What Keeps a Great Music Venue Great?

Rock ‘n’ roll addicts, we’ve spent many formative and memorable evenings, ear plugs in place, at renown rock venues. The best venues seem to have as Gibson Guitars so eloquently wrote: “…a raggedly dilapidated quality that feels part and parcel of rock music itself.”
So when renovating a venue as we’re doing right now, how do we retain its inherent authenticity, vibe, and heritage?A shared characteristic of many music venues is their esteemed history of artists who have played there, which hits a chord with guests recalling their own music bios. How do we freshen a space without losing its authenticity? Sure, there are plenty of pragmatic, economic, and aesthetic issues to solve when re-designing a music venue, from acoustics to sightlines and from merchandise stands to the entry experience. But what makes a great club experience great? That’s what we’ve been pondering.

Do we design from the perspective of the club operator, dwell on the performer’s needs or focus on the customer experience – or better still, can we design for all?  Can we strive to maximize every inch of the space, create a desired flow, enhance guest safety and accessibility, consider aesthetics equally to durability, and value in lighting and sound?  Can we maintain the great sound quality? Can we pamper VIPs with custom seating and tiered booths with removable cushions which gives guests permission to stand?  Vinyl or leather? Shall we use drapery and dividers as means and measures to make intimate spaces and position smaller spaces for quieter evenings or events? Shall we keep studying the layout of the bar, kitchen, service stations and restrooms? Can we be creative with lighting and sound to help energize and ignite the space, add a desired ambience or even inspire a mood? Physical comforts are good, but how to make spaces that are socially comfortable?  Can we celebrate the venue’s rocking history? How do we as designers keep you loving the atmosphere?
The answers are all: Design Matters.

When the last design note is played, we hope that this classic rock-and-roll venue, once great, is even better. Perhaps, still a bit frayed in carefully curated places, but always perfectly in time with the music.

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That’s our best rock-and-roll cover shot, since venue identity is hush hush.
Photography ©Tony Smith.