Live Music & Events
Here we talk to Mark Lucas from The Petersham Bowling Club about their live music program. Check out his website at http://www.marklucas.com.au and the Petersham Bowling Club website gig guide http://thepbc.org.au.
How long has the venue been presenting live music for and what is the capacity of the venue?
We’ve been presenting live music since May 2008 when I began a solo Friday night residency. I gradually introduced other artists and started booking bands from 2009. Over the next couple of years we grew the program from one to four or five nights a week. Legal capacity is 200 but it can be tight at 170.
Hours of operation, nights you have live music?
The pbc is open Wednesday to Sunday (Wednesday & Thursday 5 – 11pm / Friday 5 – 12pm / Saturday & Sunday midday – midnight). We run live music Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon and evening (with occasional ‘all day’ mini-festival events on Saturdays).
Do you have all ages gigs?
We run an annual Battle of the Bands for school-age kids and host talent shows for local schools, but we don’t run all ages events as such because we rely solely on the bar take for income.
How do you choose the types of live music you program?
I book the venue myself but try not let my personal taste dominate otherwise we’d be full of angst-ridden singer-songwriters and sad-eyed country artists! Well, perhaps not quite that tragic, but I try to listen to everything I book and base my decisions on a variety of criteria. Not just ability to pull a crowd, but also what is suitable for a venue in a residential area, as well as supporting artists who are clearly taking an interest in what they’re doing and where they’re headed. We don’t really go for covers bands unless there’s a really interesting angle.
How does a muso get a gig at your venue?
Email me with some details and links at email@example.com. As a performing artist of some experience myself, I know first-hand the frustration of dealing with rude and dismissive bookers who communicate in a desultory manner, if at all. You won’t have that experience with the pbc, I can personally guarantee that.
What challenges do you face as a venue who presents live music?
Principally, keeping the surrounding community happy with the increased traffic though the club. We have worked hard to ensure that we keep lines of communication open in case of any problem and that’s been very effective. It’s of paramount importance to be inclusive as we are, after all, a community, volunteer-run, not-for-profit club and proudly pokie-free! The club was saved from developers by volunteers from the community in the interests of the greater community. That it has, in turn, been saved from impending financial disaster by live music represents an interesting cultural model and proof that, given the will, there are alternatives to the widely accepted norm.
Most memorable show at your venue?
That’s a toughie as we’ve had some great nights. For me personally it’d probably have to be recently when we presented Canadian blues maestro Harry Manx and then US songwriting legend Danny O’Keefe on consecutive nights. Danny inspired me to write songs back in the mid- ‘70’s. I never dreamed I’d be booking him into a little club on the other side of the planet 30+ years later. Just goes to show you don’t ever know…
What makes a great gig?
An artist that connects with their audience and an audience that is there for the artist and open to the journey. Of course, that assumes you’re across the business and technical side of promoting the show and making sure it sounds good. Plus the vibe of the room is conducive.
How to you use digital and social media in conjunction with traditional advertising?
We list all the shows on the website and encourage artists to contribute detailed listings and links for their shows. We also have our Facebook presence. We tap into various groups and blogs in order to specifically target promotion and encourage artists to share their social media campaigns and event pages with us. We’re still on a learning curve with Twitter but there are only so many hours in the day when you’re largely a department of one and a volunteer. As far as traditional advertising is concerned, to be honest we haven’t advertised in print media for some time. We used to run a weekly ad in Drum Media but the financial controller pulled the plug when we needed to spend the money on crumbling infrastructure. We never returned to print and it hasn’t really hurt us. On the other hand, it’s a valid enough medium so it is under ongoing consideration for both branding and advertising purposes.
Ticketing for live shows is changing. How do you mange access and ticketing to your venue?
As a rule we don’t get involved in ticketing. Unlike many venues these days we don’t take a percentage and we don’t charge for production. So we encourage the artist to set up and sell tickets through available on-line resources (Oztix / Sticky Tickets), or they sell on the door. We provide the float. They provide the door person and ‘soundie’.