When I was a teenager, I started hanging out at a hole-in-the-wall dive bar on campus called Bernie’s to see punk rock shows. About 12 years later, an old friend convinced me to go to a local show at the old watering hole where I randomly met Matt Jensen, drummer of local punk band The Scratches. Jensen performed that night first with his side project (going by band name Earthworm Tim at the time), and later with The Scratches, who put on a punk rock show truly fitting for the atmosphere. It wasn’t until later that I realized I also knew the band’s bass player, Darby Antle; having met him at ComFest many years earlier. Since seeing The Scratches for the first time, my girlfriend and I have seen them around town several times, playing venues all over the city and truly paying their dues.

I sat down with Mr. Jensen recently to discuss some of the best venues in Columbus to see local bands, and it was only fitting that we started with Bernie’s.


Matt Jensen Press Photo
Matt Jensen on the throne


Venue
: Bernie’s

Location: 1896 N. High St. (North Campus)

Crowd Type: Punk. Says Jensen: “If you want to feel like you’re going to a true punk rock show, you should probably go to Bernie’s. You’ll probably get your teeth kicked in and a broken nose.”

Music Scene: Mostly locals. Some touring bands, but not as many as there used to be. Punk rock is the mainstay, but on any given night you can find anything from alternative to hip-hop.

Bar: Bernie’s bar is tiny, crowded, and usually only staffed by one person at a time, but it’s probably the cheapest domestic beer you’ll find in the area.

Average Admission Price: $8, and the occasional free show.

Food: Though colloquially known as just Bernie’s, its full name is actually Bernie’s Bagels & Deli/The Distillery. During the day, Bernie’s is just like any other campus deli serving affordable sandwiches, soups, and sides to Ohio State University students.

Parking: Not the best. If you’re lucky enough to find a meter on or near High St., you had better take it. Otherwise, you’re relegated to driving through neighborhoods filled with frat houses trying to find a spot to wedge into. If you have money, (what punk rocker does?), you can park at the OSU Union parking garage across the street for a few bucks.

Stage and Sound Quality: Much like the bar, Bernie’s stage, if you can call it that, is small and backed into a corner. Rising only a few inches off of the ground, it puts enough distance between the fans and bands for nominal comfort and boasts two large PA speakers. Though the sound quality is not the greatest, the performing bands sound very authentic and live- which only adds to the experience.

Takeaway: Bernie’s is the place to be if you want to see an authentic punk rock show. Find a decent place to park and bring a few bucks for beers, and you’re likely to have a hell of a night.


Venue: Scarlet & Grey

Location: 2203 N. High St. (another North Campus favorite)

Crowd Type: College crowd. Shows are ages 18+, with a big presence of students from Ohio State University.

Music Scene: Anything goes. You might have touring bands, locals, electronica and dubstep, and acoustic music all in the same weekend. S&G’s slogan is “we treat bands like rockstars,” offering a green room backstage with private bathrooms for performing artists as well as couches and a TV, which helps bring a lot of bands (and their fans) coming back.

Bar: You can expect a fully stocked bar with average “campus” prices. There are generally a few staff on hand who offer good service and treatment.

Average Admission Price: $7, with several free shows each month.

Food: Just like Bernie’s, most people leave the “café” out of the Scarlet & Grey Café’s name. Though the menu is small, patrons can choose from pizza, burgers, fries, and wings, adding to your typical college campus bar experience.

Parking: Parking is available on many of the side streets off of High St., and will usually require driving around 3 or 4 blocks on a busy night to find a good spot.

Stage and Sound Quality: The stage at Scarlet & Grey is noticeably big, with drum risers and enough room for a full-sized band to perform with all of their instruments and have room to move around. Jensen says that S&G has some of the “best lighting and sound” of the many venues The Scratches have performed in Columbus.

Takeaway: Scarlet & Grey is a good venue for an all ages (18+) show, has a great atmosphere for the performing bands, and you can see touring artists there without having to go through the hassle of TicketMaster.


The Scratches at Victorys
The Scratches performing at Victory’s Live

Venue: Victory’s

Location: 543 S. High St. (Brewery District)

Crowd Type: Post-college adults there to hear local music. Located between downtown Columbus and the Brewery District, Jensen usually finds the crowd to be around 25 – 30 years old.

Music Scene: Mostly local rock, alternative, and punk bands. Just like Bernie’s, you’re likely to hear a lot of unique music from Columbus’ underground scene.

Bar: Micro-brews, local-brews, and popular domestics are staple finds at Victory’s bar. Prices are a little higher than your typical dive bar, but remain standard for any local music venue in town. Fully stocked and spacious enough for comfortable seating.

Average Admission Price: Free

Food: Adjacent to the music room, Victory’s offers an in-house pizza place with subs, sides, and all your favorite pie varieties. Prices are average and service is tableside.

Parking: This may just be one of the most convenient venues for parking. Because most of the businesses in the area close down at night, Jensen finds the area to be “safe, with great parking at the meters on High St.”

Stage and Sound Quality: The stage is a little small, and forget about seeing the drummer once the fog machine comes on, but Jensen describes the sound system and lighting as an “awesome experience for both fans and audience.”

Takeaway: If you want your audience to have a good time, be well fed, and have a great selection of drinks, Victory’s is the place to be.


Venue: The Basement

Location: 391 Neil Ave. (Arena District)

Crowd Type: A marketer’s dream. Being a part of the PromoWest family, the Basement attracts fans of all ages who attend to see national and international touring bands. Jensen feels “you’re more likely to find a commercial target audience there than locals just there to drink and see their friends’ bands.”

Music Scene: DJs, indie, electronic, pop-punk, rap, etc. Mostly touring bands, but PromoWest is very good about getting locals to open, such as when The Scratches opened for Anti-Flag last month.

Bar: Long and shallow, the bar offers a lot of seating and several TVs to watch the stage or something else on television. Jensen describes prices and selection as “typical for any music venue, with big brand drinks and quick service.”

Average Admission Price: $13 plus TicketMaster fees.

Food: Though the venue itself doesn’t provide food, it is connected to the A&R bar upstairs which serves Mikey’s Late Night Slice; arguably one of the most popular food truck enterprises in town.

Parking: Jensen describes parking in this area as another safe bet, with parking garages across the street on Neil Avenue as well as a large lot behind the venue.

Stage and Sound Quality: Being a part of the PromoWest family, The Basement offers “a nice stage with great lighting and a professional sound engineer.” The stage is sunken, unlike almost any other venue in Columbus, but still provides an interesting experience.

Takeaway: The Basement is not your local mom-and-pop venue. It is professional, commercial, and you’re far more likely to walk into a show from a touring band than a local.

The Scratches at The Basement
The Scratches’ setup for a performance at The Basement

Venue: Ace of Cups

Location: 2619 N. High St. (Just north of North Campus)

Crowd type: Without sounding cheeky, the crowd type at Ace of Cups is your typical college hipster.

Music Scene: Popular local groups, some touring bands, mostly indie and alternative. The Scratches played there once, so sometimes pop-punk.

Bar: Ace of Cups is certainly unique in this article as it probably provides the most imports, micro-brews, and other rare finds for beer connoisseurs. Prices are what you would expect to pay for an imported lager from The Netherlands, but having a wide selection is a distinctive factor.

Average Admission Price: $7, and the occasional free comedy show.

Food: Though AoC has eclectic food finds such as sweet coconut rice porridge, easter pie with kale salad, and vegan empanadas, Jensen was quick to remind me of the cornerstone campus establishments in the area such as Hounddog’s Pizza and Mikey’s Late Night Slice. Ray Ray’s Hog Pit & BBQ also delivers to AoC’s parking lot each weekend.

Parking: There is a small parking lot available, but once it fills up, you’re back to circling the neighborhood to find a side street to park on.

Stage and Sound Quality: Jensen described the sound quality as good, with a big, wide stage which gives the audience a better chance at visually seeing the bands.

Takeaway: This is a bar for the in-crowd. Micro-brews, indie bands, and food you’ve never heard of will leave an inimitable taste in your mouth.


Venue: Spacebar

Location: 2590 N. High St. (North Campus, across the street from Ace of Cups)

Crowd Type: A “noticeably younger crowd, with hardcore, pop-punk, and other alternative bands.” When discussing the crowd, Jensen and I both felt that the crowd was very inclusive and friendly.

Music Scene: The Spacebar definitely caters to local bands, as the one time that I was there, members of local bands who were not performing that night made up a large population of the audience and even staff. Jensen describes the music as having “a lot of locals, some touring bands, and other popular bands from the Midwest. Lots of acoustic, alternative, and pop-punk.”

Bar: Fitting to their name, this venue has an excellent bar tucked away at the back of the room. “There are a lot of craft beers on tap as well as popular domestic beers.” Prices are average or even a little higher than average, but you definitely get what you pay for.

Average Admission Price: $7, and the occasional free show.

Food: Though the venue doesn’t have food available, the building is right next door to Mikey’s Late Night Slice (which I’ve plugged three times now in this article).

Parking: There is a small lot, but typical to campus, you’re more likely to find a spot on one of the residential side streets.

Stage and Sound Quality: Jensen describes the stage as “big and open, with good sound quality.” He also mentioned that the owners of the venue were still in the process of acoustical soundproofing, as the Spacebar was recently renovated from now-closed venue Kobo.

Takeaway: “It’s a nice little place to play or see a show, with a good atmosphere and newly-renovated improvements upon the old venue.”


You can catch The Scratches at their next performance at Vans Warped Tour in Cincinnati on July 16th on the Ernie Ball Stage or tune in to 99.7 The Blitz Local Stuff to hear their latest studio single, “Left Sunk In.”

ZF.

http://www.thescratches.com/

https://www.facebook.com/thescratches614

https://twitter.com/ScratchesBand

Purchase at iTunes

The Scratches Cartoon Press Photo

Ten years ago, distribution was one of the main reasons artists needed record labels. Of course their marketing and recording budgets didn’t hurt either, but that’s what crowdfunding is for today. Just like crowdfunding, independent artists now have access to channels of distribution outside of the major label supply chain. The simplest and most direct of these channels consist of free streaming websites such as bandcamp, SoundCloud, and ReverbNation which allow artists to create profiles, e-mail databases, sell music, and interact with other artists and fans alike.

All of these actions are a form of direct marketing or personal selling. Direct marketing bypasses the supply chain completely, or “cuts out the middleman” by going straight to the consumer. If you’re as old as me and ever used MySpace, I’m sure you’ll remember how many bands became successful simply by creating social media profiles and interacting with their fans in real time. This type of direct marketing was free, added value to the customer’s experience, and allowed the artists to become their own managers, publicists, and distributors. Though MySpace is no longer the internet powerhouse it once was (R.I.P.), there are other methods of distribution which do similar things.

You were my first friend Tom, but I feel like I hardly knew you.
You were my first friend Tom, but I feel like I hardly knew you.

The first aspect of distribution is to set a goal. Do you want all of your fans with smartphones to be able to purchase your music on the go? Or do you have older fans who would like to buy a physical CD at a store or concert? Maybe you’re extremely hip and are offering vinyl through mail-order. Believe it or not, some major radio stations are now playing local and independent artists as frequently as national ones and maybe you’d like to get yourself a slice of that market share.

Successful distribution requires having a plan in place which allows you, the independent artist, to distribute your music at the lowest possible cost to the largest possible audience. For organization’s sake, we’ll break the channels of distribution into two categories. We’ll start with digital by covering streaming and purchasing, then move to physical where we’ll cover brick and mortar stores, radio, and selling merchandise at concerts.

Like I said before, the melting pot of social networking sites, artist profiles, and e-commerce has met at a crossroads and churned out sites like ReverbNation and SoundCloud. These sites stream music, which simply means that listeners can play the music for free on their websites. Other programs such as Spotify, Pandora, and Rdio offer similar services, but are organized differently, have smartphone applications, and may offer membership costs for more premium services. Regardless, if your goal is to put your music in the hands of your target market without any financial return, then this is an excellent route to take. As we discussed in the pricing article, the freemium model can be a great marketing tactic which drives fans to your concerts and other merchandise.

If your goal is to have a financial return on investment, then that is where iTunes, Amazon, and other digital retailers come in. As I’ve mentioned before, these do not cost a lot of money, offer instant gratification to smartphone users, and are reputable retailers which add authenticity and credibility to your brand image. Of course there are websites which offer both streaming and the ability to purchase, and I’ll have to admit that bandcamp is my personal favorite. Bandcamp allows for artist and fan accounts, has a smartphone application, and costs the independent artist next to nothing to use.

The internet is not exactly tangible, and sometimes there’s nothing better than hearing a new song on the radio, seeing a band live and picking up one of their CDs, or digging in the crates at your local indie record shop. CDs and download cards are products which can easily be sold at your concerts, as setting up a merch booth takes little effort and can offer excellent visibility, opportunity, and revenue. It has also never been easier to place your products on the shelves of brick and mortar stores such as independent record shops, coffee shops, and other small businesses in your community.

Courtesy of www.ThunderPussy.com
Courtesy of http://www.ThunderPussy.com

As far as getting your music on the radio, there are two radio stations right here in Columbus, Ohio which often play local music. In fact, in researching for this article, I was surprised to see my former bandmates from Someone Like You in rotation on 99.7 The Blitz Local Stuff with their new group We Are The Movies. Another admirable local radio station is CD102.5 who plays local indie rock on their Frontstage program every week.

Another method often unknown to many independent artists is licensing. I could write an entire article about this and probably will someday, but the bottom line is this: if you simply want your music to be heard, you can partner with a publisher (or become your own) and license your songs to movies, TV stations, and companies who play music in restaurants and shopping malls. This type of distribution pays a royalty, and allows for the general public to be exposed to your work. As you may have realized by now, distribution comes in many different shapes and sizes. It all depends on your target market and what is the best way to reach them. As technology changes, so will the supply chain, but the end goal will always be the same: to have your voice heard.