The live music business is daunting. For the performers it’s an endless trudge through cities, stages and truck stops. Playing your heart out till the wee hours then loading the van and driving all day to do it all again. Of course, for some there is a reward. Especially if you count rowdy good times and free bar tabs. Mostly though for the band, it’s the moments on stage, in the spotlight, on the receiving end of all the admiration and applause. However, there is a group of people who stake their livelihoods on live music and rarely get the recognition at the evening’s end, in fact they are usually seen taking the garbage out. They are the managers and owners of nightclubs and concert promoters.
In the Vail Valley there are many who have labored on behalf of all music fans to bring the constant thrill of live entertainment to enhance the Valley’s night life. They represent the backbone of our local music scene. The entrepreneurs who are willing to take a chance that the next band will sell enough tickets to pay the landlord. It’s a risky business. Guaranteed payments to bands, insurance costs and the always-prevalent “unforeseen circumstances” stand to erase the night’s gate.
They are the ones who wait in anguish for the walk up crowd. Their days are filled with uncertainty. Will the band show up? Will patrons respect the facility and leave in an orderly fashion? And yet they keep doing it. And like a good Budweiser radio commercial it’s time to salute our keepers of the live music. The Scotty Stoughtons, the Liz Ferrons, and the Richard Wheelocks of the town. True music lovers who have risked their livelihoods on the ups and downs of a fickle public.
Live music never used to be such a gamble, but with dizzying distractions and free video of any band you desire, the live concertgoer’s time and money have become scarce. Risking cash flow on a band traveling through from Seattle might cost one their entire bar and restaurant if you invest in the wrong one too often. Trying to understand “what the kids will pay for” is a maddening exercise and a pretty tough way to make a living. Further complicating the equation is the pricing of tickets, time and day of the week decisions that can make or break an entire season.
Fortunately we seem to have and endless stream of such risk takers who continually try to improve the live music landscape in our valley. At Agave, Wheelock has pushed the envelope for the last two seasons making calculated risks with artists like Donovan Frankenreiter and Martin Sexton. Ferron at Montanas has gambled with a consistent repertoire of emerging artists. The proprietors at Main Street Grill in Edwards and Vail Ale House have dabbled in the scene. And then there is Scott Stoughton. A musician in his own right, who has never stopped believing in the power of live music. From his ventures with multiday musical extravaganzas like SnowBall to heartening adventures like Campout For The Cause, Stoughton continues to share his passion- risks be damned.
Therefore, it’s time to salute the quiet ones. Our unsung heroes, literally. The men and women of the Vail Valley that risk their livelihoods for our musical enjoyment. Rather than sending an email of appreciation to those responsible for the live music scene in town, they would probably just prefer you show up at a few performances. That way you get a rewarding evening and so do the fine folks that brought it to you.