In the annual Isthmus Madison Music Project guide published last week, the band registry was accompanied by a trio of items asking several folks active in the local scene to answer three questions. They are:
- While performing, what's your favorite action or reaction to see happening in the audience?
- What will be the next big thing in Madison music?
- Attendance at many club shows appeared to be lagging this summer. What can local acts do to entice music fans to start coming out to more shows?
Nearly a dozen people offered their thoughts on the issues. Their complete responses follow.
The Daily Page: While performing, what's your favorite action/reaction to see happening in the audience?
Terrin Riemer (His & Her Vanities): Complete silence. There's been times when we've been playing, and we get to a quiet part in a song to find the audience completely silent. I'm amazed by that.
Bob Westfall (The Bob Westfall Band): It's nice when people are dancing, moving, tapping the feet, or even better when they actually know the lyrics to one of your songs and they are singing along, that's always nice. And if they clap at the end just as a way of saying, "Thanks, I connected with you on that one!"
Dan Hardgrove (The August Teens): My favorite reaction is just people paying attention and looking like they're glad to be there. I don't care whether they're singing along and clapping or just bobbing their heads, as long as they are enjoying it.
The Daily Page: What will be the next big thing in Madison music?
Tim Consequence (The Pistols at Dawn): I think the next big thing in Madison is going to be a hit single, or maybe a video. It seems like that's the way things are moving lately. Nobody cares about CDs or LPs anymore. Now, it remains to be seen if any Madison bands have what it takes to get a hit single.
Tristan Gallagher (King Club): I have no idea but we will showcase it!
Art Paul Schlosser (artist, musician, poet, comedian and producer of 22 CDs): Folk hip-hop. The reason is:
Madison is a very folk town. Madison is also a very hip-hop town. People in Madison like both styles of music. Especially the students do. And the people that like to remix stuff feel that folk music needs something more.
A lot of the acoustic rockers also do folk but sometimes they like to add stuff to their music and sometimes it sounds really interesting to add beats to folk music or acoustic rock (which often sounds like folk).
Also bluegrass is very dominant in Madison and I wouldn't be surprised if some artist will start adding beats and rapping to bluegrass.
Hey, I can even see Lou and Peter Berryman doing a funny folk hip-hop song about Wisconsin.
But of course it's all a theory and you never asked if I was sure, you asked for my opinion.
Darwin Sampson (entertainment coordinator of The Annex and member of The God Damns, Way Off the Horse, Helliphant and Ladybeard): I'd say we have plenty of great bands with big upsides, but will anyone with enough money to support them care before they move or quit? The biggest thing I'd like to see happen with Madison music is greater cooperation and support between bands, clubs, fans and media here. The "next big thing" should involve greater attendances and appreciation for what we have here.
Jessica Thompson (executive director of Foundation of Retaining Creative Energy): The next big thing in Madison music will be a collection of a couple different things. We are on the brink of some really big things that are being molded and taking shape. Having the Majestic Theatre re-open and focus on live music acts combined with other new music club openings coming in the future, as well as our great existing venues gives room for Madison to really have a music scene to be reckoned with. The online music promotion and blogging component is also getting stronger every day with entities like Dane101, Muzzle of Bees and I'm Just Saying Is All. The venues, the promotion, and the help of organizations like FoRCE [Foundation of Retaining Creative Energy] are going to bring about a music community that will be able to give birth and nurture an annual music festival similar to South by Southwest.
Elliot Kozel (Sleeping in the Aviary and Sleeping in the Aviary, She is So Beautiful/She is So Blonde): Milwaukee
Bob Westfall: I think we will keep getting a lot more musicians coming to Madison and we will start to be known as a Music town, much like Austin or Nashville. There has always been a lot of very talented people in Madison -- I think the missing link is the rest of the industry, such as agents, record companies, publishers, film, etc. That's the difference in those other cities that has put them on the map. The other thing is that people have to get used to paying a cover charge to hear music, it's that way in every other city!
The Daily Page: Attendance at many club shows has appeared to be lagging this summer; what can local musicians/bands do to entice music fans to start coming out to more shows?
Jake Shut: I was hoping the ease of booking 18+ shows in bars would help matters, but thus far it seems like the 18-20 year olds are not flocking to the venues to see bands -- a pity since I know I would have taken advantage of it as an undergrad.
Drink specials that lure people out who would otherwise stay home on a particular night. Come for the music, stay for a cheap buzz! From my experience most rockers fall within the Venn diagram region of liking booze and not generally being affluent. Make it affordable for them to drink another night of the week if your establishment can afford it and see if it helps nightly attendance at your club.
Increased synergy of DJ and live music events and integrating together since it seems like this younger generation values beat matching on turntables as much or more than seeing top notch bands. Give them both in one event and see how it works out.
Also local bands showing some restraint in the number of local gigs they play is a sensible idea. Not even your most diehard fans want to attend your ninth Madison show in one month.
Tom Klein (promoter, The Journey Music): Getting folks out during the summer in my experience as a promoter has always been most difficult due to the overwhelming number of other great summer activities available, as well as the number of very large and very expensive music festivals that seem to drain music enthusiasts of cash.
My advice to local bands in trying to improve their draw is to be smart about their booking. Often you see local bands take the approach of trying to play in front of as many people as possible and thus taking too many shows or even shows that don't make sense.
I think it's important for bands to realize that they are marketing their music and that playing only shows that are appealing to their style, as well as limiting the number of shows they play in order to add a sense of urgency to seeing them is always a benefit.I also think it's important for bands to not take certain promotion opportunities for granted ... enjoy the nice whether and put up fliers on State Street, or get involved in the music scene by going to other shows and maybe handing out a few flyers there, too.
I don't think that attendance this summer was worse than in past years, but I think we have only scratched the surface of what the Madison music scene is capable of ... we have so many cool venues and great local bands, I think its time we see an increase in attendance as well as more national notice for the great things we are doing here.
Tristan Gallagher: Attendance is always lagging in the summer -- it has never been any different. Why? Because:
a) Half the town leaves town.
b) Half the decent well-known local bands split town or split up (see answer a, for explanation as to why ...).
c) It's summer. Outdoor keggers are everywhere -- who wants to be in a sweaty club in summer?
d) The [Memorial Union] Terrace. It's warm, it's outdoors, it's gorgeous, it's live music, it's free, it's all ages and (thanks UW-Madison) -- it's open until bar time now (didn't used to be, but I guess our taxes aren't enough for the UW, so now they want our customers' revenue too).
I'm happy to say summer is behind us and the cold weather drives people indoors to drown their sorrows over the fact that they will be running the heat for the next seven months. Actually try nine...
Things always pick up in October.
Darwin Sampson: I've been on both sides of the fence on this issue. Bands need to promote better. Booking a show at the big club in town doesn't mean folks are going to show up. Flyer, call your friends, utilize all of your resources to their fullest capability. There are a ton of good bands in town, give people a reason to come out and see yours.
Clubs can do more. I think that finding a way to embrace the younger student population would be a great starting point towards creating a yearly glut of live music attendees. With changes in regards to 18+ shows, why some clubs (including the one I work for) haven't jumped on the bandwagon and really found a way to get these younger music fans into their venue perplexes me.
Media can do more. Focusing not so much on major acts (why does a major label act need more free advertising?) and more on locals would help increase awareness and hopefully in the end attendance.
If the product is good and people know about it, they will come out.
Jessica Thompson: Summers are always hard months because the completion is fierce. Besides a plethora of great music to listen to, there is the competition of beautiful weather and weekends away. Promotion is always key, as is timing. When booking gigs, bands should look at what else is going on for that weekend to see if there might be conflicts of audience. It is also beneficial when bands/musicians team up to do joint shows. Audiences feel they are getting "more bang for their buck" and creates more draw for a music enthusiast to choose one show over another. Musicians should also reach out to all media outlets and let them know of their upcoming shows. Listings and flyers are always important in spreading the word.
Bob Westfall: As far as getting people out to clubs, that's always been a trick. The people who go out at night on a regular basis are young people, college kids. They have those young livers and can stay up 'til late hours, get little sleep, go to classes, and start the whole process over again the next night. People with jobs and kids don't really do that, so you are talking about a certain demographic when you have so many clubs, so many musicians, and only a certain [in] proximity to the campus. It's a real trick! I've had this regular Tuesday night at the Angelic for ten years and I know part of it is the drink specials that help bring in people! They tell us they love the band but they also love the $2 pints. So what do you do? Offer a six pack of local microbrew with every CD? Hmmm, not a bad idea.