Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

I was just looking for a little sympathy here…..

Our Tucson (AZ) session just lost our 5th session venue in 18 months. There was a nominally Irish pub here for about 10 years, but after it closed, we haven’t been able to find a place that is interested in hosting us. We just can’t compete with the (American) football on Sunday afternoons. Our current pub is willing to give us an outside patio space but it won’t work in the winter, and it’s still very hot and dry through October. They’d be willing to give us indoor space again after football season is over. (In February!).

I’ve just been turned down by another pub- one that doesn’t even have the NFL ticket subscription, and another that won’t host live music because the ASCAP and BMI associations shake them down for too much money. It probably won’t help to tell them we play music that is mainly in the public domain. And to be honest, it would be hard to enforce keeping the public domain repertoire that all the time - lot of people don’t even know which tunes are recently composed.

So now I’m checking out pizza places…. and hotel lounges. Wish me luck. We’ve had an open, public session in Tucson for about 25 years now and it’s discouraging to have to keep moving and finding new places.

Thanks for listening.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Sunday sports is a priority for a lot of bars. Maybe you should choose an off-night from sports? Tuesdays or Wednesday are lower priority.

I’d look beyond bars. A restaurant with a meeting or private events room? Set it up so the owner isn’t losing money by giving up seats in the busy restaurant or bar. In fact you want a location that is open the full evening so they don’t run you out at 9:00.

The sessions that I go to around here are in relatively random locations; no rhyme nor reason as to why they work. I wouldn’t say that the sessions bring in a lot of business, so you can’t really promise that. On the other hand, a number of owners are friendly-supportive (to the extent of buying us drinks or even losing money), or else view it as a branding/marketing expense.

Personally, I appreciate but don’t need a free drink, and I make it a point to tip as if I had full service. Happy waiters & waitresses are just as important as management’s business decisions.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Search out places with a bohemian atmosphere - vegetarian or health food, breweries, coffee houses that are local affairs, not Starbucks, sandwich shops privately run, juice bars and used book and clothing stores also good. Find a place where people can gather.

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Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Concentrate on places that already host live music, so that they already have the necessary license and you’re not causing them problems in that respect. Look for pubs or hotels that have a separate function room for weddings and parties. Most of the time that room is lying empty, and even if the session is just a handful of musos buying a couple of drinks each they will be making more than if the room is unused, and it doesn’t interfere with their football and TV trade.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

If you’re playing traditional tunes why would ASCAP/BMI be involved?

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Thank you all for your thoughts.

Although I am ambivalent about a venue with adult beverages, a majority of the other folks are insistent that beer is part of the equation. I’m looking at a couple of pizza places now.

We used to get together on Thursday evenings, but switched to Sundays at the request of the Auld Dubliner when it opened. It was actually a quiet time for the bar - before they got into the NFL ticket. Anyway- going back to another day isn’t out of the question.

I found a restaurant that looked pretty good but the owner just isn’t willing to commit to a weekly thing.

Mark M., thanks I’ll follow up on your ideas. At least one person mentioned a hotel to me as a possibility.

Arthur- you’re totally correct about ASCAP / BMI, but more than one venue owner has told me that if they offer live music, they harass the owner even if the music is original or public domain. Guilty until proven innocent because their agents on the prowl don’t have a clue.

I was feeling discouraged last night after getting turned down by a couple places right away.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

The huckster greedy, he blinds the needy.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

"If you’re playing traditional tunes why would ASCAP/BMI be involved?"

I watched the same drama a few years back at a location just a couple of hundred miles north of azfiddle’s location. The guy is a real shake-down artist - a genuine license-nazi. He doesn’t even understand that music written before 1913 isn’t subject to copyright restrictions. The same lack of understanding applies to tunes in the public domain. ASCAP and BMI can afford powerful lawyers and individual businesses can’t afford to fight them. It’s a crap situation.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Seems kinda obvious, but to state it anyway — your best bet to avoid the ASCAP/BMI hassle, is to find a restaurant or bar that already hosts live music acts, then schedule your session on the slowest afternoon or night of the week (since you’re not "performing" as such). That worked for one session I co-hosted for a while, at a sports bar where they had a godawful Country house band one night of the week, and other acts booked in occasionally so they were already paying the fees. We had our session on a Tuesday night that had the least conflict with TV sports.

Coffee shops might be another option besides pizza joints, if you can duck the licensing issue. Some coffee shops serve beer and wine as well as coffee. A local church or synagogue might have a meeting room you could use, although these days even churches can get hit with the ASCAP/BMI licensing if they’re running "modern" music events.

I’m not sure if it’s still active, but one area session took place at a music instrument store that had enough free space. A venue like that is likely to be off the radar for music licensing, and the store owner might like hosting a session that could attract customers and sell instruments. You’d have to "brown bag" alcohol (personal flasks, etc) and hope the store owner was cool with that, but it might work.

Anyway, best of luck in finding a new place. It’s a problem many of us have had to deal with.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

My profuse sympathy offered … this has happened several times with one of my local sessions as well. It seems like most "pubs" are not that at all — instead many of them are sports bars with "pub" in the name. Indeed, our session leader has given up on pubs and has found us a couple coffee shops that are amenable to having us play.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

> If you’re playing traditional tunes why would ASCAP/BMI be involved?

As I pointed out last time this was discussed, a huge chunk of the repertoire is at least in theory under copyright, much of it very definitely is under copyright, and it’s perfectly possible that something even in O’Neill’s is still in copyright.

Sympathies to the OP: we’re just going through the same thing again here in London, and it’s a pain in the backside.

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Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

If you’re playing traditional tunes why would ASCAP/BMI be involved?

There is some current drama where a “new player” turned up at a session where I have some friends in the US. Guy had a banjo case, didn’t play a tune, and sat there with Tunepal open all night. Turns out he was working for ASCAP and was checking to see if all the tunes being played was pre-1920s. The pub owner got freaked out because they are asking for unpaid royalties now. So the future of the session is now in question….

Anyways, some of the suggestions already mentioned about possible venues…. up here in Vancouver we also check out some of the Legions and Veteran societies to see if they’d host us. They have a full bar, less likely to be blaring a game on, and have an audience who more or less appreciate the music.

Cheers.

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Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

In Sweden, venues basically pay a license fee just to host music (live, radio, streamed etc.). All those fees eventually result in money to the composers and other people involved (e.g. if it’s radio music). If the music happens to be out of copyright, it just means that no composer is getting paid for it.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Argh, I fought through a similar situation years ago, where we lost our initial venue when it closed, and then played through 5 other venues over the course of two years, and finally gave up on that town. (Now years later, there are a couple sessions in that town, so don’t give up hope completely!)

And I’ve had ASCAP/BMI chase a couple sessions away, too. Crazy that ASCAP would be sitting in sessions with TunePal (not that you can really be sure if TunePal is right without knowing the tunes)! Fortunately, we’ve found places that are OK paying the fees.

It’s definitely worth broadening your horizons past the pubs. But you also need to find a place where the music "fits". I had a session for a couple years in a local brewery (of which we have literally hundreds). They were very welcoming to us, but it really never made sense to people walking in for a beer why there would be this rather odd music there. We had a few regular punters, but not enough to sustain the night, and eventually they decided to try something else.

It can help if the establishment has the ability to serve customers without ramming the music down their throats, so places that have multiple rooms can be good, where they can have the music in a public space, but also serve other customers who don’t want to hear the music. My most successful session draws a packed crowd of punters basically every week, but it took us years to get it to that point. We play Sunday nights, and they weren’t open that night when I first talked with them. So for a few years, we were basically the only people in on that night, but it slowly grew enough of a following and reputation that it ended up being a great night for the business… And the location makes sense to have the music - it’s a British/Scottish themed restaurant with a separate pub room, and we become part of the "experience" of being there.

My latest session has been going for about 6 months, and it’s in a restaurant that has multiple rooms. It’s not really an Irish pub (although, there is a loose connection, being that the place is called Murphy’s and has a shamrock in their logo). But they are able to give their customers the choice of whether they want to be in the room with the music or not, and so the crowd response has been overwhelmingly favorable.

And you can take some solace in the fact that it was the 4th or 5th place that I talked to about hosting the session after the brewery gave up… So keep at it!

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

If public venues keep falling through, take turns hosting the session in each other’s kitchens. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Thanks guys for both sympathy and suggestions-
I’m still on the hunt. I’m optimistic again: I just had a great discussion with the general manager of a long-lived pizza place near the University. She loves the idea of the music but has to clear it with the owner. Keep your fingers crossed- it looks promising!

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

"As I pointed out last time this was discussed, a huge chunk of the repertoire is at least in theory under copyright, much of it very definitely is under copyright, and it’s perfectly possible that something even in O’Neill’s is still in copyright."

Would you get outa that! Much of what goes as Irish traditional music is not under copyright.

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Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

> Much of what goes as Irish traditional music is not under copyright.

And much of it is. And it doesn’t matter if you don’t care about PRS, because PRS cares about you.

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Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

If venues find weekly too much of a commitment, how about rotating. Near here there’s the MESS - the Monday Evening Session Society, which is just a posh name for a session that works round a series of venues week by week. Easy enough to share the info online and might draw on a wider pool of players, even if some can only get to certain venues.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Sharon - reach out to David Levine - he found a little craft beer bar on the south end of Tucson that has NO TVs and really enjoyed having a session. Might be worth a look?

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Hi Everyone,

Deep sympathy for everyone whose session has been a casualty of one thing or another!

I’ve witnessed the shutting down of numerous pub sessions in central and western New England. All had two elements in common: Inconsistent musical quality, and uncertainty about licensed material being played, however unintentionally.

For 23 years now, a group of us has enjoyed our own "solution" in the form of weekly sessions in private homes. I’m frequently the host, but others sometimes are, as well.

A pub session offers experiences which our private-home session generally can’t. However, for several reasons, I believe a private-home session to be vastly preferable to no session at all.

It’s inescapable that many fine, well and widely loved tunes from the traditions of the USA, Canada (especially Quebec), Scotland, and Shetland are licensed through ASCAP and BMI. Why the composers choose to do this could comprise a *very* interesting discussion, but the main point here is that ASCAP and BMI can’t (yet, anyway) bother us in private homes. Also, in private homes, the quality of the music (or lack thereof) isn’t a concern for pub proprietors. Furthermore, we can offer, welcome, or eschew libations as situations warrant. For example, we’re enthusiastic about kids who catch our fire, and we want them (and their parents) to feel that our session is inclusive, welcoming, and totally appropriate.

In conclusion, my hope is that even if you can’t find a suitable in-public setting, you’ll still enjoy social music. While it can’t save the world on its own, it’s still important.

David Kaynor

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Yeah, nobody can stop you from playing music at home - although there was a post a few years ago that basically said that it was illegal to play copyrighted (printed?) music even at home without paying.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Jeff,

In that case, is it not even OK to sing in the bath?
It’s quite possible to play a tune or sing a song without ever having seen a sheet of music or even listening to a recording as you know.

I’ve always thought this copyright thing was problematic even in my first ever post.

https://thesession.org/discussions/1596

Of course, if there is a known composer I don’t wish to see him or her losing out. Certainly not if the music is being publicly "performed" or recorded. However, I think it’s rather naughty when some publishers copyright "arrangements" of traditional tunes although how can they actually prove we learned them directly from their books?

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

"Of course, if there is a known composer I don’t wish to see him or her losing out"

Same sentiment here, although the reality is that Liz Carroll probably isn’t getting a penny from an Irish trad session playing "The Diplodocus" in a pub. My understanding is that ASCAP/BMI payments are based on very broad-scale surveys of radio airplay, which means the fees are more likely to end up in Taylor Swift’s bank account. That’s the real unfairness of the setup. It’s a shame because I normally support copyright, being retired from a commercial visual arts career where limited rights licensing was part of my income. It’s just a badly designed system in the case of pre-recorded or live music in bars and restaurants.

Regarding sessions in private homes, here’s what it says on the ASCAP’ web site, I assume the other licensing agencies are similar:

"ASCAP licenses the public performances of its members’ musical works. A public performance is one that occurs either in a public place where people gather (other than a small circle of a family or social acquaintances). A public performance is also one that is transmitted to the public, for example, radio or TV broadcasts, and via the Internet."

So the owner of a private home hosting a kitchen session is off the hook, but not if you record it on video and upload to YouTube. Technically, anyway. I wonder if that’s ever been enforced.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

@Johnny Jay
"In that case, is it not even OK to sing in the bath?"

Who knows! I can’t find that dreaded post.

@Conical Bore
"My understanding is that ASCAP/BMI payments are based on very broad-scale surveys of radio airplay, which means the fees are more likely to end up in Taylor Swift’s bank account."

Liz Carroll won’t get a penny from the session unless the playlist is reported. (How else should the PRS know?) Whether you perform with a punk band, an orchestra, or in a session, it’s still pretty much you (or the organizer) who should report the setlist to the relevant PRS.

I rarely get money from music that I’ve somehow been involved in, but the highest rates come from live performances, then radio airplay, then Spotify.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Thanks Will,
I got the referral for the south side brewery from someone else.

The private home idea is a solution we made need to consider, but we really like having a public space that we can advertise here for visitors- and then it’s neutral ground.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Art and culture are not the same thing and are often inimicable. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean it is going to be appreciated or tolerated locally. Folk music is a cultural product in some places, in others it is just a minority pass time and will always struggle to find an authentic space to exist. It’s just the way it is.

I do sympathise but don’t see there is much anyone can really do about it except try and find the cracks in the concrete of mass culture and play for your own pleasure. Hiring a space may be the best option to really get something solid in place.

I’m feeling pretty sore about this kind of thing myself. I was the electrician who spent the best part of a year researching and then on site installing the lighting for this. We finished on the 24th of August in the face of huge technical and logistical problems. The work was destroyed last Friday, barely a month later, when for political reasons a corrupt and immoral ruler tried to make a last grasp for slipping power.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-6205159/Maldives-destroys-British-statues-deemed-offensive-Islam.html?ito=travel-newsletter&utm_source=cvdb&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Travel_Live%202018-09-27

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

"Folk music is a cultural product in some places"

Maybe that can be a disadvantage too as people have certain expectations about what to expect as regards the style, levels, and even locations where such music should be heard?

The publican or bar owner may feel that it should played or song at the local Arts centre or theatre as opposed to in his or her pub. If musicians are allowed to play, there might be complaints that the standard or style or music is not the same as what can be heard in the local concert hall.

So, in areas where there is nothing else happening the "minority pastime" scenario might even work better?

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

I don’t have an answer except perhaps to make it a small, invite only event. A session with just yourself and perhaps two or three other people who can play well. But to ask a place to make room for a dozen people of varying accomplishment, with clattery bodhrans and abusive guitars, is asking a lot. It can hurt a place more than help. If the music is good and you can attract a following then it works for the pub. But if the music is at an amateur level, played by a lot people taking up a lot of room, then I understand why a place would be reluctant to relinquish part of its seating capacity.
I know that this is not the answer you wanted to hear but an open, public session might not be the best thing for either the Tucson session or for a new venue.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

This is happening here in Evansville, Indiana too. We lost our session venue this month for the second time this year. Good to read everybody’s thoughts.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

It’s always nice to have a fallback by doing private kitchen sessions, but it really is a different vibe than playing in public. No matter how much we talk about the session being for us and not being a performance, by far the most fun sessions for me are in public when the punters are engaged and appreciative! It’s an energy that you can feed off of, and it can help take good music and turn it into something pretty special!

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

I totally agree, Pete. But Tucson does not have a high density of musicians who are accomplished in Irish traditional music. If the music being offered is not high-quality, then the kitchen is probably the best place to work out the kinks. A public session is not the best venue for practice that is better done at home.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Very well said, David.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

As the many discussions that have been held on this board can attest to, sessions exist on a diverse spectrum. I love house sessions with friends or guests and have hosted or joined in them many times- we can all hear each other and using a private home allows like-minded musicians to gather selectively. That is all good for musicality at the session and individual progress in playing. The most challenging uncontrolled variables (personality conflicts, external noise, overabundance of drums, interruptions) are mostly eliminated. David’s thoughts are not off the mark, although most of the venue owners and listeners in this area really don’t have that degree of discrimination about the quality of the music.

That said, I’m committed to keeping a public session going here for other benefits- the social interactions with friends, encouragement of newer musicians, the appreciation of listeners, opportunities to connect with visiting musicians, and the fact that many people enjoy being in the public setting. I would rather err on the side of generosity of spirit than snobbishness. And I personally recognize that there are other options that can be more rewarding and all of us can pursue those as well.

So I’ll keep looking for a place that is willing to have us gather once a week. Thanks again for the thoughts and suggestions.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

"… using a private home allows like-minded musicians to gather selectively. That is all good for musicality at the session and individual progress in playing. The most challenging uncontrolled variables (personality conflicts, external noise, overabundance of drums, interruptions) are mostly eliminated."

I agree. However, and not to be too elitist, but these desiderata can also be achieved in a public, invitation only, setting.

"….most of the venue owners and listeners in this area really don’t have that degree of discrimination about the quality of the music." Not so. Even the most casual of listeners can tell the difference between me playing the flute and Matt Molloy playing the flute. And I bet that he would get many more invitations to show up and play at a pub than I would. Choose the best four of you and I’m sure you’ll find a sustainable venue.

I don’t want to be cruel, but sometimes the Tucson session seemed like "Bonehead English 101," a remedial college course for incoming students who have trouble writing a grammatically correct sentence.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

David-
Let’s table the critique. It’s not going to be productive in this setting.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Kinda cruel, David! I’ve been involved in sessions for quite a few years and one of the benefits has been seeing tyros evolve into competent players. This does take patience, I admit. In any session there are players who have innate musicality and often just two or three can allow less-skilled players to be swept up in their wake, so to speak, and the result can be listenable and danceable music.

As for azfiddler’s dilemma, I’m faced with a similar situation down in Bisbee, AZ. I was sans transportation (no vehicle) for a year and the session group I played with in town went on to playing more vocal-oriented music, not my preference. What would be nice and perhaps feasible in southern Arizona could be a quarterly or bi-weekly regional session drawing from an area larger than just the Tucson area.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Larry, do you mean have even more people at a session? Really, "What would be nice and perhaps feasible" is if
1. People practiced, 2. People played one on one — as a in duet — and taught to, and learned from, each other, 3. People would get together in smaller groups so they could hear and learn from each other, 4. Not be so much gig — and band — oriented and instead concentrating on playing music for the sheer joy and fun of it.

And BTW, I grew up on "vocal-oriented music." I love that stuff. Not "vocal oriented" so much as vocal. Singing alone and without instruments.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

About ASCAP: https://flic.kr/p/Psnr4S
In our area, a tiny new ethnic restaurant closed down for lack of business. They had a fiddler doing traditional Hungarian tunes, many of which were written by folk composers who were friends of the proprietor. ASCAP still tried to shake them down. Without the music, their clientele dropped below the break-even point.

About finding a session location: We’ve gone through that agony several times. The worst was when our lovely, welcoming Irish pub closed. We ended up briefly in an English pub whose owner was absent and uncommunicative. Only one time did I ever got genuine promise that yes, the room was ours. But that night the waitress evicted us because a game was going to be on. We had about 15 among us (musicians and listeners). When I drove by an hour later, there were just three people inside. May their beer go flat and their TV sets die!

Advice? Be sure to spread the word among all your friends that you’re looking for a place. When I told one distinctly non-musician friend of mine, he said "Have you tried The Magic Tree? They’re great people. I bet they’d love to have you." He was right, and it’s worked out wonderfully.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Pardon me if I missed it, but what about carpooling up to Phoenix?

I just googled it, is says the drive is under 2 hours.

I fully realise that a commute that long seems daunting to our Irish and UK friends, but here in the vast US southwest it’s common. There are hundreds of thousands of people who drive that long each way to work every day.

Here in Southern California I have to drive an hour to any session I might attend, and we have people who often drive from San Diego up to the Los Angeles area for sessions, two hours each way.

The caveat is that I don’t know if there are any Phoenix sessions! But it’s a much larger area, one would think there would be.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Thank you Richard- Several of us do attend the monthly Phoenix session when it works with our schedules. There is also a weekly session in Chandler which is usually not at a convenient time for me personally, but it is an option.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Thanks again for all the input- we just got word that we are welcome to start this Sunday at a pizza place. With the exception of a couple of big University of Arizona football game days, we are all set.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

That’s great news, Sharon! Hope it works out well for both your session and the establishment!

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Agreed.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Hope it works out! I live in a rural area now and don’t often get out to sessions … I appreciated the few times I was able to get to the Tucson session back when I lived there in the early 2000s.

Re: Lost our session venue…. again….(sympathy and suggestions welcome)

Thanks Peetey- it is good at the new place so far, except for a few days when we were pre-empted by basketball games and a Thanksgiving weekend closure. We’ve taken up the slack with house sessions when that happens- let me know ahead of time if you’re passing through.