Jim Mathis

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Playing at Homer's

It was nine years ago this week that I opened Homer’s Coffee House. Homer’s was a culmination of a 30 year old dream to open a smoke-free and alcohol-free music venue. The place was designed from the ground up to be a music venue for singer-songwriters and small bands. I wanted to book Christian and family friendly artists. Specialty coffee and food became part of the mix to pay the bills.

At the beginning I thought that if I had 4 or 5 bands that would each play a couple of times a month, we would be in good shape. But I was soon overwhelmed with the number of groups that wanted to play. I quickly had to develop some “filters” to determine who I should talk to and who to ignore.

An obvious one was whether or not they were familiar with Homer’s. If someone brought me a CD and a nice picture while they were there to listen to another band, I usually booked them because I knew they “got” what we were trying to do. If they had never been there, it was easy to turn them down.

I also found that it was easy to ignore emails. If somebody called on the phone, I asked them to send a CD and a photo. This eliminated a bunch. When CDs arrived, which as almost daily, if they had a no jewel case or had a handwritten label, or if they just generally weren’t attractive, I tossed them in the trash. If they looked good, I would listen to about 10 seconds of the first cut. If it sounded good, I skipped to a couple of other cuts. If they all had the same sound, the same tempo, or the same key, I would pop out the CD pop it in the trash. If I could listen to the whole CD without being bored I would call the group and find them a date. This happened maybe 5% of the time.

I would also ask bands for their web address. I would then check the site over several weeks, if it was not updated regularly, I figured they weren’t serious. MySpace and Facebook aren’t web sites for this purpose. If all you have is a MySpace page, I would probably not have booked you.

I soon learned to ask about the band’s mailing list. I doubt if I would have booked a band that didn’t have a couple hundred people they could invite.

It has now been two and a half years since I have been involved with Homer’s but people are still asking me to help them get on the schedule to play. I have decided that when I see another musician at Homer’s, either when I am playing or when I am there to hear another band, that I would introduce them to the manager and put in a good word for them. I have never had to do that.Apparently bands want to play at Homer's but not enough to come hear who is playing.

Sky Blue has played at Homer’s more than any other band, over 65 times. It would seem reasonable that if a band wanted to play at Homer’s, they would come hear Sky Blue to see what is expected. If they would, they would probably be surprised with the variety of music, the humor, and the way Sky Blue interacts with the audience.

So there you have it. I don’t know about the current criteria at Homer’s, but if you have tried to get booked and were unable to do so, you might now have a clue as to why you are having trouble.

I presume others music presenters think roughly the same way.

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