Small and affordable is the way to start. It is entirely possible to do hour long versions of entertainment out in the boonies and make it work. Even though gas prices are high, now so many are avoiding the eating out circuit and the movies have to be really up to be par. An event that is a limited time you have to do it or wait a whole year has a sence of urgency to it. Also to some it is enjoyable to have a destination out of the city where it might be a little less hustle and bustle.
size comes down totally to available resource. I have seen very energetic and succesful draws happen on the other side of the reservior in a pole barn behind grandpa's mobile home and smiled the whole way through.
The trick that those business men have not (or haven't yet ) had to learn is how to social network and market.
For example. On my myspace page, a band wanted to be my friend. The comment that came with this request was that they are from California and are playing in my town on a certain date. I didn't add them as freinds but, I am now aware of this gig. So, I scope out their page and it actually has even TV clips of them describing the tour and how they use facebook and myspace to just the week before ask EVERYONE reguardless of their presumed demographic that has a page in the next town to be their friend with this notice. If their music that was there to sample didn't suck I might have gone out of my way to support them by going. They have the marketing part, all being done on the road from wifi connections out of a dodge van with a trailer on it.
So, they can fill a place for a night, sell some lame Cds. and of course there have been other methods of advertising by the venue locally I'm sure.
Then there is this word of mouth thing. I just told you because it was kind of creative and if their music didn't suck and we were in the same town, it would be hey dude lets go pay a cover charge and check out the babes that think these guys might be cool.
Of course if their music sucks only deformed chicks will show but, that's who buys records right now tonight if you sign their copy.
On the first part, I'm all about operating with in your means and letting the customer base catch up or having the tools and waiting for the customers to prove some patronage. Just do the best you can to provide some facilities.
Another fabulous post from the U.S.Department of Wild Imaginings, now in spectaclar stereo, sponsored by the Adhesives and Sealants Council, suggesting ways to stick things together since the 1800s. Not fabulous in a gay way. Your results may vary. Illinois residents add 8% sales tax. These posts have been made by professional post makers, do not try this type of posting on your own without extensive training, lovely assistants and a trusty clown horn.