22-Apr-2003 (Tue)

It's so great when the members of the DNA Lounge community decide to get together and pitch in with their impromptu improvements to the space! This friday, some thoughtful fellow decided to donate a little remodeling work to our bathrooms. Apparently he decided that things would look a lot better if the partition divider between the two farthest urinals were removed from the wall. Hey, if that was you, there's no need to be bashful about it: come forward! We'd love to reward you appropriately for your generosity.

Oh, he also absconded with the toilet's motion sensor flusher. Took it right out of the wall.

The second partition is also barely hanging on, as you can see. This isn't the first time this has happened, and it's getting harder to fix, since now the wood studs behind the tile are all torn up from having the bolts ripped out. Clearly we needed to have built the bathroom partitions and walls out of solid steel, like so much of the rest of the club, if we intended them to stand up to these fucking savages.

Besides trying to figure out how to keep our fixtures attached to the wall, we've been trying to work out how to do live music one night a week.

Actually we've been talking about this since at least a year before we opened. Every few months we say, "come on, we've got to do a local band night or something. Just something small and cheap." And then we do the math, and realize that it's really a lot of work, and there's very little chance of it even breaking even.

But, I think we're finally fed up with talking ourselves out of it, and more to the point, fed up with only having live music here every couple of months, so we're probably going to actually do it this time.

The night in question will probably be wednesdays, and there probably won't be any overall theme to it, other than, "bands" (by which I mean, anything but djs or so-called "live PA.") The problem with this plan is that most of the bands won't be a big draw, and our break-even point will be pretty high: chances are we'll be losing money if fewer than 150 to 200 people show up, which will almost certainly be most of the time. It's amazing how much it costs in salaries alone just to open the doors here, even with the most minimal staff we can get away with. So we need to figure out if we can afford to burn that much money every week, subsidizing it with our usual friday bullshit. I hope so, because there are currently no live acts on our calendar at all, and that's a sad thing.

Even if we end up doing mostly local acts who don't expect to get paid much, live shows are really expensive because there's so much that goes into each event, in addition to our usual bar, security, and cleaning staff: there's advertising and promotion (calling radio stations, music journalists, etc.); a sound engineer, who puts in a lot of hours, since he has to be there not only during the show, but also during 2-3 hours of sound check; plus, someone has to actually book the bands; and, oh, probably a bunch of other things I've forgotten at the moment.

Even if we're lucky and have enough bands coming to us that we don't have to actively seek them out, someone still has to put in a lot of telephone hours with each of them, if only to determine whether they sound like they have their shit sufficiently together that they'll actually show up. And of course if we wanted the criteria to be a little more exclusive than "these guys sound minimally responsible" -- like, if someone is expected to actually listen to a demo CD first -- that takes even more time and effort!

It's one of those "spend money to make money" situations, where if we were to hire another person or two to do nothing but book bands, we could probably get national touring acts on a more regular basis; but we don't have the money to hire those people. Also, it's not a coincidence that most touring bands play at venues that are 18+, not 21+ as we are.

But there I go talking myself out of it again.

In neighborhood news:

  • In case you haven't noticed, a few weeks ago, Crepes a Go-Go opened a small trailer-based operation across the street, in the lot next to Butter: and they're open late! It's very rare that they close before we do, which is great...

  • There's a new bar/restaurant at 11th and Folsom (where Wa-Ha-Ka used to be) apparently called "The Public." (Dunno if they have a web site, since they named themself something that's absolutely impossible to search for!) I haven't eaten there yet.

  • I'm told that a bar is in the process of moving in to the old 20 Tank space, too, though it's probably going to be some time before they open.

  • Still no sign of Paradise Lounge reopening. Well, they do some events in the upstairs area, but their main room has been in progress for 15 months now.

29 Responses:

  1. vxo says:

    I hate it when people do that.

    The Miami-Dade County Police department just demolished a restroom stall at my college in the process of arresting one of my friends... on suspicion of stealing a cookie. Seriously.

    But, to be more useful, potentially... I've had pretty good luck with packing that two-part epoxy resin goo into messed up wood to make it hold screws again. The stuff comes in a stick that you knead to mix it up and activate it, and then you just cram it into wherever it's needed.

    If you can add more brackets to the partitions to reinforce them, that'd definitely help them stay together. ... Or, just add an Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom-style booby trap in the wall that shoots anyone who rips the partition loose with poison darts. Hey, there's a good idea... hmmmm... *evil genius-style laughter*

  2. gile says:

    Where each partition mounts, put in a long steel bar (12-gauge, 2x2 size). Then have the partition welded to the steel, and bolts inserted as well. Mount the bar at several places on the wall, and on the ceiling and floor. If done well, that should stand up to anything less than a truck.

    As for the sensor, 220vAC at 15 amperes across the faceplate should do the trick.

    Just an idea.

  3. flipzagging says:

    Is there any pattern of vandalism versus type of music played?

    • jwz says:

      Not really: more people = more shit broken. Most stuff gets broken on fridays, but realistically, that's because fridays are like 60% of our total customers overall.

      • bitwise says:

        Would it at least be safe to presume that the men's room sees more of this type of abuse than the women's?

        Ah, I have the solution: coat everything that looks inviting to beer fueled rage and coat it in Vaseline.

        Advantages are (1) slippery and (2) drunken fratboys probably unlikely to want to walk out of the men's room with vaseline on their hands. On the downside, (1) unexpectedly grabbing a handful of vaseline might cause a bit more rage, directed at staff or more expensive equipment, and (2) you might get some crowds there that would like free vaseline.

        • fzou says:

          How do you propose the staff apply the Vasiline?

        • jwz says:

          The women's room doesn't get physically torn apart as often, but women have a propensity to try and flush everything they can down the toilet -- including, no joke, entire roles of toilet paper still on the spool (pure vandalism.) So the women's room is a far bigger plumbing nightmare. And, I'm told, also generally more disgusting, since many women use the "hover technique" and have exceptionally bad aim.

          And we've never had a miscarriage in the men's room.

  4. re: prospective local band night.

    a lot of people would want to shoot me for even suggesting this, but "pay to play" may be a viable option here.

    you're providing a lot of services to the bands playing, especially promotions and sound engineer, plus they can walk away a nifty live recording on mp3 (which is very valuable to a lot of small bands). that justifies them ponying up some for expenses when there's a reasonable risk of losing money on your part.

    you can alot them a certain number of tickets which they can sell to their prospective audience in advance at whatever price they choose, enabling them to make their money back on ticket sales if their fanbase is devoted but very small. this system will also encourage them to do more promotion on their own, since their asses are effectively on the line.

    i'm sure it'd take some effort to come up with viable numbers here, but it could work.

    most bands will grumble loudly at the prospect of paying to play, especially because it feels to many like some sort of creepy payola scheme, but if you level with them about your intentions and cost, they should be able to get over it.

    i originally encountered this scheme when playing at the whisky a go go in LA many many moons ago. the difference being that those guys were assholes and the venue sucked.

    • drkscrtlv says:

      we would so do that.
      3 bands, 50 tix at $10 (or whatever) apiece? go, sell them or give them away. you've got your 150 people right there, even if no one else shows up.
      i'd also be interested in playing monthly, whether on some special arrangement or just having to sell my 50 tix, but that would be further down the line.

      • er, the problem with that is that it doesn't actually cover the 150 people. keep in mind, money made from bands selling tickets doesn't necessarily cover the same costs that 150 people coming in off the street giving money directly to the venue at that price does.

        • drkscrtlv says:

          i thought you charge the bands the $500 (or whatever), and they eat it or sell the tickets.
          the other money would be from the bar, right?

    • kyronfive says:

      Or, if you don't want to do 'pay-for-play' as the bands to play for a backend or percentage of profit only. That way the band has a monitary interest in seeing the night be sucessful.

      • but we're not even talking about profit here. profit may very well not exist. we're talking about covering costs in an attempt to break even. the pay-for-play thing is supposed to ensure breaking even.

        • kyronfive says:

          I understand. My point is - you don't even have to make them pay. Even if the bands are free but the rest of the promotions costs still exist - that's still a savings of between $500-1000 a night. If you work out an agreement with the band that they will get a percentage of any profits - and they understand that profits, in such a scenario, are not likely - the band will be more inclined to actively promote their show (they make all their friends actually pay money to get into the show instead of letting them all in for free, for example). Hence you have a higher likleyhood of breaking even. And you save money on talent costs. And you don't look like a jerk (in some people's eyes) for making bands pay to play at your venue. Seems like a win-win situation to me.

          • but it still doesn't cover jamie's ass.

            we're prospectively talking about -tiny- bands here; bands that aren't used to getting paid at ALL. i'm guessing jamie already wasn't planning on paying them any serious amount, or if at all presuming there was no profit. i'm looking for a way to take care of all the other costs.

            the bar should make up for some of it, but this is frequently going to be a situation where you don't know if there will be 20 people in the room in total. as a promoter, i know you guys take a lot of risky bands in because you like them and want to see them, and you lose money sometimes, but these are still bands you know and can easily predict their draw, so at least you have some advance warning of losses, and it doesn't happen on a regular basis. if we're talking about a weekly local band event, alexis is going to be booking a bunch of kids he's never heard of before and he can't be losing $1000 every week.

            • kyronfive says:

              if we're talking about a weekly local band event, alexis is going to be booking a bunch of kids he's never heard of before and he can't be losing $1000 every week.

              Well that's a good point. At least J and i have a 'finger to the wind' barometer of the draw for most of the completely-fucking-obscure bands that we book so we can usually extrapolate how much money we're going to lose.

              I think it all comes down to the operating costs of the venue on a given night. If they are as extreme as you make it sound, then yes, i agree it should be pay-for-play.

            • hafnir says:

              > and you lose money sometimes

              Sometimes? :) I think we only ever made money once, at the first VNV
              show, and it wasn't much at all. Our A23 show two weeks ago was one of
              the few that even broke even, and it took tons of negotiation to even
              make that possible!

              Anyway, I guess that's sort of a tangent. :)

              But yeah, I think it's a given that the local completely unknown band
              should be next to free, or should even have to pay if it's their idea
              to play (as opposed to a promoter coming to them).

              But don't worry, I wouldn't charge Psyclon 9 to play dekonstrukt! :)
              Just be understanding shows almost always lose money, or break even
              if you're lucky!

    • atakra says:

      The Pound seems to make money using the pay-to-play deal, but that's mainly on the shoulders of the two promoters who do that type of shows there. It must be making those promoters some sort of money because they're still doing it after 3 years. Usually it is part of some sort of "BATTLE OF THE BANDS, BANDS, BANDS" (insert echo reverb here) type of thing.
      I'm not sure how I feel about pay-for-play. On one hand it is a good way for new bands to grow an audience, but in my mind if you have to pay-to-play, maybe your band isn't that good.

      Of course i've never been to a pay-to-play show, so what do I know.

  5. kyronfive says:

    WHO are the fucking CRETINS that would rip partitions off of a wall in a bathroom???

  6. hukuma says:

    Maybe you should put a webcam in the bathrooms...

    • jwz says:

      I've considered it, believe me, but it wouldn't actually stop people from breaking shit. Maybe (maybe) it would finger one more baseball-cap wearing jackass to try and not let in next time, but that doesn't actually help us much.

  7. g_na says:

    Random thoughts re: Pay-to-Play, covering costs, and all that... P-to-P does give a club a bad name, regardless of the reasons. I know the DNA has been conscientiously trying not to be slimy (and doing a pretty good job of it). But I also know it's very difficult to go into a situation where you know you're going to lose money. Many small bands would probably play for free just for the chance to appear on a DNA bill. It would be nice, when booking bands, to give them a piece of paper outlining the costs of being open on any given night (most bands don't realize the cost of things like insurance and electricity) so they know why they're not getting paid. And you could offer them a percentage of net profits, which would encourage them to a) bring people in, and b) not abuse their guest list. Finally, as a comparision, The Fillmore used to pay the opening band only $75. $75 to play in a sold-out world-class venue with national acts. Of course, that's BGP and they're slimy.

  8. latchkey says:

    Paradise opened up last Sat night. If you like purple, it is definitely the club to go to. Joking aside, I do like their counter tops and they have done some other cool features in there as well. It is also nice that we have 3 new places open up on 11th street in the last couple months with one more on the way (hopefully...if the 'neighborhood' people don't fight its opening with chainsaws).

    Also, I hear you on the live bands thing. We (StudioZ.tv) have been wanting to do an open mic/live band thing on a regular weeknight forever now and the costs are just too high to have 50 people standing around drinking beer. Sorry kids, that just doesn't pay the bills.

    As for the bathrooms, we have had people actually rip the urinals off the walls and women shove large strange bottles down the toilets. Personally, I just like to pee in them, but for some reason, others like to attack them.

  9. vordark says:

    A club in Boston called The Avalon sometimes does a band followed by a DJ. I've seen this happen with even touring acts. Not sure if there's any additional money in it, but it's usually a doors open at seven, band goes on at eight, DJ follows at ten and plays 'til close. Might be enough to satisfy you're live music desire and could easily phase into a band all night sort of thing if the live stuff seems to take off.

  10. baconmonkey says:

    slip them under thursdays, like then Halou has performed before Code. like a one hour show starting at 8pm. Your overall risk for the evening is reduced, since you don't have to book multiple bands just to keep the place open long enough to make it worth while for staff to come in for more than 2 hours.

    so rather than adding a whole additional day of payroll, you're only adding 2-3 hours. You'll still need a booking/promotions monkey, and sound guy, but compared to relying on just the bands for bar take, that's much lower risk.

  11. jwz says:

    Pay-to-play would be too alienating, I think; that way of doing things is pretty widely reviled, right or wrong. It's just bad PR. You can get away with charging outside promoters, but you can't get away with charging bands, even when the band is acting as their own promoter. It's just "how things are done."

    But PR/image issues aside, the bottom line is, most bands just can't afford it: say you're an unknown band who's gonna get 50 people to show up. So you do that, and now you owe DNA two grand. Oops, you don't have it. So there are two outcomes to that: either this takes the band by surprise, and we don't get paid; or the band realizes before the show that they don't have the money, and the show doesn't even get booked. (Which is basically where we are today.)

    Alexis thinks the way to make this work is to find a set of outside promoters who are A) willing to take some financial risk, and who B) will book bands with at least a little draw. We'll still lose money that way, but at least that way we're sharing both the loss and the promotion effort with someone else.

    Another way of phrasing this is, "do exactly what we do on weekends, but have super discounted room rental rates for the specific case of mid-week small-ticket live music."

    He says that the "first come first serve" approach I hypothesized in my post has been done by some clubs, but it didn't work terribly well even when SF still had a live music scene.

  12. baconmonkey says:

    http://www.livejournal.com/users/vietnamwar/3270.html#cutid1

    the last picture presents to solution to your problem.
    the rest of them present the beginning of mine.