Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I Started a War...

That's a quote from Belle & Sebastian, one of my favorite bands. This is a post about music.

Specifically, it's a post about a really bad blog that I posted somewhere else.

Like I've mentioned some umpteen times both in my newspaper column and here on this blog, I'm a bit of a music nerd. Before I worked for the Dispatch, I founded a little e-mail discussion for like-minded music nerds. Imagine being part of a group full of pretentious people who each think that their musical taste is the best on the planet, and thusly spend countless hours of back-and-forth e-mails arguing about music.

To some, that must be hell. To me, it's a Tuesday. Our little e-mail discussion list eventually spawned a website, Excellent Online, that remains in play today.

Anyways, as a result of spending the last 15 years of my life professionally arguing about music, sometimes it gets me in trouble. Last week was one of those times.

This past weekend was the River Roots festival in Davenport. It's the second one that the RME has thrown -- and it's an annual fest that's trying to become one of the biggest music draws here in the Quad Cities.

Too bad, then, that I'm so disappointed by it.

The lineup for this year's festival was really strong. Some good acts (The Nadas, Hackensaw Boys, etc.,) some GREAT acts (Junior Brown, ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO, Martin Sexton, etc.,) and a slew of other decent acts.

The problem? It wasn't the right lineup for the Quad Cities.

I'll spare the long-winded argument and stick with the basic premise: Other than headliners The Black Crowes, most people in the Quad Cities wouldn't know any of these artists. And the Black Crowes are hardly the draw they were a decade ago.

We don't live in a huge market. As a result, it takes name recognition to draw in fans. Some people may say, "I don't know any of these bands, but I'm excited to go see 'em!" If only EVERYONE were like that... Without acts people know, most people don't go - that's the ugly truth. And, as perfect and impressive of a lineup that you bring into town, without a sea of fans turning out, it's labeled a disappointment.

So... a lineup that Joe Quad-Citian isn't familiar with... plus a $50 ticket price... isn't exactly what I'd call a good business move.

THIS was the point I was trying to make when I logged onto the River Roots forum and made a post. However, like I said, I'm used to some rather heated language when it comes to arguing music, so I sort of went into their forum with music nerd guns blazing. Words like "sucks" and "yuck" were bandied about. Venomous posts like this are common among MY set of friends. Unfortunately, this wasn't my friends.

As a result of my overly-harsh post, I opened up not just ONE can of worms, but a whole factory of worms on the River Roots forum. Basically, those folks want my head on a stick right now.

And I'm really sorry. I'm sorry that I used such harsh words in their forum. I should've toned it back a bit (or kept my yap shut from the beginning.) I honestly wanted to offer some constructive criticism and support the local music scene; instead, I came off like Joe Buzzkill raining on everybody's parade.

Anyways, I want to let it die. I really do. But there's ONE post that was made on that forum that I need to address. But, rather than feed the flames of the River Roots forum fire, I'm bringing it over here instead.

Here's what someone who posted to the forum said about me:

I attended some of the Raves that Shane (now with the Dispatch) put on in the 90's and I remember paying something like $15 which I thought was outrageous for some DJ's. As I recall shane said to me "We are not making any money, we have a $30,000 light and sound system and thats why it costs so much". I replied that $30,000 sound systems rent for $400 a night, there were at least 300 people in attendance that paid $15, and Danceland rents for $250 bucks and will even do a split on beer sales. I told him that we booked the Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Naked Raygun, and similar bands, usually having 4 bands on the lineup, rented a hall, rented a sound system, promotions and such and usually charged 6 bucks with the same kind of turnout as his $15 DJ events. He still insited that they don't make any money off of the raves with a straight face.

I'm sorry, but I needed to reply to this.

First off, yes, gang, I used to throw raves back in the day. Myself and my close friend Chris brought raves to the Quad Cities under the name of Exstasis Promotions. Hopefully, you made it to one of our parties. If not, you shoulda, 'coz those nights made some of the greatest memories of my life.

If only I could remember as well as this guy who made that post. I wish I could remember verbatim conversations from A DECADE AGO as much as this guy does. But I do remember SOME things about our parties...

(1) $8. That's what we charged for parties. I think we may have had one or two events where we jacked the price up to the $12 range, but that was only when we had a big-name DJ that we needed to cover.

(2) Danceland Ballroom might have rented for $250 back in the Naked Raygun days, but that's less than half of what we paid for it. And Danceland is only one of the places we threw parties at. The Col Ballroom, for example, was $1000.

(3) Our sound and light system (which we rented together) cost a lot more than $400 a night.

For this poster's benefits, and frankly for me to save face, let's look at some of the expenses:

First you had the venue to pay. On top of the rental fees, many venues require the event coordinators to hold insurance, so there's another $500-$1000 right there.

Then you had security to pay. We didn't mess around; we had licensed, uniformed security guards at every event. These guys were approx. $20 an hour per staffer.

Then you had sound and lights. Lasers, intelligent lighting, big stuff... with big price tags.

Then you had talent. Good DJ's don't come cheap, and we took GREAT pride in our DJ lineups. What's a DJ possibly cost, you ask? Let's take Superstar DJ Dmitri from the group Deee-lite for instance. Dmitri charged us $1000 for a 90 minute DJ set. Plus we had to fly him into the Quad Cities AND put him up at a hotel. And he was one of 8 DJ's that night.

Then there were the pre-costs of promotion. Back then, we didn't have a Kinko's in town, so we drove every month to the one in Iowa City to make 3000+ cardstock flyers. Then we took those flyers and put them everywhere from Chicago to St. Louis and everywhere in between. That meant road trips to Peoria... Macomb... Iowa City... Cedar Rapids... Cedar Falls... etc., etc.

Are you getting where I'm coming from? Throwing events isn't cheap.

We weren't in the rave business to make a profit, as much as this guy claims. We were just two bored recent college graduates wanting to try something different and fun. I distinctly remember a party where our greedy profiteering made us exactly $19 apiece. The whole time that Exstasis existed, I held a full time job (and often a DJ gig on the side) just to make ends meet. On the parties that we DID turn a profit on (which were about 50% of them), we just took that money and put it towards our NEXT event.

In other words, don't ever accuse me of putting on events in the Quad Cities for financial gain, because those were the leanest years of my life.

/end rant

Again, folks, sorry to be so harsh in my post on the River Roots board - I can't apologize enough (though I still stand behind WHAT I said... just not HOW I went about it!) The RME is a great addition to the Quad Cities soundscape, and I hope the fest gets better and better each year.

Now back to the funny stuff...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Isn't making money what society is all about? It's not like you put a gun to his head and forced him to hand over the dough, it was an entertainment choice that he made. And I don't see him complaining that he didn't have a good time - so why are you letting it bother you so much? I'd say he got his money's worth on that alone.