Years ago I was working in a kitchen, the chef and I became mates, I washed his dirty pans for ten months and still liked him so he must be a good guy. We would talk food, all day at work, all night when we went out drinking.
Chef and I came to a conclusion about successful restaurants and cafes. We came up with two methods, find a location then design a formula to fit that location, or design a formula then find the right location for it. We noticed that restaurants usually failed because of the incorrect blend of formula and location. For example, if you make great donuts, don't open your shop in a yuppie, carb free location, open it beside the biggest police station in town.
There was nothing Chef didn't know about restaurants and food, he was right about every new restaurant that opened, predicted success and failure unerringly. I took his advice on board.
The problem with food is that it is often a love business, those who choose to put in the long hours love what they do, they have a dream. A dream is often a poor business decision. The formula is personal, finding the correct location to pursue that dream is difficult, sometimes impossible. Compromise is equally difficult, to alter a dream formula just for money. Dreamers are sometimes better off holding down a day job and cooking for friends on Sundays.
And so I come to my business, live music. Every location tells you which formula will work as a business. In soulless Sydney it is tribute bands, you can sell out big rooms looking and sounding like someone famous. In eclectic Melbourne the formula changes constantly, for a while it was reggae, then arty songwriter with cello and viola on stage, I'm still not sure what the current trend here is, just because I haven't been paying attention.
So the musician's choice is to find a formula that fits where he is living, or to move to where his formula will work. A friend has recently taken his European Celtic sound to Montreal Canada, where traditional music is popular. Here in Melbourne he played on the street, there he can be a star.
The first step for any musician is to identify their dream, what music they would play in a perfect world, then find a location that will support that dream. Musicians have always travelled, it is in the job description. African American jazz musicians went to Europe, songwriters go to Nashville and Austen, arty hippy wankers like me end up in Portland Oregon. Identifying that dream is harder than it sounds, there are so many options. Picking a formula and a location then running with it is essential to success, most businesses are the same.
So a mate and I were sitting outside a cafe last night, working over the options, what music we want to play, how to make it work. The cafe we were at is struggling, in a busy Melbourne laneway full of students who want to sit on one coffee and smoke their menu is too classy and expensive, great formula, wrong location. The connection between their situation and ours was obvious.
So tonight I will undertake an imaginary conversation with Chef, plunder his experience and commoN sense. I'll apply his method to my formula, match up a location to the dream.