At what time should venues start their shows?
Last night, at the meeting of the Leicester Music Forum, someone talked about the time at which gigs start, here in Leicester 7:30 pm is the standard time for nearly all venues to open their doors, for the majority of gigs. They all start at the same time, bar a few events that begin at 9 pm and some that take place on Sunday afternoons. Is this good?
One contributor thought not. I also agree. Venues should network and collaborate to give the ticket-buying public more choice as to when they can go to a gig if they want to be there for the start. By staggering the start time of their shows, venues might see an overall increase in the total audience going out to ‘see a band’ on any given night of the week. Well, that is what was being suggested.
Will this work? As someone who goes to a lot of gigs in many venues across Leicester, I frequently notice that at 7:30 – 8 pm there are not many people in the house. The room fills up by 9 pm and a raft of fans turn up for the headline set at 10 pm. This suggests that a lot of people make up their own minds when they can get there and certainly don’t go to see support bands.
On another point, it was also said (last night) that it is common for a large group of fans to go to a gig to see their favourite band and – when that band has played – they leave. Various comments were made about this well-known phenomenon, including “it is very disrespectful to other bands playing.” This might be due to public transport and parking issues but I suspect the truth is that those fans came to see their band and were not interested in enjoying the music of other bands, that they did not know. It remains a vexed issue for bands and promoters alike.
Well, you might take the view that if they have paid to get in then they can make up their own minds what they want to see and how long they want to stay for. Some of the more street-wise promoters play the card of putting the band – likely to bring the most fans – on last. In contrast, I have also been to gigs where the crowd has arrived on time, stayed for the whole night and enjoyed all the music. It does happen.
Do promoters put on too many bands in a line-up? It is not uncommon around this city, for there to be 4, 5 or even 7 to 8 bands playing on a line-up. Most music fans find this too much to take in on one night. Gone are the days when you go out to “see a band”, that is, one band that is going to provide the music for a whole night. Such events are limited to covers or tribute bands that play pubs. The typical venue gig these days is made up of a series of bands that play 30-minute sets, one after another.
Let me indulge myself in opinion – the best gig is one played by 3 bands and no more. Two support slots and one headliner. Gigs that follow this formula are likely to draw the biggest crowds and to be the most enjoyable. Generally speaking – because there are exceptions, such as metal or punk nights or acoustic evenings.
So why do we get these huge line-ups? In some cases, it is because promoters want to maximise their ticket sales for the night. If each band brings 10 people then 7 bands might equate to 70 ticket sales. I can see the logic of that argument, even if I believe it to be flawed.
Three well-chosen bands – including a well-chosen headliner – should be able to fill a venue. Let’s look at gigs and see if a three-band show starting at 8:30 pm works as well as a 7 band line-up starting at 7 p.m. What would aid this investigation is collecting data: look at a sample of gigs, note their start-time and record how many tickets were sold. Speculation on the basis of personal experience is fair enough to give us a clue about what might be happening, but it is only when we get data that we can begin to analyse what actually works and what doesn’t.
If our local music Forum achieves anything, it would be to challenge music providers to think about the way they do things and to objectively analyse what works best for the music-going community in our local area.