All restaurants are Taco Bell (Not really, but maybe you catch my reference?)

Imagine, for a few seconds, that you move away from Austin for a year and then return. On the drive back, you think of all the restaurants you’ve been craving for the past year, but when you get back to Austin, you discover something curious. Your favorite restaurants are still there, but a sweeping trend has overtaken all business owners. A few owners realized that the most popular dish in Austin was pizza, so they started serving exclusively pizza at their restaurants. Other business, fearing being left behind, followed suit, and all starting serving pizza too. In another section of town, the same thing happened with cheeseburgers. And so it was – all restaurants but a very small minority served pizza OR cheeseburgers, and only those items.

Fortunately for our taste buds, restaurant owners in fact haven’t gone in this direction, but our ear buds haven’t been so fortunate. Unlike restaurant owners, bar/club owners/managers have done exactly this – they’ve decided that the best business model, related to their musical offerings, is to serve up the same exact dish as everyone else. Frustratingly, no matter how creative or innovative the decor and drinks, the music at almost every venue in almost every part of town is essentially the same.

Defining Top 40

First, a point of clarification. Some might object to my last statements by highlighting that they were out last night at one of these venues and heard a Michael Jackson song, a Parliament song, MGMT, or some Biggie. To be clear, while these aren’t currently on Billboard Top 40, they were. So, they’re still Top 40, and even if they weren’t, they function as Top 40, because everyone has heard them, they’re on constant rotation at almost every venue, and they’re overplayed. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not arguing against Biggie and Michael, I’m just saying that if you heard a DJ playing PYT or Juicy last night, they’re not really doing anything different. They’re still serving pizza.

More than just bar/club owners/managers club/bar managers/owners aren’t alone.

The focus of this article is really on anyone who books a DJ for public consumption, from booking agents to club/party promoters.

If it ain’t broke…

Fair enough. When’s the last time you’ve been to a bar on West 6th and it’s been empty? I certainly don’t think the tendency of every bar/club to serve pizza is necessarily causing them to shut their doors. Nor do I think that changing up the music selection would necessarily cause sales to skyrocket. But, that doesn’t mean the idea of pursuing musical originality isn’t worthy of consideration from a business perspective.

More than art, good music is good business

Let me clarify my position in writing this article – as a DJ, I’m not just an artist – I’m a business owner. I’m not a starving artist who believes anyone who takes money for a gig is selling out, nor am I someone who believes that Top 40 is bad. I actually don’t mind pizza. But I don’t want to always eat pizza, and – realizing I’m probably not alone – as a business owner I don’t always want to serve pizza.

What do restaurants have to teach those of us in the DJ/entertainment industry? Stay tuned for Part II coming up on The FeedBak soon!