The TLP Network

Sharing the Hate, Spreading the Pain: On The Death of Downtown Venues

by on Oct.25, 2007, under Articles, Sharing the Hate

A key economic indicator of the strength of the retail market is gaging same store sales for stores open longer than one year. Experts then compare the percent increase or decrease in same store sales to that of a year ago by calendar quarter. The experts are not happy with an overall increase in same store sales, but they instead compare those numbers versus a projection against the geographic region, and the other competing stores. How do this lesson relate to your band? Do you track fans?

Economists know that the retail market is in serious trouble. First, the retail market was hit by rising gas prices. Then the retail market was hit by people’s mortgages increasing due to rising interest rates. Now, the retail market is being hit by a rise in property taxes associated with inflation in property values. Not a homeowner? Then you will see a sharp increase in your monthly rent this year into next. These three factors lead people to have less disposable income, which hurts your band on many levels.

There will be fewer fans coming out to shows with less money to spend while they are out at shows. The large push for ‘intimate’ smaller venues is a farce where large venues cannot exist, because they cannot draw people as they used to.

If you play a gig in a downtown district where people have to pay $5 to $7 to park their vehicle and then have to spend an additional $3 to $7 to get in the door, your scene is dying. I guarantee it. Take the same generic band and compare their last two shows where one was in a downtown district and the other was at a side bar in a corner strip mall.

Do not let yourself be sidetracked with excuses and look at the raw data. Which show had more people showing up for that particular band? Which show did they have better merch sales? Which show was easier to promote in advance by showing up to the venue? Most likely your downtown venue had about 1/3 the audience as it did a year ago, and that audience level was less than your strip mall venue. Most likely your downtown venue is not hosting as many events either as they were a year ago.

These factors show a weakening trend in the scene, and no one is taking any corrective measures other than to shrink the size of the venue and the number of shows in that venue. With less shows and a smaller venue less people will want to play there. Then these venues will raise their prices to make more money on the few people that do show up. By this time, the venue is doomed to become a dance club.

If you are able to bring fans out to these venues, higher beverage and food prices greet these fans. The overall cost for an adult fan at a strip mall venue is around $20, while the overall cost for an adult fan at a downtown venue is $50. Keep this fact in mind when you ask a person to come out to one of your shows.

A viable solution to drag people out to downtown shows is to either pre-sell tickets, or give away tickets to a free show. People will justify paying to park if they do not have to also pay to see you play. They will also buy your pre-sale tickets as a form of charity payment and never show up to the show. In their minds, they gave you $5 up front to avoid $45 to spend the day of the show.

Pre-sale tickets also force the bands on the bill to promote the show since they are selling tickets constantly. This technique is more effective than flyering since people walk away with a flyer they have to keep to get in the door that night.

If most of the pre-sale tickets end up in the hands of the venue day of show, do not be surprised that your show flops. The only group to blame is your own at that point.

1 comment for this entry:
  1. Jason

    This is why so bands don’t like playing shows in Ybor, and why so many people don’t like going to shows in Ybor

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