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When Paying For Music Works

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Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.
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My ears are ringing.

I bring ear plugs wherever I go. They’re in a little plastic pinch-to-open container on my keychain. I put them in whenever I’m at a loud concert. Well most concerts really. Except for those at the Hotel Cafe. Because they know how to mix. It’s a listening room. Not a rock club.

I had just sat in on trumpet with the Distant Cousins who are playing a Wednesday night residency there. I hopped off stage and Sara Watkins (of Nickel Creek) hopped on and played the final 3 songs with the Distant Cousins.

That’s the beauty of that place. You never know who’s going to show up.

But after the show finished we went to where musicians go for the after party. Right around the corner to The Piano Bar.

We didn’t know who was playing, but we were just looking for a night cap. But we knew there would be talent.

The Piano Bar books real talent. Not musicians willing to pay to play.

The band was setting up when we got our drinks and took a seat on the one long open faced booth that stretched the length of the back wall.

The Piano Bar is oddly shaped. The bar is in the front half of the room and the band is setup in the back of the room facing the wall with about 40 feet from the lead singer to the back wall.

There’s no stage. No sound guy. Just music.

No one there seemed to know what to expect. When the band started the place was somewhat full, but very spread out. Smokers outside on the patio. The front bar full of awkward conversations.

But by the end of the first song, the space between the lead singer and the back wall was packed.

Everyone was dancing. On a Wednesday night.

And my earplugs remained on my keychain.

When music is this good I refuse to diffuse it.

A five piece. Drums, upright bass (plugged into a pedal board with an ever present wah), trumpet, trombone and a keytar. In the wrong context this could seem kitschy.

It was anything but.

The drummer had a ?uestlove infused pocket. The trumpet player flew like Freddie Hubbard. The trombone player wailed and used a breathing technique typically reserved for deep sea divers. The keytar- ist(?) had a smile that never left his face while he flowed through the changes and released the crunch that only a keytar can deliver.

But the leader of it all. The curator. The professor. Was the man on the upright bass.

Miles Mosley. He bowed. He slapped. He wahed. He sang. He conquered.

The West Coast Get Down got The Piano Bar to get the fuck down.

3 minutes into the first song, the floor was packed and bumping.

I lost it. I danced like I was drunk and at my own wedding.

I became best friends with the dude next to me and we sang at the top of our lungs when the keytar player teased “Inspector Gadget” mid solo.

The crowd caught on to horn lines and sang along by the last refrain.

This was true music. This was a transcendental experience.

Bless The Piano Bar for hiring talent. Not forcing them to pay to play like most of the other clubs in Hollywood.

Well, it pays off.

And while the sports bar around the corner was empty at 11 on a Wednesday, The Piano Bar was bumping.

Promoters and Venues could learn a thing or two.

Can your band bring people to a new level? Can you get complete strangers to (soberly) put their arms around each other and sing along? Can you bring your audience to a spiritual level? Can you remind people why they should go out to see live music more often?

If not, then why are you in this game anyway?

+My Response To An LA Pay-To-Play Promoter

+Should You Pay To Play?

About The Author

Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

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