Local bands need more support

By Spencer Ferron-Tripp

Most bands have to be seen to be heard. And the best place to be seen is in a live music venue.

But what if the fans don’t show? It’s a problem faced by many venues and bands, because music fans like to get their money’s worth. More often than not, that means hanging on to their hard-earned dollar if an unknown band takes the stage.

Would you go to see a band you know nothing about? Not many would.

It’s one reason why Barrymore’s Music Hall reportedly faced financial trouble last spring. And a major reason why live music venues have an inherent problem drawing fans.

Clubs like The Cave and Barrymore’s have offered up a plate of appetizers to tantalize the palette of music fans. They have given us student discounts, theme nights, regular disc jockeys and hosts.

But when it comes to advertising local bands, there is just no easy way to lure in audiences.
Barrymore’s answer to this problem has been to produce an eye-catching, fluorescent calendar-of-events that simply states the date, band and price. Unfortunately, there is no mention of what type of music the bands play.

It’s like a restaurant advertising the soup du jour without bothering to tell anyone what it is. And at live music venues, the soup du jour is invariably an unknown local band — a predicament for many Ottawa music fans who seem to consider these bands as “filler” between major shows.

Well, they’re not. The Tea Party can’t play everyday, nor should it. Our live music venues are an opportunity for local artists, not touring celebrities.

Certainly there is enough talent in Ottawa to draw on, which some estimate to number up to 600 bands and solo acts.

In fact, the quality of the performances at Barrymore’s last year earned it the recognition of Best Live Music Venue in Canada. Co-owner Eugene Haslam will tell you if Barrymore’s has booked a band, you can count on getting your money’s worth.

Consider the analogy of the restaurant: would you be more likely to order the soup du jour, without an explanation, if you were sitting in a five-star restaurant?

The same reasoning can be applied to live music venues. Haslam asks for the same trust the music industry has already given him.

It may be time for Ottawa music fans to stop looking for the best deal on the menu.