Saturday, December 6, 2008

Playing The Cedar

We get a lot of inquiries from bands and artists who are interested in being booked to play at the Cedar. So here's a general guide to this question, and what we look for when choosing artists to book...

The Cedar is committed to local and emerging artists; it is part of our mission, one we take quite seriously, and one which we all feel quite passionate about. That said, we are constantly reassessing our role in this realm, based on our own strengths and limitations, the resources we have available, and the other opportunities which have greatly expanded for artist development in our own neighborhood and greater Twin Cities community.

We're known primarily as a room for acoustic musicians, but we book a wide range of musical genres. We have a great dance floor, so dance bands are welcome. But what we generally look for is music that stands up to careful listening. We are, first and foremost, a listening room.

The Cedar is considered a medium-sized music venue. Our capacity seated is 450, and without chairs we can go to 650. Because of the way our space is arranged, and the flexibility we have with folding chairs, the room can feel quite comfortable with as few as 100 people in it. But a hall of our size is expensive to heat (or cool), staff and maintain, so unless there is some additional funding to provide specific support for an event, 100 people at a $10 ticket just barely covers the cost of opening our doors for an event.

Over the past few years, the number of small-to-medium music venues oriented towards local and emerging artists in the Twin Cities has greatly expanded. For acoustic music, classic stalwarts such as St. Paul's Half Time Rec and GINGKO Coffeehouse have been joined by Minneapolis Eagles Club and our new neighbors at Acadia Cafe. For more amplified sounds the options are too numerous to mention, but just within a few blocks of The Cedar there's Nomad World Pub, 400 Bar, The Triple Rock Social Club, The Cabooze, The Red Sea Bar & Restaurant and even Bedlam Theatre is now doing some live music.

That's a lot of options within just a few blocks, which is cultivating our Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, known to many as the West Bank, as the most active area for live music in the region. And it is a much larger number of live music venue options for local and emerging musicians than existed ten, or even five years ago. As a result, The Cedar is orienting itself more to mid-level artists that have built an audience at the smaller venues, and can bring a minimum base of 100-150 (ideally, more) to a Cedar show. Such as last weekend's great show with Haley Bonar. Haley built an audience at other venues before her first Cedar headline gig in 2006. Last weekend was her fourth and largest as a headliner, playing this time to a full house. And she sounded better than ever.

Haley Bonar plays a new track:

But if you're just starting out, The Cedar still has a couple of options for you: every second Wednesday we have an Open Stage (next one is this coming Wednesday, 12/10, hosted by Molly Maher), where anyone can play, and admission is free. Then there is our 416 Cub, where a local music luminary curates a showcase of 3-5 local acts. The next one is on 12/19, curated by Free Range Pickin'. In January Jim Walsh will curate on the 17th, and in February, Alexei Casselle of Roma di Luna will curate on the 27th. You'd contact the curators to see if they are interested in having you on their 416 Club bill.

Once you've established an audience base, many artists look to a Cedar gig for a special event, such as a CD release show. Having your act together for marketing greatly enhances your prospects... things like fan email lists, current high-rez photos, a performance video, and good graphic designs for posters and flyers. And it's in both of our interests to have you refrain from playing other local gigs for a decent interval before your Cedar gig.

As for opener slots, the same criteria apply. Because more and more national touring acts bring their own openers, opportunities for these are actually pretty rare, maybe one per month if we're lucky. And we have a long list of local artists waiting for those opportunities.

So, to summarize, what we look for in booking is:
-Artists with established audience bases of, at a minimum, 100-150 people
-Music worthy of careful listening
-Effective and current marketing material
-"Special event" such as CD release
-60-90 day pause of other local gigs before Cedar event

If you're there, please send your details to "booking-related questions" from our contact page. Best of luck, and thanks for helping make our community so culturally rich and diverse!

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