Dear Malc…

Hiya Malc,

I follow you on Facebook and I can see from what you’ve said over the past months that the Snooty is not doing too well. What follows here is only my opinion, but having worked in marketing and promotion, run my own business, been in several bands (covers and originals), run jam nights, done PA hire etc, I feel that I’m reasonably entitled to have an opinion that’s worth reading. Of course, you can tell me to mind my own business, but if you were approaching me as a business consultant, this is what I’d say.

The Problem

First, we identify the problem as accurately as we can. I’m guessing that in your case it’s just not enough paying customers. In a pub/venue this comes from drinks and gig tickets – there isn’t anything else you can do really.

The Music

I’m sorry to say it Malc, but the music that the Snooty has on a lot of the time is just not relevant to a young crowd any more. I see a lot of tired 40+ bands playing sad rehashed metal that nobody in the 18-30 age group is ever going to watch. It’s just not cool. Take Morpheus Rising for example (and I am in no way picking on them specifically): In reality, they’re just a sad, third rate Iron Maiden knock off that bring absolutely nothing new to the table. They are not exciting, cool, different or anything else that would make people come to watch. Sure, you’ll get a few aging rockers saying they’re the best thing since sliced bread, but when they gig and nobody comes to watch this should tell you all you need to know. Bands like this are HARMING your venue. You have to stay relevant to the younger crowd, and not just the ones dressed in black with long hair – these people are not going to pay your bills because they’re usually skint. More affluent 18-30’s should be what you are trying to attract – the ones that are all up on Westgate spending money like it’s going out of fashion. They will want to see younger, fresher, newer music rather than stuff that is 20 years out of date. If all this means having more music that ISN’T traditional rock and metal, then so be it. The Snooty is a business, not a public service. Trying to cater to an audience that no longer exists is pointless. You have to adapt or die.

If the bands that you have on are not playing a style of music that is being professionally recorded, toured, sold and played by ‘big’ bands today, they are probably woefully out of date. Morpheus Rising will never get a record deal. They will never tour with proper bands. They will never sell records in any big way. You do not need them. They are a musically irrelevant band, writing music for a scene that died a long time ago. Just because it reminds a fifty year old bloke of the music he listened to when he was 18 doesn’t mean it’s good. It’s quite the opposite.

Opening Hours

I think putting bands on on a Monday night and then moaning that nobody comes to watch is mental. I never go out on a Monday night. There’s absolutely no shame whatsoever is only having bands on 3 or 4 days a week. This would help you concentrate your efforts on the days when you do have bands. People do prefer watching music and having a beer when they don’t have to be up for work. They also like to do it in the company of other people i.e. a crowd. If you’re getting 500 punters a week, it’s better to have them over the course of 4 nights rather than 7 as this will give a better atmosphere.

Facilities

You’ve got a good sound at the Snooty, so there’s nothing wrong there. The videos and live feed are great too – it’s something excellent that you’ve got. However, the pub looks crap inside. This isn’t going to bother the diehard metallers, but it’s keeping the affluent 18-30’s away. Nobody wants to spend money in a shit environment or have a pee in those toilets. I don’t know what the ladies are like, but I hope they’re better than the gents. Women are fussy about that, and if they can’t pee in a decent toilet, they won’t come. There’s absolutely no reason why venues that play rock and metal should be horrible inside. The game is moving on elsewhere and you’ve got to keep up. It’s not the 80’s anymore.

If you remember, we also had a discussion a couple of years back about the beer. I said it was shite and you got upset and told me that the lines were cleaned every two weeks. A quick ring round to some of my friends who have pubs showed that cleaning lines is done AT LEAST once a week, if not more. Say what you want, but I’ve had some awful pints in the Snooty. At the end of the day, pubs serve beer, and it’s got to be right. No amount of Black Mass is going to help if nobody can get a decent pint of lager. They’ll go up Westgate where they can. It’s 2014 up there.

Promotion

Facebook just isn’t enough for a business anymore, as only a few percent of people will see the posts that you put up. Facebook has changed the rules there, and now wants to charge you money to ‘boost’ a post, so it has the reach that it once had for free. By all means, keep using it, but it’s important to know that not all of your followers will be seeing what you post. Collecting email addresses is a good idea, and I know you’ve been looking into it.

Your website is functional, and it does a job, but it’s so ugly it makes me want to claw my eyes out and it’s not mobile-friendly. Also there are no links through to the bands’ videos or music, so I can’t check out who’s going to be playing without turning detective on Google. And if a band doesn’t have any audio/video on the internet, I wouldn’t be booking them. WTF are they playing at?

You’re right at the bottom of Wakefield. How do the people up town know what’s happening? Get some flyers printed and get a couple of people to do some flyering around town on a Friday and Saturday night. If people know who’s playing, they might pop in. There’s a good reason why other venues do it – it works. If people are going to give you £100 on the online money raising thing, you should have no problem getting a couple of regulars to hand out leaflets for you. Make the leaflets every week, and have one side for Friday and the other side for Saturday. You could make it into a drinks voucher of some type too, to encourage people to make the trip down.

Attitude

The Snooty Fox is a business, not a charity or public service. You shouldn’t be trying to cater for a dying crowd, or they will take you down with them. It’s like a pub that’s desperately in need of modernisation but daren’t do it in case it upsets the pensioners in the corner who spend £20 a week. Metalheads and musicians are two groups of people famous for not having any money. You can’t base your entire business plan around them. There has to be some flexibility that allows the metallers and the cool kids to exist side by side in your venue.

Begging for money is ridiculous too. It’s embarrassing. If you’re £15k in the hole already, what are you going to do with my money? Unless you make significant changes, all that money will do is keep you going for a bit longer. It’s nobody’s fault but yours that you’re not running a successful business, so asking for help in that way is not the right thing to do in my opinion. Begging and moaning on Facebook is bad for business too. If you tell people that the gigs are poorly attended, even less people are going to come as you’re basically saying that your place is shit. One rule in business – if anyone asks if you’re busy you say yes. Always.

Everyone loves to cry about the demise of live music, but part of the reason for that is that there are an awful lot of shit bands that are being allowed to play when really they shouldn’t. There are an awful lot of ‘promoters’ out there who have absolutely no idea what they’re doing too. I would say that 80% of the bands gigging today aren’t good enough. They will only get entry-level gigs from promoters that don’t know what they’re doing. Shite breeds shite. There’s no professionalism anymore, because nobody’s got any money. People with the talents to be successful are off being successful at something that can pay. You’ve got experience and a good venue – you don’t have to be like the others.

I hear it repeated over and over that nobody’s got any money to spend, and that’s why places are struggling. This is complete and utter bollocks. Wakefield is full of people spending £50+ on a night out without batting an eyelid. Just because people are using this as an excuse when you ask them why they don’t come to the Snooty doesn’t mean that it’s true. People just don’t want to hurt your feelings. But that’s hurting you because you don’t know the truth. Marketing departments of large successful companies spend a fortune finding out the truth about what people think. it’s the most valuable information that you can have. If you’re doing something good, you can keep doing it and maybe do it better. If you’re doing something wrong, you can fix it.

Why Don’t I Come?

Everybody is different, but I’ll tell you why I don’t come to the Snooty when I’m over Wakefield way. This is my honest opinion as a potential punter. Other people who don’t come as much as you’d like will have their reasons too – they just won’t tell you. For the record, I do love rock and metal.

  • I might have to pay to get in the bar if there’s a band on, regardless of whether I actually want to see them or not.
  • The beer is probably going to be crap.
  • The music is either going to be dadrock or yet another angsty young shouty band that sounds a lot like all the rest.
  • There won’t be many people there and what there is will be a sausage fest
  • It’s a bit of a trail
  • I have called in several times on a weekend to find no bands on at all…

Conclusion

The Snooty is out of date.

It’s an aging dad still listening to Led Zep records with long hair that’s grey and thinning. You need to modernise or die. Younger, fresher, better music. Younger, more affluent crowd. Nicer inside, better promotion, better beer. Look at some of the venues in Leeds, and the Parish in Huddersfield. You’ve got to make the Snooty a cool place to be. I know you’ll say you can’t afford to do any of these things, but if you don’t things are going to get worse for you.

If you build it, they will come.

Jim

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