Last issue's To Pay Or Not To Pay To Play The Sunset Strip article (by Diamond Bodine-Fischer) provoked a pile-on in the comments section, much of it reinforcing the frustrations of musicians like Loana dP Valencia and Josh Newell into a powerful Axis of Sucks–“I worked there and it sucks” and “I played there and it sucks” and even just “I went there and it sucks,” with further texture about “balls” from especially inspired commenters. (The measured comments about the value of the Strip venues sorta get trampled beneath an Internet enraged.) But there's also something of an East vs. West debate developing, too. A survey of the peoples' choices below.
Let me give you the inside perspective for I do sound/lighting for one of the aforementioned venues. Bottom line is that yes that the idea of pay to play a show is lacking in artistic quality (Believe me when I say I've mixed some horrible groups!)however even while supporting a “major act”, the support bands bring more people and revenue to the venue then the headliner! So what does a venue do when they want to stay in business? Obviously the venue wants to stay in business but also maintain a reputation of quality. It's nearly impossible to do both. I've been to shows in Silverlake where there is maybe 50 people, the sound is awful, the lighting is equivalent to a living room and the quality of the bands is severely lacking. But, the community supports those venues and therefore the venue survives.
Says I Can See Your Roots, an “an Americana/roots promoter on the Eastside” who sounds like they could put together a nice bill around I See Hawks In L.A.:
The Sunset Strip clubs are not moving with the times, period. They're relying on a 30 year old past and trying to come up with marketing schemes to stay afloat. The most important part for me is to have a cohesive night, and you're not going to find that on Sunset Strip. The eastside can seem exclusive, until you just insert yourself in there and get to know people…it's an actual community and it's thriving. You have to make an effort to be a part of it. But at least you know that if you go for a night of music that you like, whether it's Americana, 80's or indie rock, that's what you're going to hear all night and maybe you'll get introduced to other bands in that genre. Sunset Strip has had a couple of heydays, and if they want another, they need to adjust to the times.
Says Kelly Christiansen:
It sounds like the problem is the city of West Hollywood, not the venues on the Sunset Strip. The venues are doing what they have to do to survive to stay in business. As Nick Adler said in the article, “It's expensive to run a place over here…”. Its also an expensive place to live. The emerging artists play where they live. Lower income housing is all but gone from weho, driving those great artits to the east side. In the 80's, the sunset strips last heyday, Guns n Roses, Motley Crue, Poison all walked home after playing the strip. The great emerging bands of the past 15 years have all come out of the east side. A place where they live, work and play. […] Many would point fingers at the city of west hollywood for not being an affordable place to live. I prefer the Whisky and Roxy and Viper Room to Spaceland or Echoplex any day. They are superior venues in sound and design. The strip can not survive on nurturing the great local bands the way those east side clubs do.
And then Singer with the balance and the final word:
now, yes, the east side is cheaper and that makes it easier to get people out, but it's as much of a joke in that it has become a clique so tight (and all major venues are run by the same handful of people) that even musicians who have have lived in echo park and done the scene can't even get a response to certain venues. if you check the bills to spaceland and the echo, you will begin to see repetition despite the deep well of talent they have to choose from to book. so both the west and east sides suck for different reasons. the bottom line is: if you don't have good songs, if you don't put on a great and memorable live show, and if you can't bring at least 40 people out to see your band, then you shouldn't be trying to book a show in the 1st place.