There seems to be a lot of chatter these days about the lack of quality live local music venues here in Orlando. Which leads to a lot of questions such as what exactly is a quality live music venue from a musician’s standpoint and of course what are some of the better ones to play in Orlando.
Several local musicians representing different genres responded to email questions on this very subject. Many of the musicians who responded have been a part of the Orlando local music scene for many years and have seen many venues come and go along the way. The responses have been kept anonymous to avoid any bad blood between the bands and local venues.
The first matter was to find out what specifically a musician would consider to be a quality venue. The immediate responses were about proper equipment and knowledgeable personnel to put on a show. “We’re at the mercy of the sound guy,” responded musician A.
“A quality venue in my opinion is one that is willing to co-operate with musicians and understands that it takes effort from all sides to put on a quality show,” said Orlando musician B. “Communication between the two parties is key; both should know all the details going in order for everything to run smoothly. Having a staff (by this I mean sound engineers, security, managers, bar staff, etc.) that knows their craft and wants to put on the best possible show. A venue that is truly interested in assisting and being a part of the local scene is also a big key, where certain places only seem to care about is profit.”
“It’s all about the attitude,” said Orlando local musician C. “Of course good stage, sound and lighting is important as well, but the venues I like to play most are the ones that are run well and treat their bands with respect.”
“They take care of the bands,” said musician D. “Like giving a few drinks out, on time payment, decent sound system and stage, willing to work through on stage issues, being personable and approachable and most of all PROMOTING. Yes, we bands have to do it as well, but venue promoting has seriously degraded here in the Orlando area in my opinion. All I see now are mostly Facebook posts, event invites and a poster at the venue. There is little to no advertising dollars spent on most shows.”
There are several venues that make the list as best live music venues in Orlando for local bands/musicians. Of course the House of Blues, Hard Rock and BB Kings are at the top of everyone’s list, they should be. They are international companies with money to spend on real estate that includes a decent stage as well as quality lights, sound systems and well-trained technicians to run them.
Aside from those impressive live music venues, there are several other venues in Orlando that local musicians play on a more regular basis. “The Plaza Theater has the best sound, staff and lights perhaps in all of Florida and is set up to host any type of musical event,” said musician B. “The festivals I have played there have always been a huge success and the people that work at the Plaza know their music.”
The Social in downtown Orlando got several votes as a good venue. The musicians did note that it is also a tough venue to get a show in unless you have an “in.” “I’ve played at the Social over a dozen times and it is a staple in the Orlando scene,” said musician B. “They try their best to keep things running smoothly and are always on schedule.”
Both Tanqueray’s and Wills Pub got high marks for being supportive of local Orlando music and are recognized as places with a loyal crowd of music fans. The Peacock Room and Maxine’s on Shine are both building good reputations among musicians as quality live music venues as well.
The one venue that got the highest marks all around was The Haven. Since it is not downtown, there isn’t the parking and load-in hassle that the downtown venues have. They have a great staff, there’s always a good crowd and they have the best consistent sound guys in Orlando. “They have great sound on stage and in the house, large stage, great acoustics and they are very accessible,” said musician A. “It’s hard to want to play anywhere else in Orlando when the Haven is doing everything right.”
The West End Trading company got a good rating for the friendly staff and quality of the venue. There were also several honorable mentions for good live local music venues. “There are fun venues like the Red Lion, Natura Cafe, Holly and Dolly’s, The Alley, World of Beer and Mc Wells among others,” said musician E.
There were a few venues that made the worst place to play in Orlando list. One of them has already closed. Another venue, which is still open, did not score any high marks. “I have only played there once, but that experience alone is enough to where I will not be playing there again,” said musician B. “No one knew who we were and we were basically on our own with the sound and it was quite dirty.”
One downtown venue got several unfavorable votes, but many of the musicians felt it is redeemable. Much has been made lately about this venue being unfriendly to local musicians, but they do seem to be working on that issue, with many upcoming local shows on the schedule. “The sound is often questionable but a lot of bands are eager to play there because it is downtown and accessible,” said musician A. “It has a lot of potential of being a great place to play, but unless they figure out their sound I’m worried that much of the Orlando scene will avoid shows there.”
The bottom line is the musicians polled would love to see more shows without cover charges.
“More butts through the door mean more money spent at the bar [which equals] more for the bands,” said musician D. “People would have the extra bucks to buy merch as well.”
Musician C offered an example of how this would work out better for the bands and the venues. “I played Franks Front Row a while ago and the way they do things is perfect and we ended up having a blast. It was the first time we played in Daytona and actually had a good time. The show was free, so even though we were going on at midnight, the place was packed. And not packed full of our friends, packed full of people that had never seen or heard us before, and ready to hear something new. Because the place was packed, the bar made more money, so the bar pays out a percentage to bands. This encourages the bands to tell their fans to show up early, and stay the whole night drink up and have a goddamn party. It’s way more fun, and the fans, the bands AND the bar all benefit equally that way.”