Hey gang, this guest post is by Deanne Matley, a personal friend of mine and a music entrepreneur.
She recently started The Listening Room Series over at Café Blanca, and I had the opportunity to perform with Jonathan Ferguson (as Long Jon Lev) on February 17, 2016, and after seeing what she was doing, asked her to share about her vision.
So let’s get into it. Here’s Deanne!
After attending and performing in multiple venues where the focus wasn’t the entertainment, and hearing people who actually came to “listen” share their discontent… the idea was planted.
It started to really come to fruition when I was chatting with a fellow musician friend of mine and I said, “We need more listening rooms in Calgary”, and then the wheels started turning.
Finding a Venue
I decided to create one, but where? Being a big fan of community, especially from all my experience at Café Koi, I thought I could create a series that connects Calgary artists of all genres, a uniting force. Sometimes I feel Calgary artists are so disconnected from one another because of the genre of music they play.
Shortly after, I received an email about an Arts Spaces Networking Night. It was described as an event to connect community groups and other facility operators with artists and arts organizations looking for space. I signed up immediately.
I had already brainstormed the criteria for this series to work; it had to be an affordable, small, intimate space where there were no distractions and the focus was purely on the musicians and their art, a modest green room for the musicians, a stage, fully licensed but willing to forego service during the musician sets, and free parking.
Most importantly, it had to be in alignment with my firm belief in building, developing and fostering a community. This type of commitment takes patience and effort over a longer period of time.
Expensive theaters or concert halls have a way of making people “listen”, but they are also incredibly costly and much too grand, losing the intimacy I envisioned for this particular series.
Many spaces showcased at this particular event did not check off all the boxes on my list of criteria. Then, I stumbled upon Café Blanca, where I met Chuck and Louisa pitching the quaint and lovely coffee house at which they were employed.
I instantly loved their vibe and we soon met up at the café. It was one thing seeing the pictures of the café at the event, but another thing to see it first-hand.
Café Blanca had turned out to check off all the boxes for me; it had a stage, was fully licensed with great food, had a perfect green room for the artists, free parking, and the right amount of seats; 50.
My enthusiasm was met very quickly when meeting with Blanca’s owners Derek and Jackie. They were extremely keen on the idea from the drop of the hat, and have been amazingly supportive of the project.
They close their shop to outside business for three hours on the third Wednesday of every month and focus only on the patrons who purchased tickets to that evening’s performance. Whether all 50 seats are sold, or only 15 people show up in attendance, they remain attentive and excited about the potentiality of success with The Listening Room.
I contacted 6 artists of different genres that I respected and admired within the music community to sign up for a date, from January to June.
These artists all have a website and a very active social media presence. I pay them a guarantee, in solo or duo format, and provide them with a PA and Dave Horrocks (Infinite Wave) to do sound.
As he says, you “Can’t have a Listening Room and not have good sound”. I encourage all participating artists in the series to attend each other’s shows, offering them a comp ticket.
I know for myself it’s hard to see my fellow musicians performing on a regular basis, as we are usually working on the same nights, so I thought it was a nice touch. Once again encouraging #communitynotcompetition.
My vision? For The Listening Room Series to expand; for each show to be sold out; for audiences to be so engaged they commit to season passes; to have multiple listening rooms; to have touring artists have a place to play and a guaranteed audience; to unite.
How I’m Promoting the Listening Room Series Through Social Media
The artists, Café Blanca and myself are all equally responsible in the promotion of The Listening Room Series. I have had all the creative done for each individual show, including web-friendly posters, Facebook banners, as well as Twitter and Instagram posters.
Facebook events are created by the artists themselves and a Facebook “Listening Room Series” Group has been initiated, where videos, images and more can be posted to invite audience engagement. There is a Twitter handle, @listeningyyc and the hashtag is #listeningroomyyc which is printed on all the promotional materials. I post a 15 second video of the live performance on Instagram, and I also live stream each concert via Periscope.
See you soon in the room!