#BuildingBetter: The Venue’s Role

In our history, we have had the good fortune of a great number of incredible community partners to help us produce and promote events. These partners include the obvious – SouthSide Arts District and ArtsQuest among them. However, there are unsung heroes that, depending on their level of involvement in community programs like #LVUFirstFriday and SouthSide Arts and Music Festival, can very well make or break the success of a program.

Those unsung heroes are the venues. In South Bethlehem in particular, we’ve been blessed with several willing hosts for our hare-brained schemes. They’ve given the musicians we book a place to play, for certain. However, any place can host live music, but it takes a real partner to engage and invest in local arts and culture, and to recognize its impact in building a strong community all around.

We’ve been at this event thing long enough to know what to look for, and to know which venues are doing a great job supporting the scene. With that, we’ve compiled a quick list of the things we believe all venues – bars, restaurants, galleries, shops, and dedicated performances spaces alike – can do to support the arts which, in turn, will create a more vibrant and connected community.

  • First of all, pay the artists! – Most musicians, by this point, have dropped thousands of dollars on the tools of their trade. They’ve spent hundreds (if not thousands) of hours perfecting their craft. A good number of them, even locally, look to music as their main source of income. I’m not sure about you, but to me, that sounds an awful lot like these people are trying to make a living like everybody else

    Unless it’s for a really good cause and the artist is willing to donate his or her time, no venue should ever ask a musician to play for free – or worse, for “exposure.” You wouldn’t want someone running up a tab in your pub, and then telling you that this time was for free, but they’ll pay you next time. In fact, you wouldn’t allow it. You may even call the local authorities. So, don’t do it to working musicians, who are bringing you revenue through the people that they bring into your establishment. (Musicians, your part in ensuring this happens is coming in a separate piece…)

    Speaking of attendance, that leads me to the next point…

  • It’s on you to promote, too. – We’ve all heard the stories of the venue owner who expects the band to bring 100 people into his place of business, the first time out – OR ELSE. Many of us have experienced it first-hand. The curious thing about these certain individuals is that they often do absolutely nothing to bring people in the door themselves. There have been some, in fact, who can’t even be bothered to make a single social media post about an upcoming event in their own house.

    Let me be clear: as the venue owner, you’re making money from food, drinks, or any product sold. You stand to benefit financially, more than anyone, from what is taking place within your walls. Promoters and musicians can and absolutely should pull their weight, too (more on that in later posts). However, it’s just good business to invest some time into being a partner on a successful, well-attended event. We’re fortunate enough to work with several of these types of partners on the SouthSide – Molly’s, Domaci, Broadway Social, and Color Me Mine come to mind, among many others – and we can tell you that their efforts absolutely make a positive difference for all involved.

  • Embrace your role in something larger. – As a business owner, your primary concern should absolutely be the long-term success and viability of your business. However – and especially in the Lehigh Valley these days – there is a growing, bustling community around you. Support their efforts, and figure out new and exciting ways to partner with fellow businesses, organizations, and creators to push everyone’s fortunes forward. The rising tide raises all boats, and you’ll likely find that the tide will ultimately raise yours, as well.

There you go. Three simple tips on how to better invest and engage in this vibrant and ever-growing community, to ensure it remains vibrant and ever-growing. Leave your thoughts, additions, subtractions, hate mail, and anything else in the comments!

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