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At end of last year, the British arm of music promotion company Live Nation made headlines when its Chief Operating Officer, John Probyn offered a few startling revelations. He began by mentioning how 2012 was a particularly bleak year for the live music industry, but not in the ways many people might have expected. Instead of discussing how seats were empty because of poor economic conditions and a lack of disposable income, Probyn talked about how the music fans who did come to events were extremely picky. In one example he gave to The Guardian newspaper, some female patrons were because of rainy weather at an outdoor event!
Although troubles with grumpy patrons aren’t likely to go away anytime soon, a more favorable alternative may exist in opening a small music venue, such as one that doubles as a coffeehouse or a café. There, the number of people you have to please is much smaller. Keep reading to explore two other thought-provoking reasons why if you’re thinking of starting a music venue, bigger isn’t always better.
At a large concert stadium, it’s usually very hard to create a unique atmosphere, partially because in order to keep things funded, it’s often necessary to accept sponsorship from large companies. In that case, you may be barred from using anything quirky in terms of decor, specifically because you have a particular reputation to uphold: That of the sponsor.
If you’re content to keep things on the smaller side, that gives plenty of freedom. Take the example of The Artful Dodger, a combination cocktail lounge and coffeehouse near the campus of James Madison University, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. By day, the establishment serves up delicious breakfast dishes and shots of espresso to students cramming for exams. As night falls, people stop by in search of expertly mixed cocktails served in chilled martini glasses. Everything from open mic nights to poetry readings takes place on a small stage in the corner of the room, and the decor is decidedly eclectic, featuring inventively styled cuckoo clocks, old-fashioned tin signs and plenty of local artwork.
How would you feel if your venue was responsible for kickstarting the career of someone who is now considered by many to be a musical great like Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty? The music industry is very volatile, and you can never be absolutely certain someone you host in your venue will turn out to be a huge star, but there’s something to be said for going with gut instincts. Besides offering ever popular open mic nights, think about creating an artist or band in residence program that features hand-picked performers coming to your venue on a regular basis for a specific window of time. For logistical reasons, it’s not practical to have residency programs at huge stadiums.
The Winter Line, an up-and-coming folk duo that spends time playing throughout Virginia’s Blue Ridge region, does a monthly residency at Milli Jo Coffeehouse in Charlottesville, VA, but this opportunity was only granted to them once they had already proven themselves to be reliable, talented and able to offer music that was a good fit for the coffee-minded crowd. Before you choose this option for your own establishment, it’s well worth having similar standards in place, especially if there are many musicians in the community who would love the chance to play in your venue regularly.
If you’re ready to put your entrepreneurial skills to good use by starting your own business, keep the above information in mind. It could be particularly useful if you’ve always dreamed of doing your part to cultivate the local music scene.
Writer Brett Harris is an avid blogger. If you want to combine your passion for art or music with business, check into earning a business management degree.