by MATT BACON >
One of the things I find curious about the music industry is the link between bars and music. When I started trying to do this for real I didn’t process that I would be spending as much time as I do sitting in quiet bars, drinking quiet beers and waiting for soundcheck to end. Beyond that – most touring musicians who have a modicum of financial success at home tend to be bartenders. This is the sort of thing that makes me curious and I wanted to spend a few minutes looking at what it means for folks like you and me, and what we can do in order to maximize the profits from this unique relationship. Remember, that bars, much like independent music, are fundamentally cool and if we can look at how both of these industries can maximize their income then we will end up all winning and finding exciting futures for sectors that are traditionally very difficult to get by in.
I think perhaps the most obvious and effective, though unfortunately infrequently used method of tying together the magic of bars and bands is by having free shows and paying the band out of the bar. I’m not entirely sure why not a lot of bars do this because it always seems to be a win win. If you are a bar that brands itself as having bands, keeping fans from having to pay a cover virtually guarantees double or even triple attendance. It’s not like most bars touch the cover money anyway, they usually just give their cut to the staff and the promoter. This way, everyone gets to make a little bit of money and more people are in the bar than would normally be on a fucking Tuesday and the bands who, probably don’t care about money if they are playing a free show, get a cool experience and can sell a fair bit of merch. If that’s not a win win I don’t know what is.
So here’s the other thing that I think not enough bars take advantage of.
Essentially, if you bring in traditional bar promotional elements alongside a standard bit of music branding then you are almost guaranteed to find some measure of success. For example – one thing one of my favorite rock bars does is they routinely offer new and exciting beers to try, often targeted around key shows. This helps to maximize attendance but also makes the fans feel like they are taking part in a special event. I think they key thing to remember with your branding for bar shows is that the people who attend most independent music shows are also frequent bar goers anyway. You want to try and fuse those experiences for the maximum potential. Otherwise you’re just wasting everyones time. Its a risk for bars to go with an indie music branding, so you want to be able to bring forth promotional ideas that will burn forth.
Something a lot of bands could be doing that I think would be an easy way to bring positive associations to their brand would be to help fund a discount beer night. Perhaps they strike up a deal where they give the bar $500 for half price on a certain beer all night for a headlining show or a key opening slot. This doesn’t really impact the bars bottom line and it creates a positive brand association for the group. I know this sounds both pricey and pie in the sky, but I think a lot of bars that have a solid relationship with certain bands would be receptive to something like this and the positive brand association is, in my eyes, something the band will be talking about for a good long while. Obviously these sorts of things can be a bit tricky to set up but that’s why if your band pulled something off like this you would be legends rather than losers.
Of course no article about bands and beer would be complete without taking at least a few moments to talk about getting your own beer made. This can be a surprisingly easy branding exercise, especially if someone in your band is tight with a local craft brewer. If your brand name is big enough locally you can often get these crossovers for free and buy beer to sell wholesale. The best way to approach this for smaller bands is to inquire with the brewer when they are trying out a limited line of something new and maybe a little weird that they don’t quite know what to do with. It’s better to come out and try to work with what they have rather than to shoot yourself in the foot and ask some random brewer to come up with an entirely unique recipe. Remember, you want to make things as easy as possile for the brewers to say yes. That’s the case for all bar promotions really, you just want it to make sense in the context of what you are trying to launch and not shoot yourself in the foot by thinking you are bigger than you are. Humility goes far in this industry.
At the end of the day this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bands and bars.
This is pretty much the longest standing regular relationship in the industry and we al have an obligation to work together to try and create the most productive experience possible for all parties with it. Bars are where folks like you and me live whether we like it or not and bars are a place that have endless options for promotions. So sit back and try and look into what you can do to help make your favorite local bar reach a brave new level of confidence and power and work with your friends in order to build up all the affiliated industries with your brand. Doesn’t that seem like a much better path to success than a me first attitude anyway? I certainly think so.