Back to the basics

I have frequented enough dining establishments and talked to enough owners to have noticed a few trends during this recession. These ideas are mostly common sense and involve the musician/club owner relationships. But first I think some basic definitions need to be brought out.

Dining—To entertain at dinner; give dinner to.

Ambiance—The atmosphere surrounding one; in an environment.

Music—The art of organizing tones to produce a coherent sequence of sounds intended to elicit an aesthetic response in a listener.

The food is king…fact or fiction

It is common knowledge that the majority of profits made in a restaurant or bar are from the bar itself. So it only makes sense to try to keep people interested in their surrounding so they will stay longer. Some restaurants insist that frequent turnover of tables is more important than lingering patrons enjoying a good band. Also, restaurant owners on a tight budget opt for overhead canned music, or karaoke, as opposed to live musicians. That they play music to begin with signifies the importance of music in the total dining experience. In this recession, we are in a buyer’s market. There is a huge influx of musicians with no place to play. Hiring solo or small dance combos would be a good solution to this problem. With the limited number of clubs as well as the intense competition, it would almost be unwise not to have live music.

What a band wants…what a band needs

A great night out is a team effort. I believe the band must make an effort to fit into the ambiance. Play the room for volume, for richness in tone, and above all, play for the audience—not at the audience. When people fill a room, there is a rhythm that is generated, and it is the musician’s job to be sensitive to that. Musicians also must always remember that they are hired hands. The restaurant/bar owners are the employers, so starting late or playing too loud is not an option. It is bad for business and unfair to the waiting public. Occasionally, a breakdown in communication occurs between owners and musicians that complicates matters, so keeping the lines open is crucial.

From the heart

If you were to ask an aspiring chef what keeps him or her going, they would probably say, from the heart, the goal is to keep people healthy and happy. Strangely enough, a musician’s lot in life is very much the same. From their hearts, they would say their goal is to keep people inspired and happy. The proof of this statement can be found in the thousands of unpaid hours of practice and training to develop their skills to a higher level—a huge sacrifice indeed. Someone once asked me why musicians or artists even bother. I told that person it was because the people listening and looking were worth the effort. Hopefully, restaurant/bar owners have similar aspirations. We are all here for the same reasons…to give or share with others the better things in life that we can offer.

Attention to details

During this recession, the local businesses doing well are doing so because of their attention to details. From the food preparation to the room décor, the wait staff appearance to the musicians they hire. Restaurants and musicians will always struggle if they are not providing the patrons’ love of three things: great food, great ambiance and (I believe) great music.

Steve Bogdonas is the former guitarist for local group Men Of Our Times, which has been playing around the Rockford area for a long time.

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