Charlie Aiken knows how the pandemic has hurt live music both as a musician and club owner.
He operates Roy’s Towne Pub in Royston, which is a regular venue for live music, or at least had been until the pandemic struck this spring.
“Right now, pretty much every music venue out there is not doing music,” he says. “I’m not just talking the Comox Valley … and I get why. It’s really tough.”
He is hoping to get music back and running to some degree with a plan he hopes local musicians and nightclub operators will support. He calls it Drop a 5 — Keep Music Alive.
Aiken used to live in California. In much of the U.S., often musicians have to pay to play. He doesn’t think that’s fair, so what he’s proposing is a system where people dropping by to listen would pay five bucks, which is split between the performers and venue. For example, if hypothetically 100 people show up and put in $5 each, a first portion goes to the artist, with the balance split in half between the club and artist.
“The reality is you’re making money,” he says. “This is something that can be reproduced anywhere, to be honest … if everybody gets on board.”
He thinks no artist should play for free, nor have to do a pay-to-play gig. At the same time, no venue can expect an artist to play for tips alone or provide a large guarantee to the artist. This will allow both to make some money.
“The venue can keep a few points to start paying for other advertising … bigger names they could draw into town … and the artist gets more money, let’s say a 60/40 split, the artist getting 60 per cent of that,” he says.
The idea is to start with solo performers, especially under current public health regulations, or maybe a duo or trio rather than a full band. For now, he just wants to get live music going again, as it’s been a tough few months for clubs and performers alike. Through Drop Five, people could pay $5 in a tip jar, or it could be added as a line item to a bill.
He has already started doing this with Local Fabs Sundays on the deck of the pub, but he is hoping it will take off at other local venues featuring local musicians. Already, he’s noticing people are tipping the artist without the artist’s having to ask, and he is hopeful enough people will get behind this initiative.
“Everybody, kind of has, to jump on board and say, ‘I’m willing to do this,’” he says. “It’s going to take time to rebuild all this.”
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So far, he’s had good support from locals he’s talked to, but he wants to spread the word. He is planning to set up a Facebook page for artists and venues, and publicize events with posters at venues.
If any clubs or artists are interested, they should contact Aiken via email at firstname.lastname@example.org