I wanted to let you all know about a new campaign that has just launched, "Stop the War on Fun".
If you're reading this, you're aware of the assault that we at DNA Lounge have been under from the ABC for the last year or so, but you might not realize the extent to which San Francisco's other all-ages venues have also been under attack. This new site (and corresponding Facebook group) has been put together for those of us who care about live music and night-time entertainment to communicate, coordinate, and organize on a larger scale.
There is also a "Stop the War on Fun" Facebook group, which I encourage you to join! The "Stop the War on Fun" web site has a form you can use to send a letter to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors encouraging them to take action to bring this out-of-control state agency into check. Let them know what you think!
And as long as you're feeling join-y, here are some other DNA-related Facebook groups:
- The "Save DNA Lounge" group.
- The main DNA Lounge Facebook page, which, oddly, has far fewer fans than the "Save DNA" group does...
- The Bootie group;
- The Hubba Hubba Revue group;
- The Bohemian Carnival group;
- The New Wave City group;
- And the Meat group.
I am giving serious consideration to removing the kiosks from DNA Lounge.
This would set off a minor internet freakout, I'm sure, since the web is full of bloggers who have never been to DNA Lounge but who think that the kiosks are our single defining characteristic.
In 2001, we started off with six kiosks in the club. We managed to maintain those until about a year ago. I guess we upgraded their CPUs and power supplies around three times each in that period. We've gone through about 30 keyboards, and a dozen trackballs. But today, we are down to two kiosks that are still working, the others being victims of dead power supplies and/or motherboards.
For the first five years or so, I had an employee who did the routine maintenance on them (replacing motherboards, de-gunking keyboards, bolting enclosures to the wall, etc.) and he was great at it, but sadly moved on to greener pastures. My second guy quit recently, too, but that guy was terrible at it, and very unresponsive. But hey, it's a crap job that doesn't pay much, what do you expect? It's not like a "real" sysadmin job: since it only requires a few hours a week, it ends up being a rock-bottom priority, as said person's day-job sysadmin gig actually pays.
Which means, I have to do the repairs myself. And I hate doing that kind of crap, so I don't. Which is how we ended up with only two working kiosks.
Recently an anonymous benefactor generously gifted me with a stack of 1U servers from a decomissioned data center, and I've been halfheartedly trying to install the kiosk software onto them, without making a whole lot of progress. (Basically: using a stock LTSP on a stock Ubuntu results in the client machine killing init, and have I mentioned that I hate debugging this kind of crap? So I manage to put about ten minutes into it at a time before getting fed up.)
Plus, even if I got them working, I'd have to be the guy standing on the ladder with the drill, trying to figure out how to bolt a 1U to the wall. I have no one both competent and willing to whom I can delegate this work. And the new machines' fans are louder than a hair dryer, so I'd have to find a replacement for those. (Seriously, I think they are loud enough that you'd be able to hear them over the music!) And so on. These things are not things I enjoy.
So that all puts me in the state of mind of, "my life would be more pleasant if there were not kiosks in it."
I want to convince myself that everyone who would care to use the interweb at a nightclub is already the owner of an iPhone or similar dingus which has an adequate web browser on it already. I want to believe that time has marched on, and relegated the kiosks to mere historical curiosity rather than something that is actually useful.
That way I can throw them away and believe I'm doing it for a good reason.
When we first applied for our license change to allow all ages events, the ABC investigator who was assigned to our case was a fellow named Ross Glen. He was our primary point of contact with ABC throughout our various appeals until he retired several months ago.
Here's a letter he recently wrote to the SF Bay Guardian, which they published today.
Even ABC's own investigators think ABC's actions are absurd.
A longer version of Glen's message to the Guardian follows:
My name is Ross Glen and I am a retired Licensing Representative for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. I handled the investigation of DNA's application to convert their type-48 license to a type-47. I have also handled the applications of several of the other clubs between Harrison and Folsom on 11th Street.
I believe that ABC's proposed revocation of the DNA's license is excessive and out of proportion to the offense committed. During the course of my investigation, I found the DNA to be appreciated by their immediate neighbors, diligent in their efforts to adhere to the applicable laws and sincere in their desire to address the concerns of the Department with regard to the various circumstances that surround the operation of an all-ages music venue. My review of the historical record of the licensee revealed no preceding violations. In addition, the San Francisco Police Department withdrew their objections to the exchange of the 48 for the 47 after discussing the matter with DNA ownership. City and county zoning regulations allow for the operation of a type-47 at DNA's location. The one verified protest we had against the DNA's request, moved out of the area and did not choose to appear at the administrative hearing. In short, in the final analysis the Department stood alone in its belief that the request to exchange license types was not in the interest of public welfare and morals.
The crux of the matter is the Department's requirement that at least fifty percent of the club's revenues come from the sale of food. It became clear to me after my investigation, that an all-ages music venues business model could not support the fifty percent food requirements. During a break in the administrative hearing, the Department and DNA's ownership (Mr. Zawinski and Mr. Synoground) came to an agreement to allow the exchange to take place with a condition that forty percent of their receipts come from the sale of meals. When we all left the hearing that day, I think we had a certain sense of accomplishment that we had reached, at least an interim solution that would allow the DNA to continue as one of this country's preeminent music venues. On a personal level, I absolutely would vouch for Mr. Synoground's and Mr. Zawinski's character.
I am sure you know that his all goes much deeper than just the DNA Lounge. I also did the investigation for Bottom of the Hill's request to have the fifty percent condition taken off their license. Despite having finished the investigation and submitting the report, I have found that the Department reassigned the case after I retired and the investigation began anew. In tha instance also, I found absolutely nobody in the neighborhood that opposed the condition modification. In fact, I received tens of personal letters of support from San Franciscans that were the Bottom of the Hills neighbors.
Please know that I am not a disgruntled former employee. I loved my time at ABC and feel that they generally do a good job with very limited resources. I do part company with the Department however when it comes to their policies and actions relating to many of the music venues.
Today is the eighth anniversary of our re-opening of DNA Lounge in 2001. So happy anniversary to us.
I often wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn't chosen to go down this path a bit over ten years ago. There are some good friends I'd probably never have met, and a lot of entertaining stories I wouldn't have to tell. On days like today, people tend to ask me, "If you had it to do all over again, would you?"
In case you haven't heard, Live Nation and Ticketmaster intend to merge into a single company. This would be a horrible thing for consumers, bands, and venues alike.
If you are like most people, all you know about Ticketmaster is that they are the exclusive ticket source for many venues, and that they have extortionate "convenience fees" of from 35% to 100% of the ticket price. But they don't only sell tickets: they are also an artist management company.
Live Nation, on the other hand, is the world's largest concert production and promotion company (for many artists, filling most of the roles traditionally filled by a record label), and the largest owner of live music venues. They also have exclusive booking contracts with many venues that they don't own outright. They were until recently owned by noted radio-station monopolists Clear Channel.
So if they merge, you have a single company that:
- Manages the band;
- Promotes the band's tour;
- Owns all the venues on that tour route;
- Sells all the tickets, merchandise, and alcohol.
Good luck trying to compete against that kind of vertical integration. If you're a booking a tour, you can't get the venues, because the venues' owners are also your booking/management competition. If you're a venue, you can't get the tours, because the bookers are also your local venue competition.
And with no competition, ticket prices can be whatever they like. Do you think they'll lower them?
Under the proposed merger, the combined company would have control over nearly every aspect of the live music business: artist management, record sales, promotion, licensing, venue control, parking, ticket sales and resales, all the way down to the hot dogs and beer. According to James Hurwitz of the American Antitrust Institute:
"If the combination is permitted, [the merged company] will have a powerful or dominant position in virtually all of the industry's markets. Viewed in combination, the merger will give Live Nation Entertainment unarguable control of most competition within the industry."
The companies, if merged, would be over five times more powerful than their next eight rivals combined.
The proposed merger would create a vertically integrated entity whose power would extend across five of the industry's six main markets. An entrant or competitor in any of these markets would face the merged firm not only as a market rival, but also as a power in other critically related markets. A new promoter, for example, needs artists willing to perform and venues appropriate for staging the event. A new venue needs artists and promoters willing to book the facility. The vertically integrated firm can withhold these critical inputs, and its rival will suffer.
To avoid such problems, an entrant would need to enter the industry on several levels at once, a burden that makes entry far more daunting and costly. The combined entity could therefore use its five-market vertical integration to restrain trade both by chilling entry and disciplining rivals.
DNA Lounge again won Best Dance Club in the SFBG Best of the Bay Readers Poll! Thanks to all of you who voted!
Death Guild was awarded "Best Darkest Kiss" (um, what?) in the "Editors Picks: Classics" section: "Remember those freaky goth kids your church leaders warned you against in high school?" yadda yadda...
Vote-winning Hubba Hubba Revue regulars include: Best Burlesque Act: Twilight Vixen Revue; Best Tassels with Talent: Rose Pistola; Best Singer-Songwriter: Kitten on the Keys; and Best Lindy Hop to Lil' Wayne: Swing Goth.