Category Archives: music venues

I Need to Get Better

This is a reply to myself in the previous blog, “What Happened to Built-in Crowds”. (This is nothing new, I argue with myself all the time).

I need to get better. I need to sing better, I need to play guitar better, I need to compose better music, I need to write better lyrics.

Marketing and promotion can only help if you’re good. At something. Maybe you’re not a great singer, but people will come hear you if you’re a good guitar player or songwriter. Maybe you’re not a good guitar player, but people will come hear you if you’re a good singer.

If you’re just average, and not really good at anything, your friends will come see you– for awhile. But to win fans you have to be good, at something.

If you’re good, people will open doors for you. They’ll tell their friends about you– “You have to hear this!” Other musicians will invite you to open for them at a gig. The word will get around. That’s more important that the best website, the best MySpace or Facebook sites, Twitter, emails, etc.

Of course if you are good, then the-above mentioned promotional tools can really help.

It’s hard to evaluate oneself, but I think I’m a decent guitar player, a decent songwriter, and a below-average singer. So I’m taking singing lessons to improve my singing. But I also think I need to improve my musicianship and composing.

I’m going to spend less time on promotion and more time getting better. I want to hear rumors of people emailing their friends saying, “you’ve got to hear this guy Rob Roper”. I want to hear other bands or singer-songwriters approach me and say, “Your music is important, I want to help turn people on to you. Will you open for me next month?” When I hear those sort of things, I’ll know I’m good.


What Happened to Built-in Crowds?

When you approach a venue for a gig, they ask, “how many people can you bring?” Some follow that up with, “we don’t have a built-in crowd here”. Usually even a small venue wants you to bring 20 people, which is dang near impossible for someone just starting out, and just beginning to build a fan base. But how can you get fans if you can’t get gigs? It’s a chicken and egg dilemna.

I was talking to Dan, my drummer, about this recently. He reminded me that, in the past, clubs had a built-in crowd, and people went to the same one or two clubs/bars all the time, regardless of who was playing. I remember that era. I remember I had a few places I liked to go, where bands played original music, and always enjoyed the thrill of hearing a good band (or singer-songwriter) who I had never heard of before. I still do this.

So what happened? How did we get from the venues with built-in crowds to venues where you have to bring your own crowd? Another negative with this is that, how can you reach new people if you always play for the same people you bring? I guess you can reach the fans of the other band playing, but that’s it.

Of course, the other side of this is, with a built-in crowd, the band (or singer-songwriter) has to get a reaction. As Dan said, you had to be *good* to be invited back. Without a built-in crowd, whether or not you’re invited back has nothing to do with how good you are, it’s how many people you bring.


House Concerts

In the last few years a new player in the music biz has come on the scene. But it’s not really part of the music biz. It’s outside of the music biz, because it’s not a business; it’s not a music venue trying to make a profit. To call it an underground revolution taking place may be an exxageration, but maybe not. It’s the house concert.

What’s a house concert? Someone invites one of their favorite singer-songwriters to do a concert in their living room. They invite friends and the performer publicizes it, mostly via email and websites. You bring food or drink as in a potluck, and a donation is requested for the performer. The performer keeps 100% of the donations, and also can sell cd’s. The host doesn’t do it to make money, they host because they love the performer and want to turn other people on to them.

I love house concerts. Typically everyone comes an hour early and socializes, eats snacks and drinks. The performer is right there in front of you. Some house concerts are unamplified. It’s like going to a party where someone breaks out an acoustic guitar. Except instead of someone singing “Margaritaville” out-of-tune, it’s a professional singer-songwriter singing original songs.

It will be interesting to see how this “underground” trend develops.


A Live Music Lover’s Pet Peeves

My blogs thus far have been from the point of view of a music creator. But I’m also a music lover. I’ve been going out to hear live music, individuals and bands, for years. So I thought, blogs being a perfect forum for rants, complaints and pet peeves, I’d list my longstanding grievances about many live music venues. Don’t get me wrong–I’m grateful that they provide a venue for live, original music–but I wish they would have…

Tables and Chairs

I can understand a dance venue not having tables and chairs, or a venue that has punk or rock bands where people thrash or dance. But when the music is for listening, I like to sit on a chair, and have a table to set my drink on. I really hate to have to stand during the entire show, my back starts hurting, my feet start hurting, and then there’s the issue of what to do with my drink when each song is over and I want to applaud? Put it on the floor? In my armpit? Between my legs? Or just don’t clap and yell instead? What if I really like the song and want to yell and clap? It’s so much more enjoyable to be able to sit at a table, have a few drinks, and listen to the band. For venues that have all kinds of bands, well, take the tables and chairs out for the dance bands, and put them back for all others.

I suspect that some venues take the tables and chairs out in order to pack more people in and sell more tickets. Well, I can understand why they want to make more money, afterall, they’re a business. But frankly, I avoid going to these venues, unless it’s someone I just can’t miss, so they’re actually hurting their business by not having tables and chairs, at least for people who feel like I do.

Local Beer

I live in Denver, and there are many small breweries in Colorado that make great beer. So why do so many live music venues only have the boring corporate beers? Dude: support small business! You’re a small business, for chrissakes! Support your small business comrades. And their beer is more interesting than the big corporate beers. When I asked bartenders at these corporate beer venues in Denver (which, incidentally, are also the table-less and chair-less venues, hmmm….), I was told, “we’re a Miller bar”. Seems Miller has made some sort of exclusive agreement with them to ban local beers, and only sell Miller and it’s large European corporate partners (Guiness, Pilsner-Urqell, Newcastle). OK my anti-corporate bias is coming out here. But it’s not just that; small local breweries’ beer is better tasting than the large corporate beers.

So listen up, corporate beer, chair-less and table-less live music venues: change your ways, and you’ll get a bigger share of my entertainment dollars.


Why is that, all too frequently, despite very high quality equipment, the mixes are so bad? I was at a show recently, at a small venue, and the drums were WAY too loud, and you could barely hear the singer. You definitely couldn’t hear the lyrics. Now, as a songwriter, I know how much time, heart, pain and suffering goes into creating lyrics. What a shame that nobody can hear them. And speaking of drums, who invented the lamentable modern standard of mixing the bass drum and snare WAY louder than the drum kit as a whole? The lack of balance sounds awful. A good drummer makes use of more than just the bass and snare, and I, for one, would like to hear it all. I didn’t come to a show just to hear a bass drum and snare drum. I came to hear music; I came to hear a band–the whole band–including the lyrics. And how many times have you seen this: one band member, perhaps the lead guitar player–is playing his heart out, but you can’t hear it, because the sound guy is… I dunno, either deaf or asleep? Isn’t he paying attention?

I’ve done a little live sound, and I recorded and mixed my own cd’s, so I know it’s not as easy as it may seem. And everyone has their own tastes in terms of mixes. But when one band member can’t be heard at all, and another is WAY louder than everyone elses, I don’t understand that.

OK now that I’ve got all that off my chest, guess I should get off the computer and go practice guitar, or piano, or write a song. Or clean my bathroom.