17-May-2018 (Thu)
Wherein a winnar is us.

SF Weekly's Best of SF is out, and once again, DNA Lounge was voted "Best Dance Club"! Hooray! Go team!

Also of note, "Best New Club" went to Hotline, last here on March 30. That award is a little awkward, because while we had been doing it quarterly-ish, there's not currently another Hotline event coming up any time soon... schedules are conspiring against us for a while. Maybe later in the year?

I always wonder how snide I'm allowed to be when talking about a popularity contest that we won, but let me just say that my big takeaway from the "Editor's Picks" this year is that we now live in a city where you can go somewhere and pay a "Bong Steward" to wipe off your bong for you. So that's where we are now. As a society.

So here's something funny that has happened twice now, by which I mean not funny at all. We have a urinal in one of the restrooms in the club that is feeling less than fresh. Twice now, a plumber has walked into the pizza place, and asked "Where's the bathroom?" They quite sensibly point random-dude at the restaurant's bathroom, where he proceeds to "fix" the non-broken urinal in there. If our plumbers would tell us the time, or even the day, that they are planning to show up we could do a better job of intercepting them with someone who actually knew what's going on, but ha ha ha ha that's just not how plumbing is done, Son.

"The DNA Lounge Story: Mostly Plumbers and Permits."

Anyhow, please enjoy jwz mixtape 194. and some photos of recent events.

May The Fourth Be With You
Back 2 Bassic: Blvk Sheep
Spring Fest
Cocktail Robotics Hackathon

Monday Hubba
Riddim Hours: Lumberjvck
So Stoked + Peelander-Z
Hubba Hubba: Cartoon Funhouse

Tomorrow night: May The Fourth Be With You! Star Wars costume contest! Go-go dancers! Galactic raving! Sarlacc the Magnificent and the Execution of the Prisoners!

There was a time, and that time was neither long ago nor far, far away, when being a San Franciscan meant that you had a closet, and you also had a costume closet. At least once a month there was some costume-themed event; one had to be prepared. This was a town that knew how to dress up, and did so frequently and with vigor.

Less so these days. Our recent attempts at costume-themed events aimed at our traditional Death Guild / Hubba demographic have been received with, let's say, insufficient enthusiasm to make them viable. So this time we decided to get some real headliner DJs and make it a legitimate dance party instead. There's one community in town who are still wildly enthusiastic about dressing up for their night of clubbing, and that's the ravers.

I think it was Yoda who said, "I believe the children are our future."

Case in point: a couple weeks ago we had a Peelander-Z show that we booked at kind-of the last minute. We already had a four room So Stoked party booked that night, so we were going to do Peelander-Z as an early show... but then we thought, what the hell, let's just combine the two. So a weird Japanese cartoon punk band (and Chaki the Funk Wizard, who is hard to describe using any other words than those) were the opening acts at a candy rave... And it worked! In addition to the people who obviously came for Peelander-Z, there were a lot of ravers in the audience who had looks on their faces like, "I have no idea what I am seeing right now, but I'm definitely sticking around."

They say that the Grinch's heart grew three sizes that day.

So what I'm getting at is if you're a tired old goth who's thinking, "Meh, a Star Wars party sounds fun, but meh, meh, they probably aren't going to play any music that I already know, meh"... you're right! But you should give it a try! You can stand around at a dance party ignoring music that you don't know, instead of standing around at a dance party ignoring music that you were tired of by your sophomore year in college!

Speaking of the Olden Times, tickets are selling briskly for Killing Joke, and rightly so: they are a fantastic live band! Get yours before it sells out.

But you know what? If every goth band who has hit us up asking to open for Killing Joke had bought four tickets instead, the show would have sold out the day it went on sale... If only all of these bands showed similar enthusiasm for the remaining tatters of our local live music scene...

Further speaking of the Olden Times, here's a nice profile on Steve Koepke, keeper of "The List". I remember pouring over paper copies of that, back in the Late Cretaceous. And then in like... 1994? I vaguely recall that I wrote some code to download it once a week and cross-reference it with my music collection to give me an alert when I band I like was coming to town. It was a couple hundred lines of Emacs-Lisp. Since then, there have been a dozen failed startups that didn't accomplish much more. Good times.

Photos of recent events! And a few less-recent ones that I finally found galleries of.

Turbo Drive: Shredder 1984
DAMSF: Super Hero Edition
Riddim Hours: Metopolis
Turbo Drive: Danger
Back 2 Bassic: Convex

So Stoked: Spring Break
Bootie: Gamer Night
Bootie: Easter Bunny Bash
Drop Cvlt: Initiation
John 5

10-Apr-2018 (Tue)
Wherein we crave validation.

The SF Weekly Best of SF poll is up again, so vote for us, won't you?

Relevant categories include: Best Dance Party, Best Dance Club, Best Live Theatre (Hubba Hubba Revue or Mortified), Best Live Music Venue, Best Late Nite Bite and Best Pizza.

Some upcoming events of note: we just added a last-minute Peelander-Z show, which you really should not miss. Also we're doing another Star Wars party!

Hubba Hubba: Cartoon Funhouse
Fri, Apr 13th
Peelander-Z
Fri, Apr 20th
Turbo Drive: Das Mörtal
Wed Apr 25th
May The Fourth Be With You
Fri (wait for it) May 4th
Some recent photo galleries:

Turbo Drive: Sung + Lucy in Disguise
Pow x7 Bonus Round
Hotline

A few weeks ago I posted about how bummed I was that Golden Voice is taking over the booking of Slim's and Great American Music Hall. I included some research on the corporate ownership structures of most of the clubs in town. A lot of people, even people in the industry, were unaware of the extent of that.

I'm told that some industry people got pissed off about that post. I'm not entirely sure why: "Fun fact, your business is owned by an eight billion dollar multinational corporation." "How dare you, Sir!"

Anyway, the East Bay Express recently published a great, long article on the situation: Will Corporations Ruin Live Music in the Bay Area?

I guess I'm mostly posting this to say, "See? I'm not making this up! Other people are sounding the same alarm!"

Here are some excerpts:

In December, [Anthony Bedard, a booker at Slim's and GAMH] learned that both venues, among the city's most celebrated independent concert halls, were partnering with entertainment giant Goldenvoice.

"Within a couple weeks, there wasn't really anything left for me to do," he recalled. "I thought maybe they'd keep me around to handle the local bills or something, but no." [...]

He was also dismayed, as a musician and concertgoer, to see the venues' longtime independence compromised by a partnership with Goldenvoice, an out-of-town subsidiary of Anschutz Entertainment Group, a multibillion-dollar company owned by a prominent right-wing philanthropist. "I'm bummed because it's them, those guys -- Goldenvoice," he said. "I wanted to keep working for independent venues." [...]

When Dawn Holliday helped Boz Scaggs launch Slim's in 1988, Goldenvoice and Live Nation were hardly present in San Francisco, and Another Planet didn't exist. Clubs such as Slim's and Bottom of the Hill, like the Hemlock more recently, were tour destinations as much as they were local haunts -- a combination at the core of a healthy music scene. "They're small businesses, so as a talent buyer, it's like you're spending your employees' money, money you all made that week, and you're facing the ticket buyer yourself," she explained. "We were always independent -- Slim's and Great American. So, I've thought about this a lot -- the Goldenvoice partnership -- and it's a great source of a sadness for me." [...]

The corporate buyers, as Smith from the UC Theatre pointed out, often overbid for artists because it establishes history with emerging acts in the hopes that, next time, they'll draw larger crowds at a bigger venue controlled by the same company. "They'll outbid someone by $5,000 on the same ticket price and the same room size and just eat it in order to establish their mark," he said, adding that it's also about depriving smaller competitors of high-yielding shows. "So, the big boys have a corporate war chest that locks independents out of the market. We can't spread our expenses across 300 venues and lose money on normally profitable shows just to edge out competitors." [...]

Package tours, wherein an artist plays only venues operated by Goldenvoice or Live Nation, undermine the expertise of local promoters; that's how an artist with little San Francisco draw ends up in a too-big venue, without a well-chosen slate of local support. "So, what happens now is the agencies can push the mid-level acts that suck," said Holliday. "There goes the variety. Here's the same bill in every town." [...]

Bedard said that Goldenvoice's agreement with Slim's and GAMH is for more than 200 shows a year at each venue.

[Danny Bell, a Goldenvoice talent-buyer] declined to comment on the details. But he said little to assuage concerns that the company won't continue Bedard's curatorial vision, or that it'll neglect local music. "SF is a great music town. With any strong local music scene, there's a lot of great local acts," Bell said. "Is it a priority? It's tough to say. I think it just naturally happens. I know that we came on up here with one goal -- to do cool shit."

That last paragraph is particularly telling. Here's how I read it: The question put to the Goldenvoice rep is, "Now that you control the music industry in this town, what are you going to do to preserve the music culture that was here before you bought your way in?" And their answer is, "Hey, that's your problem, not ours." \_(ツ)_/

It's the Gordon Gecko model of concert promotion: if at any moment, a thing is worth more money by cutting it up and selling it off for parts, do that. Then move on to raze the next thing.

And in news from the other coast, here's a pleasant little update on New York City's ongoing War on Fun:

Cut the Music: Inside M.A.R.C.H. -- NYPD's secret, venue-closing task force:

First came the police officers, who then led everyone else: reps from the Fire Department, Health Department, State Liquor Authority, and Department of Buildings, all at once. The group of officers stopped the show, made everyone leave, and proceeded to inspect the place, ultimately issuing a number of citations and fines.

These types of coordinated, multi-agency raids have become a thing of lore around New York's underground music worlds over the past few years. They are the scheme of an NYPD-led task force called M.A.R.C.H., which stands for Multi-Agency Responses to Community Hotspots. An operation that swarms and shutters venues during peak weekend hours, it has been described as unpredictable and SWAT-like, employing a mystified style of enforcement that keeps venues and business owners living in perpetual fear. The violations and fines are often numerous, and they come all at once, meaning the raids are often deployed as a tool for swiftly closing bars and venues. And as some venue owners report, D.I.Y. music spaces comprise only a portion of businesses affected by these operations. [...]

"No one knows how you end up on their list," says John Barclay, owner of Bossa Nova Civic Club and member of Dance Liberation Network. "They send everyone at the same time, at peak hours, and they write you up for every single thing under the sun." Barclay's club has been raided by M.A.R.C.H. a couple of times. "They take a flashlight, they go through all your bottles, potentially look through your office. We don't know why they showed up. They won't tell you. They just show up, they're super mean, they write a bunch of tickets, and they leave and go to the next one." [...]

"If the problem is noise complaints, why are they sending the health department to write you up for the way you are cutting limes?" says Barclay. [...] If you apply that to civilian life, let's say you have a number of parking tickets, I shouldn't send social services to see if you're treating your kids right."

So that's all horrible. But, knock on wood, it's been quite a while since I've heard horror stories like that here in San Francisco.

Oh hey, apropos of nothing, Watain part ways with guitarist after nazi salute photo surfaces. "Can't you take a joke?" defense deployed.

Also, here are the latest batch of photos from recent events:

Wooden Nickel Circus
Jyrki 69
Gen X vs. Millennials
Pop Goes the Diva

St. Patrick's Bootie
Pow
Space Station 1988
And please enjoy jwz mixtape 193.


A lot of our staff are also DJs, but now even our pizza boxes are getting in on the action. This is a kit that uses conductive paint to turn anything into a touch-sensitive MIDI controller, in this case, a DNA Pizza box!

Try one with sun-dried tomato, olive and air-horn.

Short version:

I kicked a support band off of a bill because I learned that they are virulent misogynists. Then the headliner, who claim to definitely not be Nazis, cancelled the whole show.

Long version:

You are probably aware that we do a lot of metal shows here.

That's not because I'm some big metal fan. Actually I don't give a shit about metal. We don't book everything based on my personal tastes. We do a lot of metal here because we do a lot of all kinds of music here. Our mission is to provide an outlet for a wide variety of music and art. We'll book pretty much anything, so long as we think it won't be a security problem, a legal problem, or lose us a bunch of money.

But you know what? We chose not to do business with misogynists, racists, homophobes and Nazis.

Not on purpose, anyway. Sure, some things have slipped through -- for example, Combichrist played here several times before I became aware of how vile they are -- but one does what one can.

With the world going to shit, I think it's more important than ever to make ethical decisions before financial ones.

So we had booked this band Watain, and they were bringing this other band Destroyer666 on tour with them. I don't know anything about these bands; don't care to, not my thing. But in January, someone pointed out to me that someone from Destroyer666 was quoted as saying, "Those #metoo cunts just need a hard cock".

Well, that's not someone I choose to do business with.

So I told my team, "Destroyer666 is not playing on my stage. If you can get them off the bill great; if not, cancel the whole show."

Well, the agent representing the headliner represents some other bands that we do care about, so my team took their time trying to work it out with him. The agent dragged his feet on it for months (and why wouldn't he? He chose to represent these people, his job is to get them gigs, and maybe if he ignores the problem it will go away.)

Well, the problem didn't go away, so we removed them from the bill in mid-February. I said, "We need to tell people about this", but my team were worried about antagonizing the agent and kept telling me "Uh, just give me a few more days", and of course nothing happened. So, that was a mistake.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago people finally noticed that they were not on the bill.

According to many, many comments aimed at me on Facebook and Twitter, the fact that I chose not to do business with a band over their rapey, abusive rhetoric makes me a "pussy" and a "faggot".

Let me be very clear about this:

If you feel that way, then by all means, stay away from DNA Lounge. We don't want your business. We try to be an inclusive venue where people of many different communities and backgrounds can feel safe and have a good time, and that means we are not welcoming to misogynists, racists, homophobes and fascists.

If that's you -- fuck off.

If you passively tolerate that in your community -- you're part of the problem.

So among the shouts of "pussy" and "faggot" and "censorship" and "cuck" and all the "what-about"-ism, one of the funnier comments was one that said, basically, "Metalheads are just chill people who want to see a show with no politics, why are you picking on us?"

Yes, metalheads are a simple, gentle folk who merely want to enjoy their growled sexist and racist diatribes in peace!

Part of the problem.

And I'll bet the dudes who say things like "SJWs are ruining metal" are at the same time wondering why there aren't more "chicks" at their shows. Hmmmm, could there be a connection?

Also, pro tip, if someone accuses you of saying something virulently misogynistic and your denial includes the phrase "PC hysteria" -- dude, now everybody is sure that you said it.


Then it gets better: after this all started blowing up, people pointed out to me that Watain have been ducking accusations of being Nazis for a decade.

How about that.

Maybe they are, maybe they aren't, but do you know who has never been accused of being a Nazi? Literally everyone I know.

It's actually really, really easy to avoid being accused of being a Nazi. First, don't be a Nazi! Second, don't be Nazi-adjacent! Don't be that guy who says shit like, "Oh, they're not Nazis, they're just fascinated with the Third Reich", or, "They're not Nazis, they just believe in blood purity", or, "They're not Nazis, they just hate immigrants", or, "They're not Nazis, the just don't like how the Jews control the banks."

Or the best -- the best rebuttal -- "What, can't you take a joke?"

Or -- Watain's own rebuttal -- "Metal doesn't have anything to do with the world like you know it."

Uh huh.

Anyway, we had been planning to go forward with the Watain show (minus Destroyer666) anyway because by the time all this bullshit came to a head, it was too late to back out of our contract without it costing us a lot of money and (more to the point) them getting paid anyway. But then at the last minute Watain decided to cancel the show.

Problem solved, I guess, and lessons learned: I guarantee you that my team will be googling things like "bandname nazi" more often in the future than they have been so far.

I understand that Watain and Destroyer666 will now be playing at Social Hall SF. Tickets purchased for the DNA show will be honored there. (Update: Social Hall SF decided that they didn't want it either. The show has now been cancelled and all tickets are being refunded.)


So, it's not cheap, having ethics.

If you would like to support a venue that chooses not to do business with misogynists and fascists, please consider contributing to our Patreon.

Since our morning business is still very light, we're trying something new: during the early morning hours, we're closing the doors on the interior of the alcove and selling through the pass-through window. The dining room opens up again at around 10am. This cuts down on staffing, since when the dining room is open, we always have to have at least two people there, in case someone needs to walk away from the register for some reason. But now we can just close the window! This also should greatly reduce the number of nodded-off junkies we have to rouse from our bathroom. "Greetings from Fragrant SOMA".

Our morning business has always been light, but the fact that we have two broken espresso machines probably isn't helping. We had a guy from a nearby motorcycle shop say "I'll fix it for you so that I don't have to walk as far for my morning coffee!" That sounded awesome! But that was months ago and he hasn't freed up the time to actually do it. So we keep listing them on eBay, and knocking the price down every week, and nobody's biting. Pretty soon we'll be paying someone to haul them away and still won't have espresso drinks.

And, another Noise Pop has come and gone. I always enjoy opening up their little program booklet and looking at that cute cartoon map in the front that shows every live music venue in San Francisco except DNA Lounge. This year they had like five dates on hold on our calendar but released them all did all of those shows elsewhere. We can never get a straight answer from them on why. They say, "Oh we love doing shows there, it just didn't work out this time!" but their actions say, "we will do shows there only if we have exhausted literally every other option first." Obviously there's some reason they don't like doing shows here, but they won't tell us what it is. If we knew, maybe we could fix it. Sigh.

It seems like every couple of weeks someone asks me, "So is DNA still having money trouble or is everything cool now?" No dude, everything is very much not cool. The money situation has basically not improved in the slightest.

I guess I have to keep saying that over and over or people will just assume everything is fine and they can go back to not caring...

To put a "glass half full" spin on it, we'd be breaking even if we had just 10% more revenue. That doesn't sound like much, right? Just 10%!

But that's not exactly an actionable insight.

It basically just says, "you should have events that are more popular!" Sure. Getting right on that. Also, we can't really cut expenses any more than we have. Our biggest costs are payroll, rent and insurance. (Hands up if you work here and you feel overpaid. Yeah, I didn't think so.)

We have these massive fixed expenses that don't go away when the doors are closed, and don't scale with attendance, so the only real fix is... to be open more often. Taking overhead into account, it all comes back to the same old number: we need about an additional 800 customers per week. And I don't have the slightest idea what to do about that. We're already doing all the things that we know how to.

How about this: next time you come to DNA, bring two friends with you. Convince your layabout friends to skip the Netflix and actually leave the house. If just our regulars did that, it might solve our problem!

We're still getting a bunch of donations from the Patreon -- and thank you again to the 321 of you who are contributing! We launched the Patreon a bit over a year ago, and while it has stopped growing, it has held relatively steady. We also get the occasional donation from people kicking in an extra $5 or $10 when they buy tickets online, and that's all awesome. But it's not nearly enough to get us out of the hole.

The only real solution is butts in seats. Elbows on the bar.

On that note, here's some stuff we have coming up. It's good stuff, Carl! You should come check it out. And you should bring some people with you.

Riddim Hours
Thu Mar 1
Danger
Thu Mar 1
Bootie
Sat Mar 3
Wander
Sat Mar 3

Hoodslam: Sun Mar 4
Mortified
Fri Mar 9
Hubba Hubba
Fri Mar 9
Talisco
Sat Mar 10

Death Guild 25th Anniv.
Mon Mar 12
Turbo Drive: Sung
Fri Mar 16
Pow: Pow 7
Tue Mar 20
Hotline
Fri Mar 30

Last night, at the circus:

"A patron could t find his wife. Called 911.
Then found her at the balcony bar.
The patron called 911 back and cancelled the car."

Some recent photo galleries:

Hubba Canada
Bootie Mardi Gras
Hubba History of the World Part One Vol. 2
United in Hardcore
Bootie Valentine's
Sometimes it's exhausting trying to edit down those galleries to something sane. The photographer says, 'The first batch of photos are up, I'll be adding more!" And there are 608 photos. Of a dance party attended by only 450 people. I wish people would realize that nobody's going to scroll through a dump of your entire camera.

(Update: OMG, they uploaded even more -- now it's a total of 1,565 photos for this one small event. That's 3.5 photos per person. WTF.)

Hey, we'd like to do another Cyberdelia (our Hackers party) again this year, but we need a new corporate sponsor. This party has a lot of expensive overhead, so last year we were able to cover costs by making it be someone's official RSA / B-Sides after party. It went great.

But this year, sadly, that company has dropped out. Their lawyers said they can't sponsor anything that involves alcohol, so their after party has to be held somewhere that you can't get a drink at all. (Yeah, I don't get it either.)

So if your company would be interested, or if you have any suggestions of someone who might, please let me know! We've asked around but have had no bites so far. Target dates would probably be Apr 15 or 17.

Slim's and Great American Music Hall recently announced that they will be "partnering" with Golden Voice. That's a euphemism for "turning over most or all control of what events go on the calendar". Basically they are outsourcing booking to another company. I'm sure they have their reasons, but this makes me really sad.

I have no intention of picking on the Slim's team, whom I have the utmost respect and sympathy for, but...

I'm here to tell you that monopolies are bad. They are bad for consumer choice, they are bad for ticket pricing, they are bad for artists getting paid, they are bad for your local music scene, and they are bad for our culture as a whole.

To explain why, first let me start with some numbers. Here is who owns what when it comes to live music in San Francisco:

  1. Live Nation Entertainment ($9 billion)

    • Owns TicketMaster (who sell 80% of all tickets in the US).
    • Formerly a division of Clear Channel (who own essentially all US radio stations).
    • Owns 117 venues, 75 in the US.
    • Exclusively books 33 additional venues.
    • Owns House of Blues (14 locations).
    • Owns their own record label, Live Nation Artists.
    • Books SF Masonic Auditorium (3,500 capacity).
    • Owns The Fillmore (1,200 capacity).
  2. AEG: Anschutz Entertainment Group ($8 billion)

    • Largest owner of sports teams and events in the world.
    • Second largest music promoter after Live Nation.
    • Own many arenas worldwide.
    • Owns AXS, a concert ticket vendor.
    • Owns Coachella (600,000 attendance).
    • Owns part of Bottle Rock (120,000 attendance).
    • Runs around ten other large music festivals.
    • Owned by a Fundamentalist, homophobic, climate change denier.
    • Golden Voice, a division of AEG

      • Books Coachella (600,000 attendance).
      • Books The Warfield (2,300 capacity).
      • Books The Regency Center (1,400 capacity).
      • Books Social Hall SF (600 capacity).
      • Owns 12 other venues in LA.
      And now:
      • Books Slim's (500 capacity).
      • Books Great American Music Hall (600 capacity).
  3. APE: Another Planet Entertainment

    • Runs Outside Lands (200,000 attendance).
    • Runs (ran?) Treasure Island Music Festival (30,000 attendance).
    • Books The Greek Theatre (8,500 capacity).
    • Books Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (8,500 capacity).
    • Books Fox Theatre (2,900 capacity).
    • Books The Independent [sic] (500 capacity, 21+).
    • Is also an artist management business.

So that leaves us with the remaining independent live music venues in San Francisco:

The Monopoly Man visits DNA Lounge.
  • DNA Lounge (800 capacity) & Above DNA (300 capacity)
  • Mezzanine (800 capacity, 21+)
  • Bimbo's (680 capacity)
  • Elbo Room (600 capacity, 21+)
  • Neck of the Woods (500 capacity, 21+)
  • Public Works (500 capacity, 21+)
  • The Chapel (400 capacity)
  • Rickshaw Stop (350 capacity)
  • Cafe du Nord / Swedish American Hall (300 capacity)
  • Bottom of the Hill (250 capacity)
  • Brick and Mortar (250 capacity)
  • Bender's (200 capacity, 21+)
  • Eagle Tavern (150 capacity, 21+)
  • El Rio (150 capacity, 21+)
  • Thee Parkside (100 capacity)
  • Milk Bar (100 capacity, 21+)
  • Hotel Utah (90 capacity, 21+)
  • Hemlock (80 capacity, 21+)

(I'm sure I have accidentally omitted some venues, but I think I got most of the SF venues that regularly host live music by touring acts. I've omitted venues that exclusively host DJ dance parties, because that's a bit of a different business.)

Even omitting all of the massive music festivals, three $17+ billion dollar corporations control somewhere around 80% of all available "seats" for live shows in SF and Oakland.

So what's the problem?

Let's start with a hypothetical.

Let's say you're an agent trying to book a tour for your band. You decide how many days they want to be on the road, how many cities they want to try and hit, and then you start sending out emails to find out what dates are available so you can figure out the routing. Let's say your first call is to some venue in New York, and the talent buyer there says, "As it happens, I also book venues in 15 other cities, so I can put your whole tour on the calendar right now, how's that?" What a relief! So much less work! But then an independent operator in, oh, let's say San Francisco gets in touch with you and says, "I hear your band is going out on tour soon! We love those guys and would like to bid on the show." But then what happens? The corporate talent buyer says to you, "Look, I was giving you a great deal on these 15 dates, but if you want to take your business to my competition instead of taking the full package that I offered you, the price is going to go up. And also, maybe some of those dates are no longer available for you."

So you write back to the small fry, who may have even offered you more money for that particular date, and you say, "Sorry, maybe next time."

Or, let's say you're an agent and you represent a band with a huge draw, as well as a bunch of smaller bands. You're trying to get your bigger band booked on the summer festival circuit, so you're trying to pitch them as big up-and-comers to the agencies booking the festivals. Maybe these guys have been playing 2,000 capacity rooms and you're trying to get them their big break: a late afternoon set in front of a captive audience of 10,000. So while that conversation is ongoing, you are also trying to book a tour for a different, smaller band. You're thinking of putting them in an independent venue who are offering you a good deal, but the festival buyer also books dozens of smaller venues, and you sure don't want to piss them off, because that could mean your job. So instead, you go with the corporate-controlled smaller room as well, regardless of its merits.

"Well that's just business, that's just playing hard-ball." Sure. It's also bad for art, and bad for local businesses. It consolidates control and profit in whatever company controls the routing, even if they don't live in your town. It homogenizes everything.

This is how you end up with venues in dozens of different cities who all have the same calendar. This venue in Portland has the same lineup as that venue in Seattle, just shifted by two days, and so on. Obviously a venue's character is defined by more than just what's on the calendar... but the calendar is a pretty big part.

And those are only examples of how corporate consolidation is bad for the booking side of things. Multi-venue booking agencies also tend to own or have exclusivity deals with ticketing companies as well. Live Nation owns TicketMaster. AEG owns AXS Ticketing and partners with eBay's StubHub. You wanted to use a different ticketing service that you think has better features, or fees, or marketing reach? Sorry, not part of the package. So a monopoly or near monopoly in one industry, booking, squashes competition in another industry, ticketing. That's the very definition of antitrust.

And then there's Live Nation's cozy relationship with their former owner, Clear Channel -- who control the playlists of basically every radio station, and also own most of the billboards.

Plus, much of the time these conglomerates also manage the bands themselves: so in the examples above where the band's agent was talking to a venue's talent buyer? Now they're the same person! And often that company also has a financial stake in a record label. So the same company:

  • Signs the band;
  • Manages the band;
  • Decides how much radio play the band gets;
  • Promotes the band's tour;
  • Owns the billboards in every city on the tour route;
  • Owns all of the venues on the tour route;
  • Sells all of the tickets, merchandise, and alcohol.

Good luck trying to compete against that kind of vertical integration.

Back in 2009, when Representative Bill Pascrell tried (and failed) to block Live Nation from merging with TicketMaster, he said:

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.

I'm sure the Slim's and Great American Music Hall team had compelling reasons for making the deal that they did. I assume it was a matter of survival. Much like DNA Lounge, Slim's has never been a self-sustainable business. They don't talk about it much, but it's not exactly a secret. They only way that Slim's has been able to remain in business for three decades is because of regular, large infusions of cash from their patrons, Boz Scaggs and Warren Hellman. Since Slim's bought GAMH in 2000, the same has been true of GAMH as well.

Warren Hellman was a great and generous supporter of the arts in many ways, but since he passed away in 2011, I assume the money tap has begun to dry up. Or their expenses have increased and become untenable. I don't know, I'm guessing.

But you only sink decades of your life into a money-losing business if it is a labor of love. I assure you, these folks haven't just been sitting around looking for their big chance to cash out.

Some people, Libertarians and other Free Market absolutists, will look at this and say, "Well this means that independent live music venues are not sustainable businesses in San Francisco, therefore it is right and proper that they should go out of business or be sold off for parts." That's like saying, "Well I guess you just don't deserve to live in San Francisco unless you earn over $150,000 per year: have you tried just not being poor?"

Diverse and extensive entertainment options are a huge part of what makes San Francisco what it is. Or was. Without that, we're just another bedroom community for Mountain View.

I understand that the Slim's crew are soon moving out of their offices in the Slim's building on Eleventh Street, and consolidating into the offices inside GAMH. I assume that they need less space -- and fewer employees -- now that they are no longer booking their own calendar.

If you'd like to prevent DNA Lounge from having to make a similar Faustian bargain some day -- and believe me, we've discussed it -- there's a way you can help: contribute to our Patreon. Show up. And get your friends to show up.

Hooray! We are 100% in support of this, of course. I wrote about this last year, but the bill has finally been introduced. You can help by contacting your senators and assembly members to express support.

Senator Wiener Introduces Bill Allowing Cities to Choose to Extend Alcohol Sales to 4 AM:

Today Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced the introduction of Senate Bill 905, which will allow -- but not require -- cities to extend sales of alcohol at bars, nightclubs, and restaurants (but not liquor stores) to as late as 4 a.m. The new 5-year pilot program version of the LOCAL Act, which stands for Let Our Communities Adjust Late-Night, preserves complete local control in terms of decision-making and applies only to the six cities whose Mayors have expressed interest in pursuing later hours: San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Sacramento, West Hollywood, and Long Beach.

Last year, a different version of this bill authored by Senator Wiener (allowing local control throughout California), passed the Senate with a 2/3 bipartisan vote and garnered significant support in the Assembly. Unfortunately, the bill was "held" by the chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee and not submitted for a vote by that committee. At the time, Senator Wiener vowed to bring back this effort to support nightlife. [...]

SB 905 does not automatically extend alcohol sale hours in these six cities -- it simply creates the option for the cities to choose to extend hours. As with the previous bill, cities will have significant flexibility and can, for example, limit extended hours only to certain neighborhoods, only to certain nights of the week, or only to a few nights a year. Local governments still will have to create and approve a plan, which ABC will also have to approve, to allow for later service hours with full community input. The bill also has a five-year sunset, which means the effects of allowing later service hours can be evaluated and then renewed or discontinued after five years. The full text of the bill can be found here. [...]

Ben Bleiman, California Music and Culture Association and the San Francisco Bar Owners Alliance: "This will would - finally! - allow these California cities who chose to do so to extend their operating hours to match other world-class nightlife cities in the U.S.A and abroad. Currently, we are at a huge disadvantage when competing with cities like Chicago, Washington D.C., New York City, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Miami Beach, and New Orleans, all of whom have late-night service hours beyond 2 a.m."

Joe D'Alessandro, President and CEO of San Francisco Travel Association: "Tourism is San Francisco's number one industry providing significant economic benefits to the people and workforce of our City and our important small business network. Permitting bars to extend their hours allows San Francisco to stay competitive in the night life scene with cities such as New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. who are all vying for a share of the business, leisure and convention market."

Jim Lazarus, senior vice president of public policy for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce: "We should determine at a city level how to best attract and support local nightlife businesses. We can't take a one size fits all approach when it comes to nightlife in San Francisco neighborhoods. What's best for one neighborhood might not be best for another, and this legislation allows us to capitalize on nightlife as an economic driver, increase jobs and local tax revenue, when deemed appropriate in a specific area of the City."

There's was some Q&A on his Twitter before the lunatic fringe showed up:

@Scott_Wiener Each city will decide for itself whether or not to go later.
@aclimbingnerd Why is San Diego being left out?
@Scott_Wiener B/c there was significant opposition from San Diego & little support. It was clear San Diego was never going to adopt later hours. The opposition from cities that would never adopt it anyway was jeopardizing the whole bill. So we limited it to cities whose mayors say they want it
@aclimbingnerd Thanks for the response, as a resident of San Diego I'm always amazed by the resistance to (in my opinion) common sense ideas in San Diego.
@x thank you! How do we support this? Will help us service industry ppl & make roads safer!
@Scott_Wiener Thanks! People you know around the state should contact their senators and assembly members to express support.
@x thx! Think it helps if you explain this isn't just about drinking but business (more opportunities), safety (no rush of driving at 2am - stretches out times ppl can head home), and options (things to do/eat for service industry & Late hour workers like me).
@jonwiley Any provision to enable future cities to opt-in without having to pass another bill?
@Scott_Wiener No. We included the entire state in our effort last year & a lot of cities that would never even consider doing this still opposed the bill. It made no sense to me, but that's how it went. So this is a 5 year pilot in 6 cities. When the pilot ends the program can be expanded.
@prince_erin I understand the economical standpoint but what research has been done in regards to public safety? Longer booze time means people can drink more. How will this impact dui's?
@Scott_Wiener There's no evidence that increased service hours increases drunk driving. Comparing last call time to rates of DUI collisions in all 50 states shows zero correlation. If people are going to leave a bar drunk, they're going to do it whether they leave at 8 pm, midnight, 2, or 4.
@dukoid Bars closing at 2am was really the strangest thing for me when visiting the land
@CaliSeaShepherd Does this mean that only voters in these cities will have a say at the ballot box, or does all CA vote on it?