Pointedly, let’s talk about show times.
Talking with a retired singer in Nashville club dates came up, what time the gigs begin and how long bands are expected to play.
Some clubs want artists to play for 4-5 hours at a time with regular breaks. That’s really hard to do especially for vocalists and horn players. And how about the drummers–whew, you gotta feel for them. Two to three hours tops seems to be an optimum length of time for the band as well as the audience’s endurance.
Unless the club is already packed at 8 or 9 o’clock when bands take the stage, it usually takes a bit for things to heat up. When they do, there is a peak period where critical mass is reached, and then the slow decline til closing. I’ve seen plenty of rooms nearly or completely empty while a band is supposed to continue playing til the wee hours. This doesn’t bode well for anyone.
Overall clubs are running on an antiquated model while everyone else has reinvented themselves to keep up with the myriad changes in music.
The hipster scene will likely always dictate a 9, 10, or 11PM stage time. For bands that appeal to 25-40 year old audiences who work all week and have kids at home, the 8 to 11 PM slot probably works best for them. Then there’s that HUGE audience that is 40 years old and up who:
- love live music and support it
- love going out and go out often
- enjoy many different genres
- have disposable income
- invite friends to join them
What’s wrong with tapping into the energy at a club right after Happy Hour and get bands on stage at 7 o’clock? Those patrons who need to get home are going to leave anyway, but others would probably love to stay and enjoy a few hours of live music. They’ve had time to unwind over drinks with friends and co-workers, and eat a little something. They’re not going to sit around and wait a couple more hours til the music begins.
On the flip side, if this same audience is all settled in at home, it’ll take an act of Congress to get them out the door at 9 PM even if they love the band.
The live music scene is a huge cash cow that simply needs a 21st century makeover. Every sector of the the music industry needs to be more considerate of the people who pay to hear music on every level. We’ve seen first hand how the Soup Nazi approach brought the empire down.
If clubs could talk to bands a bit more about who their fan base is, then come to an agreement to optimize full capacity, everyone would be much happier with the outcome. The whole situation is a biz to biz arrangement. Both parties need the services of the other to prosper.
If none of this is possible, it won’t matter how much lipstick you put on the pig. At the end of the day, it’s still a pig.