars, which is quite understandable when we
factor in the REAL business of bars - mood change.  People come in
feeling lousy, and leave feeling great.  Alcohol does this - and so does
music. The markup on alcohol is tremendous, and people frequently consume
a lot of it over the course of an evening.  Somebody has to pay the
bills, and when people drink, they will frequently spend a LOT more than
they intended.  Would you pay a $50 cover charge to see a relatively
small potatoes act?  People will often drop $50 or more at the bar on
So it's unrealistic to minimize alcohol in the equation.  This is a
   A lot of coffee houses are featuring blues. By law all non-bars are
nonsmoking (and of course nonalcoholic). Yet they are generally poorly
attended compared to nightclubs.  I play a few of these. They pay
surprisingly well if you're a good single act.  I usually get the same as
they pay their bands (terrible if you're a band, but good for a single)
   <Smoking and smokefree nonsmoking areas>
 It would seem that a smoke free side could coexist with a smoking side
where some air would be vented to the outside, and fresh air pulled in
from the nonsmoking side.  The obvious problem is that this is not very
efficient for air conditioning and heating, and I would theorize that,
when the weather is extreme,
heating/air cinditioning costs likely skyrocket.  Even small air leaks
can add measurably to air conditioning and heating bills, and this would
of necessity be orders of magnitude greater. Still, if they had the
patronage, it could be paid for, until some bean counter (they call
themselves "efficiency experts" - I don't swear and therefore they are
nameless in my vocabulary) who knows nothing about the business looks
over the books and stuffs the vents.

>No emphasis on alcohol anywere(no ad's, neon lights et al).
This will never happen unless legislated.
> Shows at 8 and 10 with 90 minute sets.
   Musicians union rules are 45 minute sets with 15 minute breaks, for
valid reasons.  If it's ONE show this can be waived.  Two shows, I'd have
to check on. A break allows the audience a break as well as the
performer(s).  I do a lot of long sets, but a lot of musicians won't play
that long.  It's a LOT of work, and you're CONSTANTLY under the gun while
on stage.A break also allow for more variety, as recorded music is
frequently played during breaks. If it's on a jukebox, that's additional
revenue for the club. I like to start earlier myself, but the 10:00 and
later shows are by far the best attended.
   >Sunday afternoon performances.
A lot of places have Sunday afternoon entertainment.  For many, it's in
the form of TV sports.  Whatever brings in customers and their all
important money.
   > $5 at the door, regardless of who's playing--Jam's on up.
I wouldn't pay $5 to attend a jam and play for free.  Without musicians,
a jam is nothing, especially a pro jam.  I'd have serious moral/legal
problems with a place that charged you money to hear me play for free.
When I work as a single (and yes I feel I'm DEFINITELY worthwhile :-), I
work a lot of places that "only book bands".  They can make their money
with a lot lower cover, or better yet, no cover and just make it at the
bar (I know how to get people to drink - and no I don't mean play so bad
it drives them to it :-)

$5 cover wouldn't be enough for Charlie Musselwhite, James Harman, Johnny
Winter, or BB King.  But it's WAY too much for a lot of very worthwhile
acts.  This policy would guarantee too many people at big name concerts
(would YOU miss BB @ $5?) while guaranteeing minuscule turnouts at
others.  Charge $30-$50 a head for BB and you'll surely sell all your
tickets.  Sound businesses charge what the market will bear.

There's the story about the Jewish deli owner.  An arab walks in, replete
with robe and headdress.  He points to corned beef and asks "What is
this?"  The owner says "Corned beef - it's $5000 a sandwich".  The arab
orders it and pays $5000 without batting an eye.  The arab takes a bite
and gleefully exclaims "This is the most DELICIOUS thing I've ever
eaten!".  The next day he comes back with ten of his Arab friends, and
all have $5000 corned beef sandwiches.  The next day the deli sports a
new sign:  NO JEWS ALLOWED.  He's a shrewd businessman :-)
   >Family nights apart of the regular schedule.
Maybe you could be more specific about this.  Do you mean families ONLY?
Special entertainment for families?  Special family prices?  (A lot of
places have this).  Special goodies for children like crayons and toys?
Bars are generally not places appropriate for children.  A lot of poeple
go there expressly to avoid children.  Restaurant are good for kids,
though.  I play at some restaurants.  The
volume needs to be quite low during "dinner hour" (whenever they close
the kitchen less 30-60 minutes), then when most folks are finished eating
and waiters/waitresses taking detailed orders etc. then the volume can
come up to a more reasonable level.  But typical "band volume": is FAR
too loud for children - they'll stuff their ears & run out because it
hurts their ears. When playing bars, I'll frequently have settings maybe
3-4 times as loud as when children are present.  It sounds better
reasonably loud, and the audiences like it better.
> Close at midnight
   A lot of the current club crowd doesn't START until 11 pm.  This will
never happen unless legislated.  In NYC, nightclubs stay open until 4 am,
and hold some good crowds until then, too!
   >, a good sound system with Ironman Mike's sound level criteria.
Careful - people have been beaten to death with solid body guitars for
much lesser suggestions :-)  But seriously, a good sound system is really
nice.  But more important is a good sound ENGINEER.  A bad engineer can
make the best system sound like buzzard barf, and a good engineer can get
the best out of whatever he has to work with.  But good engineers cost
good money.
> Club located in a safe location.
   This is nice, but it can be perfectly safe (well, as much so as a good
neighborhood) to visit clubs in tougher neighborhoods if the parking area
and club exterior are well patrolled, as well as the bouncers inside.  In
fact, if they have GOOD security guards and a WELL LIGHTED parking area,
you're probably SAFER in a tougher neighborhood, because they're more
cognizant of the dangers.  Some clubs in tougher locations have a fenced
in parking lot and guards or other security people.  Valet parking is
nice, too, although personally I use it only when absolutely necessary
(hey - a buck's a buck).
   Although they're now out of business, Babe and Rickys was located in
of the toughest neighborhoods in South Central LA.  Parking was on the
street.  They had no security guards.  But they had an excellent safety
record.  The doorman would walk you partway to your car.  And they had
some of the locals keep an eye on parked cars and incoming customers.
They probably just got free beer and whatever tips they could manage.
I've left amplifiers and all kinds of stuff in my car - and came back to
find it all intact.
   >Music menu varied to include all types of music with the emphasis on
   >education along with entertainment.
The question any businessman will ask is "Will it make money for me".  On
reason clubs frequently stick with one type of music is because it makes
it easier for the customers.  "Who's playing at Joes tonight?  Oh, some
band named IronMan - never heard of them - but they always book good
blues bands so they must be good", etc.
   An interesting experience.  My audiences usually tend to be older.
I was accidentally booked on the same night as an alt-rock show.  I
played the breaks. The crowd was mostly under 25, with a few older ones
but not many.  My music and show went over GREAT!  I was surprised!  I
theorize that it was the fact that THEY thought I had been PURPOSELY
booked for the show, which made it "socially acceptable" to listen to and
like my music.  Peer pressure is tremendous when you're younger.  Find a
way to break that down and let people choose their own favorite music and
I think you'll find surprising variety there!
   I think you bring up a lot of interesting and valid points.  I don't
to throw a wet blanket on them - just providing another insight, and
hopefully getting some viable solutions or compromises.  As a
businessman, I know just how loudly the dollar speaks.  It's not just
greed.  It's expei$ive to do business.  You have fixed expenses that MUST
be paid every week/month/etc., or you're out of business.
   Would you accept a job that wouldn't pay your necessities?  Or
you seek a job that does, and provides as much extra income as you can
get?  It's no different in the bar business.  I know one bar owner who
has his own blues band (a pretty good one, too!), and books karaoke most
of the week.  The band plays a jam session Sunday nights, usually for
next to nothing because they get a percentage of the register.  He says
that Karaoke makes him BIG money, and he'd LOVE to book blues every night
but it just doesn't pay the bills.  He holds the jam session at a loss
because he has to play at least one night a week.  And it's a reasonably
well attended jam, too.
   As a business owner you have investment capital (be it yours or
elses) that MUST make money for you - I can earn around 6% in a CD or
T-bill account (VERY little risk), and a lot more investing in the stock
market (a little more risky but still pretty doggone safe) so why should
I get anything less putting my money at risk in a bar (VERY risky - a LOT
of bars go belly up)?  In fact, because bars are MORE risky, the
potential return likewise must be greater to attract investment capital.
 A shrewd investor doesn't go by hype or stuff like "How can this lose
money, it's such an incredible idea?".  A SMART investor does their
homework, finds that bars are often perennial losers, and probably ends
up investing in something sounder like junk bonds, tobacco, or booze :-)

 -- IronMan Mike Curtis

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