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Once host to big-name music acts, Shark Tank now opts for lower-cost DJs

By Daniel Taylor [1]

BELLEVILLE – Have you ever wondered why the Shark Tank Pub [2] stopped bringing in big-name music acts?

If you’ve ever been to the Shark Tank at Loyalist College you will have seen the walls cluttered with concert posters from past shows. Big names in Canadian music such as Our Lady Peace [3], Big Sugar [4] and the Matthew Good Band [5] took to the stage in the late 90s, while bands such as Alexisonfire [6], Simple Plan [7] and Sum 41 [8] rocked the pub in the 2000s.

Belleville native Matt Morgan recalls seeing Sum 41 at the Shark Tank in 2005. He says the atmosphere at the show is something he’ll never forget.

“It was loud and there was a big crowd,” Morgan recalls. “It was extremely energetic and they played their popular songs at the time. The crowd was right into it, singing along, and there was a mini mosh pit. (The Shark Tank) was definitely the place to hear great bands back in the day.”

Unfortunately, the Shark Tank is no longer the music hot spot it once was. The last significant artist to make a stop at the pub was Toronto alternative band Down with Webster, which played in orientation week in 2012.

Loyalist College’s executive director of student life and leadership, Fred Pollitt, has been working at the Shark Tank since it opened in 1994. He says there’s a lot that goes into bringing in big-name acts.

“The bands are booked through the student government and through the musicians’ business manager,” he said. “As a promoter, you look at the market and see what is getting airplay. How strong is the act’s draw? Are they a niche act or do they have a broad appeal? Then because of your location, is it a routing date? If they are doing Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, then there’s an opportunity.”

Aside from the amount of work it takes, Pollitt says there are a couple of other reasons why the pub ceased hosting popular artists.

“One is certainly expense,” he said. “Touring for bands has gotten incredibly expensive. And the other reason is, how many acts can you host that will draw a venue of this size?”

The easy availability of streamed music online has probably affected the collective appreciation for popular music, he said.

“Through streaming and all the different avenues you can access music, I think it may have dispersed people’s attention. If you look back to the mid-90s, and MuchMusic just breaks onto the scene, there’s Canadian artists coming out with great videos and everybody knows the act because it’s kind of the medium that most people focus on. Then you can develop an image and get the exposure much easier than nowadays when it’s dispersed through YouTube and other platforms.”

Hiring a DJ at a low cost is a better alternative than hiring a band these days, he said.

“The DJs are very difficult to compete with. Our clientele like to dance. If you come here on a regular pub night, we’ll have at least two DJs. They’ll pack the dance floor for virtually the whole night. For a club owner, it’s very low-cost.”

Pollitt said he’s unsure if the Shark Tank will ever regain its reputation as the prime live music venue it once was. At the end of the day, he said, he needs to meet the needs of his clients.

“You provide the entertainment that the students want,” he said. “If you don’t have to pay a cover charge to come in and dance all night and you leave and have a really good experience, then I think you are satisfying the customer. Whether you go back to live entertainment, I think, depends on the student demand.”

The pub hosted Kington country band Ambush [9] last Thursday. Roughly 30 people showed up.