There is no time like the present to change up the music offering in your club, says the Launch Squad artist manager James Dawson.
Club venues, once solely the home of cover bands or a soloist with a backing track, are now looking to keep crowds lingering with original solo artists, duos or trios as patrons dine out on improved F&B offerings.
The impact of COVID-19 has also forced a financial rethink as soloists, duos or trios are cheaper than a 4-, 5- or 6-piece cover band, says Dawson, who counts among his clients Fairfield RSL and Bankstown Sports.
“I started off in indi, in the inner-west of Sydney, the original music scene, and didn’t really enter the club space until around 2005,” he says. “The landscape of clubs then was adhering to one age demographic – the oldies – and innovation wasn’t really a thing.
“But it did help me branch out my network and I started reaching out to older musicians and started building relationships. It’s only been in the last half decade that I have seen a dramatic kind of shift in that way of thinking in clubs.
“But there seems to be a definite shift, with clubs needing to look at new membership, saying ‘Let’s do something different’.”
While Dawson will gently offer alternatives to traditional club offerings, he also says a more creative point of contact at a club venue can make a massive difference in what audiences will see.
“It always depends on how much control we are given, and it also depends on our point of contact,” he says. Some clubs want to please both existing audiences while also luring in new members who are not into gaming.
“If they want to play it safe, we will play it safe, but if they want to do something subtly different, then we can offer to do something different by putting out an artist with a younger feel. The general feedback has been quite good.
“The conversation is that all we’ve been having is that older format. Now let’s get the young ones in.”
He says Bankstown Sports, with its new Al Aseel restaurant, a planned speakeasy and a new rooftop bar soon to open, means the club is targeting 35- to 60-year-olds, not over-65s. He also mentions the music offerings at Fairfield RSL, including Vanessa Heinitz and Trevor Rogers, as the way forward, which offers live entertainment over dinner, rather than a later distraction to keep patrons until the end of the night.
“Lounge music, the way that’s being handled now is focused on foodservice between 6pm and 10pm. It’s adding value when food service is on, and that is the strongest takeaway for us in a return to business,” he says, no pun intended.
And as people are encouraged to come out of their homes, they want to sit down, eat good food and be entertained, he says.
“People are going back out and generally things are picking up and have been for the past six weeks and terms like ‘almost back to normal’ are being thrown around.
“Music is a part of that, and while food is the main driver, we add the colour, we make it fun and we get people get to hang around and start socialising again.”