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Madison needs to get serious about supporting local music

Who's making noise in and around Madison? What's new in the business of making music around town? Review shows and CDs here. Please keep all hype in Hype Exchange.

Re: Madison needs to get serious about supporting local musi

Postby defactobrigade » Sun Oct 09, 2011 1:17 am

ScottL wrote:Now you might think a couple of middle aged guys in cowboy hats who lived in rural Austin wouldn't be into any of the bands at SXSW.

Who were they most excited to see? "What's that guys name from Omaha. Conor something? Bright, Bright Eyes, That's it."

That is the difference between Madison and Austin.

There are PLENTY of middle age hipsters digging those sounds in Madison.
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Re: Madison needs to get serious about supporting local musi

Postby defactobrigade » Sun Oct 09, 2011 1:28 am

I will also add I highly doubt the college kids will ever care about local music. there's always a small handful, but the nature of a town our size with a population largely consisting of kids who will leave in 4-6 years creates a hard situation for keeping a fanbase with those fans. I rarely see kids that attend UW at shows that aren't of Orpheum/Barrymore stature, or at the very smallest a big High Noon show. Kids with so many options for listening online just have a hard time finding bands that they actually like and aren't just told they should like. Sensory overload so instead of going out to see bands they just read other people's writings and determine who to see based on that. While that obviously doesn't encompass all students, I would think it's safe to argue that much of the above statement is true.

Madison could never function as Austin does. It has over 1.5 million people in the metro area. There are not enough musicians, and moreover, not enough non-musicians who want to check out local music in this town to really support a scene or make it thrive. Thus musicians either stick it out and just do what they want/can in the town, or they leave cuz they get frustrated. Both harm the scene ultimately (stagnant bands make it hard for people to get excited for bands). Furthermore, there's a large disconnect between small touring bands and scene in general. There just aren't enough bands with draws to help every touring band that wants to stop here on a Sun-Weds (when a lot of touring shows come through at the smaller clubs that are then more often than not poorly attended).

I honestly think if the LOCAL scene revolved more around free shows where the club pays out of the bar, the scene would improve. It's less of a risk to take if you're going out with friends to a show that's free versus 5 bucks (which is still cheap entertainment, but people just seem to be at odds with paying a cover. As was noted with the people leaving because the show was 6 versus 5). Mickeys has been the most amazing place to see and play shows in the last 3 years in my opinion, and we rarely have touring bands come there that are disappointed with turnout. I think part of the help with that is both the free price tag, cool place to drink, and they only do shows on Friday and Saturday
(for the most part). Madison just seems to be a town that can't support the LOCAL scene on a slow weekday (Sunday-Weds).

That being said, I HAVE played good shows on any day during a week, it just depends on the bill, the promotion and the overall happenings elsewhere in town. Madison is tricky, but if you learn to book it right, it can be really fun. I love playing shows here.
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Re: Madison needs to get serious about supporting local musi

Postby Bad Gradger » Sun Oct 09, 2011 10:31 am

talagaster wrote:My question is: What is the Comedy Club on State doing right that non-Frequency downtown music venues are doing wrong?

It's slightly off-topic, but aren't they getting booted out by the Frautschis?
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Re: Madison needs to get serious about supporting local musi

Postby defactobrigade » Sun Oct 09, 2011 10:40 am

also slightly off topic but who's to say that in 5 years the Frequency won't be gone?
Has it stood longer than The Slipper Club or the King Club ever did? (honest question, seems like they both lasted at least as long as the Frequency currently has).

I do think the Frequency does things better than both of those clubs, namely that you can go into the bar without having to pay the cover (they did that at Slipper too, but what I think defeated the slipper was the stage setup being so goofy and it was probably run poorly, which I canNOT attest to).
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Re: Madison needs to get serious about supporting local musi

Postby Nate535 » Sun Oct 09, 2011 11:27 pm

defactobrigade wrote:Madison could never function as Austin does. It has over 1.5 million people in the metro area. There are not enough musicians, and moreover, not enough non-musicians who want to check out local music in this town to really support a scene or make it thrive. Thus musicians either stick it out and just do what they want/can in the town, or they leave cuz they get frustrated. Both harm the scene ultimately (stagnant bands make it hard for people to get excited for bands). Furthermore, there's a large disconnect between small touring bands and scene in general. There just aren't enough bands with draws to help every touring band that wants to stop here on a Sun-Weds (when a lot of touring shows come through at the smaller clubs that are then more often than not poorly attended).


I think you hit it on the head. Madison doesn't have a lot of people and the people it does have are pretty spread out. This does make is difficult for bands to support themselves playing music but, perhaps more importantly, it also makes it difficult to establish and maintain good music venues. There are plenty of places in Madison that have music, but a pretty small percentage of those places actually have a stage and their own PA. Even fewer have enough space in front of the stage for a crowd.

I think it's possible to attract college students but you have to cater to them and it's still probably not as profitable as just selling them drinks. The only bands that I can think of that have done it are pop bands like the Profits who appealed to college girls who would come out to see them in force. I've also heard that the former Bullfeathers (Ramshead was it?) had a pretty successful run of shows but they mostly booked poppy bands with young guys and they had a pretty large space which is pretty rare for campus bars.
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Re: Madison needs to get serious about supporting local musi

Postby rrnate » Mon Oct 10, 2011 9:42 am

Semi-off-topic - I was in Kalamazoo this weekend and there were like, 5 venues with live bands going downtown within a ten block radius.

Granted, all the bands sounded like hippie bands, so there you go. Grow your hair out gents and make some money!
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Re: Madison needs to get serious about supporting local musi

Postby talagaster » Mon Oct 10, 2011 9:44 am

Bad Gradger wrote:
talagaster wrote:My question is: What is the Comedy Club on State doing right that non-Frequency downtown music venues are doing wrong?

It's slightly off-topic, but aren't they getting booted out by the Frautschis?


I don't think it is off-topic at all. Take a look at the plans for Overture: The Office Buildings, does that look like a place that would be welcoming for entertainment? Overture does children's programming very well & has plenty of stuff for older adults with money but has very little support for those 15-30. Building an imposing high-rent glass complex across from another imposing high-rent glass complex will create a visual forcefield for college students, reinforcing the idea that the world of the college student ends at the 300 block of State St and making it even harder to get younger people to come to the Frequency, Majestic, or High Noon. Plus, raising property values on State St during an endless recession won't be helpful for any business owner, music venue or otherwise.
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Re: Madison needs to get serious about supporting local musi

Postby Darwin » Wed Oct 19, 2011 6:53 pm

defactobrigade wrote:also slightly off topic but who's to say that in 5 years the Frequency won't be gone?
Has it stood longer than The Slipper Club or the King Club ever did? (honest question, seems like they both lasted at least as long as the Frequency currently has).

I do think the Frequency does things better than both of those clubs, namely that you can go into the bar without having to pay the cover (they did that at Slipper too, but what I think defeated the slipper was the stage setup being so goofy and it was probably run poorly, which I canNOT attest to).


I think we've been around longer than the Slipper Club, I may be wrong. How long will I keep doing it? Who knows? There are factors beyond Madison's music scene at play.

Having been in the same building for three years, I completely understand why ANY business has failed there. Lease structure, rent and other expenses (paying utilities for residents above the club, property taxes on the whole building, etc, etc, etc). I also understand why Jack couldn't move the stage to the back of the room like I did. He sure would have had it been allowed by the landlord. Jack did the best he could with his hands tied, nothing but big respect for him and what he accomplished there.

I have tried running free shows in the past with ridiculous drink specials. It didn't help, and in fact bands got paid less. The problem we experience is the glut of East Side bars that have live music every weekend, where the bread and butter for any bar business is. Mickey's, The Wisco, Crystal Corner, Alchemy, Harmony, Mr Roberts, Project Lodge and all the other places that do shows on the weekends benefit from having a large local populace that can walk to multiple shows in one evening. Local bands I hosted regularly don't approach us for shows much because of it, I have found.

The Frequency has residents in the area, but they aren't rabid music lovers for the most part, and in fact many complain about the noise and extra traffic live music brings. We generally never charge a cover at the front door (promoter shows and sold out shows being the exception) and yet there is no regular crowd that surfs in to support the myriad of musical acts we bring in.

We've tried multiple formulas to get folks out, but if people don't know a band they are more likely to bypass The Frequency.

It is what it is, this is a small town with small cliques. I'll keep supporting live music as long as I can with The Frequency, with the understanding that it can end or go sour in a heartbeat.

Maybe the city could start out by giving business owners a parking permit. Very sick of spending the little money I have on parking tickets. :)
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Re: Madison needs to get serious about supporting local musi

Postby Henry Vilas » Thu Oct 20, 2011 12:20 pm

Soglin weighs in.

He noted that 30 or 40 years ago Madison enjoyed a thriving music scene that was attracting talent from around the country.

But he says the city dropped the ball and has since watched Austin, Texas, become internationally known for its music industry, including the wildly popular South by Southwest music festival.

"No one has really explored what happened here and what we can do to change it," said Soglin, vowing to revisit the issue with his friend, jazz musician Ben Sidran.
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Re: Madison needs to get serious about supporting local musi

Postby flanneljammies » Thu Dec 08, 2011 11:07 am

ko-Kayne wrote:i bet Austin doesn't have a Rich Albertoni.
snort.
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Re: Madison needs to get serious about supporting local musi

Postby rick » Fri Dec 09, 2011 9:54 pm

I thought this quote from Randy Ballwahn (From the Isthmus's article on the German Art Students) was the best summation of Madison's music scene that I've read:


Randy, you were music director at WORT. How has the Madison music scene changed over the past dozen years?

Randy: I've been keeping tabs on the local music scene since the mid-'80s, and the more it changes, the more it stays the same. There are always good young bands that break up in a year or two when they don't make it big. There are always good musicians and bands that move elsewhere because the grass is greener. There is always a core of locally appreciated veterans that have been playing around town for years because they love playing and they love Madison. And every once in a while there's a nice success story — Killdozer, Garbage, Bon Iver, Zola Jesus.

Every couple of years there's a story in Isthmus about how maybe this is the crop of musicians that will put Madison or Wisconsin in the national consciousness. And then it doesn't happen. It's a lot like having a Triple A baseball team — watch the phenoms move up, watch the veterans on the way down, and cheer for those who never quite make it to the show. I think we should stop worrying about the Madison scene making it big and enjoy what we have.
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Re: Madison needs to get serious about supporting local musi

Postby flanneljammies » Sat Dec 10, 2011 10:09 am

And here's a great quote from the singer in St. Louis' Contortionists (a different scene, but applicable nonetheless):

What do you see wrong with the current state of St. Louis music? How can the St. Louis music scene improve?

Mike Benker: Stop referring to itself. Stop wondering what is wrong with it. Play music with your friends. Go see other bands play. Book great out of town bands to play with your band and your friends' bands. Don't bicker and squabble amongst yourselves. It's whiny and tired. Play at places where people might hate you. Play with bands that are different than you. Play at places that might only let you play once. Stop pestering your friends to see your band every week. Just promote the big shows to make them bigger. Talk to your friends about your favorite local bands or one that they may not have heard of.

Actually, the whole interview is pretty great, including the advice for aspiring musicians.
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Re: Madison needs to get serious about supporting local musi

Postby jammybastard » Sun Dec 18, 2011 7:29 pm

Music isn't a lifestyle anymore. Gen Y kids don't use it to identify what tribe they part of are like the GenX & boomers did when they were young.
Music is an accessory now.
The pop single is an app.
Blame Napster, the major labels, Itunes, Bob Lefsetz, etc....
but the truth is that Madison was never a major music town nor will it ever be.
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Re: Madison needs to get serious about supporting local musi

Postby defactobrigade » Thu Dec 22, 2011 2:31 pm

flanneljammies wrote:And here's a great quote from the singer in St. Louis' Contortionists (a different scene, but applicable nonetheless):

What do you see wrong with the current state of St. Louis music? How can the St. Louis music scene improve?

Mike Benker: Stop referring to itself. Stop wondering what is wrong with it. Play music with your friends. Go see other bands play. Book great out of town bands to play with your band and your friends' bands. Don't bicker and squabble amongst yourselves. It's whiny and tired. Play at places where people might hate you. Play with bands that are different than you. Play at places that might only let you play once. Stop pestering your friends to see your band every week. Just promote the big shows to make them bigger. Talk to your friends about your favorite local bands or one that they may not have heard of.

Actually, the whole interview is pretty great, including the advice for aspiring musicians.


great quote.
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Re: Madison needs to get serious about supporting local musi

Postby defactobrigade » Thu Dec 22, 2011 2:32 pm

jammybastard wrote:but the truth is that Madison was never a major music town nor will it ever be.


so true.
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