Rehearsal Space – Why The Blog

OK, why the blog anyway?

So you can draw on our 30 years worth of experience as our band rented rehearsal space in just about every place that ever was in MA, CT, and NH. Thereby saving you from suffering the same wrath we did, and teaching you the do’s and don’ts of renting rehearsal space. Here you will get a first hand glimpse as to what we experienced and how to navigate to a situation that will work for you. We have paid our dues, are showing the scars of the road, and are still gigging steadily after all this time.

This is a blog with important tips for steering musician’s and bands through the mine field of rehearsal space, jam rooms, practice studios, based on 30 years experience of a working band from in and around Boston, MA, CT, and NH.


Rehearsal Space – Why Do We Need it Anyway

Whether you are band or musician whose been doing this for awhile, or someone whose just starting out, we have probably all experienced the same sequence of events in the beginning.

First off, you set up shop downstairs in the basement, your garage, or the family room at the other end of the house where the rehearsal space is FREE. What could be better than that? That brand new drum kit looks so good, that you can’t wait to lay into it at the next band rehearsal. The rehearsal time comes, and just then you and your band are shocked to discover that mommy and daddy declare that you have to turn it down, play quietly, and there’s no playing after suppertime! You continue on and manage to deal with this a couple times, until the nice neighbor you mowed the lawn for, calls the police on you for being too loud. The cops show up at your front door, and politely tell you they have had complaints from the neighborhood, and you need to turn it down or stop playing. Without cashing in the cards just yet, you grab some packing foam, carpet remnants, and whatever else you can scrounge up for makeshift sound proofing and staple it to the walls. At the next rehearsal you even play at a volume so low you could puke! Just then, another knock at the door, yes it’s the boys in blue again, but this time they tell you, that you need to cease and desist immediately because of your continued disturbing of the peace, or you will be cited.

Since you really don’t want mommy and daddy to have bad blood with the neighborhood, or even have to move, you are instantly thrown into the market for rehearsal space like it or not. And if you happened to live in a condo or apartment, better that you have a roof over your head, than being tossed out onto the sidewalk for playing your guitar too loud, especially if you really didn’t feel like being homeless anyway! Hey, daddy didn’t tell me this when he bought me my first guitar! Wow, what fun!

Now that you have become older and more mature, be sure to read all the posts on this blog, so you can save yourself a lot of time, learn from our experiences, and make a wise decision when renting rehearsal space.

Rehearsal Space – Don’t Get Raped

OK, so you need to find a place to get your regular rehearsal on. Now if you are a band or musician, you already own all your own gear which for an average band might be guitars, drums, bass, keyboards, electronics, and your PA, or any one of these. This is the same gear if you are a working band that you will take along to do your gigs with also. Now there are two different types of rehearsal space rentals. We have rented in both types with mixed reviews.

Pay by the hour (also known as New York or LA style):

These places charge you anywhere from $25 to $50 an hour. The rehearsal room generally comes with a used PA, and some gear hanging around. You are on the clock the minute you walk in the door. Now after rehearsing and trying to cram everything we needed to do in an effort to get as much done in the shortest amount of time, guess how many songs we completed at $50 an hour? Hey your pretty smart! So after dropping $300 bucks in one day, and getting nothing done we realized we were in the wrong place. We have only rented this way twice in our bands history, once in New York City because building space is so expensive down there and we were stupid, and once in Boston, the ladder of which we were yelled at for eating in the room. They didn’t even thank us for draining our wallets, and paying for gear we didn’t want or need! These hourly places are so hard up for business that they disguise their tactics by holding open mics and jam sessions where they charge you to play, and the only people in the audience, are other hard up wannabees paying to play just like you! The only person who wins in this situation is the rehearsal space out of desperation. Why not just go down to your local club at a real open mic, play for free, have a real audience, and get some real exposure, and maybe next time you’ll have a paying gig, instead of paying to play at one of these places!

Pay by the month (also known as monthly or lockout style):

OK, so we realized we needed something more permanent and regular, where we could put a project together long term, leave our stuff there, have a home base, and still have some cash left over. Monthly rehearsal space fits the bill, and you can expect to pay around $300 a month or so for a pretty decent size room if you rent outside the borders of a major city. If you are trying to rent right in the city, the price will go sky high. Music industry operated rehearsal complexes are subsidized by the industry itself unlike private owners, so the rents are always kept lower and fairly priced. Sounds easy enough right? Wrong!

STOP! and read every entry on this blog before you decide on hourly or monthly rehearsal space. You need to exercise smart judgement, good common sense, and know the risks of what you’re getting into. Our experiences will help navigate you through this, considering we have rented in nearly all of them in the three states our band is from.

Rehearsal Space – The People That Run Them

OK, so you think it will be cool to hangout at the rehearsal space with a fellow musician whose running the place. I mean after all, who better to understand a musician than another musician right? Wrong! The last person you want to have running a rehearsal space is another musician. Why? because he neither has an interest in what happens to your gear when you leave it there overnight, he won’t care whose walking in the front door or out with your stuff, he’ll probably be half asleep in the office if he’s there at all, you can be sure he won’t sweep the floor, and he will be lacking the thing you need the most, good management skills and knowledge of business. But, he’ll at least be your friend, and all the other band’s friend, and offer to party with you in the hallway anytime you want.

Next comes the commercial building owner, the guy that slapped up some partitions and put a padlock on your door. This is the same guy that doesn’t know how to handle these bands he just threw together in his building, and because he never bothered to tell the city about the change of use of his property, he is secretly operating without permits or proper zoning for what he is now doing. Because he is never there, he lets the bands do whatever they want and have a good time, until equipment starts turning up missing, the drinking and drugging gets out of hand, and the conditions turn squalid. Now he has to show up and deal with these characters, only problem is, he hasn’t a clue as to how to do it, so he leaves the conditions to deteriorate even worse.

Next is the self storage place, that conveniently too was converted into some rehearsal space much the same way. Just like the commercial building owner, this placed suffered the same problem when secretly they started using the place to put people and bands in, when in reality, it’s only zoned for storage, so the occupancy permits legally don’t allow the bands to be there, and it is not properly setup to meet the safety, fire, and building codes to house that many people in the space properly. In much the same way, under the radar in the bands went, until the drinking and drugging, theft, and pandemonium ensued due to lack of supervision.

Here comes the fledgling underground musicians, who out of desperation and starvation, are offering you the chance to rent a small amount of space that they have cooked up in a completely illegitimate situation. That’s right, these guys have a small fixed amount of space in a building somewhere, and you are invited to come rent the same limited space that everyone else is renting, usually one common room, all underground and off the radar. That’s all fine until you discover there is no occupancy permit for what’s going on there, and it’s just a question of time until the city sends everyone packing.

Call to the plate the guy who has anything from a garage to a big house he has split up into spaces, trying to make a buck off the musicians when the economy goes south. He says it’s OK to jam there, but in reality because it’s zoned residential or sits right next to apartments and houses that are zoned that way, you’re done for. He neither has the occupancy permits to legally allow the bands to use it for this, and he hasn’t told the city anything about what he’s doing. As the complaints come in, the city gets ready to shut it down and you are left hung out to dry.

One last effort by the fledgling musician, is to setup a PA, mics, a drum kit in a space, and offer you the wonderful opportunity to rent it out PA and all for $15 an hour. Only problem is, you already own all your own gear, and in ten hours you will have already dropped a half of months rent anywhere else.

For your own protection, make sure you read the blog post about the places that get shutdown and how they get shutdown, so you don’t get caught in the fray.

Rehearsal Space – The Places That Got Shutdown

As explained in the previous blog entry about the people that run these places, eventually they get shutdown, for the same reasons, and usually in the same way by the cities building code inspector, the fire chief, law enforcement, and the zoning attorney. Essentially, the city looks at this operation through the stereotype they have of bands in general (even if it isn’t true all the time), which is that they are nothing but a bunch of drug toting, drunken derelicts that they just as soon run out of town!

Peabody Jam Rooms – This place operated illegally beneath the radar in a building ditched in the background of the cities industrial area for sometime. It was run by a musician wannabee masquerading as someone important. All came crashing down one night when two hundred or so underage teens descended on the building for a live show that the younger bands had all planned. They were hanging out inside and outside in the parking lots with alcohol and drugs. Law enforcement descended on the place in bulk, and it was shutdown faster than you could bat an eyelash by the city, citing building, safety, zoning, occupancy, and criminal violations. It made all the local newspapers, and the city will not allow another rehearsal space within it’s borders.

The Cambridge Music Complex – This building has long since been bulldozed over and was comprised of a maze of jam rooms made out of plywood doors with padlocks on them. The zig zag corridors all made of exposed plywood offered little for sound isolation, but would have been terrific in a fire. It was shutdown for fire code, occupancy, and safety violations. Memorable was the stench coming from the backed up toilets and urinals that didn’t work!

Riversedge – The entire building was shutdown by the city building inspector and code enforcement officer for numerous safety, building, and occupancy violations. Attention was brought to it because of the noise emanating from the building and the bands rehearsing in there without proper permits. The city will not allow another rehearsal space.

The Boot Mill – This was the place that was run by a convicted child molester, who used to molest the teens he had helping run the rehearsal space up in his office. When he went to prison, the rehearsal space lease was taken over by another wannabee musician, who let the chaos get out of control. There was so much drinking, drugging, vandalism, and chaos, that it was disrupting the rest of the Boot Mill’s business clients. Together the city and the Boot Mill shut it down by not renewing the lease. The city now frowns upon any rehearsal space, however the same guy that ran this place keeps trying to re-emerge and is continually run out of town.

Lawton’s Hot Dogs – This place was actually located across the street from the hot dog place, but it became known as Lawton’s to the bands. The building suffered from severe dry rot of the floor boards, so that on the upper floors, you could crack right through to the 1st floor if you stepped too hard. The elevators were the old rope pull elevators that never passed the elevator inspection, and where if you got stuck, you were never coming out. You could here the bands so loud right on the main street, that it was destined to be found out. A couple of different musician wannabees tried to run it, one even lived there with his dog and a gun for security. It was such a fire and safety hazard, the city shut the entire place down in a heartbeat once they figured out what was going on.

Burlington Rehearsal Studios – This short lived attempt was by a guy trying to make an extra buck on some vacant building space, only problem was, he never bothered to tell the city, but they sure told him instead once they found out the bands were in there without the proper permitting. He shut it down himself willingly.

The Littleton Barn – For years this placed existed in a wooden structure in a little town until it was sold as a pet grooming salon. It most certainly was a fire trap with unsafe electrical wiring, and no sprinkler system or fire safety. The bands cumulatively put a huge drain on the wiring, and there never was proper occupancy permits. All this combined with the drinking and drugging led the town to put pressure on shutting it down.

The Sound Museum – This Denby Street location in Allston was the worst of the worst with sometimes three to five bands all crammed into one room just to try to afford the steep $500 to $600 a month rent price tag. Corridor after corridor of squalid stench, garbage, and debris including the urinals that no longer were attached to the walls, and that never worked anyway (thus the piss everywhere and stench). The place was never supervised, and because of all the building code, fire safety, drug, and alcohol violations erupting into pure pandomoneum on most nights, the fact that occupancy permits were never issued or sought led to its final demise.

We could go on and on and tell you about the 15 other places that got shutdown in MA, CT, and NH, but why bother you get the point and its always the same. Instead be sure to read all the blog entries including the horror stories post and only rent at a bona fide music industry operated rehearsal complex.

Here are a couple newspaper links of what could happen to you if you are caught up in one these places run by unsavory individuals and the squalid conditions that come with them.

Six arrested on drug charges living in jam space housing jam rooms – building shut down

Police, Fire, Detectives shut down fire trap building housing jam space

Rehearsal Space – The Horror Stories

OK, so after 30 years of renting rehearsal space all over MA, CT, and NH, we have endured squalid conditions, had our equipment damaged and missing, put up with the derelicts, had our van broken in to, got caught up in the middle of a few shutdowns, been raped on the costs, but through the whole thing managed to keep the band working, touring, and enjoying our love of music. The horror stories we will keep generic, but we will stick with the meat of the matter. Hopefully through it all, you can steer clear of what we experienced. This is just a smattering of them.

Our Gear Turned Up Missing – This happened to us way more than once. The worst was when we had our whole rehearsal space broken in to in Everett, MA with everything gone. Serious dough. There was an alarm on our room, but either it didn’t go off, or it was an inside job, but nobody seemed to know anything. In Watertown, MA we arrived to find our padlock sheered off the door with pedals and cables missing. In Allston, MA during a room share which we have never done since, we showed up for rehearsal and our complete rack of signal processing had disappeared. When we asked the band we were sharing with where it was, they implied that we must have left it at a gig or something. OK, except for the fact that we hadn’t gigged in a week. In Manchester, NH where there was supposed to be cameras watching our stuff, our room door was found open and gear missing. Nobody seemed to know anything. In Cambridge, MA someone kicked in our plywood door, which made the padlock screws just fall off, and took a keyboard. No one in the office would help us.

Our Equipment Flooded – The Shawsheen river floods several times a year which is directly adjacent to where the rehearsal studio is located. Because the building is in a low lying slope to the river, it flows right in. We had two feet of water in our room, the electronics were toast, and the drums were warped like seashells. Nobody told us that this frequently happens when we moved in, until it was too late.  In between floods there was continual mold growing up the walls and all over every piece of  equipment.  Apparently the owner keeps on renting the place but says nothing to any of the bands and it keeps on happening over and over again.

Busted Just Because We Were There – When a Boston, MA rehearsal space was shutdown and the police showed up arresting people for drug possession in the building, we were in our rehearsal room, doing nothing, smoking nothing, drinking nothing, taking nothing and arrested just because we were there, and we weren’t the culprits.

The Derelicts Hanging Outside Our Room – In Allston, MA we couldn’t shake the derelicts from drinking and drugging in the hallway right outside our room door. It didn’t make us feel very secure when we locked up to go home, having all these guys eyeing our gear, so we moved out.

Slogging Through The Piss on the Floor – As gross as this sounds, in Manchester, NH we had to endure walking through piss on the floor, and I don’t mean in the bathrooms. This was right out in the corridor of the place. I guess it was OK just to hang it out in the corridor and let it go if you are so drunk from drinking beer all night, that you don’t care.

Our Van Broken Into – We had our van broken into in the parking lot of one space while we were rehearsing inside.

We could go on and on, but the stories are too numerous. No we don’t go to these type of places anymore, but that’s not because we have given up on renting rehearsal space.

Rehearsal Space – Supposedly Secure

When we rented space, we experienced everything from NO security to real security.

OK, a card access entry on the front door, and a magnetic strip to let you in is NO security. Why? because any card in your wallet has a magnetic strip and can open the door just like at the ATM door. Next, the proximity card reader is NO security. Why? because the proximity card can be handed off to anybody, letting Joe Shmo come in after his buddy from another band gave him the card, told him how to come in and rip you off. OK, surveillance cameras are useless, because they are only as good as whose watching them (and if its one of the guys we described on this blog, believe me they aren’t watching jack!) and they don’t prevent anything from happening. If your gear is gone, it’s gone man cameras or no cameras in many of these dumps. Read our horror stories in the horror story entry, because everywhere we had stuff missing, there was supposedly cameras and no one knows anything! An alarm is NO security. Why? because it’s only as good as the person answering it just like with the cameras. Do you really think the cops are going to be the one answering an alarm in these places? Good I give you credit for that. When an alarm does go off, it’s the same old story, we know nothing. How about a real person? NO NO NO, because if the real person is Joe the musician hanging out in the office, or Harry the wannabee musician owner, or Jack the absentee property owner, they could care less about whose coming, going, or walking out the door with your stuff OK! Well then how about all this stuff combined?, you’re getting warmer, but the real answer is NOT electronics and cameras as you just found out, but it is management. Your tip of the day here is, to find a place that is extremely tightly managed by pros in the music industry, that won’t put up with the goings on described by our experiences on this blog, and not by some fledgling musician, a self storage place, or someone with empty building space. You have to look hard and scrutinize your choice down to a bonafide music industry facility that provides these protections through their management standards.

The music industry is connected with tightly managed rehearsal space, and they put their experienced people in place to operate them. You want to find a place that has the management skills in place, and understands the entire music industry, so your needs are met professionally and without incident. They are hard to find, but they usually stand out because they have been around awhile. There is music industry rehearsal space that permit local bands and beginners use of their facilities too, because this is how they help cultivate their own industry and give back to the community.