I live in central Texas and one of the most exciting recent developments has been the construction of the new Baylor facility McLane Stadium. Baylor fan or not, the modestly sized but aesthetically outstanding football stadium is a splendid point of pride for all locals who drive by it on 35. Up the road in Arlington, Jerry Jones constructed the world’s preeminent multi-event facility with AT&T Stadium. It is a true wonder of the world. Two new palatial venues at different levels in different towns to ostensibly host the same types of events. Yet, they couldn’t be more different.
Music venues can be like that too. I’ve been in new ones that click right away and new ones that falter. I’ve been in some that are over 100 years old and I wouldn’t change a thing. While other older venues need a complete renovation. I’m far from an expert, but I’ve been attached to venues in all sorts of capacities: performer, road manager, booking agent, talent buyer, concert promoter and even bartender/bouncer. What makes a nice venue isn’t the brick, wood or concrete. It’s the people. The staff. The musicians. The fans. The soul.
Our own Jon Paul “Hogleg” Long is now venturing into the venue business with a very cool space down in New Braunfels. I have all the confidence that JP’s space will be one of the coolest venues in the state. Don’t think he can’t, as he would say. He’s been around the block too and he knows what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t. It’s a tough business. Equally as tough as the musician side of things, if not more so. It’s hyper competitive and everyone is fighting for the same dwindling disposable income from the most fickle of demographics. You’re always going to have folks that chase the cheapest drink specials and the shiniest new thing. The venues that are able to financially fight through this usually end up thriving. But it’s extremely difficult. That’s why we’ve seen some of the best music venues around have to close the doors. Our region has always been one that has been supportive of musicians performing original music and not being beholden to cover songs. I’ve noticed that passion fade slowly over the past few years. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great cover band when the time is right. They’re not the problem. At least it’s still live music. It’s the wave of karaoke and DJ’s ruining things.
As the Rev. Horton Heat mentioned this week in a startingly real op-ed piece about the current plight of professional musicians:
Back in the ’70s, a club DJ was the cheesiest guy in the place who used his wannabe radio voice, and his love of disco, to pretend he was actually talented and a star. Everyone knew that the guitar, bass, drum and singer people were the truly talented ones who had a shot at a career in music. Nowadays, a club DJ is a person who pretends that he/she is as talented as a real musician, and the stupid club owners and promoters foster this pose since they pay the person thirty thousand dollars (or a lot more) to stand up on a stage with their iPod blaring disco junk. That’s tough to swallow when you realize that the best musician in your town will play piano at the Hyatt Regency brunch on Sunday for that ‘magic’ one hundred dollars.