Hey there all, thanks for stopping by!
As some of you may know, today was the day in the UK where the government delivered their budget which shows us the ‘plan’ for the year ahead. Some predicted that this budget would also be used to try and keep power in the hands of the current government as the general election looms. Some businesses and entrepreneurs did well out of the budget but alcohol and the business of bars, pubs and clubs took it’s usual bashing by being delivered a 2% increase on alcohol duty and a 11% increase on cider. The late night industry in the UK is already in a precarious position with an estimated 47 pubs per WEEK closing down in the UK. Now, I moved over to the entertainment side of things years ago but have been known to go back to the other side of the bar and manage such venues from time to time. It’s no big surprise for those who know me well that this is something I am very passionate about. I’ve been a part of corporate late night companies and with many of them, I don’t see eye to eye. However, I believe in protecting the longevity of this industry as it is vital to a country’s economy and even a country’s culture.
So… Now to the bar & entertainment bit.
It will also come as no surprise that I am a huge advocate for live entertainment and getting THE RIGHT entertainment in to venues. It’s pretty safe to say that the late night industry took a knock a few years back with the smoking ban. Supermarkets and off licenses also dealt a blow by being able to sell alcohol at a MUCH lower price than bars. If I were the government, I’d bring those prices in line with the bars or create a national average to put anyone selling alcohol on a level playing field. And now with the added tax on alcohol, breweries will put publicans, lease holders and general managers over the proverbial barrel… You see, most lease holders are locked in to contracts that state that they can only purchase alcohol from the brewery it’s self. Sometimes the brewery will be charging 20, 50 and in some cases 80% more for products that can easily be brought at a lower price from a cash & carry. The contracts state that it is illegal to purchase from other suppliers, in many cases, taking legal action if a contract is breached. Some of these contracts exclude wine and soft drinks and say that this is the companies good will gesture. But we all know (especially if you are a lease holder) that this is not enough. I saw a quote earlier today which said “Change happens. To survive it, you must anticipate it; and to be successful, you must embrace it”. This was from an article written by Dallas Lawrence about how most big brands and companies are still NOT USING (or not using correctly) things like Facebook to get a business edge. You can read the article HERE. It’s a fact that pubs and bars a few years back were the ‘Facebook’ of their time, a hub for the community combining, Live Music, Chat, Games, Drink and Banter to all that visited. There are still a few venues like this and the reason they are still around is down to the passionate people who operate them. They invest their lives to make these places what they are.
So, what entertainment?
It’s also safe to say (although I hate to say it) that many venues who provide Live entertainment or any entertainment couldn’t give a damn about it. They see it a little bit like Field of Dreams and have the “If you build it, they will come” attitude… Screw that, If that’s what you think, YOU are contributing towards the decline of the industry and you think that you’ve helped?… pffft! get real will ya! You see, there is a big difference between just putting on a live band and showing Live Entertainment, the main difference being that one is ACTUALLY Entertaining. There are so many bands out there who will gladly play a decent venue for a crate of beer or £150. Now, if you are getting a full live band to play your venue for anything around that price, I’ll also tell you what your getting… a great big pile of shit!… It’s true. Live entertainment in the UK is filled with great bands, acts, tribute artistes. But for every great act, there are 10 terrible ones cashing in from someone’s lack of knowledge or lack of caring. It may seem like a great deal to you, you’ve got a band for £150 “Hey, I’ve put on live entertainment and it didn’t break the bank, that’s great right”? WRONG, Dummy! Your lack of caring could be damaging your brand more that you think. Don’t get me wrong though, open mic nights or unsigned band nights are a great idea if they are marketed as just that. You can’t dress an unsigned up-and-coming band as ‘the best live entertainment’ as that simply wouldn’t be true. I have a simple sum that works all of this out - SUM - Cheap Band = Cheap Brand. Your business will die in the hands of these terrible bands and ‘weekend Elvis’ as I call them, they are risking your money and your business. Customers pick up on this more than anything and they won’t be fooled. They’ll vote with their feet. Lack of caring will result in a lack of customers. Marketing can also be measured in this way. If your venue isn’t busy, you aren’t marketing it correctly or at all. Marketing in most cases is a small monetary investment but a huge investment in time and if it is your business you must invest the time. When I worked with Chicago Rock there were 64 venues ALL showing live entertainment every Wednesday night (a ‘slow’ night) it was introduced because the format worked. For many of the venues, they were welcoming an extra 500 - 1,000 customers on this quiet night, not just because of the entertainment, but because they had dedicated managers in the venue who cared about the products and pushed the hell out of each event. These passionate people were the driving force behind the venue. On the flip-side, there were venues wasting (in some cases) £2,000 on some acts only to never get a return on the bar. You’d walk in to the venue the day after and still find full boxes of flyers for the said event. They didn’t care about the product, had no passion for the business and the same successful nights that other venues had, wilted away when put in the hands of the certain venue managers. Marketing isn’t always who can have the best posters, radio coverage or a spot in the local or national news papers. As a business you should use the resources that suit your venue best. A combination of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace) and physically hitting the streets with flyers and promoting to businesses around you will work best and if you are doing it right, with the right entertainment, you WILL see a return on investment. If you follow these points as a venue, you cant go wrong -
- Customer service is vital (as a person you can singlehandedly enhance a customer’s experience in your venue)
- Entertainment - Bands, Tributes, Quizzes, Pub Games - Put quality and passion in to them and they create a fantastic atmosphere and most of all, will give people a reason to leave the house.
- Marketing - It has to be done, become the figurehead of your brand and let evenryone know what your venue is about. Most of all, do it with passion and belief in your product.
- Standards - Is your venue clean? Is your beer fresh? Are your bottles in date?
- Safety - Customers like being in a safe environment, is that your venue, or at least is it welcoming and feels like a safe environment?
- Products - Do you stock the popular products that people want to buy?
It’s now time for you to invest in your venue, with a little extra money to get the best live entertainment you can afford, to market the venue if it’s already doing the entertainment thing OR to do BOTH!… This is mainly an investment in marketing time after all and if you do it with commitment and use the best resources (there are some great acts, entertainment agents and marketeers around) you can rescue your venue and help turn the industry around. Hell, that’s what Im trying to do, one place at a time. Also, get a check out what your competition is doing, see what you can improve on and do it with a positive attitute, it’s your industry too after all. All of a sudden, that 2% and 11% doesn’t seem that much of a big deal. Of course, I’d try to cut a deal with your brewery to get some relief on the prices you are paying… Hey, be cheeky and talk to your local council and see if you can get a rate reduction, if ever there was a time to do that it would be now.
That’s my two cents, I’d love to hear yours?
Take care and get building those brands!
Twitter - @Troylinehan