OT - Bands feeling exploited by venues should read this

Sneauman

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Wow, $75 / night?

This guy makes total sense, I bet it is difficult to get club owners to see his point, many of them don't have the benefit of a real business education. A lot of them come from the school of hard knocks, and can be short-sighted. Watch "Bar Rescue" on Spike sometime, an endless parade of clueless bar owners.

Good luck to all you gigging musicians out there!

I haven't gigged in 14 years, sounds like it has changed, I was just speaking to an old friend who plays in Indianapolis, she told me that most bars require a press kit and still don't pay very well. But after all, it is a labor of love, isn't it!
 

bellbrass

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Great article; preaching to the choir, yet there are a bunch of musicians (including quite a few drummers here) who will keep on playing for free, night after night, and making it hard for the rest of us.
 
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biggator

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Sneauman said:
Wow, $75 / night?

This guy makes total sense, I bet it is difficult to get club owners to see his point, many of them don't have the benefit of a real business education. A lot of them come from the school of hard knocks, and can be short-sighted. Watch "Bar Rescue" on Spike sometime, an endless parade of clueless bar owners.
Hoo, boy. Story time!

The club I ran sound at (great place) closed down and most of the staff went over to another new venue. New owners were...not the brightest bulbs.

My friend's band is playing..Friday night, lots of promo, good band, mid 90s.. Place was packed. The band had made a deal for pay plus portion of door. This was the peak of the Fort Lauderdale scene, so the club was rockin. They were probably owed $800-1000.

2am rolls around and the band is trying to collect.. Dim bulb #1 is trying to short them... And begins lecturing the guy negotiating for the band (who happened to be the drummer) about how he "doesn't understand how business works".

So the drummer whips out his business card... (His name), CPA , CMA, expert witness

Dim bulb #1 asks "so what do all these letters after your name mean?"
 

biggator

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Funny.. Started reading the article and it seemed familiar.. Then I noticed that it's almost three years old and I think we've discussed it here before.
 

tommykat1

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This story was posted here when it was originally published. Salient points, all.
 

tommykat1

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biggator said:
Funny.. Started reading the article and it seemed familiar.. Then I noticed that it's almost three years old and I think we've discussed it here before.
+1 Oops! Sorry! You posted just as I was writing, Biggator...
 

stickinthemud

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Short version: You can't fight simple supply and demand.

Long version:

The writer of the article trots out the same old analogy that as many times as it is repeated, remains inaccurate and irrelevant. Comparing playing music to serving food or wine ignores one very important point - people love making music, and they will do it even when there is no money in it. They will do it even when it costs them money. No one pours wine or cooks meals for strangers as a hobby (friends, yes, but that's not the same as what someone running a restaurant does). There is simply no comparison between the two. Oh, and anyone who thinks the investment involved in putting together a performing band comes anywhere near the investment (not to mention risk) involved in opening a restaurant is simply ignorant.

Bottom line is, as long as a business owner can get passably decent entertainment free of charge, they will opt for that over entertainment they have to pay for. Furthermore, if they think that they can prevail on the entertainers to bring people, they will.

People want to paint the club owners as greedy. Granted, some are, but club owners are not there to make life nice for musicians. They are there to make a profit, plain and simple. Musicians who pen these "open letters" chose to ignore two simple facts: There are more competent musicians available than there are places for them to play, and fewer and fewer people who value the live music experience.

Now, an analogy that does make sense is between the quality of food a restaurant offers and the quality of music a club offers. People are willing to pay a lot more for really well-prepared, creative meal served in a nice atmosphere than they are for a cheap burger, fries, and a coke. By the same token, people are willing to pay a big chunk of change to see musicians at the top of their game presenting a performance that is memorable and compelling. However, being merely competent is not enough if you want people to lay down their money.

There are a lot of people out there that are convinced they are something special because they can play an instrument and sing. Maybe they are special, but only in the Barney-the-Dinosaur sense of the word. The fact is, people with good voices and musical ability abound, and anyone who thinks that a club owner owes them anything more than what they could pay someone else to do the very same thing for is, in a word, delusional.

As much as we who make music wish it were otherwise, people do not value live musical performances as they once did. So, if you want to be paid to play, be prepared to give the people something that first of all they really want, and second of all they cannot get elsewhere.
 

Coco Nabes

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A band I used to play in eventually started boycotting clubs that repeatedly ripped us off. We would try to get the bar to let us have our own guy on the door and they would always inevitably refuse. It made it pretty obvious that they were skimming the door. Well, that and the fact that a place would be packed to the gills and the owner would hand me $100 at the end of the night. Didn't really solve anything. We just had one less place to play and other bands were more than happy to play for peanuts.
 

Titus Pullo

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I'd like a poll of how many here think that going to a nightclub and paying $5 a drink to eat unidentified deep-fried meat while yelling across the table because five Boomers are blasting 80s rock is how best to spend a weekend night.
 

Polska

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Sorry, I missed that this had been posted a few years ago. I wouldn't say all the responsibility is on the club to provide, but if you are primarily a live music club (with finger foods on the side) than i believe you should be checking out the bands press kits, maybe have an open mic that new bands play first in order to play a prime weekend gig. You can't just hire any band looking for a gig, but on the other hand you also can't expect the band to fill your club for you.

One reason some of these points hit home for me was a recent booking experience. I contacted a club that provides a forum for original music. Usually they have 2 or 3 bands on a bill for a weekend night. I sent the usual press kit with pics, links to music, past gigs etc. The guy told me he'd "keep us in mind" which is fine. While not the "we'll book you" response I was hoping for, it's the response I expected (and at least he replied). Then in the next sentence he says, "And if you know of 2 other bands and would like to set up a music showcase then let me know and we can work out a date". Oh okay...excuse me, but it is YOUR music club right? You don't serve food, it's all live music but your responsibility in this case is going to be to simply host the event while you want ME to contact 2 other bands, arrange a mutually agreeable date for all of US and then let YOU know when we'd like you to book us? How the hell is that my job at all?? Would you like me to offer them money out of my pocket too?

I told my band about it and the bass player said, "Well that's probably the only way we'll get in there" and I'm like, "Fine, #*& it, YOU book it if you want to". It's hard enough to arrange practice time with 3 people much less book a gig with 3 bands. I'm more than willing to pound the pavement for shows, but I'm not going to be hiring the other bands too. I don't know, to me that just sounds like complete crap.
 

wflkurt

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I have never owned a bar so it would be wrong of me to comment from that perspective but I have been playing out in clubs and everywhere else since 1990 when I graduated high school. Everythging this guy says seems to makes sense to me. It's sad because in 1991 when I was getting very active, gigs would pay 100 bucks, gas was under a dollar and people would always be out. I'm sure the no smoking has hurt things to a degree but I know I love being able to breath and not stink at the end of the night! Nowadays a lot of clubs won't hire a band unless they have at least 1000 facebook fans. All we can do is post all of our events on all the social media we can but we can't force people to go out.

It seems like a lot of the places we play barely do ANYTHING to advertise or help themselves. We played a bar around here over last summer and it was a pretty small place. We did our usual facebook hit as well as all of the avenues of promotion but most of our friends do not live anywhere near this place and it was a brand new room for us. As we set up I had to be crammed as far back as I could with barely any wiggle room. The owner was a loud mouth macho guy and had told us to move back as far as we could. We overheard him telling a customer that "these band kind are stupid and you have to tell them everything to get it right". That started the night off just great.... The room seemed like it had a decent crowd since it was so small but at the end of the night the owner chewed out our manager saying "Big award winning band? Where are all you fans?" He was a toltal jackass and treated us all like we were way beneath him. We vowed never to play a place like that and a month later the guy went out of business.

I'm glad I enjoy playing so much because it sure can be a lot to put up with at times. Fortuantely we have a good manager that works hard for us so that we don't get screwed. He sure busts his butt though!
 

fun2drum

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I personally don't think there have been as many young people learning to play instruments in recent years, at least not at a serious level. Maybe as we older musicians finally retire from playing out, the supply and demand part of the scenario will improve in the musicians' favor again.
 

gwbasley

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The first time this came around I forwarded it to our leader who does most of the booking. He has actually used this argument when negotiating with club owners, and to great success. Here is a prime example:

About a year ago, after playing as "House Band" in a Florida waterside restaurant / bar for over 3 years, the owner made an announcement to a packed house that he was closing as of that night. Everyone, band and customers alike, were dumfounded. Why close your doors at the height of the season when you are getting SRO crowds? He went on to say that he would be opening a new place, but without food...just drinking and dancing. Again, it seemed odd that if you had something that was working so well, you would wait until the slow part of the season to make a switch, right? When he finally opened his new place , the crowds were thinning out and heading back north. He had us back for the opening but, at the end of the night, handed us a cut in pay claiming that we didn't bring the people like before. So rather than point out how this was a major screw up by the owner, our leader just read him the riot act directly from this article, and politely turned down an invitation to return, (at lower pay). Our crowd had also left unhappy as they, being in the 50+ age group, wanted to eat dinner before a night of drinking and dancing. To top it off, they had been hit with a $5 cover at the door, and we are not talking about a downtown city location.

About a year has gone by and the owner has had his epiphany...no more cover...the kitchen is open...he is advertising on TV and Radio,,, and he approached us apologetically and practically begged us to come back just about writing our own ticket. It took some time and pain at the cash register, but he finally saw the light.
 

drummerbill

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The classic rock / cover band I gig with is booked out till 2016, and all of us 50+ y.o.'ers are happy with playing for $100 - $125 a man. {Same money as in the 70's except inflation makes it a "whole lot less"} I know you full timers are cringing but "it is what it is". No pay to plays or door gigs for us.

The thing is, if you are good enough, you can weed out the clubs that are notorious for screwing us working musicians. Luckily we play regular rotation on clubs where the owners actually throw a couple hundred extra if the bar #'s are good ! :wink: Keep em' sweating, they are drinking'.....$$$$$$s are good. IMHO

IMHO. I feel for those struggling to play originals from their hearts and dealing with scumbag clubowners from hell !! :wink:
 

biggator

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wflkurt said:
I have never owned a bar so it would be wrong of me to comment from that perspective but I have been playing out in clubs and everywhere else since 1990 when I graduated high school. Everythging this guy says seems to makes sense to me. It's sad because in 1991 when I was getting very active, gigs would pay 100 bucks, gas was under a dollar and people would always be out.
Man.. in the early 90's - the club I worked was paying bands $700-1500 depending on how much they'd pack the place. Good bands could routinely bring home 2k in door + merch on a Saturday night. Those days are no more.
 

studrum

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Polska said:
Sorry, I missed that this had been posted a few years ago. I wouldn't say all the responsibility is on the club to provide, but if you are primarily a live music club (with finger foods on the side) than i believe you should be checking out the bands press kits, maybe have an open mic that new bands play first in order to play a prime weekend gig. You can't just hire any band looking for a gig, but on the other hand you also can't expect the band to fill your club for you.

One reason some of these points hit home for me was a recent booking experience. I contacted a club that provides a forum for original music. Usually they have 2 or 3 bands on a bill for a weekend night. I sent the usual press kit with pics, links to music, past gigs etc. The guy told me he'd "keep us in mind" which is fine. While not the "we'll book you" response I was hoping for, it's the response I expected (and at least he replied). Then in the next sentence he says, "And if you know of 2 other bands and would like to set up a music showcase then let me know and we can work out a date". Oh okay...excuse me, but it is YOUR music club right? You don't serve food, it's all live music but your responsibility in this case is going to be to simply host the event while you want ME to contact 2 other bands, arrange a mutually agreeable date for all of US and then let YOU know when we'd like you to book us? How the hell is that my job at all?? Would you like me to offer them money out of my pocket too?

I told my band about it and the bass player said, "Well that's probably the only way we'll get in there" and I'm like, "Fine, #*& it, YOU book it if you want to". It's hard enough to arrange practice time with 3 people much less book a gig with 3 bands. I'm more than willing to pound the pavement for shows, but I'm not going to be hiring the other bands too. I don't know, to me that just sounds like complete crap.
I agree with you completely that this (non)approach by club bookers is a complete load. I will add thst it is absolutely a product of the digital age. We love that we no longer have to send (at great expense) those CD/cassette w/REAL 8x10s', all mailed in a big mailpak, but now clubs are inundated with the easy digital send, and they know that you can get on social/digital media yourself, scour for like-minded bands (which can be a good thing), connect with them, and set it all up yourself.

I first encountered this about six years ago, when the original alt country band I was in, which had a very knowledgeable, super-talented leader, set up much of an entire 18 date tour from Mich. to Texas to Cali, up to Seattle and Portland and back, (Salt Lake City! Kilby Court!) giging all the way out and back, pretty much with that "Go ahead, the night's your's. Set it up and get back to me" mentality from club non-bookers. We made it work, but it is disgusting that there is no actual curation at these venues anymore, which you used to get - original music venues, where folks aren't often making much money, but the guys running the place were into the scene, know what bands are good, and put together nights based on that. Now it's "Just go on the internet and do it yourself, dude." It's a shame.
 

tommykat1

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Titus Pullo said:
I'd like a poll of how many here think that going to a nightclub and paying $5 a drink to eat unidentified deep-fried meat while yelling across the table because five Boomers are blasting 80s rock is how best to spend a weekend night.
As long as I'm playing, I'm happy to be there--eating the complimentary dinner, drinking a couple of complimentary beers, and getting paid for a decent night's work.
 

shilohjim

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Nothing worse than going into a live music venue and hearing a bunch of balding fatasses playing horrible southern rock, badly. And this is becoming the the norm rather than the exception, especially around these parts.
 


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