VENUES RIGHTS MATTER: Los Angeles Small Music Venue Roundup
Monday // October 16, 2017
On the surface, we connect with the beat, the melody, the vocals. Surely there are more reasons individuals willingly gather in one place and break all personal space barriers in hopes of getting closer to the stage.
Recall the best concert experience that tops all the rest. Besides the music sounding top-notch, what else contributed to the unforgettable night?
Perhaps it was singing and dancing with best friends. Maybe it was an intimate connection with your significant other. The artist touched your hand, or you swore they held eye contact with you. Right. Or, maybe it’s the night you fell in love.
The gist of it is, live music connects humans in countless ways. But this can’t be done without a space. Venues are the museum to a work of art, the restaurant to a promising chef’s curated cuisine, the showroom to a designer’s new fashion line. Without them, it’s impossible to showcase the creative expression that ultimately makes our home unique.
Not only do music venues hold a special place in the hearts of musicians, music lovers and venue owners themselves, but they stand as a historical pieces of treasure that reflect the city’s pop culture. The thought of our music venues being stripped from the local history is unfathomable to many.
Tomorrow on October 17, 2017 marks the UK’s Music Venue Trust (MVT) Venues Day at the Ministry of Sound in London. Unfortunately, London alone has lost 35 percent of its small venues between 2007 and 2015 due to tough licensing scrutiny, planning, rising rent cost and other grievances.
On the website, MVT’s stated goal of Venue’s Day is to raise awareness of venues’ rights, with this year focusing on the “synergy between artists and grassroots music venues.”
Toronto has seen seven venues disappear only three months into 2017, according to The National Post. Similar to London, Canada’s live music industry created Music Canada Live to build awareness of the country's venues closing.
Besides property development, one point may be that millennial fans may not share the same passion for seeing small, one-act concerts. With the rapid growth of music festivals, attendees literally create lists upon lists of the acts they wish to see all in one weekend. These festivals are so popular, that according to the 2016 Nielsen’s Audience Insights Report on Music Festivals, 32 million people attend at least one music festival each year.
This audience also frequently uses Spotify or other streaming services to browse new artists rather than check out a band they’ve never heard about play in a small venue. Live music discovery for them often occurs at these music festivals, such as San Francisco’s indie Noise Pop festival.
When independent artists receive this opportunity, they get one chance to wow an already-present audience, potentially gain exposure and a fanbase. In turn, this makes it very hard for those smaller, independent venues to survive.
According to The Rolling Stone 2010 piece “Summer Festivals Force Bands to Skip Local Venues,” the Artist Exclusivity Clause in America dictates where festival acts can or cannot play in relation to the festival’s location.
For example, if Twenty One Pilots are set to perform at Coachella this year, the band can’t play anywhere near the Polo Fields during a 7-month time frame before the festival.
LA’s Spaceland and The Echo talent buyer Elizabeth Garo told The Rolling Stone that April is the toughest month to book bands since the artists are committed to playing at Coachella or are waiting to hear back from them.
So do we blame the millennials? Music festivals? Property developers? Streaming music services? Whatever the reason may be, large and small local venues alike need to stay on top of any threats, major or minor, that could impose on venue survival. You can read more about these steps in "How the Music Venue Business Needs to Change in 2017" on Event Brite.
One of them is building awareness, like MVT actively accomplishes in the UK. Here is a roundup of some of Los Angeles’ best small music venues, that we as citizens and a city, hold the responsibility of ensuring the survival of our live music culture.
We must remind individuals of their best concert ever, or unforgettable night they saw the Rolling Stones or Foo Fighters before making it big. So, we will do just that. Here is a roundup of LA’s small music venues we believe are worth mentioning:
- Capacity: 130
- Ages: All ages
- Location: 247 S Main St., Los Angeles
- Upcoming events: The Red Pears/Jurassic Shark/Kicked Off The Streets/The Ok Shack (10/20), No Parents/FEELS/DUMB F**** (10/21)
With a capacity of 130, this tiny venue means a whole lot to its regular rock/punk fans with only one sole purpose in mind: the music. This venue holds true to DIY principles. It’s an all-ages, alcohol-free, and the cover charge is a mere $5. In June 2016, the owner received a demolition notice from the building’s landlord, the L&R Group of Companies, the LA Times reported last year. Young fans and artists actually gathered for a benefit where 36 bands performed to help save The Smell, bringing in $15,000, and after an online-benefit, raised a total of $24,000. The support the venue received a year ago just goes on to show how much the independent music scene means for up-and-coming artists. In fact, indie pop duo Matt & Kim played at The Smell when the duo first started out. In the Daily Bruin, Matt Johnson of the duo described his closeness with the city of Los Angeles and recalled The Smell having a warehouse vibe, not being nice, but a great venue nonetheless.
- Capacity: 165
- Ages: Mostly 21+
- Location: 6010 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles
- Upcoming Events: Banda Magda/Nasi Nassiri/Yolanda Johnson/WOLF CAT (10/20), The Withers/FOE/Modern Haze/Trade Heroes (10/21)
This local landmark was established in 1937 known to many breakout musicians including Stevie Wonder, Willie Dixon, Natalie Cole, Ray Charles and more. Its homey vibe includes Johnny Cash paintings, display cases of Hollywood history, and a ceiling covered with vinyl records. Other notable artists who have graced this stage before reaching fame include the Wallflowers, Ben Harper and Lady Antebellum. Aside from live music, The Mint offers tapas style food and a full bar.
- Ages: 21+
- Location: 1623 N Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles
- Upcoming Events: Loren North/Western Scene/The Teskey Brothers (10/17), King Leg/Njomza/Jillette Johnson/Dylan Gardner (10/18)
Hotel Cafe opened in 2000 as a space for young artists moving into the spotlight. Such acts include Katy Perry, Mumford & Suns, Sia, Ed Sheeran and Lana Del Rey, according to the LA Times. Sonicbids says Hotel Cafe is a singer-songwriter’s dream venue, and perhaps this is because widely known acts such as John Mayer and Chris Martin continue to play and share the stage with rising artists within an intimate space.
- Capacity: 260
- Ages: 21+
- Location: 1717 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles
- Upcoming Events: Babe Parade Love and a .38 Lanterns (10/16 FREE show), Benyaro/The Flusters/Bradford Hunter Wrap/Your Future Lovers (10/17)
If you’re looking to hear the next up-and-coming rock/indie band without breaking the bank, look no further. This hipster music venue sits in the heart of Silver Lake and features new rock bands every night of the week. Formerly known as Spaceland, this venue is the home to many famous artists who were just starting out, including the Foo Fighters, Foster the People, Local Natives, Silversun Pickups and Beck. Besides rock, the venue experiments with other creative live music sets, such as indie-electronic groups perfect for the dance floor. On Mondays, The Satellite offers no cover charge, so make sure to show up early to score a table for the night.
- Capacity: 350
- Ages: 18+
- Location: 1822 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles
- Upcoming Events: The Babe Rainbow (10/17), Dub Club (10/18), Nick Hakim (10/19), Tei Shi (10/20), & Wolves In The Throne (10/21)
In 2006, Spaceland Presents began operating The Echoplex, home to Echo Park neighborhood. The Echoplex sits below The Echo, and is only accessible through an alley and down a flight of stairs. Like The Satellite, this venue aims to give up-and-coming artists exposure. Both the Echo and Echoplex have launched independent artists in the spotlight such as The Airborne Toxic Event and War Paint. In addition, the Rolling Stones, Nine Inch Nails, Green Day , Incubus, LCD Systems, Kendrick Lamar and several more notable artists have played here.
- Capacity: 500
- Ages: All ages
- Location: 9081 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
- Upcoming Events: Sarah Jarosz (10/17), Pigeons Playing Ping Pong (10/21)
This gem opened in 1957 as a folk club before a rock venue, and contains many defining moments in music history. Several iconic artists began at this intimate venue, including Elton John, The Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Love, Cheech and Chong, Buffalo Springfield, Billy Joel, The Byrds and more. A common word used to describe small venues is intimate. Pair that with the most excellent sound system and you'll get Troubadour.
- Capacity: 500
- Ages: All ages
- Location: 8901 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood
- Upcoming Events: Social Repose/Hotel Books/Funeral Portrait (10/16), Ultimate Jam Night (10/17), Tony Macalpine + Felix Martin/Incipience/Power Tribe (10/18)
Another notable rock club on the Sunset Strip opened in 1964 and has also launched world renowned artists into the limelight such as Johnny Rivers, the Doors, and more. According to LA Weekly, the venue nowadays books new bands as well as largely known artists from time to time. Although Whisky A Go Go may not boast its go-go dancing cages from older times, the venue consists of a dance floor, balcony, two full bars and most importantly, an impressive PA.
- Capacity: 500
- Ages: All ages
- Location: 9009 West Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood
- Upcoming Events: My American Heart (10/19), Private Island (10/20), Shed Seven/Lil Xan (10/21)
The Roxy Theatre is another independently operated venue with Goldenvoice in charge of booking shows. In 1973, Lou Adler, Elmer Valentine and original partners David Geffen, Elliot Roberts and Peter Ashen opened the theatre in response to venue mistreatment of artists. In hopes to make artists feel comfortable, Starting out as venue showing mostly comedians, The Roxy has grown into both a place for aspiring and well-known artists alike. Notable artists who are connected to this venue include John Lennon, Alice Cooper, Neil Young, and the Ramone’s first California gig occurred here in 1976. A venue with history, high quality sound and intimacy, guests should arrive early to secure a good spot.
- Capacity: 771
- Ages: All ages
- Location: 5515 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
- Upcoming Events: Aquilo (10/16), JR JR (10/19), YehMe2 (10/20), & Moses Sumney (10/21)
Another theatre operated by Goldenvoice, El Rey Theatre opened in 1936 as a movie house until it became a live music venue in 1994. According to its website, the El Rey is a registered Historic-Cultural Monument with its magnificent staircases, art deco lobby, facade, VIP balcony lounge and stage positioned in the grand ballroom.
- Capacity: 1,200
- Ages: All ages
- Location: 6126 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles
- Upcoming Events: Tash Sultana (10/20), Dinosaur Jr. (10/21), Mitski (10/22), Sheryl Crow (10/23), & Yeah Yeah Yeahs (10/25)
The Fonda was originally built as a 1920’s venue called Carter De Haven’s Music Box, and was known as The Henry Fonda Theatre and The Music Box. Reopened in 2012 and currently operated by Goldenvoice, this classic venue contains a theatrical performance room and a projection screen on the rooftop bar.
- Capacity: 1,850
- Ages: 5+ ; 18+ for Insomniac events
- Location: 3790 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
- Upcoming Events: In This Moment (10/18), Snakehips (10/20), CRYSTAL CASTLES (10/21), & HIM (10/24)
Live Nation operates The Wiltern, designed in 1931 as the Warner Brothers Western Theater boasting its original, elegant design including murals stretching to its ceilings and intricate tile work, true to its time. On two separate occasions, locals rescued demolition notices in the late 1970s, and creating a first victory for the Los Angeles Conservancy in protecting architectural monuments.