Monday, September 5, 2022

Music Rooms: What they are and are not

  Clubs that host music are an interesting animal, to say the least. They have to sell food/drinks, pay their staff, deal with customers of all kinds, etc. The job of running a club is VERY difficult, especially in this post-lockdown economy. Yet, some clubs distinguish themselves as true MUSIC ROOMS. I would like to discuss what makes these places special, as well as mention what policies and practices  prevent a venue from achieving this. As usual. I will "out" the spaces that I feel deserve this designation, and not mention any names of clubs that fail in this regard. You know, "if you can't say anything nice" etc….

I would also like to be clear that not all music rooms are created equal. Some venues are eligible for grants, or have a lot of support from nearby synergistic businesses and so on….

A true music room will make you feel you are part of a team

A venue depends on many people such as bar staff, managers, door people etc. and they all have a role to play. The best venues do not have an "us and them" mentality and understand issues that musicians face. it also goes without saying that musicians need to be sensitive and aware of what the staff are going through and act accordingly. If you're saying to yourself, " Hmmm, the manager is dealing with a group of unruly customers who are refusing to pay their bill and a holding up chairs in a menacing way… I KNOW! This would be a great time to hit him/her up for another gig!" , please think twice, or three times before acting! Also, ALWAYS TIP YOUR SERVER EVEN IF THERE IS A DEAL OR FREE FOOD AND DRINKS! THEY ARE WORKING HARD! …And speaking of which…

A music room makes paying the band a priority 

I'm not saying there can never be a tip jar or playing for the door situation, but there should be a guarantee or reasonable expectation of payment. We appreciate that you are running a business BUT if the band is good and professional, they are making your business better! 

A music room never descends into an unannounced open mic night or a karaoke free-for-all

If a venue presents music and then lets whoever wants to play and/or sing at the end of the night (that isn't a scheduled open mic night or jam session), what are they saying about the hard-working professional musicians who just presented their music?

A music room helps the musicians be their best

This can be many things. A band menu with more than 3 items, or no band menu at all, just a choice of what to eat. House gear (amps, drums, PA). A staff that won't let the musicians be unnecessarily harassed. Not all music rooms will have all these elements, but even if these things have been thought of, it helps a lot. I've said it before but it bears repeating. If there is house gear, it's the musicians responsibility to treat it with care and respect!

A music room responds to musicians requests for gigs in a reasonably timely manner

Again, I get that people running clubs have very busy lives, and lots of musicians want to work. Then again, I remember contacting a (now defunct) club 7 times for a gig playing for the door on a Monday! This, for me at least, is stretching the bounds of "reasonably"! :) 

As I mentioned, I'm not going to "out" any venue that is lacking in the above mentioned elements, but I will mention a few clubs/rooms that exemplify what I have been talking about. They include, but are not limited to:

The Rex Hotel (Toronto)

The Jazz Room (Waterloo)

The Yardbird Suite (Edmonton)

The Bassment (Saskatoon)

There are many more rooms, in Canada and abroad, that also satisfy the qualifications of a Jazz Room, so pardon me for leaving them out.

In conclusion, there was one place I worked, that always made a big deal about the tip jar and talked about "putting a little love in the jar". I've always despised that phrase, so as a response, I give you my beloved Fabs. People who knew a thing or two about playing different styles of music venues…..

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