Anyone have good luck with open mics and/or live music? If live music, do you pay the musicians?
South Bend is pretty small and there's not much action down here on evenings and weekends, as they're still working on 'revitalizing' it and we do not have many unique places down here for people to visit. I tried live music and open mic for a year, but wound up losing money by the end of the night.
Anything that works for any of you in smaller downtowns?

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Hi Heather,

We have music on an irregular basis. Having it that way we don't get the "lets go see who is playing at" spontaneous customers. So we only get the friends of the performers and other regulars. At the time we didn't serve beer and wine. I think that will really help sales wise if your music is later at night and are going to have it on a regular basis. Customers really like some booze options with the music at night. Currently we don't pay the musicians. They are just looking for a place to practice their stuff, but we do give them free drinks that night.
Hi Heather,

I've used live music from time to time. I usually screan them to see if they have a following of any kind. If it goes off well then I'll give them a few bucks the next time they play. I also developed an email list for people that were interested in live music.

Good Luck
The first shop I worked at, this was part of my responsibilities, booking bands. I had a good time, and made a LOT of great friends all over the US with bands from punk to ska to groove-core to hard rock to screamer to R&B to jazz etc....etc...etc... Some were signed, some were not. I have seen it work, but unfortunately for us, it didn't. We had the perfect buildings for what we were doing, just the wrong location.

The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to make sure you have a team of some sort around you. If not, you will QUICKLY burn out. I did the contacting, booking the bands, making the posters, distributing posters, setting up/tearing down the sound system, a lot of times running sound during the show and resetting the stage or moving it next door depending on the band coming in the next night. I would also encourage getting some sort of contract the bands have to sign before the date is confirmed is a good thing. This really impressed some groups on our professionalism as well as reinforcing the concept this is somewhat of a business arangment. Getting a DEMO of some sort is also a good idea.

Another thing is to not have one group in so often that people get sick of them. Although the smaller the town, the more interesting it can be. Sometimes you can get bands to play on one of their off nights on their way through town.

If this was any kind of help, or you want to ask more specific questions, please feel free to email me:
Thanks for the responses, everyone! Yeah - the booze thing was something I wondered about...especially open mic...they go well in bars, but no one has really had much success here in a coffee house. I may have to look into a beer/wine license, as I've had to cancel music and actually cut back on evening weekend hours because I wasn't even making enough to pay the employees to be there! We did the live music every Saturday night for over a year and no one played within 2 months of their last gig, so it was a good variety. Maybe it's just a matter of getting the alcohol in and hoping some more evening/weekend places move into our downtown to get more people to come down here.

It was also a big problem that I did everything I could afford to advertise, but the artists never promoted could always tell from the crowd who worked at hyping themselves up.

BUT - what's the secret when you get the crowd in the building to get them to BUY enough to make the evening worth it? With open mic, we'd have all 60 chairs full and people standing, but no one BOUGHT anything so I'd lose money. I think that may be the biggest problem...those kind of events often attract the people who are looking for something free to do and do not want to pull out 3 bucks for a good espresso drink...

Thanks again!!
I feel your pain. I owned a cafe on the edge of a downtown area and no one ever went to the end of the f'n street. I actully started giving band a percentage of the the take during the hours they played. The responce was really good bands started asking to play and they pushed the product for me. Downside it pissed off every owner of a coffeehouse that was close to me. I'm not saying that to give away your store just think out of the box. It's about being a success story and not a cationary tale.
I knew a place that had a scrapbooking nigt. Do whatever your area is into. If it's booze, then do it. We all have ideas of what we want to create, but your guests pay the bills. Do what works for them.

Good luck.
I think it's always a good thing to have an open-mic/poetry reading night or music. I see the value as being it's a great way to help melt yourself and business in the community. They feel more a part of what you're doing, and will be good customers most of the time. At one of the coffeehouses I ran, we had a live jazz night, an open mic night, and one night for various bands. It brought lots of different people in, many who didn't even know we were there, and gradually the business picked up steadily. It became a great part of the community, and a really cool place to see some great music.
With that being said, paying them can be a booger. I recommend having a suggested donation, or at least a bucket for people to donate to the artist, and always give them free drinks and snacks. You get your return back on that easily. Other than that, just give it time. With these things, consistency is the key. If you do it sporadically, noone ever knows if there's something there, and they have to check to see online or in print, which brings me to another point. Anytime you have live music, let the local alternative paper know about it. Even if they just list it, it's free advertising, but alot of times they do features on the artists you are hosting. Invite them to the open mic nights to read poetry, get them involved. Just try to be consistent with some kind of schedule, so people know, "Hey, it's Monday night! (Your coffeehouse) has an open-mic night! Let's check it out."
Heather, there are two coffee shops in Tucson that have added Music and or open mic. One is near the University and they do open mic, with music and poetry readings, it is alot of fun to go and hang out and listen, the place is always packed and I know that people plan their week around going down there. The other place is in the burbs and the owner has a small shop in a strip mall, she sets the band up outside and closes off part of the parking lot for seating. I always see alot of people there and the place is packed.

Good luck
Sure, but do the customers actually BUY anything? That's been my problem...I've done music and open mic consistently every week for over a year and we'd usually get a pretty good crowd, but they literally didn't buy anything. I had an open mic where we had 60 people in ithere for 3 hours and we only sold a little over $100 in product. The emcee would really push our product and tell them they needed to thank us for supporting their arts with a free place to perform by supporting our shop by making a purchase, but still nothing. Sure, it was a really great thing for the community and I truly want to do it, but it doesn't make good business sense if you don't sell enough to cover food costs and labor, you know?
Hi there! open mic nights do really well at our cafe but better if you get a group involved so they can market it. Some of the churches in our area have a group called young life and they have a large network of high school to college aged kids that will show up for open mic night...its a win win for everyone and it usually fills our cafe! Sometimes we have even had to open our doors and people were sitting out in the parking lot on their cars drinking their coffee and listening to the music. It was very cool...its great to get involved with groups like that too because they need meeting places and its more exposure for you!
Hi Tera!
That sounds awesome! We really didn't have a hard time filling the problem was more getting people to BUY stuff. Did you find that you were quite profitable at the end of the night? Did you have a minimum purchase requirement? Or charge a cover or anything?
Thanks for the response!
I know what you mean! That has happened several times when we have had live music OR open mic night...the place is full but not everyone buys something. Sometimes we will do a $3 cover at the door and the ticket is redeemable for a drink of your choice...always of course make sure someone is at the mic telling the listeners to buy a drink! Sometimes handing out small (very small) samples of drinks gives people a taste and gets them wanting more! Where is your coffee shop?
We're in downtown South Bend, IN. We have great traffic from 8-5 Mon-Fri while the business people are down there, but evenings and weekends are, well...I'm gonna have to say pathetic!
The redeemable ticket's a good idea, thank you! I felt odd having a $3 cover, but that is a great idea so that they still have an inexpensive place to hang, but don't take advantage of us by making it a completely free night. Thanks Tera!
Where's YOUR shop, by the way?


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