Full-time musicians need more venue owners and show promoters working in the best interest of the artist. It’s a tough scenario on all fronts. Venue owners need to get paid to keep the lights on. Promoters need to get paid to keep booking shows. Musicians need to get paid so they can continue trucking from town to town, bringing their art to whoever is willing to listen. Many times these individuals work toward their own interest, resulting in the fickle drag that is the music business.
That fickle drag has resulted in alternative venues being born out of necessity, places that moonlight as venues in addition to whatever purpose they serve from 9 to 5. These listening rooms are great assets to the music community, giving artists a place to play for patrons willing to pay.
It’s how the Red Scarf Studio Listening Room operates, a new venue on the north end of Durango that is most of the time the photography studio of McCarson Tafoya. Some of the time – as of recently – it’s a concert space. Tafoya, a champion for artists of any medium, was inspired by the listening rooms she visited in Nashville.
She also noticed that many local musicians she loves to watch perform are playing for peanuts. Her move into a space that used to house Stillwater Music would be perfect to operate as a spot that could hold 40 willing to pay for music. A night watching Fred Kosak and Allissa Wolf was the catalyst for its formation.
“They had been playing for two and a half hours and the tip jar had $5 in there,” said Tafoya. “I thought, ‘This is ridiculous. People are spending $25 or $30 on cocktails and you’re getting original music, and the artists only get $5?’ So I said I was going to make this happen.”
It’s called a listening room for a reason. This isn’t a venue driven by alcohol sales. Too many times a musician’s set is ruined by nonsensical babble coming from barflies uninterested in performance. Same goes for that one patron eager to see a musician only to have the music drowned out by a nonsensical jabber. It’s a room that’s there to enhance the tie between musician and music lover, a place where a connection is made between the listener, a musician, the songs, and stories behind the songs. It’s where people who value music can come have an experience, and the people making that music can express what they do and get paid more than minimum wage for what is both passion and profession.
“I feel it’s very important for artists to be paid for what they do, having a room as part of the community where people can come in and express their original work through music,” Tafoya said. “I like to go out and listen to bands or people, but I have a really hard time hearing them and feeling connected to them because it’s loud, or it’s not the right scene to hear them. My theory on the Listening Room is I want people to be able to listen, pay a ticket price that the artist sets, and the artist walks away with 70 percent of that money. It’s important to me.”
She’s already got shows booked through 2018, which include Thom Chacon in March and The Cannondolls in April, with other regional and national artists coming as well. Local bluegrass and roots band Stillhouse Junkies will perform Feb. 14.
Ultimately, Tafoya’s space is a community venue defined by education and expression, celebrating creativity through photography, music, and anything else that may come along. Hell, it even houses the occasional tango lesson.
“It’s a nice space; lets make it happen,” said Tafoya. “That’s the community way, right?”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. firstname.lastname@example.org.