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Let The Music Play

Local musicians on improving the club scene

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After our recent story on club owners' advice to local musicians, we received a number of e-mails from the music makers themselves, all asking for a chance to say their piece on the subject. Of course, we instantly agreed -- after all, the point of the first article was to open a dialogue between the two camps that do the most to propel our local music scene.

Dialogue, of course, takes more than one viewpoint. As expected, the opinions expressed were alternately funny, angry, and rather well put. Others were such heaping helpings of hubris we were tempted to print them almost out of spite. In fact, the responses were so numerous we're forced to print only the highlights. Following is a sampling of the many opinions we received, edited for length, clarity, and repetitive profanity.

"Music in this town, for the most part, is an afterthought. That's the first problem, and it's a problem of Charlotte culture. It's funny that we have some of the best original bands, songwriters, and musicians in the region, yet most people could not name one band from Charlotte...An indie rock band can't compete with the few companies who control most of the media. Charlotte is an "event' town, and you have to treat every show as an event or else people won't attend."

-- Jay Garrigan (Poprocket)

I think more clubs would help a lot, clubs with a little size that could bring in bigger non-radio bands. It's like the whole city is relying on one or two main clubs to do this. We have plenty of old abandoned shopping center places that would make great clubs."

-- Tony James (Semi-Pro)

"This might sound crazy, but I really don't have a big gripe with local clubs. In fact, lately I think the local clubs have been steady in booking good local acts on weekend nights, which we all know are the only nights people in Charlotte watch music. The clubs have so little to work with as far as participation from fans. Almost all of my friends who aren't in bands have a good job downtown and a wife and go home after work, watch the news, and go to bed. They aren't even aware (or care) about a music scene."

-- Mike Vagianos (baleen, X-periment)

"...No one said running a music venue was a lucrative undertaking. If you're not willing to make the necessary sacrifices, don't have music. One huge complaint I have and hear frequently too is a lack of professional and talented live sound engineers. Many venues also require that a percentage of the door or band payment goes to pay their regular "sound guy.' Part of the band's income doesn't go to pay bartenders, wait staff, or managers, why should it go to pay another regular employee of the club?"

"Agree to sign a contract. Unless you're a scumbag and/or think you might be able to pull one over on the band(s), why would you be unwilling to sign a contract? In this situation, everyone is protected. Double-bookings do not occur with contracts. Payment disputes do not occur with contracts. Bands don't not show if there's a contract. Bands know what is expected and required of them if there is a contract."

-- Chris Garges (producer, musician)

"I don't know how things got this way, but it used to be the headliner would book the gig and the local club owner would fill an opening spot with a local band. Unfortunately, that went out with the rest of the early 1990s resurgence of guitar-oriented bands. Local bands are mostly left to look for scraps like open weekdays or holiday weekends to convince club owners to let them play...mostly for the "door" money, which doesn't cost the club anything above their normal fixed operating costs (and these are sometimes charged to the bands as well). If the club owners care or want a local scene to thrive in this city of over one million people in the metro area, they need to work with local bands and stop acting like locals should do all the work to promote their shows."

-- Henry Pharr (Major Nelson)

"How many of the clubs have heard of a "street team' that goes out and flyers shows to help the bands out? I mean granted, an ad in the Creative Loafing is a must have, but they need to litter the town with beautiful pictures of what's coming up. Fuck the "no flyering law' -- those bastard real estate agents and every political candidate can spam my vision with poorly designed advertisements selling themselves on poster board with a garden stake, why can't we?"

-- Pete Freedman (Semi-Pro)

"The biggest gripe I have with most of the clubs I play in Charlotte is they feel the need to have three or four TVs on in the same space where the music is."

-- Ron Brendle (musician)

"While we've been treated absurdly well by most of the places we play at consistently, there's still room for commentary. I think a lot of club owners have come up with the idea that bands and musicians are dispensable because there's so many of us fighting to get time on the stage. I think this is a grave mistake because it leads club owners, and their employees, to treat musicians with less respect...Running a business like that, you're bound to chase away any decent bands that might be looking for a place to play. I know that some band folk come in with a chip on their shoulder, but it's not safe to always assume that and there's a definite network among bands about the treatment that clubs give them. If you want good bands, you have to run a tight ship, and that means no unhelpful lazy condescending twerps behind the bar (or soundboard).

-- Shane Hartman (The Dynamite Brothers)

"Certain club owners need to reach a level of confidence where they trust a band to reach their own audience effectively. If they know a band will draw, don't force them to go on at 10:30pm for a 50-minute set when their crowd (normally) arrives at 11:15. Also, invest in a real P.A. and someone who knows how to run it."

-- Justin Faircloth (The Houston Brothers)

"...What I think has the biggest effect on a local music scene is a non-commercial radio station. Luckily, some people can pick up WNCW, but I think WSGE out of Gaston College is our best bet. They just had a very successful fundraiser and they plan on doubling their wattage, which should give it a clearer signal here in Charlotte. They are very open to local music and they seem to be on a mission to make the scene better. The more support we can give them, the better."

--Wes Grasty (First Night On Earth)

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