The first thing you hear as a musician when you move out to LA is “prepare to pay to play.” Virtually every Sunset Strip club hires “promoters” to book bands. And nearly every deal is some form of pay to play. These shows rarely contain bands in the same genre and, because the nature of the situation, rarely are these bands any good. The bands who know better don’t take these shitty deals. And the venues’ reputation suffers because of the poor talent, poor sound quality, and poor overall experience.
Why Live Music Sucks
But last night I experienced something completely different. I had received an unassuming email from a guy named Andrew who seemed to be promoting an evening of music in Hollywood. It wasn’t delivered in all caps. It didn’t scream this was going to be the GREATEST SHOW OF ALL TIME. It didn’t say this was the BEST NEW TALENT. The email was a simple invitation to a private, invite only “speakeasy-style dinner music show.” He kept the lineup secret, but mentioned “I know you’ll love the rnb/soul talent we hand picked.”
And he was right.
In the email there was a link to a PDF doc that described the event in a bit more detail. It was welcoming and enticing. It listed “Attendees In The Crowd.” All well known (and powerful) players: record labels, managers, booking agents, music supervisors and publishers. This was a true showcase. Not a promoter blowing smoke up naive bands’ asses to get them to buy 50 tickets.
After RSVPing by entering the password from the email, I received a notification of the venue location in Hollywood, dress code and the title of the event: Champagne Room.
I got another email the day of reminding me about the showcase and something stood out. One little sentence that has never been uttered by another promoter I’ve met in my life: ” Once an artist is on stage, we politely ask guests to show respect as the talent pours their heart & soul into their performance just for you.”
Should You Pay To Play
I didn’t really know what to expect, but as we walked up to the venue I heard the deep groove of the first band. Even steps away from front the door I could feel the soul. Andrew was right.
The place was packed. Every table was taken (with bottle service of course – this is Hollywood). Standing room only. And the bartenders were working their butts off to keep up with the demand. But even they had to take frequent breaks to go check out the incredible talent. Which was undeniable.
People were engulfed with the performances. Each act more impressive than the last. 30 minute sets. Short and sweet. Three performers.
Andrew Cardenas has been producing these tri-monthly (that’s 3 times a month) Next2Shine Presents events in NYC and LA for the past year. He doesn’t like calling himself a “promoter” because he feels these events are so much more.
Next2Shine.com has been his digital discovery platform since 2008. For all intents and purposes it’s a music blog. But Cardenas doesn’t see it that way. He profiles emerging artists he loves.
It was the first US based website to break Sam Smith, Havana Brown, UsTheDuo and Elli Ingram. Kirby Lauryn, known for her song a day YouTube channel was also first featured on Next2Shine and recently signed a publishing deal. He featured Allen Stone and Karmin very early on in their careers and caught Gotye months before he blew up.
He curated his first live event in NYC at Oz Studios, February 2013, and brought the show to LA this past December. Every event features different emerging talent all curated by Cardenas.
“Currently, the ultimate goal is respecting the talent, giving them a platform and honing in on authentic and true talent that speaks for itself.” – Andrew Cardenas, Next2Shine
His co-host of these events, a musician himself, Anthony Hall, was the emcee of the night. He introduced the talent and kept the night moving along while the acts set up.
Cardenas wants to expand his Next2Shine Presents: The Champagne Room operation to the UK and Nashville. He’s currently looking for partners in those cities to team up with. Something tells me he won’t stop at just 4 cities. I see a Champagne Room tour down the line.
The place was packed from start to finish. There wasn’t a mass exodus after an act finished (like every other show in LA). No band paid to play. There were ‘important’ industry people in the crowd. And above all, everyone had a great time.
I got a thank you email with all the acts information today:
“Anthony and I are thankful to have you as a part of the special musically-driven community that we are growing. Each month we pour our time, energy, & passion into producing this event both in LA & NY. We hope last night you had an unforgettable experience and left the venue as a new fan of the artists below!”
Why can’t other promoters curate evenings like this? Most promoters are passionate about music. That’s why they started in the field, but somewhere through the process their passion for music faded and their greed grew.
Live music can be magical. Euphoric. Spiritual. But it takes the right environment. The right talent. And the right audience. Cardenas realizes this and others have taken notice.
My Response To An LA Pay-To-Play Promoter
Photo is by Next2Shine and used with permission
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music business advice blog, Ari’s Take. Listen to his new album, Brave Enough, on Spotify or download it on BandCamp. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake