As every venue struggles to stay alive or not await a dreaded call from corporate headquarters like I am, you need to come up with proactive new ideas to stay competitive. The wonder years of the scene harmony we had at the Cobes are over and now we seem to have at least half a dozen venues and that same amount of newish promoters gnawing on the same slab of gristle. We also have branded new ‘festivals’ brewing every two weeks that cull up to twenty bands, out of the band circuit, in one swoop.
These have been trying times and I’m grateful that so far the owner of Funkys isn’t calling for my head. So far. I’ve seen stories from across Canada on this very issue of turnouts at shows becoming like pulling teeth. Venues are struggling to pay their bills and keep their staff working. I even saw a dance club looking to hop into the underground live music game. It won’t be long until they realize there are already too many fingers in the pie. On that note, R.I.P. Electric Owl. Best of luck to Adam and Alex who were briefly my bosses at Funkys during the transition from slumlord to corporation almost 4 years ago. They did right by us, paying us out our ripped off wages from the former slumlord owners.
Over the years, I’ve tried many things to get people through the door. We had mohawks, not fauxhawks in for free. Game Show Night – which was the brainchild of what became the Screaming Chicken Burlesque Troupe. Wench Wednesdays aka Ladies night, bombed. Art Mondays – ended up with me just painting and getting drunk, although I came out with an amazing body of work over those couple of months. Free jam space – a couple of bands used that but it ultimately didn’t fly. Live Metal Wednesdays with the newest metal bands, Punk Rock Bingo had a nice run, as did Open Jam. Fake Jazz Wednesdays – where the noisy kids prompted Clay to utilize ear protection. Some didn’t work. Some worked for a time. Some ran until the end of the Cobes.
I’ve implemented a new policy at Funkys called ‘In a band, In for free’. I did a brief survey on Facebook to see what the reaction of dipping into already waning door revenues would be. There were only two people that were adamantly against the idea versus a hundred for it. I was personally thanked a few times by broke ass musicians that utilized the concept and found some buddies to buy them a cheap beer at the show. One comment on the Facebook thread said that he’d rather play for 50 people for peanuts than 25 people for the same peanuts. So far the biggest numbers have the metal peeps utilizing this courtesy. That doesn’t surprise me as Long & McQuade likely owns their souls in gear debt.
So the rules are. ‘Local 10 dollar No Bollocks shows only’. It has to be like that as some outside promoters have shows booked at Funkys with guarantees in play. ‘In an active band’. This is a courtesy offered to our local subculture to get them out to a show other than their own, in between paycheques. ‘Proof required’. This can be a Facebook band page with your name or a photo that contains your mug looking happily serious or a CD liner with your name intact. So there it is. The latest gimmick my brain has come up with to try to get the show attendance numbers up. So far it’s been a success. The idea that cross booking will stop occurring or that others will ease up on their gristle chewing isn’t reality. The new cliques that the Cobes fought so hard against keep growing. This formulates a self segregating, popularity contested music scene. Not exactly what I envisioned fifteen years ago. Adapt or die.