Veteran Seattle musician and former Experience Music Project official Ben London—who plays guitar in Stag and Selene Vigil's band—brought to my attention a 2017 segment on CBC radio featuring Toronto musician/journalist Mar Sellars that touched on a subject that affects everybody who enjoys live music: start times for shows.
In the segment, she describes a scene in which she offered free tickets to friends to see Seattle's Dude York and Scottish band PAWS for a Wednesday show in which the groups went onstage at 11:30 pm and 12:30 am... and nobody took her up on offer—not even a 25-year-old music critic for VICE. Sellars went on to note that concert attendance is declining in cities like Vancouver and Toronto. She argued that the draws for non-weekend events are much sparser than those for Friday and Saturday shows, because late set times deter people with day jobs from going out, at the risk of feeling rotten the next day from sleep deprivation. Maybe you can relate.
Perhaps the best strategy—at least for weeknight gigs—is to begin the action earlier. In recent times, I've noticed more Seattle shows beginning at 7 pm and 8 pm. Generally speaking, I think this is a good idea, and my colleague Sean Nelson does, too. He also stipulates with utmost reasonableness that "there should only be three bands on a bill and the opener should play for no more than 30 minutes ever." Moving toward earlier set times could benefit show-goers (less loss of sleep) and venues (more bodies in the room), although one oft-stated and legitimate concern from this time shift is lower bar sales. That midnight to 1:45 am chunk of time often makes the difference between profit and deficit.
For dance-oriented electronic-music shows, though, this rubric often feels inappropriate, as there's more of an emphasis on continuous vibe, where one set flows into the next without breaks. Plus, folks at these events are frequently on some very stimulating substance(s), and they're not going to go to sleep any time before 4 am anyway, so... But for most other genres, 30-minute opening sets and closing the joint before midnight make a lot of sense. (Critic Maria Sherman asserts that no band should play for more than 20 minutes, but I'm not ready to go that severe.)
To gauge how Seattle feels about this timely and timeless issue, please vote in the poll below—whether you're a music fan, a talent buyer, a club owner, or simply an opinionated hermit, your input is valued.