Does Rochester Actually Attend Shows?

Friends, folks from Rochester, lend me your ears.

Since the day that I set foot in Minnesota (which is already almost three years ago now), its come to my attention that there has been a concern (on the part of my beautiful friends in Rochester’s creative community) regarding a lukewarm reception of the arts in Rochester.

More bluntly, they’re wondering where the hell the support is. Where are the patrons enjoying live music? Where are the art lovers admiring new forms of art in the city? When a special event comes to Rochester, where are the number of attendees to justify similar events returning to the city again?

Am I blind? Or, am I just not seeing it?

Here’s my hot take: Rochester is simply a “walk up” city. What does that mean? Well, I think most folks in the area just don’t buy tickets to these events until the day they’re happening.

Why is that? My guess is that the lukewarm attendance record is due to the following reasons: folks are assessing whether or not “something better” is coming along that day, there’s actually so much happening that its hard to choose what to go to, they’re not seeing enough of the kind of music we want in the city, financial constraints, or they’re just not being informed of what’s going on until they’re seeing selfies from the event posted later. All of that can certainly lead to a seemingly inconsistent number of people supporting the arts.

For my part, I do my best to attend as many live music shows as I can in our area (as my schedule allows) because I want more of them around. I learned that attending the shows proved to business owners and managers that there was a desire/profit in such events in our area. In radio, a huge deciding factor as to whether or not we’d put on an event in Rochester at all was if the projected attendance was worth it. It’s a sad truth, but I’m being honest when I say I was in meetings where those conversations happened. There were times when I felt like I was begging the upper echelon of my former employer to invest in our city.

America loves capitalism, and that means we want profit. It really is that seedy.

However, as I said, if that’s the game – I’ll play it. I’ll buy the damn ticket if that’s what’s going to convince venue owners and managers to hold events I’m interested in here. It’s worth it. My dollar is a vote for more of *insert band name here* in my city. I’m getting what I want in the end.

Is there a band that sets your heart on fire playing in our area? Great! Buy the ticket! It can only prove they’re worth having here again.

It’s my hope that maybe you’ll view the arts in Rochester the same way.

15 responses to “Does Rochester Actually Attend Shows?”

  1. As an example let me point to the closing to Cowboy Jacks. SO many good comments about the food and service on facebook after it closed, but I had never heard of the place until then. Not a single post about people going there (and the people in my friends list include a former employee who mentioned what a wonderful place it was and others who eat out often) and not any advertising that I stumbled on.
    The same goes for concerts and live music venues – even Karaoke; there isn’t enough exposure to enough people. A bar might want to bring people into the place for a live band, but only puts a poster up at the door and around their own bar so the people who are already coming to that place will see it. Facebook posts only show up for people who already “like” the bar/venue so only the regulars even know it’s happening. then when only the regulars show up that night the owner/manager assumes “no one was interested”
    Honestly, we really ARE interested, but just didn’t know about it.
    Where do we go to find out about Down By The Riverside concerts? the rochester web site. buried under the “departments” page with 200 other entries is a section about Mayo Civic Center and Music. Don’t know what it’s called? good luck.
    The short answer is “Live entertainment in Rochester is broken, and it;s going to be hard to fix it.”
    Mostly because there are so many parts to fix.

    1. All good points dude! Sounds like we just need exposure.

      1. Rosei Skipper Avatar
        Rosei Skipper

        That’s been our main purpose with the Rochester Posse! But not everyone uses Facebook, or if they do, follows pages that closely. The Facebook algorithm no longer shows business pages unless they are paying for promotions, so bands and businesses might think they are doing a great job of sharing their events, when in actuality most of their fans don’t see the posts.

        Businesses in Rochester still struggle with understanding that paying for social media advertising is an important part of marketing events. It’s getting better, but we are really behind a lot of places in that regard.

      2. That algorithm definitely sucks!

  2. One thing I’ve noticed is most of the ticketed shows that charge $7-25/ticket feature artists that play regularly at open mic nights or other free shows with maybe one or two artists that haven’t played around here before. For me, a huge determining factor if I’m going to a show is the entire line up. If the first three bands are artists that frequently play shows around town (most of them for free), I’m not as willing to shell out $25/ticket (other than my desire to support local music/art/bands/people/etc.). I think the people setting up these shows need to branch out on who they are choosing to open for the headliner in order to allow audiences to branch out as well and hear new artists. For example, the Rochester Thaw event charged $25/ticket and featured artists who are frequents to the Rochester Music Scene. There was no real draw to go to the show (other than to support local music of course) because we know that most of these artists are going to be playing within the next few months for much less $. Shows need to have tickets. Shows need to compensate the bands, promoters, etc. But $25/ticket is a lot for 3/4 of the artists that play for much less within the next month or so.

    1. I can agree with that. It definitely seems like openers are our “regulars” on the scene. While I love seeing them, I’d like fresh blood too – especially if I’m paying $25 a ticket locally.

    2. Rosei Skipper Avatar
      Rosei Skipper

      It’s hard because if we have local openers people complain that they see those people too often, but without local openers people often won’t show up because they don’t want to spend money on someone they don’t already know, unless that person is already famous.

      Another challenge is that a lot of venues in Rochester are expensive to use. Even charging $25 and getting sponsors barely covers paying the musicians and renting the space. If venue costs were lower, or there was more financial support from the city/dmc/sponsors/etc, more of the budget could be spent bringing in bands from outside of Rochester.

      In regards to the Thaw, General B and Wiz and Audrey Robinson had never played in Rochester, and Jillian Rae and Karate Chop Silence have only performed once each in Rochester (though will be coming back more now that we have more established relationships).

      1. Ugh didn’t know how much venues were charging. That’s rough.

  3. I don’t hear about events until people are saying how great they were after they happened. I’m on Facebook. Twitter. And instagram. Not hearing about it before on those. Also get rochester women and rochester magazine

    1. Rosei Skipper Avatar
      Rosei Skipper

      Do you follow the Rochester Posse, MyTown MyMusic, Minnesota’s Rochester, The Rochester Art Heads, Canvas and Chardonnay, Cafe Steam? Get the RDA newsletter? Read the 507? Subscribe to MyTown MyMusic? Follow venues that have live music? Get the Riverside Concerts emails or snail mail? Part of it is seeking out the best resources and actually looking at them. I know that Kathy’s and Northstar often have music that I like so I make sure to look at their facebook pages. I post a list of things to do on the Rochester Reddit forum once a week…

  4. Two thoughts. First, the audience shouldn’t have to work to find a show. The producers need to find the audience where they are. Second, Rochester is a fairly conservative (not in the political sense) family town. My husband and I ( in our 40’s) don’t look in Rochester for shows, we head to the cities (1st Ave. is a favorite). Even when we do find a good show here, it is poorly attended and a very lame vibe. Sadly, you can’t make a community what it isn’t.

    1. Curious – why “lame” for you?

  5. SteveInRochester Avatar

    Interesting comment that “the audience shouldn’t have to work to find a show.”. I think that may be a clue to the problem. If music fans think that they can sit on their sofa and receive an alert on their phone whenever an event is scheduled that fits their schedule and their exact musical interest then Rochester will never have a music scene. If people really want live music to survive, then they need to do some work to find the music and support it. I also found it interesting that someone commented that she was shocked that event producers considered the potential profit of shows during their planning. As an owner of a music venue (that’s now closed), I can tell you that every small business that I know has to consider profitability to stay in business. One other point, ASCAP and BMI have become extremely aggressive at harassing any venue that advertises live music. I know first hand that these music licensing outfits who are supposed to be supporting musicians have actually forced a few Rochester businesses to stop having live music.

    1. Yup! Knew about the profit thing too being in radio.

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