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Eighth Street Coffee House

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Magazine Review

Subject: Coffeehouse Management 101--how to do it right

I just came home from a wonderful weekend up in the U.P. of Michigan, playing a terrific songwriter festival in Grand Mariais hosted by the marvelous Kellie Lin Knott and a magical coffeehouse--8th Street Coffeehouse in Escanaba The latter experience was so extraordinary I just had to share it with you. If one ever wrote a book about the perfect singer-songwriter venue, the author would need look no further than 8th Street Coffeehouse

Consider the following:

  1. Central downtown location, on the main drag, easy to find, safe neighborhood, ample on-street parking.
  2. Courteous, personable owner (Rob) who is passionate about the music and the musicians' and his patrons' comfort.
  3. Separate non-smoking music room with good acoustics, sightlines, capacity, and PA.
  4. Comfy, clean and spacious bathrooms and green room (even has a TV, boombox, and VCR).
  5. Conspicuously posted "suggested donation" sign with a cogent and firm explanation as to why customers should ante up.
  6. Ample and well-located merch space.
  7. Prompt reply to e-mails and phone calls.
  8. A built-in and appreciative clientele, resulting from a varied but quality mix of performers from all over the midwest, many of whom have national reputations--as well as a regular open mic.
  9. Free internet access--hardwired and Wi-Fi
  10. Comfy areas dedicated to schmoozing, studying, reading (with magazines provided), and eating--including a table big enough to gather round and plot the next revolution--all separate from the music room, and several nooks separate from each other.
  11. Great coffees, beverages and snacks.
  12. Family-friendly but not cloyingly G-rated atmosphere.
  13. Lodging in a good motel (we didn't take advantage of it since we had to leave for our next gig immediately after we were done for the evening).
  14. Prompt rebooking of a subsequent gig--as soon as we asked.
  15. Adequate set-up and soundcheck time.

AND, last but not at all least,

16. PUBLICITY!!!!! Finally, a club that "gets it."--that the music is as much a part of its menu as is the food and the coffee. To illustrate: I called on a Tuesday night to book a Friday gig. After some mixups, we confirmed the gig Thursday morning. I arrived Friday afternoon to find flyers with my picture up not only in front of the club but all over downtown--and numerous mentions on local radio stations. The result?
Despite a start time an hour earlier than the cafe's norm and splitting the evening with another band new to the area, we made enough to pay for gas (from and to Chicago!) and several meals--plus we had CD sales.

Now, there are plenty of other venues that feature one or more of these things, but 8th Street is the only venue I've encountered that has it all.........with no "attitude" whatsoever. No insistence upon a local draw, no refusal to deal directly with the artists (so many venues now will deal only with booking agencies), no insistence that the talent handle all of the publicity. At a time when it's like pulling teeth to get a venue to post even a "Live Music Tonight" sign (never mind a list of who's playing) in the window, this is SO refreshing.

Check it out: http://www.8thstreetcoffee.com. Only wish they had a guestbook on-line to sign. Soon as I can get the link to my webmaster, I'll post it on my site. And no, they did not suggest I write this. I just felt it was so extraordinary--that there are still venues that care as much about their performers as they do about the bottom line (and that realize there's a cause-and-effect relationship between the two).

Sandy www.sandyandina.com
Chapter coordinator for Chicago's Just Plain Folks Chapter

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