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Booking gigs - how far do you listen to the "you have to fill the room" demand?


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#1
NYFrank

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I thought this might trigger some interesting dialog.

 

So, your band is doing new bookings for the year, and you come to the venue that is willing to give you a date, reluctantly, but says you "better fill the room."  

 

Now, of course the band shares some responsibility to market the gig and get some people there.  But so does the venue.   When the venue lays that on thick, what do you do?   Do you:

 

1. Pass on the gig [if you don't have a band that can Consistently count on a following?

 

or

 

2. Take the gig, but knowing it's probably a one and done?


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#2
equipmentdork

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To me, every gig is like that. You can be 5 deep to the bar for years, have one bad gig, and be persona non grata INSTANTLY.

 

I wouldn't sign on if I knew for a fact I couldn't get people to come, because people do talk and you don't want the rep as the band who doesn't draw.

 

 

 

Dan


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#3
NYFrank

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To me, every gig is like that. You can be 5 deep to the bar for years, have one bad gig, and be persona non grata INSTANTLY.

 

I wouldn't sign on if I knew for a fact I couldn't get people to come, because people do talk and you don't want the rep as the band who doesn't draw.

 

 

 

Dan

 

I kinda feel that way, too.  This situation is with a new band I joined recently.  Everyone is experienced, but these guys seem to have a take-everything-you-can-get approach.  I don't know if I'm comfortable with that, especially since I am doing some of the bookings.  I would prefer to feel real good about the band to venue match and the ability to get people to the gig when accepting the booking.   I'm sorta kinda known in the area for live music promotion, and I don't want to crap that out with failed gigs.  

I have had many bandmates in history who laughed off failed gigs with - "well, we just got paid to practice" - but I'm not that guy.  I don't like playing to an empty house.  Nothing funny or fun about that at all.  
 


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#4
equipmentdork

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To me, every gig is like that. You can be 5 deep to the bar for years, have one bad gig, and be persona non grata INSTANTLY.

 

I wouldn't sign on if I knew for a fact I couldn't get people to come, because people do talk and you don't want the rep as the band who doesn't draw.

 

 

 

Dan

 

I kinda feel that way, too.  This situation is with a new band I joined recently.  Everyone is experienced, but these guys seem to have a take-everything-you-can-get approach.  I don't know if I'm comfortable with that, especially since I am doing some of the bookings.  I would prefer to feel real good about the band to venue match and the ability to get people to the gig when accepting the booking.   I'm sorta kinda known in the area for live music promotion, and I don't want to crap that out with failed gigs.  

I have had many bandmates in history who laughed off failed gigs with - "well, we just got paid to practice" - but I'm not that guy.  I don't like playing to an empty house.  Nothing funny or fun about that at all.  
 

 

 

 

I'm sure you're familiar with playing with a band who draws, but one week, there's a perfect storm of ALL the regulars being unavailable to see your show :(

 

 

Dan


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#5
Tinman

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We have solved this problem somwhat by playing for the door.  We get that money 100% and the venue gets the revenue from food, drinks, etc.  If the venue isn't making money, that's on them.


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#6
repete

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my band (covers) books gigs were there is all ready an audience of people out to see live music - they may be out for dinner and or drinks

but they are also there to hear live music. We rely on the venue to use social media just as much as we do to get people in the door and once

they are in we usually make them stay because we're a good band. We have bad, good and great nights but we don't usually get blamed for bad turnouts


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#7
mgdrummer

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Our band draws pretty well in certain areas, others not so much.  If it's a room outside of those areas chances are we will have to settle for a small guarantee or a door deal.  We won't promise anyone anything simply because you never know what may affect the draw.  Lack of promotion on the venue's part, possibly lack of promotion on our part (ie. didn't get them our posters in time, etc.) bad weather, other events in the area, even sporting events have all negatively impacted the our turnout in the past.


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#8
xsabers

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If the venue relies solely on the band to bring in customers, I pass. There has to be a team effort; the band has to draw some fans but the venue needs a customer base and an equal share in the responsibility to promote. This is where some venues shoot themselves in the foot. They will book a bad band who will bring a crowd, chasing off any chance that the regulars will consider their venue in the future as the music quality is hit or miss. They can be myopic focusing on each night in isolation instead of building their brand and reputation.


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#9
equipmentdork

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I truly believe that 90% of bars/clubs succeed in spite of themselves. Most of these owners are the biggest morons in the business. They have zero idea how to promote and keep people coming in, and are either nasty or dismissive of acts who can get people in the door. I wish I could tell you how many times a band of mine has packed a place, with our following ordering expensive food and drinks, only to have to fight to get subsequent bookings or even a phone call returned. It's unbelievable, and they are largely all the same. It took watching Bar Rescue to realize that many of these people have no background in business or inherited it from family. I am certain it's a challenge to run a bar, but promotion is essential.....there's simply too much competition. Websites are not updated(showing who is playing), flyers are not put up in the place....it's the things that take 2 seconds to do that make me nuts.

 

 

Dan


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#10
Olderschool

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If the venue relies solely on the band to bring in customers, I pass. There has to be a team effort; the band has to draw some fans but the venue needs a customer base and an equal share in the responsibility to promote. This is where some venues shoot themselves in the foot. They will book a bad band who will bring a crowd, chasing off any chance that the regulars will consider their venue in the future as the music quality is hit or miss. They can be myopic focusing on each night in isolation instead of building their brand and reputation.

I agree. I could never understand the logic that a band that plays once or twice a month is supposed to be responsible for a bar's success after they generate a lousy reputation.. We aren't responsible for serving crappy food, watered down drinks, lousy service, etc..It should be the other way around. Is your bar popular enough for our band to play there?

I guess if the bar relied completely on live music to draw crowds but here in The Keys, live music is simply a side entertainment. Everyone wants week old mahi served under a tiki hut  :roll:


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#11
atomicmorganic

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Some rooms can't draw a crowd with any band. Some are always full no matter who the band is. Not always your fault.


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#12
xsabers

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Some rooms can't draw a crowd with any band. Some are always full no matter who the band is. Not always your fault.

Oh no, play at a place the first time and if there is no crowd, IT'S ALWAYS YOUR FAULT (at least in the eye of the venue!)...  We played at a nice place years ago and the lady who owned the place met us at the door and layed down the law. Very strict guidelines and she mentioned 3 or 4 times how she hoped we had been promoting the gig. I personally counted about 30 people that I brought, but her regulars were MIA. It was a rainy night and as we were loading out, I spoke to a guy who drove a mini-van offering rides to folks leaving the various bars in town (this was pre-Uber). He said every place in town was dead that night. But guess who the owner blamed? Yep, and we haven't been back. Hell, we were so bad, we shut the whole town down apparently. Some owners don't want to hear it..so see, it is clearly YOUR FAULT!     


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#13
whitzmusic

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Initially, when our alt-rock band first started with gigs, we chose option #2, knowing that we may not play at that venue again in a long time. These days, it's a lot different and we usually choose #1, though even the job of deciding that is quite rare.


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#14
auto.pilot

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Truth is that many bars have a built in crowd and many bands can't keep them there all night.  We talk about the band's ability to keep people on the dance floor and keep the bar crowded.  A couple of us are also very social, chatting with everyone during breaks rather than ignoring them.  Bar owners love this, because it will bring people back the next time you are booked.  If a band could fill a bar, why not just rent a hall, sell tickets and bypass the bar completely?  It's a silly argument, but all-too-common.  

 

Jim


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#15
Bri6366

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These discussions always remind me of episodes of "Bar Rescue" that deal with this very problem. After all, if the venue doesn't bring anything to the table, a resourceful band can rent a room, get a few kegs and keep all the profits for themselves. The better bands I've played in that had a booking agent never had a problem because we were playing great rooms that always had a crowd. I've also been in my share of mediocre bands that, as said above, would take any gig for any amount of money and that's where we ran into problems. In those cases both the venues and the bands tended to be low hanging fruit. 

 

 

While I would agree that bringing in people is a shared responsibility, the whole "It's the band's responsibility to draw people" mindset is BS. It's also a bad business model because the bar owner is essentially outsourcing promoting the bar to other people who may or may no have a clue as to what they're doing. Paying entertainment is part of the cost of doing business. The bar has  to pay through the nose for a digital juke box. They have to pay for TV's and cable packages in order to show sports games on TV. But when it comes to hiring a band it's all the sudden the band's responsibility to bring in the crowd. 


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#16
Olderschool

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These discussions always remind me of episodes of "Bar Rescue" that deal with this very problem. After all, if the venue doesn't bring anything to the table, a resourceful band can rent a room, get a few kegs and keep all the profits for themselves. The better bands I've played in that had a booking agent never had a problem because we were playing great rooms that always had a crowd. I've also been in my share of mediocre bands that, as said above, would take any gig for any amount of money and that's where we ran into problems. In those cases both the venues and the bands tended to be low hanging fruit. 

 

 

While I would agree that bringing in people is a shared responsibility, the whole "It's the band's responsibility to draw people" mindset is BS. It's also a bad business model because the bar owner is essentially outsourcing promoting the bar to other people who may or may no have a clue as to what they're doing. Paying entertainment is part of the cost of doing business. The bar has  to pay through the nose for a digital juke box. They have to pay for TV's and cable packages in order to show sports games on TV. But when it comes to hiring a band it's all the sudden the band's responsibility to bring in the crowd. 

Very well said.....and spot on!


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#17
Bri6366

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^Thanks!


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#18
xsabers

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These discussions always remind me of episodes of "Bar Rescue" that deal with this very problem. After all, if the venue doesn't bring anything to the table, a resourceful band can rent a room, get a few kegs and keep all the profits for themselves. The better bands I've played in that had a booking agent never had a problem because we were playing great rooms that always had a crowd. I've also been in my share of mediocre bands that, as said above, would take any gig for any amount of money and that's where we ran into problems. In those cases both the venues and the bands tended to be low hanging fruit. 

 

 

While I would agree that bringing in people is a shared responsibility, the whole "It's the band's responsibility to draw people" mindset is BS. It's also a bad business model because the bar owner is essentially outsourcing promoting the bar to other people who may or may no have a clue as to what they're doing. Paying entertainment is part of the cost of doing business. The bar has  to pay through the nose for a digital juke box. They have to pay for TV's and cable packages in order to show sports games on TV. But when it comes to hiring a band it's all the sudden the band's responsibility to bring in the crowd. 

Half a mind to copy and paste this and send anonymous emails to a couple of dozen local venues...  


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#19
Slippy

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my band usually books venues that have a captive audience.. Fesitvals, Fairs, and other places that have several other bands in the bill. I would never take a gig that a promoter told us "we better pack the venue" cause that's just setting yourself up! no matter how many people you bring in its never gong to be enough..... unless your great white and you fill a small bar with 3x the people it should hold.
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#20
xsabers

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my band usually books venues that have a captive audience.. Fesitvals, Fairs, and other places that have several other bands in the bill. I would never take a gig that a promoter told us "we better pack the venue" cause that's just setting yourself up! no matter how many people you bring in its never gong to be enough..... unless your great white and you fill a small bar with 3x the people it should hold.

You should consider the prison circuit...

 

:laughing3:


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