Fulfilling the need for live music

The Jazz Room is one of only a few live music venues in the community (Photo by Will Huang)
The Jazz Room is one of only a few live music venues in the community (Photo by Will Huang)

Waterloo has a ton of great music to offer audiences. Offering a range of it’s genres to suit the music tastes of any listeners, the quality of performers who play in the city is far and wide.

Though it sometimes can hard to find venues to go to.

“You really have to hunt for it right now,” said Paul Maxwell, owner of Maxwell’s Concerts and Events. “There are very few venues that are hosting live music. Many have been shut down, even within the past month.”

“The lack of venues however, does not deter the importance of live music in Waterloo.

“Kitchener-Waterloo used to be seen as a place that smelled like horse manure. But with the investment of live music, it changes the attitudes of how people think of this as a place to live,” said Steve Montgomery, a board director for the Grand River Jazz Society.

“You need to have a vibrant social scene with things like an arts and music scene.”
When it comes to booking musical acts in Waterloo, the popularity of the artist is what matters most.

“When we are picking our genre of bands to book, we are looking for three things. Whether they have an audience in town, the quality of the entertainment and whether they are going have the proper attitude to work with,” said Maxwell.

“Primarily, though, its whether they are popular”

Montgomery continued : “The things that are considered when booking shows are whether the band is appealing to the audience, as well as getting top talent that has superb performance capability. Matching up both of those things is important.”

There are also a number of regulations that come into play when organizing live music some people might not be aware of.

“Besides the liquor licenses, tariffs and touring fees, there are the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada laws and fees that venues should be paying,” said Maxwell.

“We are going to support music that is playing in the background; we pay a yearly fee that goes back in the musician’s pocket,.”

“If they are on tour, they can still collect fees from SOCAN.”

On top of the fees and regulations that venues have to pay, rules pertaining to each individual venue are also important.

“Internal as opposed to external influence also come into play with regulations at a venue. The Jazz Room, for example, people don’t realize it’s a listening venue. Some people who haven’t been before think it’s a bar and talk.

It’s not a city-wide regulation; it’s a Jazz Room regulation that people don’t talk during the performances,” said Montgomery.

Programming is also a big concern for venue operators.

“Programming is probably one of the hardest challenges. That ties into which bands, which nights of the week to play music, whether a band is going to attract people,” said Maxwell.

“Without people spending money businesses can’t survive, so that is probably the hardest challenge.”

“If you talk to any restaurant owner, it’s hard to keep any venue open for long periods of time, because people will always want something new and different and get fatigued of the same old thing,” said Montgomery.
With all of the challenges venues face to stay open, it’s important people remember why they should check out live music.

“If live music is your thing, then Maxwell’s is trying to offer affordable entertainment within walking distance to the university. We are not playing favorites with who we are booking; we want to create a great space that is vibrant, to meet people and other musicians,” said Maxwell.

Ultimately, supporting venues like Maxwell’s Concerts and Events and the Jazz Room is about contributing to the music offering in Waterloo.

“A lot of people will say to support the arts. But really it’s supporting what you like. Live music may not be for you, or it maybe it is, but we want to fulfill people’s wants and need for live music. There are a lot of people in the region that want to see more live music in the region,” said Maxwell.

“Support live music because you enjoy it. Support it because you like the music. In turn, the artists will feel supported.”

Leave a Reply