As Live Music Venues Struggle, Two In D.C. Find A New Way To Compete

image from its the soft economy or competition from Live Nation, more and more of the live music venues that serve as essential showcases for emerging artists are struggling to survive. That's particularly true in the DC market, where established independent venues like The Birchmere and 9:30 Club are now battling concert giant Live Nation's Filmore and promoters AEG, C3 and NYC's BB Kings/Blue Note consortium have or are about to open venues. But two promoters have decided that the best way to compete, is to work together.

The 9:30 Club, often named one of the leading nightclubs in the U.S., has formed a strategic booking partnership with another Washington DC area club, the U Street Music Hall. According to 9:30 promoter Seth Hurwitz, the deal will allow the two clubs to stay competitive with Live Nation, whose Fillmore club opened last September in nearby Silver Spring, Maryland and help develop a fan base in the market for up-and-coming talent.

"There will be bands that we present at U Street Music Hall that will one day headline at Merriweather," said I.M.P. chairman Seth Hurwitz in a news release.

The plan will allow the U Street to book shows at the 9:30's 50 capacity 'Backbar' while the 9:30 Club will present some shows at the 500 capacity U Street. The 9:30 Club has a capacity of 1,200.

Live Nation's presence in the market presents the most significant challenge to independent clubs. Live Nation can leverage its extensive nationwide network of venues to offer artists national tour packages, cutting independent clubs such as the 9:30 out of the picture.

Hurwitz hopes that the focus on developing talent will allow them to exploit a niche allowing them to compete with the Fillmore, as well as establishing a relationship with acts before they achieve mainstream success.

"There is obviously a furor to start grabbing acts at the top level," Hurwitz told the Baltimore Sun. "Our business plan has, and always will be, to develop acts and relationships with strong foundations that will become more than this week's headliner."

It's a model that could be duplicated in other cities.

Bruce Houghton with material from CelebrityAccess.

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