Staying Alive: Economics 101

Question: When is Helix not Helix? Answer: When it’s the Brian Vollmer Band.

On Friday November 22nd at Toronto’s Rockpile East concert venue, Vollmer will debut his new band which comprises of guitarist John Claus, drummer Brian Doerner and bassist Tom Leonard. Now Helix fans will be aware that Vollmer and Claus are currently in Helix, Doerner is the band’s former drummer and Leonard plays in Claus’s spin-off band – so call The Brian Vollmer Band – Helix Light!

“It’s all a matter of survival,” explains Vollmer on the phone from his London, Ontario home base. “As chief cook and bottle washer of the band, I’ve got to continually find ways to pay the bills but during the Fall and Winter months, when we either have to play bars or not play at all. Yet because of the situation in the bars, they can’t pay us enough because they can only offer so much money”.

“Let’s just say we play a 200-seat bar and the bar owner charges 15 bucks at the door,” continues Vollmer’s economics lesson. “So even if he fills the place, he’s only made three grand at the door which is barely enough to pay us. I don’t want the guy to lose his shirt booking Helix; it’s bad for his business and bad for us. “But if we reduce our price, we end up pricing ourselves out of business. Kickaxe did that and priced themselves into extinction.”

[quote]Question: When is Helix not Helix? Answer: When it’s the Brian Vollmer Band.[/quote]

“And the other downside of lowering your price,” continued Vollmer. “Is that the club owner blabs to his agent pals that he paid us, say $2,500. Next thing you know, the festival promoters also want to pay us the same fee! And since we rely on those concert bookings in the summer, we can’t let that happen.”

Vollmer, who has been booking his Helix band since the early 90’s, and says he knows the Canadian bar scene inside out, is encouraged by the growth of casinos and recognizes they are a viable alternative from the bars during the fall and winter season.

“Bars rely on two streams of income, the bar and the door but casinos don’t have to worry about either of those issues,” informed Vollmer. “All they care about is getting people through the door to gamble and they are prepared to pay a decent amount of money for bands to get these people through the door.”

Unfortunately, casino dates are not so abundant that Vollmer can totally ignore club bookings so he hit on this idea of a spin-off band which can play for less money yet at the same time not affect Helix’s saleability.

“I am putting my name out there which is only fair because I have been in Helix since day one so I am sort of doing a Ronnie Hawkins kind of thing,” explained Vollmer. “The reality is that I miss playing and getting out there every weekend, this is my craft, this is what I do.”

Vollmer admitted the band will have a Helix feel, `Just one guitar less’, and will do some Helix hits, a couple of more obscure Helix tunes plus some covers including songs by Alice Cooper, “One of my early influences,” noted Vollmer.

“At the end of the day it’s all economics,” concluded Vollmer. “I have to continually think of ways the finance the band, fund our new record and keep things moving. If by having a spin-off band allows funds to keep flowing without hurting the marketability of Helix, then that’s what I am prepared to do.”

– Keith Sharp

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