If you ask Bob Speth what he does for a living, he might jokingly say that he’s a professional gambler. And he’d be half right.
You won’t catch Speth playing the slots or card tables, though. As owner of Downtown venue 4th & B, he and his employees take daily chances on which performers to choose, how much to pay them, what to charge for tickets, and when to schedule the show.
Speth enjoys this type of risk.
“The odds betting on an artist is still much better than Las Vegas or the Indian reservation,” he said. “You can move the odds for or against you. In something like gambling, the odds are stacked against you, no matter how well you play.”
cleave onto the big companies, Speth said the smaller venues’ warmer and less corporate approach will draw the major artists.
“Some of the up-and-coming ones, you’ll lose but predominantly, the ones like a B.B. King or a Willie Nelson or even a George Thorogood,” he said. “They’ve made it, and they’re going to play where they want, when they want and for who they want. And no big companies are going to tell them different.”
The business comes down to relationships, Speth said. Treating artists and audience members fairly and well leads to a happy performer, he said. This, in turn, leads to a happy agent who will use the venue again.
The same is true of radio stations.
Shauna Moran, promotions director for local FM stations Rock 105.3 and The Mix 95.7, said Speth does a good job of bringing artists to the stations when he promotes a show.
When a sponsored concert takes place at his venue, he helps get the radio personalities on the stage for the show’s start, Moran said.
“His word is always what it is,” she said.
For Speth, the thrill endures in this brand of gambling. His plans for 4th & B’s future include further cultivating the venue’s performer base and drawing more customers to its ambiance. The combination of both spells profit, Speth said.
“It’s that 10 percent that makes the difference,” he said. “That’s what I live on.”