[Dixielandjazz] A club's secret of success

Bill Horton horton4jaz at earthlink.net
Thu Apr 24 23:45:03 PDT 2003

Advance warning:  This turned out to be rather long and, if you aren't
concerned with forming or fostering a jazz organization, this would be a
good time to hit the Delete key.

A few days ago I posted a bragging piece about the Basin Street Regulars
club (BSR) in Pismo Beach, California.  Several replies asked what was the
secret of the BSR's success, when other clubs are floundering and losing

There's no real "secret", but perhaps describing some aspects of the club
may give others some clue that will be helpful in their endeavors to build a
vital jazz club.  Here are some of those aspects.

Certainly most important to the BSR's success have been the people of
diverse talents who have contributed their unpaid, long, devoted,
enthusiastic hours to building and maintaining the club.  A small sample of
the ones who have shown their enthusiasm are: university professors, a store
manager of a large chain department store, a chief engineer of a Fortune 500
corporation, a career Marine master sergeant, ranchers, motel owners,
contractors, editor of a monthly tabloid, a fine artist, a published author,
a sales manager, former military officers, a radio station owner. The list
could go on.  You can find former managers pushing mops to clean up spilled
drinks, serving as bartenders, selling tickets, etc.-the most menial of
tasks.  How you recruit all these talents and brains, I don't know,

Another asset is that Pismo Beach is a small town and there are a number of
fairly small towns in the vicinity.  Small towns don't have many competing
avenues of entertainment and social work..  San Luis Obispo, nearby, is a
university town and fairly large by comparison, but the BSR doesn't have as
many members from it as from other, more distant and smaller towns.  Again,
I don't know how this could be of help to another club, since they can't
control the size of their town!

I've been in a number of organizations-professional, civic, political,
religious, fraternal, etc.-but never have I seen as large a percentage of
the membership who participate as volunteer workers as in the BSR.  The
volunteerism is a key to success.  I have just received a flyer for a 3-day
jazz festival featuring 4 professional bands and one high school band.  A
3-day ticket is $95, and there is a charge for parking.  Contrast this with
the BSR's 3-day Jubilee By The Sea, with 18 to 20 top-notch professional
bands, with a $65 tab for the 3 days, plus free parking and buses to the
various venues.  My guess is that the $95 festival has a lot of paid
workers, and I know the BSR's $65 one has NO paid workers!  I'd also bet the
BSR's festival will attract many more people and will turn a very nice
profit for the club.  (It's been sold out for 25 years in a row.)  That's
what volunteers can do for you..

What that Jubilee profit can do for the club is make possible annual
membership dues of only $25/couple and no door charges for members at
concerts!  Making a year's membership cheaper than a dinner for two has a
very salubrious effect upon membership, of course.  Members can even be big
time spenders and invite friends to attend with them (door charge for
visitors only $5 each) and the friends become hooked and join, too.  Then,
after getting them to come out for your concerts, you collect a few more
bucks from each of them by operating a bar and a lunch counter and selling
raffle tickets and jazz-related items (all courtesy of volunteer help).

I might add that the BSR is not chintzy in paying guest bands, and as a
result has the pick of the crop in booking excellent bands.  (The attractive
seaside town, a friendly, enthusiastic audience of 300-400, and the
possibility of an invitation back for the Jubilee helps, too!)

In a rather large nutshell, that's the "secret" of the BSR's success.  I
hope something in there helps other jazz clubs.

Bill "I DO go on" Horton

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