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Phil Starr

Pub Gigs, where is it all going?

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Just got my weeks gig list from Lemonrock, for those who don't live in an area where Lemonrock is active it's an emailed list of most of the pub gigs in a 15 mile radius.

A year ago there would have been 25-30 gigs at this time of year. This time it's down to 14, two of them are open mics and five are solo artists with backing tracks. The remaining seven bands all describe themselves as rock covers bands. One week doesn't prove anything especially this time of year but I'd say it ties in with my feeling of fewer and fewer gigs.

Lot's of local music pubs have closed or been converted to restaurants round here, however a few of the music pubs are packed and thriving. Is this decline inevitable? Is it just that we need to serve up something other than rock covers? Could the pubs do a bit more promotion into their events, and would that help fix things?

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I think the problem is its a mixture of things.

Breweries can make more money on food than on wet sales so hence the rise in pub restaurants.
Drinking culture has changed and not as many people drink out anymore. Those that do drink choose to drink at home.
Noise levels have become an issue where it is no longer acceptable for a pub to have music that annoys neighbours.
Your average punter doesn't know the difference between a live band and a duo playing to backing tracks.

All of these contribute to a decline in pubs having bands on and thats why the few that do are busy as there are less pubs for the people who enjoy live music to go to.

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IME January is always a quiet month anyway, some bands don't really want to play much before end of Jan as there isn't much money around till people get paid end of Jan which often means very poor audiences.

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here in South Australia, the live music scene died about 20 years ago when they legalised pokie machines and every pub got rid of their dart and 8 ball teams and rooms, kicked out the bands, and put in 40 pokie machines. Five years later they were rolling in so much money, they all upgraded the facilities and put in restaurants and beer gardens.
Now,the public are broke, pokie money is dying.

I'm hoping they turn to live music to get people back in to their venues again.

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[quote name='bazztard' timestamp='1483438278' post='3207050']
here in South Australia, the live music scene died about 20 years ago when they legalised pokie machines and every pub got rid of their dart and 8 ball teams and rooms, kicked out the bands, and put in 40 pokie machines. Five years later they were rolling in so much money, they all upgraded the facilities and put in restaurants and beer gardens.
Now,the public are broke, pokie money is dying.

I'm hoping they turn to live music to get people back in to their venues again.
[/quote]

My God, that sounds like a nightmare.... fingers crossed for ya.

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TV 'talent' shows have played a big part as well. The public have been fed a diet where only the vocalist is of any interest and musicianship is of none.

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I see problems for bands and live music all around in the South East. The nature of entertainment generally has changed. There is a lot of competition for the pound in our pockets and the quality of live music is very variable. Attention spans are getting shorter. There is total access to music online so seeing a band isn't special any more.

People are drinking at home, coming out later and spending a lot less in the pub. Audiences don't want to be blasted out of their seats by a loud unbalanced racket. Neighbours have total control and are using it to stop loud music.

Most landlords and pub managers aren't very good at that job let alone being a good music promoter. A lot of the local gigs have either been knocked down as a result of huge town centre redevelopment or they're now Tesco and Sainsbury's Express shops.

I don't see how it will get better.

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Posted (edited)
[quote name='wateroftyne' timestamp='1483438421' post='3207053']
My God, that sounds like a nightmare.... fingers crossed for ya.
[/quote]

don't do that, makes playing bass even harder :)

the good news is,we have some pubs that refused to get pokies,who have stayed rundown, but have live music. And most of them promote original music over covers. Where there is hope......

the new drug driving laws didn't help either, no one wants to leave home anymore, myself included. Edited by bazztard

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For my few pennies worth.

Local to me (medway towns), the big problem for the venues brave enough to try live music is:
a) unless you can guarantee a crowd to follow you in they cant afford band entertaining an empty pub. Hence established acts are good to go, new starts or something a little different, struggle to establish themselves.

B) we have lost three venues this last year due to the noise abatement issue. The flip of responsibility for noise issues from the Police to the council has meant a complaint comes in and they act as if it was a noisy neighbor complaint. Disco or Karaoke is all they are allowed after only a couple of complaints... A couple of really good venues have been castrated by this ..

c) the pub culture is changing as said above, people don't have the same drinking patterns as before and why spend £3+ for a pint when you can buy a 12 pack for less than a tenner. The govt (successive ...not just this one) aren't interested in the pub/bar scene. So cut price booze sales from supermarkets have turned people off the 'pub for a pint' ritual.

Sighs....

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In Edinburgh the local licensing laws stated that live music had to be inaudible to residents living nearby. In many cases this was impossible to achieve, which meant the decline of live music in the city.

Luckily there was a successful campaign, started by musicians and music lovers, to change the regulations.

Now live music has to be an 'audible nuisance', rather than just 'audible'. Which is a much more reasonable approach.

See news article here http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/licensing-board-votes-to-relax-noise-test-for-live-music-1-4240995

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[quote name='chris_b' timestamp='1483438905' post='3207063']
I see problems for bands and live music all around in the South East. The nature of entertainment generally has changed. There is a lot of competition for the pound in our pockets and the quality of live music is very variable. Attention spans are getting shorter. There is total access to music online so seeing a band isn't special any more.

People are drinking at home, coming out later and spending a lot less in the pub. Audiences don't want to be blasted out of their seats by a loud unbalanced racket. Neighbours have total control and are using it to stop loud music.

Most landlords and pub managers aren't very good at that job let alone being a good music promoter. A lot of the local gigs have either been knocked down as a result of huge town centre redevelopment or they're now Tesco and Sainsbury's Express shops.

I don't see how it will get better.
[/quote]agree with most of this, but, a few real ale pubs in my area are really popular, they put on limited live music but not full rock bands that would be too loud, but yeah there's a lot more competition for people's leisure time these days and pub companies are at fault where they make running a pub so uneconomically that only an idiot would try it and I'm afraid that's what they get.
With limited full music venues I'm afraid unless you want to travel long distances fewer gigs are going to happen, mostly, these days, folk go to the pub to enjoy a decent pint and have a chat, Rock and roll is dying? maybe

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[quote name='Phil Starr' timestamp='1483433258' post='3207006'] Just got my weeks gig list from Lemonrock, for those who don't live in an area where Lemonrock is active it's an emailed list of most of the pub gigs in a 15 mile radius. A year ago there would have been 25-30 gigs at this time of year. This time it's down to 14, two of them are open mics and five are solo artists with backing tracks. [/quote]

If Lemonrock is anything like it is here (and I'm not far from you IIRC Phil) then an awful lot of bands have stopped using it - making it a much less reliable indicator than it might once have been.

I'm optimistically hoping that's the case anyway.

:)

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FWIW half the local gigs in my area dont show up. Hows it go? You have to be in it to win it? :D

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Me personally, I wouldn't want to go down my local to watch a bunch of middle aged men giving it large in a pentatonic stylee, but I am admittedly a bit grumpy in that respect.

Adapt or die I suppose. Or don't adapt, that bit's optional.

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I find myself in the odd position of playing in a pub/bar band fairly often, however the last thing I would do in my spare time is go and see a band in a pub. I don't really drink alcohol, and when I do I do it at home as pubs are too expensive. Also I hate to say it, but almost all of the bands I have ever seen in pubs have been basically awful! (my band is pretty crap to be fair).

I don't care for rock covers bands playing the kind of material you get on a 'classic rock hits album for dads' they sell for fathers day, and unfortunately that is what a lot of pub bands play. Also the thought of some over emotional singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitar at an open mic night fills me with dread, my brain just says its time to leave.

There are obviously exceptions and I am just going on my experience, I know some of you might have sh*t-hot funk/soul type bands that play in your area, but they are rare in my experience. I have seen some amazing folk acts in pubs, but generally I have seen much better quality bands/musicians at private events where they are paid a huge amount more. With the best will in the world, no pub will pay a band £700-£1100 a night.

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Posted (edited)
One of the big problems is that live music in pubs hasn't moved with the times.
We've just started doing sets of 90s dance music, and we're considered fresh and modern, but most of what we play is 20-30 years old!!
Theres nothing more disheartening than seeing a bunch of upcoming musicians in their early 20s playing the same old cover songs that every band plays (we know the ones) just so they can get gigs. Landlords are very unwilling to try anything new. I don't know though how pubs expect youngsters to go and watch music that was out 20 years before they were born.
It doesn't help that the big star names who started in their garages and went on to make it big, seem to be disappearing out of the charts and lime light, and the current focus is just solo artists. Edited by la bam

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[quote name='Shambo' timestamp='1483449274' post='3207175']
Me personally, I wouldn't want to go down my local to watch a bunch of middle aged men giving it large in a pentatonic stylee, but I am admittedly a bit grumpy in that respect.

Adapt or die I suppose. Or don't adapt, that bit's optional.
[/quote]
Not a problem in Plymouth mate! <_<

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[quote name='skidder652003' timestamp='1483451044' post='3207192']
Not a problem in Plymouth mate! <_<
[/quote]
Certainly not compared to where I recently moved from near Liverpool. Not many pub venues at all.
And the majority of local bands I've had the pleasure of seeing in Plymouth seem to have a preoccupation with angsty metal, which is arguably even more niche than indie covers or classic rock.

I'm a 40 something mature student who is surrounded all day by millenials and, save for the odd muso type, I don't recall any of them expressing an interest in going to a bar to watch a covers band.
They have other, more modern, interests and I can't say I blame them.

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Posted (edited)
I find myself agreeing with a lot of this. I sometimes think landlords/ladies have a death wish. Who else would pay £250 for a band to attract new custom and then only advertise [b]inside [/b]the pub only.

Pubs are no longer in the drinks industry really, we all do that at home, real ale excepted we can drink in more comfort and at less cost sitting on our own sofas. Their choices are to become food outlets or part of the leisure industry. The crazy think is that the leisure industry generally is growing, there's a real shortage of places to go to share activities with other people and we have more money and leisure time than a generation ago. We won't go to a pub for no reason but offer something like a quiz and the pub will be packed if you run with it for long enough for the word to get out. Music should be part of the mix that says there is something worthwhile and social going on every day of the week at this venue.

I'm absolutely with those that say we need to widen our horizons musically. Covers bands are always going to mainly be about nostalgia for the music of our teens and you'll never really pull in this generation of teens and early 20's who are busy creating and loving the music and covers of the future. But the 30+ generation will be looking for the music of their youth, maybe around 15 years ago, 40+ of 25 years ago, that makes classic rock the music for 60+ pensioners, nothing wrong with that but they aren't the biggest group going out for late nights at the pub. I do like seeing and hearing live music but I want variety, any band that offers that seems to get plenty of bookings if they are any good. I'm not going out to listen to All Right Now and Mustang Sally though, I've played and heard them far too often. Landlords and bands need to be more imaginative. If a local pub ran a Reggae band one week, Punk the next then an Originals, then Funk, maybe some Folk or Jazz I'd check them out most weeks just to see what they were doing next.

If ever I drag mates out to hear a covers band they are usually blown away, even by my own poor offerings. People do want to go out and have a good time. I don't think we have to have inevitable decline, we just have to think about what we are offering and promote it more professionally. People still love live music and good company. We just need a better offer and to let them know where it is. Edited by Phil Starr

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I had my 60th last week, held a party in a curry house with all the musicians I've gigged with in the last 10 years. Naturally there was a 2-hour jam session once the curry was all gone. Some pretty decent musicians present, too.

The only non-middle-aged people there were my two kids plus three of their friends, all five of them aged 21 - 28.

We were playing exactly what you'd expect us to play, and none of it was aimed at the yoof market, but the five youngsters were blown away by it all. They hardly ever check out live music unless it's at a big festival that they can boast about to their friends afterwards. They'd all forgotten about, or had never actually known about, the buzz and the pleasure to be derived from yer actual, live music.

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It's hard running a pub. Really hard.

It may help matters if bands were more sympathetic with landlords

I used to get the gigs for a very successful pub rock band.

If we were doing a new venue, I knew the landlord would be worried about what crowd we would bring. So I gave them two prices and let them decide what to pay us. Our normal gig fee would have been £400 then, so I'd agree with the landlord, if it was a good night pay us the £400, if not, pay us £200 or somewhere between the two that left him with a profit

I think if you try and see things from the landlords viewpoint, it will repay you in time with him giving you more gigs.

In other words don't gig for £400 with less punters in the pub than staff and expect to get booked again

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Back in the 1980s in Norwich (when I used to be out drinking with my mates fairly often) I don't remember ever seeing a live band in a pub. If we wanted music we paid to go into a "proper" music venue.

Perhaps there were plenty of pubs with live bands, but I must have missed them all.

Nowadays there are plenty of pubs putting on gigs. Most of them do seem to be covers bands with a good half of their set exactly the same as every other band.

Maybe there was a peak in live music somewhere in the last 20-odd years and it's declined since then, but the scene seems far more vibrant than it was in my youth.

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Posted (edited)
You have to also consider which age demographic has the most disposable income to go see bands - the ones with young to teenage kids who have nothing but bills and mortgages and spend a lot of time not in work with their growing families or th eolder ones whose kids have grown up and buggered off and have also paid off their mortgages. Some of the best responses of an audience I saw/heard to either live or prerecorded music over the holidays was to the early 70's glam stuff that was in the chart when even i was in short pants. Go figure. Edited by KevB

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Something I've noticed whenever I go back to the UK is that quite a few pubs have been converted to habitation. If you own a struggling big old pub in the middle of town, the possibility of 5 trendy appartments that'll sell for £400,000 each is a no brainier decision.

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Depressing,

I find that I am regularly the youngest person, both in the bands and pubs - and I'm 42!

If something doesn't change, the demographic issue will no doubt have serious implications for the industry.

Every year I say will be my last playing pubs - I find that with all the issues, it's only the odd gig that's fun, many are simply a chore. I love music and (sometimes) playing, but I find the playing the same circuit of pubs, that decrease every year both in numbers and attendance, will eventually have me giving up.

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