Since October of last year, the Hard Rock Hotel has hosted a once-a-month concert featuring headliners that would normally play Casbah or Belly Up. And the shows are free.
The Soundcheck concert series is held in the downtown hotel’s 500-capacity Club 207 room. VHS or Beta, Heyena, Penguin Prison, and Built to Spill have played the event. One insider tells the Reader that Built to Spill typically commands a $5000 to $7000 guarantee and could be counted on to sell 500–600 tickets.
The next Soundcheck show is L.A. garage-pop duo Best Coast on April 24. The last time the indie band played in San Diego, they opened for Wavves at Soma. That show sold out.
“This just doesn’t make any sense,” says the confounded insider. “I don’t see how they’re ever going to make their money back. It’s like they are pouring thousands of dollars into the ocean for one free show a month.”
But Jana Peck, the Hard Rock Hotel’s marketing director, sees it as money well spent.
“We want to establish the Hard Rock Hotel with our guests and with the local music fans as a place where music is worshipped.... We had the Black Eyed Peas play at our grand opening four and a half years ago. We also had Adele perform here two years ago. Our goal is to connect quality music to the Hard Rock Hotel experience.”
Peck says Mary Jane’s Underground is another once-a-month showcase at the Hard Rock Hotel. It features local bands, such as Dead Feather Moon, the Kabbs, and Kera and the Lesbians, and is curated by Tim Pyles of 94/9. On April 15, the hotel’s larger Float room will host DJ Paul Oakenfold.
Peck says the Hard Rock has committed to keeping the Soundcheck series free through 2012. She says no ads were taken out to promote Soundcheck. “We put all our money into the show. We have a robust database, and we rely on our media partner, FILTER Magazine, to get the word out.”
FILTER is an L.A.-based fashion/music/lifestyle magazine and marketing company that was brought in by the Hard Rock Hotel to produce and promote the Soundcheck series.
The insider remains skeptical. “Club 207 is the first bar you see coming out of the gate at Petco. That Best Coast show happens to fall on a home-game night, which could be a logistical trainwreck for them.... Plus, I don’t understand what they expect to get out of it. I don’t think those people who came to see a free Built to Spill show are going to say, ‘I want to come back to the Hard Rock this weekend and buy a bottle of vodka for $400 and watch the sparklers.’”