The Red Sea on Craigslist: A tug of war between venues and artists

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Taking the Twin Cities music scene's temperature can be simple as heading over to Craigslist. Pull up a chair in the "Musicians" section of the "Community" postings and just listen for a while. Most folks are looking for a bandmate (Can You Sing AC/DC?.... Ladies?) or offering up their production or teaching services. Then there's the case of the 22-year-old West Bank bar/restaurant/venue the Red Sea.

A week ago, folks at the Sea put out a call via Craigslist to find some new bands -- "Punk, Indie, Metal, Rock" to play at the Red Sea, and then the community's collective teeth began to gnash. Anonymously, of course.

While there's hard to find a "right" answer within this back-and-forth of threads -- and it appears that many comments have already been deleted -- it does provide a lot of colorful viewpoints about the approach new bands can take to getting heard, and how venues should handle their business. (A big 'ole typographical [sic] through all of what follows.)

It all started at 6:10 p.m. on November 27 with this posting looking for some new talent at the Red Sea:

Looking for NEW original bands to play, specifically Punk, Indie, Metal, Rock. Be young and hungry!, bring a bunch of people and you will get paid. All ages of musicians are welcome. If you arent going to get your friends, parents and friends parents to come check you out - dont bother.   We have many weekdays available in Decemeber - but they are filling up fast - hit me up.

"Zing" number one:

11/27 at 8:58 p.m.: Weeknights at the Red Sea? Is this for bands who think the Terminal Bar is too classy?

Point number one: Bands who don't get paid can't be expected to do all the promotion for a show.

11/27 at 9:51 p.m.: "If you expect the bands to do your promotion for you and if you don't have regular patrons who will support your bar and the bands you book and DON'T PAY - don't bother."

Counterpoint number one: Yes, bands need to hustle. It's American.

11/28 at 10:20 a.m.

I find it humorous that people who play in original bands actually expect to get paid without doing any leg work. If you want that go join a cover band. The red sea puts an ad in city pages and thats way more than most jaded original bands do for promotion. It takes 20 people to pay the sound guy. Another 8 to pay the person sitting at the door (who usually is the promoter and usually gets stiffed and ends up sitting there the whole night for nothing because some certain original bands only draw 3 people because they dont hustle.  

Face it people it's Minneapolis, and nobody cares about the music you wrote unless you hustle and make it happen for your self - we are not running any type of scam. We are actually providing a stage for new original bands to play. I know those of you that have been around the block are too good for this venue - but for bands just coming out of the garage it is an opportunity to get started and get your name out there and hopefully their dreams come true and they do it the entrepreneurial "American" way, by themselves. 

So sorry if my call out for new bands offended you grizzled vetrens who expect to be paid even if you only bring your wife and two friends.

Point two: Bands are rarely lazy, they should always be compensated somehow, and promotion should fall on the shoulders of both the bands and the venue.

11/28 at 2:43 p.m.: "I find it humorous that people who play in original bands actually expect to get paid without doing any leg work."

Uhmm, last time I looked it's your venue that bands are playing at. What this means is that it's ALL you. PERIOD!

If you have a halfway decent venue and have decent food, drinks, and bands play on a regular basis, there's no need for the proverbial "legwork", as you call it. Granted bands should always be in self-promotion mode, but it should not be a pre-requsite in order to play your venue. It is neither ethical or even moral to expect a band to be advertising for YOU and providing a financial safety net for you regardless if they're well known, unknown,indie,cover, original or whatever.

Most Venues have a screening process and know, who it is, that they're hiring to play ahead of time and have vetted the band enough to know that they're for real and present a professional front with good song sets. The food and also the drinks should be a draw ON THEIR OWN! It is reasonable therefore...with that protocol, that decent bands are going to enter thier doors to entertain and ...decent food and drink will be served and customers know this as well. It's a classic case of,"rip offs are not a part of the market, because bad wares are not sold." The venues do what the common sense business would do to insure that "good wares" in the form of drinks, eats AND music are thier staple product.

Now, at this point, I must apologize if I have offended you. But to keep the market stable, even and viable, NO BAND SHOULD EVER PLAY FOR FREE...even if they're just getting a free bar tab, they should at least be getting SOMETHING. Musicians, on the whole, have sacrificed to be where they are just as you have, they should not have to act as an ad agency to insure your bottom line. Go price out instruments, rehearsal time, creating demos etc. It adds up my friend. Every venue owner should be REQUIRED TO DO THAT! If they did, I'm sure they would think twice before asking musicians to play free or verify thier worth.

If you have run into a band that is lazy,and I know very few who are, they are NOT the norm, but it is usually a given that the venue that has paved the way for their own success and the "entertainment" is an add-on... not their means of support. On the other hand, if you would like to come to my house party and pour wine and beer for free and if the clientelel at my establishment like you ...they can pay or not, after all.... you ARE getting the opportunity to present your wares to an unknown crowd, you should be grateful. Cheers.

Point three: Forget Red Sea -- just get booked at Terminal Bar, and then soar.

11/28 at 6:33 p.m.: My band played at the Red Sea a couple years ago. It sucked. The place has zero built in crowd. Calling it a dive is way too generous.

It is a first time sorta place to play. Don't expect to draw any crowd, don't expect to get paid. Play it once and move on to the Terminal Bar (which is alright in my book...glad Flem was able to reopen the place). Then move on to other venues (if you have some well known hipster types in your band that are in more popular bands too...thus getting radio play, press, etc...). Then take over the galdanged world you little dreamers! Fly, fly away...

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