Letters to the Editor
In Defense of Iron Horse Entertainment Group
Tiring to see all the IHEG (Iron Horse Entertainment Group) bashing [“Behind the Music: The People and Promoters Going Beyond IHEG,” July 13-19, 2017]!
First, people don’t realize how fortunate we are to have national acts coming to the area. I’ve personally enjoyed many awesome acts throughout the years at all the IHEG venues [Pearl Street, Iron Horse, Calvin, Mountain Park, The Basement] at really fair and decent ticket prices. Sure — it’s great to see and support local bands which I do often, but it’s also pretty awesome to have the opportunity to see national acts. I’ve had visitors from out of state who are floored by all the music offerings (many at IHEG venues) in the area as they need to travel long distances and pay big bucks to access a music scene. Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we’ve got til it’s gone!
Second, it’s amazing how some bands (musicians) don’t understand the idea of “paying their dues” before they play some better known venues. To expect to play IHEG venues just because they think their bands are entitled, is an unrealistic expectation. This is no different in any other “music cities” I’ve experienced. For example, in Austin, Texas, it is a sure bet that local acts seen in some iconic clubs such as the Continental, CBoys, Saxon Pub, etc. have been around and played for many years at clubs with lesser reputations. They build their band’s reputation and followings, get their musical skills noticed, and understand the idea of paying their dues before expecting to play larger venues. Seems to me that it would behoove some of the more naive and negative local musicians to get a wider view of the music scene and expectations outside their little bubbles.
Third, the idea that IHEG shouldn’t be in it for the money is preposterous. It is a business people — not a social service agency. There are business costs — employees’ payroll, venue supplies and upkeep, insurance, all sorts of behind-the-scene costs, etc., etc. that they must pay. Businesses need to turn a profit to remain sustainable & viable. It’s a pretty basic concept. To continually bash [IHEG owner] Eric Suher for his business successes is just sad and indicates limited knowledge that although music is part art, it is also a large part business. Let’s remember that he cared enough about the music scene to rescue the Iron Horse from certain death at a critical time. Younger, entitled minded musicians need to familiarize themselves with the history of the music scene & venues in our area. Also, there are plenty of local musicians who have played the Iron Horse and other venues although it was a business risk. Some went further in their careers and some didn’t, but at least they had a shot thanks to IHEG. It is a reasonable idea for a business person to expect to protect themselves from running in the red in order to keep the business open. For those who can’t understand that basic business concept, there are plenty of jams in the area to play for free and address only the art aspect of music.
Fourth, although “pay to play” isn’t cool (which IHEG purports not to do in the article), there is really nothing wrong with expecting local, unknown bands to promote, sell tickets to their own shows, and even ensure a minimum amount of advance ticket sales if fortunate enough to play IHEG venues. That’s a concrete example of paying dues and hustling to make a band successful. Many local and even former national level musicians do just that and/or play only for tips in huge music cities like Austin. Why should the music scene in the Valley be any different? Why do we expect venues and namely, Eric Suher and his IHEG venues, to care only about art and music while ignoring the bottom line? If that were the case, these businesses would go out of business quickly and there wouldn’t even be a discussion around the topic. Let’s give a little respect to these business owners because I’m sure investing in car washes or parking lots would be much easier at times! I’m grateful to Eric and other venue owners for what they do!
To all the haters out there — continue to play holier than thou, be in the game for only the art side of music, and boycott IHEG venues because that’s your right. As for me, I’m one of those “satisfied customers” that Jim Neill, marketing director for IHEG, spoke of in the article who will happily continue to support, encourage, and enjoy the “majority of the shows that come off without a hitch!”
—Joyce Davis, Facebook
Young Musicians at Green River
Will Meyer makes a valid point [“Basemental: Young Musicians Deserve Pay, Too,” July 20-26, 2017]. I do want to point out that Green River Fest hired over 40 artists this year and we known for being fair in compensating the musicians. In addition to the Advocate Sessions prize we’ll be sending each band that performed on The Next Wave Stage last Friday night a gift certificate to Replay New & Used Instruments in Turners Falls.
—Jim Olsen, director, Green River Festival