Backstage Vancouver Independent Music Round Table

For more photos and comments, see Christine McAvoy’s post on Vancouver Is Awesome

Photo by Christine McAvoyWhat insights do you have now that you’ve played a number of shows in Vancouver?
When bands are booked for a show, they often don’t know the other bands or have a vested interest in the outcome. There is little promotion from some venues and promoters, and bands rarely promote the other bands on their bills. Since there is often a lack of professionalism in the music scene right now, bands aren’t introduced, the stage isn’t managed efficiently, and shows feel like they are three separate shows instead of one cohesive show with the idea of building community with both the bands and the audience. Beer can be expensive, the sound quality is not amazing, and you need to come to each show with the right attitude if you want to get anything out of it.

Have you identified any venue trends?
Gentrification is forcing venues to “bad” parts of town, where people don’t necessarily want to go but where all of the live music venues are located. Venues also book bands on slow nights, which makes things difficult.

Are audiences there for the music or the venue? Do you care? Why or why not?
Of course you want audiences to see you, but it’s all about playing a show. If the venue is in a “bad” part of town, there is bad sound, and beer is expensive, people won’t want to come.


What are your expectations of the venue, the promoter and the bands?
We noticed a lack of professionalism in every aspect of the music industry, as well as a gap in event listings. While everyone has a list of upcoming events, there is no one place to look, especially for visitors from out of town. People don’t know how to find music, some show posters don’t include locations and start times. Instead of a devil-may-care attitude, we need to treat our roles in the music industry with professionalism and dedication. Venues need to start promoting their own event listings, promoters need to start caring, and bands need to start working together as a community.


What has and hasn’t worked for you?
From past experience, a consistency in acts on specific nights of the week have worked well with audiences. People know what to expect and they come because they know they’ll enjoy it no matter what is lined up. Another way to keep peoples’ attention is to ensure an interesting line-up, incorporating different genres, styles, media and arts (comedy, burlesque, film, not just music), a mini-festival in and of itself.

There are no posters in North Vancouver, although there are plenty of “kids” in the Capilano area who would gladly come out to shows if they knew about them. We should also tap into the Chinese and Indo-Canadian communities who may not have access to the event listings we can provide, since there is not enough promotion in these communities. We can also work with good suburban venues to spread live music throughout the GVRD, since they tend to prefer DJs and may benefit from a change.

What have you noticed about show times and set times?
Weeknight shows start and end too late. They need to begin at 8pm so that people can stay for the whole show, catch the skytrain home, and still get up for work the next morning. We need to streamline stage management so there are only short breaks between sets and we don’t lose peoples’ attention. Newer acts and acoustic sets should be playing before shows start, so that walk-in clientele know that there is live music throughout the evening. Drink specials should be offered before 8pm to encourage people to arrive on time or early, or head over after work. “People aren’t used to going out to early shows,” said Ken Beattie (Killbeat Music), “so it’s going to suck for the first three months,” but we need to commit to this.


What do you think of YOUR Vancouver music scene?
Generally, people are unaware of what is going on. Event listings need show dates, locations and times or they shouldn’t be posted at all. The Skinny and The Georgia Straight have good listings but some people can’t find them or obtain copies. There are interesting evenings and showcases already in place that need to be developed and promoted as such. These occur at Trees Organic Coffee House (John Pippus organizes the music at the Granville St location), Cafe Deux Soleils (Night at the Indies with film, poetry and music), as well as the monthly showcase at the Railway Club on the last Monday of the month (passed down from T. Nile to Deet Street Productions). Venues need to be promoting these shows and evenings. Although some venues have walk-in clientele (The Railway Club, The Roxy), some don’t and this needs extra attention.

How healthy is it?
We’ve always had a thriving music scene. It’s not that there aren’t enough bands or media, but promoters and venues need to work together. Musicians also need to help with venues, we can’t keep passing the blame around. We’re all in this together, and we need to start working together to make any real changes.

Are there enough fans to go around?
There isn’t enough discovery, which mostly comes from people walking in to the bar. The Railway Club is good for that, and of course The Roxy and The Media Club, but the bars in the “bad” part of town don’t get enough traffic.

Are people legitimately looking for new music?
People aren’t looking, or don’t know where to look. “I’m always amazed when a band doesn’t have a profile on,” said Robb Hill (Brave By Numbers). Stuart Derdeyn from The Province said that they’ve put together a playlist or a podcast with event listings, so stay tuned for more information on that front. The Skinny has great event listings, but it’s rarely within arm’s reach and no one knows where to get a copy of it.

– Report our progress to those who should attend the next session
– Earlier weeknight shows (drink specials, less time between sets, co-op promotion)
– Build not just a music community, but an artistic community

Feel like you missed out? Want to attend the next Round Table discussion? Email roundtable (at) to join us in February!

Adam McKay
Alex Cameron (NxEW)
Alyson Fun (Lengthy List of Lovers)
Ben Sigston (Ben Sigston)
Bryce Wagner (Kilmore Place)
Chris Martin (Noobie Noobinson)
Christine Church (The Garage Recording Studio)
Christine McAvoy (Vancouver Is Awesome)
Colin Rink (Colin Rink)
Dan Newton (Danny Echo)
Daniel Brard (Lengthy List of Lovers)
Derek Simpson (Quite Testy; 2nd Floor Suicide)
Ferdy Belland (independent promoter)
Greg England (Kilmore Place)
Joel Etkin (Bread ‘n’ Butter Entertainment)
Joel Koch (Noobie Noobinson)
John Pippus (John Pippus, Trees Organic Coffee House)
Joseph Sloan (A Wake Human)
Justin Hurley (The Patience Product)
Justin Wong (The Patience Product, The Garage Recording Studio)
Ken Beattie (Killbeat Music)
Lauren Eldridge (Backstage Vancouver)
MarQuo Blacquiere (Go Ghetto Tiger, Quite Testy)
Melanie Shim (Backstage Vancouver)
Padma (Padma)
Raphael Perdriau (The Film Industry)
Robb Hill (Brave By Numbers)
Ryan Bacchus (Kilmore Place)
Steve Silman (The Railway Club)
Stuart Derdeyn (The Province)
Tamara Nile (T. Nile)

Bob D’Eith (Music BC)
Bob Kronbauer (Vancouver Is Awesome)
Bruce Gerrish (Vancouver City Limits)
Chris Coburn (100.5 The Peak)
Dave Cotton (Seven Nines and Tens, Katastroyka)
Jill (Biltmore Cabaret)
Josh Klaassen (Backstage Vancouver)
Leigh Eldridge (Backstage Vancouver)
Mia Moth
Ryan McCormick (Safe Amplification Site Society)
Shane Alaric (Satori Tide)
Shawn Conner (Guttersnipe)

Do you have any comments, questions or suggestions? Join the conversation by commenting:

Comments (12)


  1. Colin says:

    Awesome to see we’re all getting on the same page for the same goals. Can’t wait for the next meeting!

  2. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by BackstageBlog: New post: Backstage Vancouver Independent Music Round Table: Follow-Up Report

  3. Local Rabbit says:

    Let me be the first to ask you and your “round table panel” what makes you experts on the local scene? It sounds like you guys won’t go to a show unless it’s over by 10, in a nice neighborhood and is showcasing the two or three local bands you know/like, and that is all assuming that you can find a Georgia Straight to tell you about it. Just because you and your panel don’t know about what’s going on, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Recent projects like Quadruple Dare and the amazing Music Waste festival clearly demonstrate the community and cooperation that exist in the local scene. Vancouver has some amazing bands right now, and if you choose to not attend the shows and immerse yourself, you don’t get to complain about the lack of a scene. Your panel should find something else to discuss.

  4. This was an awesome night. Great to hear different opinions on music in Vancouver.

  5. Padma says:

    Hi Local Rabbit

    Actually there were people at the round table who attend 300 shows in a year, and people who have been playing shows in Vancouver for the last 30 years. The panel included local venue owners, promoters, publicists, managers, bloggers and a whole host of local musicians. So I think there were certainly people in attendance with a significant amount of experience of the local scene.

    No one claimed to be an expert. The people in attendance were simply people like yourself who care about local live music and who wanted to discuss ways to make a thriving local scene as available to as many people as possible.

    It sounds like you are passionate about local music. Why don’t you come down to the next one?


  6. Melanie Shim says:

    Echoing Padma’s comments, the question was about “YOUR” Vancouver music scene, and not about the general local music scene. People at the round table that night were simply voicing their EXPERIENCE, not their EXPERTISE.

  7. Alex Cameron says:

    Hi Local Rabbit, I just first wanted to point out that no one says they’re an expert on the local scene, they’re just members of it trying to make it better. I don’t see your problem, people are just talking about what they’ve found crowds to be like not necessarily how interact with the music scene here. One of the problem they’re addressing is that you can’t expect everyone who would probably go to a show to immerse themselves in the scene. It’s easy to say let’s forget those people since they don’t care enough to inconvenience themselves by looking in local papers, going to sketchier parts of town or stay out till 2am on a work night and sure, I’m willing to do these things but there are a lot of people who aren’t. I know a bunch of people who won’t come to shows with me simply because it’s a work night. If I told them they could be home before 12a, most of the time they’d go. There are a lot of people like this, instead of just forgetting these people because they aren’t dedicated to the music scene enough why not make some small concessions for them? Besides, I wouldn’t mind getting home at a decent hour on a weekday. These are just ideas to help grow the scene to make it better and stronger.

    But, if you’d rather nay say than contribute to any discussion because you feel the people aren’t into the scene enough, that’s up to you.

  8. Adam McKay says:

    I thought the round table was great and I would love for there to be more of them in the future.

  9. Lauren says:

    Local Rabbit: Thanks for mentioning Quadruple Dare! Backstage Vancouver supports those initiatives, and the bands that participate in them, in posts like these:

    Merry Christmas, everyone! Continue to leave your comments below in order to continue the conversation until we meet again :)

  10. John Pippus says:

    Hi Lauren and everyone,
    I thought that was a good first meeting. It’s good to see the various musical styles represented and age groups. Also having reps from other aspects of the industry is helpful too. Looking forward to the next one.

  11. […] the Backstage Vancouver Independent Music Round Table in December, the timing of weeknight shows seems to be improving (at least at the Railway Club). […]

  12. […] them a slightly different feel when appropriate. He wears the Danny Echo shirt he bought at the Backstage Vancouver Showcase in December, visual proof of the community we’re building in the heart of the Vancouver music […]