The State Of Live Music In Boston Forum
Presented by Rock Shop Boston with Anngelle Wood Media.
Monday, May 23, 2016 at iZotope, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Meeting moderators: Steve Theo, Anngelle Wood, Kevin Hoskins
Meeting notes and Findings: Lauren Recchia
Your feedback, Follow-up, Ideas & Initiatives and Final Report: Anngelle Wood


Part One: A Review Of Each Forum Speaker
Part Two: Your Feedback
Part Three: Findings & Follow-up
Part Four: Ideas & Initiatives



Joel Simches, professional sound engineer, radio programmer for On The Town With Mikey Dee, 91.5 WMFO at Tufts University: Problems = not enough venues, bands are not promoting themselves, clubs are not promoting bands. Bands/clubs worked together back in the day (not anymore), bands used to have money to promote themselves, and clubs used to have advertising dollars for promotion. Why don’t we work together anymore?

Dan Millen, Music Promoter, Thunder Road and Rock On Cruises: Copperfield’s closed due to owner’s getting a different offer ($$$). Church: wanted to pursue restaurant instead of club scene. TT’s: Landlord issues, increasing rent. Johnny D’s: owner wanted less stress, was done with running a club. What’s next? We educate each other, share our secrets, we support each other instead of complain and throw shit. Personal invitation from the band is best way to promote… club can only promote what is already out there.

Meghan Chiampa, Show promoter: Not many in the scene are under 30… college is huge in Boston, and a lot of the population is under 30. How do we reach this younger / transient crowd?  Answer from an under 30…

George Woods, singer/songwriter: know your audience and know your space (don’t book at a venue that is too big). Set expectations for the club and yourself (the band). Make an event into a proper business occasion. Basement show scene (Allston) connects with the younger audience in the city (but legality?).

Randy Tartow, drummer, self-promoter, original music & tribute band member: Band vs Promoter – if the band is jazzed about it, then the promoter will be. Show the enthusiasm, and the club will too. The club remembers when you go the extra mile, but they also remember when you DON’T (band on same page). Meghan: don’t rely on the promoter, work with each other and the other bands.

Aaron Shadwell, singer and songwriter, musician 20 years in Boston: Struggle with self-promotion. Suggestion: NACA (college events buyer). Feeling awkward with being professional with other bands? Shouldn’t feel that way.

Kristine, no direct music scene connection outside of just going to shows: Facebook is dead, don’t waste your time. Twitter is where I find bands, then look for them on FB or website. Bands should reach out directly to people to engage on Twitter (direct message). It’s important to also stay relevant on these platforms. Venue loyalty? Yes… the right room size – intimacy is key.

Matt McArthur, founder of The Record Co, Berklee grad, AZ transplant: Discovery. Economic impact for bands to get discovered. Wally’s is the perfect room where you just go to the venue, and don’t check to see who is playing. Trust the curatorial practice of the venue.

Sean O’Brien, ONCE Ballroom: Opening a venue = stupid. We are still doing it. Relies on the dedication of the people involved. Really important that show booking is a partnership. Promoters should be helping out, don’t agree with Meghan that bands should not rely on promoters.

Richard Bouchard, promoter: Why open up more venues when the venues we have are not filling up? Some venues do a lot of promotion by way of their website, calendar and paid advertising (but not a lot). What college kids want to go see bands with 40-50 year old members. From Anngelle: “If you think you are too old to rock n’ roll then you are.” – Lemmy

Jasmine Hagans, music/art curator MFA, musician: Venues need tax breaks. Rock scene should have as much community value as the MFA. Music industry staff need to prioritize the art over the sales. Bands are not turds to polish. More opening slots for local bands at larger venues. Stronger house bookers at venues and weaker one off promoters (for genre specific). Outside bookers lose identity related to a place.

Alex Fewell, ONCE Ballroom: Booker trying to promote a band/show – how do you find a way to promote one show with 60 other shows lined up that month. That is what makes the band so important in the promotion equation. How can we take the performing group (20-30 people for a 4 band show) and promote the show the best way?

Jesse Von Kenmore, veteran Boston musician: I am in a band, but I want to control the outcome of my band’s success, I want the best slot, so I am also a promoter. Want a broader audience (ages, sexes, races). Venues outside of the US get tax breaks. Building relationships and finding your tribe, making friends. Also know how to apologize. Not many real heavy duty headliners in this town… should be able to put a show together with 4 bands and fill a 300 person club. Don’t over saturate. BE PROFESSIONAL and pass on the information if you know, and the younger kids don’t.

Allan Kraut, educator and veteran sound engineer – The Rat, Linwood, Paradise, Sinclair: THIS EVENT is the type of thing that needs to happen more in the scene to educate others. Artists need to struggle to know when/how to work harder (wife works at Berklee as career advisor) Find your niche and it will be less of a struggle = authenticity.

Jen Strickland, performer and promoter, works at Code for Boston: 20 years in Boston, used to book in Portland Maine in the 90s. This isn’t the 90s anymore. Everything has changed and we need to change with it, evolve with the times. Mixed bills are important, that’s what the kids want. Music that comes from a real place is what is important. New stuff needs cultivation… give them a chance… it’s a mentorship, a collaboration (pick a new band and work with them, help them).

Eleanor Ramsey, artistic director at Boston Rock Opera, and designer: Rock & roll is supposed to be fun, you go out because you want to, not because you have to. Word of mouth is key, technology is always changing, it’s all a cycle that moves with the economy.  Go out for the whole show, see the opening bands, make it a social event. Venues should make an environment that people want to hang out in.

Alex Glover, bass player for Nemes: Touring vs playing in Boston… Promoters not doing work is a Boston thing… other cities don’t have that problem. Make young people feel welcome in a venue… venues need to change with the technology that is always involving.

Jeremy Sarna, New England Conservatory: Getting college students to shows: they will be in audience if their friends are on the stage… book college bands. Word of mouth on campus once that starts happening.

Cliff Anderson, musician: Boston for 19 years. People just coming to this event = unity. We should all be friends with this similar interest. Don’t just promote your own shows, promote your friends shows, and help each other out – especially cross-genre. More venues will = more bands, will create a richer landscape. Don’t let anyone devalue your art, and be persistent. More collaboration with art/music and technology… Boston is the perfect place for this cross over. (Izotope hosting this event = THAT)

Liz Bills, singer for Analog Heart: On opening new venues… Murdock Manor – kids who live together and want to put on shows that they care about with a great vibe. Booked shows in their house, then moved on to promoting shows at bigger venues. Heaven Town in Haverhill – combination of art and music at group events… shows do well because the community comes together).

Sam Coren, bass in Shaved Head Britney and Marketing at Izotope: Boston for 10 years, went to NEU. Without basements in Allston, she wouldn’t have seen shows under 21. Need to restructure the entertainment licensing situation. Outside shows, Porch Fest, church shows. Treat musicians well – whether you are promoter, cop, other musician, etc… Dedicated parking loading zones, pay your musicians, NO pay to play. Make Boston easier and more fun to play in so bands don’t skip over it because it’s too much of a pain.

Annie March, Band Manager, promoter, currently stay at home mom of two small kids: Does go out when she can, and would like to see shows happen earlier. 7pm shows. Shows where earplugs aren’t needed and not just acoustic/folk shows, in venues where I can talk to my friends in an area separate from the listening area. Early shows specifically for parents and others who wake at 5am.

Hailey McGee, EBASS (Emerging Boston Area Singer-Songwriters): Representation and community. If the people are not represented, then their friends won’t come. Cambridge based venues – 16.6% are women. Venues think about broad representation. Community partnerships are important for the growth of any aspect of the scene.

Edrie Edrie, performer with Walter Sickert & the Army of Toys: Boston’s Cultural Plan “Boston Creates” – go to the government agencies about the issues you are having and they will listen and support you. The money is there, you need to make the connection. Consider other venues, mentioned Black Box Emerson.

Anthony Kaczynski, veteran Boston musician: On a major label in the 80s. Got out of the scene then got back in at 50, busier than ever. Commitment, attitude. Make good music, treat your music and your audience well. Go to the whole show, talk to other people, BE NICE. Nick Blakey and The Midway are doing it right, and need more credit.



Age Range
17 or under: 0.00%

18-24: 6.85%
25-34: 27.40%
35-44: 30.14%
45-54: 27.40%
55-64: 8.22%
65+: 0.00%

Who Are You?
Musician: 45.07%
Multi-role: 22.54%
(sound engineer, musician, artist rep, photographer, former booker, educator, media)
Media: 9.86%

(DJ, writer, show host, blogger, press)
Fan: 4.23%

Sound Engineer 2.82%
Visual Artist: 2.82%
Community Member: 2.82%
Student: 1.41%
Performer/Actor: 1.41%
Booker/Talent Buyer: 0.00%

Where Do You Currently Live?

Somerville: 25.35%
Boston: 16.90%
Cambridge: 8.45%

Arlington: 5.63%
Medford: 7.04%
North of Boston: 14.08%

South of Boston: 2.82%
Other locations specified: 19.72%
(West of Boston, Lowell, Newton, Waltham, Brookline, Melrose, Malden, Nashua, Watertown, Rhode Island)

Where do you go see live music (venues and spaces)?
Some key points from your responses:

“I’ll go to see a desired show and whatever venue it happens to be at. The thing that makes me most prefer one venue over another is the quality of the bar offerings, with atmosphere, location, and sound quality following in no particular order.”

“All the clubs, some elks lodge type places, very occasional house show”

“Mostly spaces where the cover charge is low.”

“DIY shows, Atwood’s, Once, Great Scott, Columbus Theatre (Providence), Plough & Stars, Lizard Lounge, Middle East, Lilypad, Paradise, The Sinclair, Toad, Passim, Cafe 939, Starlab Fest. ** I will not see shows at HoB or Royale because I feel the venues do not do the listening experience justice. “

“Anywhere I can!”

“Standard clubs, but our organization (modern concert music focus) ventures into non-traditional venues, like breweries.”

“all over the world,  Sinclair, MEC, Paradise, HOB, MAINE, VT, MA, RI, CT – TOO MANY TO NAME”

How Do You Discover New Local Music?

  • Facebook (#1 response)
  • Social media
  • Word of Mouth
  • Radio
  • Networking
  • From sharing bills with bands
  • Going to shows
  • Listings
  • Music Blogs
  • Friends
  • Venue postings
  • Going to see new shows and open mics
  • Going to see one band and staying to see the others
  • When bands I like “like” other bands on FB

How Did You Hear About This Forum?

  • Facebook (#1 response)
  • The organizers – Kevin, Steve, Anngelle
  • Friends
  • Word of Mouth
  • Social Media
  • One of my band members shared it on FB and we attended it together
  • Thalia Zedek
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Dug from Psychic Dog
  • Hailey From EBASS
  • Jen D’Angora
  • iZotope

What Did You Like About This Forum?
Some key points in your responses:

People coming together and making the effort to take positive, pro-active action to improve our music community.

There was a lot to learn from differing viewpoints and a more diverse group than my usual bubble.

The discussions about mentoring and community were the best parts.

That it was so inclusive!

Having a civil discourse among peers

I liked the energy and vibe.

It really has gotten people riled up about the state of local music.

Started important discussions, everyone seems enthused to make changes.

Great turnout, good space, some good ideas but lots of blathering on and repeating things. Needed a timer to keep things on track.

I enjoyed how open and democratic it was. I appreciate that the focus was wide for this first meeting of the minds, and the challenge to air pros and cons of the local music scene was embraced by the audience. The turnout was phenomenal, and I enjoyed hearing about the various experiences and struggles of artists and venues, and seeing where they overlap.

It existed.

It felt really good to realize I was not alone in my struggling. I also met a person who plays in a band that would make a great show mate with.

It was great seeing people I didn’t know, and seeing familiar faces as well. I enjoyed several points that were brought up positively and constructively. I was glad that people were able to remain positive for the sake of our friends and community. I was just a listener due to my temper, but was glad to hear several points brought up after my initial hot headedness. It gave me a chance to listen.

It was great to feel a whole community come together, and to have the room be multi-dimensional: Musicians, club owners, booking people, media people, and non-musicians – also a good woman to man ratio and a good old to young ratio. It felt very inclusive, despite the guy who said nobody wants to see old people play rock.

Inclusiveness, patience, the fact that everyone got to say their piece, the range of topics and issues brought up.

The amount of topics discussed… That it was free form. Felt like it was easy to contribute if you had something to say. Lots of professional opinions from variety of sources.

It was pretty civil discourse. I think one thing I *didn’t* like was that the more “experienced” members of the community came off as entitled and patronizing. I loved that someone mentioned that older artists should be mentoring younger artists and sharing spaces with them, so I hope that happens in the future.

Opportunity to put faces to names, names to venues, the general communal vibe that we all have a common problem that requires creative solutions and openness to understanding where everyone in the process is coming from. The location was sweet.

Constructive dialogue and ideas…not a whine-fest

Open forum, diversity of industry types represented (venues, bands, media, fans), stayed mostly positive, good moderation, follow-up (like this survey).

What topics would you like covered in the future?
Some key points in your responses.

Pay to play, poor payment practices and amounts

How to get people in New England to dance and like it.

How to actually sell your music in today’s shrinking market space. How to maximize your gig’s potential.

Studios, radio, how to counteract the ageism in Boston.

Need drill down to basics. We should work for the Fair Trade Music policies that have taken hold in Seattle and Portland Ore. and we need things like Musician loading zones that a few cities already have.

The BUSINESS of the small rock clubs: Why does the Middle East charge what they do? Why so few local support slots? What does it cost to run a club in Boston and how that affects all bands, from the popular (100+ draw) to the new/young (under 10 person draw). No one runs a charity in Boston, so it’s important for musicians to understand why venues make the decisions they do, and for venues to understand why musicians are frustrated.

Tips and tricks of the trade for optimal booking and promoting, digital marketing strategies, affordable label, management, licensing, recording and production opps… And anything that helps build and strengthen the community and keep everyone positive and on the same team, in general.

All-ages shows. My band’s fan base is mainly 16-22 so we try not to take 21+ shows because no one will come. This makes it difficult to play in Boston.

Interacting with the government (planning, creative councils, police, etc), Alternative venue spaces (house shows, art galleries, etc).

Ways to engage with the broader community, work together to make Boston more friendly for music through public policy. Ways to make it easier for young/old/busy people to come out to shows.

Collaborations between all parts of our scene – venues, bookers, DJs, artists, etc. How can we work together to nourish each other and our community?

Marketing, Recording, AirPlay, Touring, Press

Cutting out the middle man, that is to say, promoters/bookers unless they can somehow validate their role.

Maybe for promoters to let bands know what they are missing from them, and bands to let promoters know what they are missing from them. There was a comment about how promoters/venues don’t promote the show. It’s funny that sometimes promoters/venues can feel the same way about bands. We’re a team and need to get on the same page!

More promotion and suggestions to expose music to the people that aren’t already coming to shows.

Local bands being put on bills with national touring bands. Artists and venues partnering together to create and promote exciting shows. Venues employing qualified and attentive sound and light technicians.

Round 2 of this discussion.

A discussion on how bands can stay in the Boston area without having to move to NYC or LA for success.

It would be helpful to workshop licensing and permitting issues with city representatives or local law experts, informed by how other cities are solving similar issues successfully. I’d like to see this group collect ideas for improving the audience experience, even if the ideas are crazy. There could be some diamonds in the rough that we could actually get done. It would also be helpful to see more resources developed that would act as a platform for artists to connect and build shows, and for artists to connect with venues. I’ve been thinking that the local venues could probably help out national and local artists by compiling a list of characteristics about the venues that would help the artists target the right venues for their performances.

Interaction between booking agents, clubs and this forum.

How to expand past a Boston audience. More chances for local bands to open for touring acts The possibility of playing at non-traditional venues- perhaps how to create more venues? Redesigning shows as events that will attract more of an outside audience.

No cover venues for originals.

How do we work as a community to entice people to come out and see live music? Can we make the local music scene a tourist attraction? Should we have earlier shows? How do we help bring business to the music venues? How can the venues help build the scene? Can we make the music a reason for people to visit the Boston area? How can venues, bands and artists target different demographic groups: younger, older, ethnic, LGBT. Is there enough transparency in how bands get paid? Do artists and musicians understand business expectations for live events? Do we have a quality issue in terms what is being booked? (EX: Why do the bands always suck at that place?) If so, what are the factors that determine low, medium and high quality?

Would like to see explicit discussion of how the city of Boston can be friendlier to local AND out of town bands; Discussion of how to rebuild a viable music press; Discussion of how to get musicians to see themselves as artists and insist on inclusion in city art opportunities; Discussion of setting up resource centers for musicians to learn about promo, licensing, get mentorship etc.; and I would like to see a meeting exclusive to musicians where they can privately and openly discuss the real problem of how musicians are being treated in terms of both respectful behaviour and payment by clubs in the area.

Not sure if this was covered, but it seems that some of the best venues are dominated by older bands. Which is fine for me as many are my friends and this includes me. But I know of one really good band who draws and can’t get a decent gig in town. They don’t have nostalgia for The Rat as they weren’t around – or maybe even born.

Comparing and contrasting Boston with other cities that cultivate the local scene. Tactics or factors that play into a scene. Would like to have the problems divided amongst the types of people saying it. Was a little hard to follow if one said something and another opposed that opinion.



  • Key takeaways:
    • Better collaboration and accountability between musicians and venues, it needs to be a balanced relationship
    • Can shows start and end earlier?
    • It’s worse in Boston than other cities, why? And can they help?
    • Other cities appear to better support their music community, how can we do this?
    • There are places doing it right… they need to share their knowledge and expertise
    • Little do we know, the government CARES, and HELPS. Contact them, they will reply. Look into local representation. Also check out: Boston Creates: cultural plan draft
    • There is something more with the art/music and technology cross-over in Boston… how do we utilize it?
    • Disconnect between college demographic and the older seasoned musicians… does it exist? How do we make that relationship stronger? One resource: NACA
    • What are the best digital platforms for sharing and getting info on anything local arts/music based?
    • Larger venues need to incorporate local support. Help prop up the local acts and get them on larger bills. Jed Gottlieb has written about it HERE and HERE.
    • “Venues are closing, there’s no place to play!” Deemed not to be true, as this outline by Nick Blakey details:  HERE and HERE.
    • Venues close due to lack of patrons. Dan Millen refuted this claim above.
    • Other helpful sites that were mentioned: EBASS, Murdock Manor, ArtsEmerson (Black Box Sounds)
  • Code for Boston – support community for platforms like Bandsintown and Songkick.


  • Follow-up meeting: structured with key points to tackle
  • Create realistic action points and next steps
  • Answer questions, find solutions
  • Future meetings will be one subject at a time, with chosen topic for each based on feedback; share a recap of each after
  • Potential for audio recording and podcast



  • Incorporate Boston’s food industry and creative organizations
  • Look to our musical peers – not just rock & roll!
  • Knowledge transfer among the younger and older members of the music community
  • Music mentoring programs
  • Create additional resources for educating musicians
  • Utilize town and city funding for art/music like
  • Build a database of local funding resources
  • Create themed events – some examples would be JP Music Festival, Porchfest, HONK!, Eat Your Heart Out Boston, Lawn On D., Fuzztival, Starlab Fest, Rock & Romp, Hot Stove, Cool Music, Girls In The Garage Festival, Together, Drop Yer Mic, Pick Up Your Paintbrush, Charity-based events…


The State Of Live Music In Boston: Venue & Artist Relationships, a follow-up – is in the works. We would like to address the booking/venue/musician questions that we did not get to on Monday 5/23. Follow the pages – Rock Shop Boston and Anngelle Wood Media for updates. Special thanks to Ben Carr, Sean Greenhalgh, and the good people at iZotope for hosting us.

Long live #BostonMusic

Thank you for reading.