going live

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Music and drinking often go hand in hand, and music promotions can be a useful way of bringing in extra custom. For anyone thinking about running...

Music and drinking often go hand in hand, and music promotions can be a useful way of bringing in extra custom. For anyone thinking about running live music events, it might be useful to consider the types of formula that are being used successfully by licensees who have made music an essential component of their business. In the market town of Hexham, Northumberland, Fred and Sandra Callf of the Tap & Spile have a hands-on approach, and are passionate about the live music in their pub.Fred says: “Every other Monday night, typically, we bring in a band to play in the bar. We started this nine years ago because Monday evenings are very slow. We get in all kinds of music, though we lean to blues, and the place can be heaving for some of the bands we have.” The pub doesn't charge an entrance fee, and needs to make about two-and-a-half to three times the band's fee in extra trade to break even. The fee depends on the band, with a new act getting perhaps £80 to £100, while a more experienced band might get up to £200. Almost all are regional acts rather than national touring bands.“Everybody who comes in buys a drink, and even though the band takes up the entire room, it makes for a brilliant evening that regulars remember. We get people back during the week who come out to the gigs, too,” says Fred. Fred and Sandra regularly go out to listen to live bands, relying on their own intuition and experience as to which are most likely to be appreciated by the customers at their friendly corner pub. The live Monday evenings have grown into Sunday evenings for core blues fans, and additionally the Tap & Spile features traditional midweek evenings of instrumental sessions or sing-songs once a month. The pub advertises occasionally in the local papers, but the shows rely mainly on word-of-mouth.Further into the remote North Pennines, the King's Head in Allendale has seen another musical formula evolve over the years. The current tenants, Lenny Slater and Tracey Thompson, took over the pub a few months ago and inherited a music club based in the upstairs function room.Traditional music nights have been a fortnightly feature in Allendale for at least a decade, and the group of regulars running the promotions has expanded into bigger and bigger names on the traditional and blues music circuit. Advertising for these gigs in the local and regional press also raises the pub's profile. Naturally, a great deal of trust has to exist between Tracey and Lenny and the music club regulars, who deal with all the music advertising and book the bands.The upstairs bar is a crucial ingredient in the success of this joint enterprise, since people coming to the music want a comfortable atmosphere to enjoy the show. Since the music group is a non-profit, community-based collective, it is eligible for grants and financial support that a licensed establishment in its own right would be unable to claim. Lenny says: “We have a really good relationship with the live music folks, and we appreciate the business they help to bring to the pub. But then we also have a good relationship with the local community choir, who practice here on a Wednesday, and the pantomime people who use the room to rehearse, or the children's theatre who bring out a crowd twice a year. It pays to be open to the business that these activities can bring in.”

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