What makes a good music venue?

I’ve been thinking about the common characteristics of my favorite music venues. The venues that I like to play, and the ones that I like to go to for listening, all have a great vibe, but what is it specifically that makes the vibe great?

One might think that, for a listener, things like good sight lines and comfortable space to sit or stand would contribute to a good venue, and many of my favorite listening venues have these characteristics. But I have at least one favorite that has really terrible sight lines to the stage, and it isn’t particularly comfortable, especially in the New Orleans summer with the a/c out. Why do I like to listen to music there?

The main reason is that they program good music. (duh) I always know when I walk in the door that I will hear something interesting. It won’t always be from a bag that I necessarily dig, but it will always be spirited and honest. The place makes the musicians feel free to do what they need to do, and go where the moment moves them. You know the performers aren’t “behaving” because of the venue. Great performers can do their thing in any venue, but the artistic comfort a performer gets from a performance space can really contribute to magical performances.

As a performer, I love the places that are comfortable. Physically comfortable is good, but socially comfortable is what I really mean. There are some places where I feel welcome, even when I don’t know the people. Of course the clubs that I play frequently have bartenders and other staff that I know by name, and that know me. The places where the bartender/staff treat me with respect and make me feel welcome, even for my first gig at the club, are usually good venues because the vibe makes me want to play. You can tell if a place is really about the music by the way they treat the musicians.

What makes you enjoy a music venue? Please leave a comment and let us know. If we can identify the good venues, and the characteristics of good venues, we can enrich the music scenes where we listen and play.

3 thoughts on “What makes a good music venue?”

  1. As a musician, my favorites are always the places where you feel a direct connection to the audience. Physical proximity, not too many lights / PA in between us and the crowd, not too stiff or formal-feeling. Usually that translates into a bar or rock dive of some sort, but could also be an art gallery or small theater space, for example.
    As a listener … same thing, pretty much. I usually don’t like feeling like I am watching/listening to something that’s being Presented on a Stage as a Cultural Event. (Of course there can always be exceptions.)

  2. The one thing that can spoil a great show for me is a lousy sound system, or poor engineering of a good system!

    It sounds like you may be from the New Orleans area. Are you dealing ok with the aftermath of Katrina?

    I am trying to list as much info about musicians affected by the storm. Feel free to contribute to my jazz blog, http://redhousejazz.blogspot.com.

    Good luck man!

  3. Stuart,

    Yes, I am from N.O. I live in Mandeville, which is north of Lake Ponchartrain. We were very fortunate. I think the city and the music scene will be back, and hopefully it won’t take too long. new orleans has a very strong spirit.


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