Of course, this doesn't always happen. So how can it work better? To try and sort through this eternal quandary, CL contacted several area club owners and promoters, in hopes of helping local music folks to help themselves. Here, collected, are five things most everyone agreed on.
1: Avoid oversaturation
"One of the greatest problems with local bands is that they play locally all the time," says Ben Hamrick of BH Entertainment. "It's difficult for a promoter to justify putting a band in a room at his/her risk when they have played the weekend before -- and will be playing the next weekend -- in town. In short, I would suggest that the local bands do their best to make themselves a commodity instead of a weekly listing in the paper."
Penny Craver of Tremont Music Hall concurs. "Charlotte is not the musical Mecca that we wish it was, and there are not enough people to support three or four shows per month [by the same band]. In fact, there's barely enough people to support one show a quarter. By scheduling several shows together, it gives fans an opportunity to pick and choose which show they will attend, thus splitting up the draw. Even the most ardent fan cannot or will not attend every show. Playing occasionally makes the show something special, an "event,' and fans will make special efforts to attend. Here at Tremont, we think the ideal situation is to play no more than once every six weeks in the Metro area."
"[We like to see that] you don't play too often in Charlotte," says Joshua Landry of 15th Street Garage. "A band with original music can burn themselves out in a town or at a venue very fast if they play there repeatedly. Most venues don't check to see where else a band has played recently, and this adds to the problem."
2: Promote your show extensively
"For cryin' out loud, promote the show," says Lea Pritchard of The Evening Muse. "Within each target area, focus on one show in a one to two month period and do everything in your power to get the word out about what your music sounds like -- radio, free demo CDs -- and that you are playing that night. Convey in a non-arrogant manner that, really, everyone in the free world will want to be there."
Muse co-owner Joe Kuhlmann agrees. "If you can't promote each of your shows effectively with the shows you're playing, then you may want to consider doing less shows, or better yet, come up with better promotional ideas that will help get more seats filled."
"Take on some responsibility for promoting the show," says Craver. "Start an e-mail list, a phone tree, put up a flyer and, most importantly, tell your friends and colleagues that you're playing."
"The successful bands have worked hard over the years, presenting and promoting themselves and building an audience," says Dave Long of Puckett's Farm Equipment. "I do wish more bands had the work ethic that Part Time Blues Band and George Hatcher Band have, no matter what style of music. When at Puckett's, Hatcher and his crew come in that afternoon, set up sound and lights, check, and double check. It is a pro show, lots of fun, and it spotlights, frames and embellishes their music."
3: Develop relationships
"When contacting local booking folks, local bands need to understand that repeatedly calling does not make a better case for themselves," says Hamrick. "Look at it in terms of how you would like to be dealt with if someone were trying to sell you something. If a club or promoter has done good things for you, remember those people. When you have become a regular somewhere and decide to try a different venue, contact those who have helped you before the date becomes public. It is called courtesy."
"Be polite and friendly to the staff and guests at the venue," says Pritchard. "Remember, your attitude and disposition represent your music a lot sooner than that first down beat of your set. If the person responsible for booking is present for your show, thank them for giving you the opportunity to play. Don't ask about booking another date; just ask the booking manager when it would be a good time to talk with them about booking issues. If a venue doesn't book you right away, or says no, accept it and move on."
4: Don't f*#$ stuff up
"Treat the club's gear better than your own," states Landry. "Don't slam mics into the stage for effect."
"I do not stand on your gear," says Craver. "Please do not stand on mine! Do not throw water or other liquids in the direction of the monitors. If you must throw something, step in front of the monitors before throwing it. Do not cup the microphone. Yes, it looks cool but it makes you sound like shit. Do not ask the audience if they can hear you... Throwing things from the stage into the audience, lighting a bunch of candles, setting off flash pots, or hiring someone to bring in extra lights? (It's) not really necessary if the music speaks for itself."
5: Don't be afraid to open a show
"Please try to work with us on building your audience... don't worry about who is the headliner and who is the opener," says Pritchard. "If you intend to keep playing for a while, all of that will sort out eventually. The fact is, a lot of so-called "support' acts don't do their part to help bolster the attendance for the show. They're relying on the draw of the headline act to bring them an audience from which they can try to win fans. If they do have some kind of draw, then they immediately want to be a co-bill, when they could perhaps benefit from some additional support gigs. It is especially prevalent among the local bands, who seem to think they are going to lose face or something by being perceived as the opener for another local band."
"One of the points of more than one band a night is to put a band in front of a slightly different audience -- that of the other band's," says Craver. "Continually playing in front of the same audience does not help the band expand their audience base."
"Remember that club owners and promoters do need you to work as openers to draw a better crowd," Hamrick says. "You will be repaid down the road with better offerings."