My creative resources are the bands that I book at the Purple Fiddle. And I am very fortunate that they mostly all come to me for a gig. So my job entails two things – first, to make sure there is some talent there. Secondly, is whether their talent can benefit the profitability of Purple Fiddle. That is the much more troubling and difficult thing to judge.
Quite frankly, I absolutely despise being driven by the almighty dollar. But since this venue is struggling mightily, we must find the bands that generate the most cash. And the customers are a fickle and ever-changing group to figure. That is why I never outright deny a talented musician or band. I simply say ” we are not interested at this time.” It is hard to predict where the public’s tastes may wander in the future and who am I to even try to predict that?
Up until recently, as far as booking weekend revenue-generating bands are concerned, I have outright denied anything that was not either very popular, or very energetic and danceable, or both. To me, a high energy band means more audience participation, which equals more sales for us, and ultimately that means I can pay the PF bills come Monday.
Paying the bills is good for the whole community – from the people at H&H Hardware up the street, to the people delivering beer from Mountain State Brewery, to the people who work for the City of Thomas who collect our garbage and water fees, to the people at Shop n Save where we buy much of our raw product. They all want us to stay in business.
So, I maintain a short list of our most popular and best revenue-generating bands that I book as often as they will let me. Bands like – the Hillbilly Gypsies, Dangermuffin, Sol Driven Train, Enter the Haggis, Yarn, the Black Lillies, Greensky Bluegrass, Steppin In It, Sim Redmond, the Fox Hunt, the Steel Wheels, etc. These we can not get enough of, at least not until the customers lose interest, and it seems like it will be no time soon for these bands. (I am sure there are some more I have left out – sorry)
But, the biggest problem, is what about all the other incredibly talented bands out there that don’t generate the cash flow? I HATE telling amazing acts that we cannot use them, and up until recently, I have been doing that, at least in regards to the weekend dates when attendance is guaranteed to be way higher.
But part of survival in the art world, or any business for that matter, is adapting to suit changing needs. That is why I am making a concerted effort to book the not-so-energetic acts with a different approach.
Take Robinella, for instance. This amazingly talented woman has a hold on audiences like no other I have ever seen. The last time she performed, the moment she opened her mouth just to check the microphone, the eager and early crowd of nearly 80 people went silent. You could hear a pin drop. She is THAT talented and worthy of their attention.
But what do I do with that?! When I am trying to generate energy to, in turn, generate sales?
That is where a new found approach needs to be contemplated an undertaken. And here it is, for now – I simply raise the cover charge by $5 or so, proclaim the show to be a “listening show” and pocket the extra fee on each ticket. That is the only way I have figured out how I can justify the critical loss of sales at the cash register. A listening crowd just does not circulate to the counter to buy things during a performance.
Very capitalistic huh? And I am inclined to apologize, but ultimately, I cannot apologize for trying to keep the Purple Fiddle alive and in Thomas, should I? It is to everyone’s benefit, including the artists, right? I did not create this capitalistic society. I am only trying to survive within it.
And like I said, this is not the end of our adapting to changing needs. There may be many more solutions to this problem, hopefully some I have not contemplated before. Already on the agenda is a series of benefit shows where we pocket ALL the bands’ money (April and May). And I feel horrible about having to do that – to temporarily cut off income to the very creative minds that have kept us alive for this long (9 years now). I am humbled by the response of 17 popular bands that will do just that – play for free to help us survive. Wow, we are blessed!
Now our mission is to determine how never to face this predicament again. But with gas prices rising rapidly, it may be difficult. Help me out. Suggest something else if you know of other creative solutions.