World Cafe Live has been built on a simple insight: that a place dedicated to showcasing live music should be a place that attracts and inspires live musicians. The result is a three-tiered music hall in which every detail has been designed to optimize the live performance experience, from sight lines, lighting and acoustics to green rooms, equipment access and concierge service.
The story of World Cafe Live starts with a coincidence.
As a dedicated concert-goer, Hal Real had become increasingly disenchanted over the years with the smoky rooms, lousy sight lines, tinny acoustics and inadequate seating that have become the standard live music experience.
And then he heard a voice. Specifically, the voice of David Dye, host of a contemporary music program on public radio called World Café. On the Cafe Hal heard everything he’d been missing in the clubs: talented artists in a nurturing environment, free from distractions, taking risks and playing their guts out for an appreciative audience.
At the same time, WXPN, where World Cafe is produced, had outgrown its studios and was seeking a new home. And so the moment Hal called the station to propose joining forces was the moment of conception for World Cafe Live.
Hal’s company, Real Entertainment Group, and WXPN, which is owned and operated by the University of Pennsylvania, have entered into a unique partnership between a for-profit and a non-profit organization. Sharing work space and a common philosophy, WXPN and World Cafe Live have forged what may become a prototype for future relationships between public broadcasters and private enterprise.
Opened in 2004 at 3025 Walnut Street in Philadelphia, World Cafe Live was designed to change the landscape for artists and audiences of all ages. The result is a new model of what a modern music venue can and should be, providing pristine acoustics, clear sight lines, comfortable seating and fine food and drink. Add to that: an amazing staff, over 500 ticketed concerts each year, and shows that usually start by 7:30 and end by 10:30 so it’s possible to go out on a weeknight and still get to work the next day!
Now in its second generation with the opening of World Cafe Live – Wilmington (DE) on April 1, 2011, the WCL model has been endorsed by artists, embraced by audiences and emulated by other new venues around the country. World Cafe Live is in the process of exploring expansion opportunities to bring Live Music for Grownups® to other cities.