The Decline of Attendance in LGBTQ Bars & Nightclubs

As I was doing my usual perusing of the various Facebook posts, I came across a post that caused a good deal of controversy. In the midst of reading the comments, I noticed some people veering off topic with their reasoning as to why there is such a decline of a attendance in our bars and nightclubs. I have quite a bit to say on this topic and felt the need to respond via a note. As always my caveat is as follows:

This is my opinion and I will ask that you treat it as such. If your opinion differs from mine, it’s a good thing and I will expect an opposing viewpoint. If your opinion comes from a place of negativity, then you’re welcome to keep the opinion to yourself as this is an adult discussion and will remain as such.

Now on to the topic at hand. My friend, MiKayla Michaels posted this status as of yesterday.

Let us ask that very same question: why is there a decline in attendance of bars and nightclubs? Let us also ask this: why is there a decline in attendance of our shows? Here are my thoughts as to why there is a decline and you’re welcome to agree with me or not... hence why I’m provoking a discussion.

I believe the reason for such a decline of attendance are due to lack of promotion, lack of gratitude, the Internet and media, and lack of quality. I’m going to be discussing this in terms of our shows and entertainment. I will not be going to be discussing in terms of the venues and their owners. Most, if not all, are doing all they can to make ends meet, but it’s with the coordination of its promoters and staff to work together to build attendance and sales on days where there are no shows.

Lack of Promotion

It has been in my experience that I have seen a lack of promotion of the venue and its events being held. Promotion is a very expensive (and very time consuming) part of marketing, but a necessary evil. Everyone must do it: the show directors, the venue, and the entertainers. Without promotion, we’d be performing to empty chairs and causing so much overhead costs that the owners will have no choice but to cancel the shows entirely.

I feel that if an entertainer wants to get his or her name out there, that person will need to promote. How do they do that? They can utilize the Internet, guest spot at a show, choose to compete in a drag contest or an amateur show. They should be mingling with the audience before and after the show so they can build a following and be sure to thank them for their patronage and for tipping you. Instead, you see entertainers rushing in to “paint” and remaining backstage to chat. Um.....there are people out there either visiting the venue for a drink or waiting to see you. Mingle, people. I’m seeing it as a lost art nowadays and that needs to come back. Word of mouth is the most effective form of promotion... not the Internet. I see entertainers not promoting themselves or the shows they’re a part of. Point blank: if you’re not bringing people in the door, then you shouldn’t be performing...should you?

Lack of Gratitude

Have you heard of an entertainer coming to a member of the audience after the show and actually thanking them for their tip and support? I don’t see it as much as I would like, but I, myself, try to make an effort to do that to everyone who gives me a dollar. I also would like to see an entertainer personally thank the show director and the venue owner for booking them and being a professional. Follow ups and critiques are helpful to the entertainer. Some entertainers get so caught up with trying to “get in the clique” that they forgot that professionalism will always trump cliques.

I don’t see enough gratitude being shown to the audience or staff. Tip the bartenders. Tip your fellow colleagues. Buy your first two drinks instead of waiting for those drink tickets. Show your support by being grateful you have a place to perform and with a staff and people who believe in your talents. Yes, Facebook posts are nice, but nothing is more personable and genuine than an actual face-to-face “thank you”. Example to a show director: “Thank you so very much for giving me the opportunity to perform in your show. Did you enjoy my performance(s)? Is there something you would like to see me do the next time I’m asked back? May I come back?”

Let me be clear: this is not ass kissing. This is being professional. You are paid to do a job: perform. Thank that person or persons for giving you that opportunity. The Internet and Media

It’s pretty clear the Internet and TV and how easily accessible it is to access them are what is affecting the attendance numbers. With the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race and hookup sites, people are staying home. How can we use that to our advantage?

I think promoting on social media is great, but not the most effective. Some people are so hooked on seeing (insert name here) that the sales and attendance are larger for that than there is for an entertainer who is not famous or on television. By promoting yourself both online and offline, you will drive a better success by always being present and accessible (being a nice person helps too). Make yourself available to be talked to or have a photo taken.

I’m also seeing some entertainers that think their name will drive in people, but it’s not always the case. You still have to promote yourself. You still have to keep your talents and ideas fresh. Go against the grain sometimes and keep your audience interacting with you. Use the Internet and Media to your advantage.

Lack of Quality

Let me be blunt with this subtopic:

Why would I want to go out and see someone do a Beyonce song badly? Why would I want to stay and watch an entertainer in bad drag and can’t even lip sync correctly? Why does it look like someone didn’t invest in their craft, but yet demand a dollar from you and an unreasonable booking fee?

Keep the amateurs at the amateur contest and let them build their experience. Let them hone their craft, whatever the type of drag they are going for. Bad drag is bad matter the type. Drag is such an umbrella term: Goth, Glam, Pageant, Camp, Steampunk, Anime, Bearded, etc.

Keep the seasoned entertainers who invest in their craft, are polished, know the words to their songs, and are wholly entertaining to the paid shows. A seasoned entertainer is not always a titleholder or a television celebrity. I have seen many talented girls and guys who are not titleholders and are not even interested in pageantry.

Putting this bluntly: if you keep having the same tired entertainers performing the same six songs on the same disc that looks like braille, you’re not going to have a successful show. Put some variety in there. Not everyone has to look like you, but everyone has to be entertaining. It’s just the name of the game. Play it and play it well. Just because you do Beyonce all the time doesn’t mean someone can’t. Just because you do nothing but hip hop doesn’t mean you can’t try a different musical genre. Not everyone can do a ballad, but everyone should deliver the best performance of their life. Even if there is one person in the bar, that person expects to see a show. Don’t disappoint that person.

I got into a discussion with a person about appearance and entertainment quality. In a roundabout way I was told I wasn’t always pretty and never keep one look. So here’s my response:

If I looked like everyone is anyone going to notice me? If I come on stage wearing something I know some woman has in her closet, am I really investing in my kind of drag? Yes I’m talented, but I also want to deliver the look as well. Pretty doesn’t always sell, but being fierce does. No I don’t have one regular look because that’s lazy to me. I like to change up my looks and have a wide array of performance styles. If I was just that girl who did top 40 all the time and looked like I came out of Simply Fashion, then I would have given up drag a long, long time ago. It’s just not me. I embrace all forms of drag, but I live for all forms of polished drag.

Show directors: stop booking the same tired queens who don’t bring originality and a high quality of entertainment to your show. Stop booking amateurs at a professional’s show. Have an amateur night and let them build and hone their craft. Let them build their audience. Let them experience the spotlight that is meant for them...if that is their calling. Everyone seems to be doing drag, but not everyone should. And please...for God’s sake...stop paying for mediocrity.

In conclusion, let’s build an audience and thank them for their time and support. If there is no one to perform to, then we’re all out of a job.

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