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All original band in a pickle

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by bassontherun, Aug 26, 2005.

  1. bassontherun


    Jul 9, 2005
    My band has found itself in an interesting predicament and I'm looking for thoughts and suggestions. The band started, like most bands, as a cover band with a few originals. Over the years we've grown INCREDIBLY tired of playing covers and have built up a pretty fair list of original material (about 30 songs with new ones introduced every couple of weeks-- we're getting much more serious about writing).

    After much discussion, we decided to drop covers all together (we've only been playing one or two per set lately) and take what gigs we can get as an original band. All members are firm on this commitment and happy to be going this direction.

    Here's the rub...... We are in the (very) far north Houston suburbs, and 99.9% of the venues that we have access to are covers ONLY! The only original music you will find in this neck of the wood is straight up biker blues and country. We are definitely neither of these (we play melodic rock and harder rock). If you play rock in this neighborhood, it had better be hackneyed classic rock (thus our utter distain of covers). I've suggested that we try our hands at the clubs inside the Loop in Houston (lots of original down there), but the members of the band are legitimately limited in the amount of time they can spend working venues to book gigs (we will also lose any following that we currently carry--they just simply won't drive that far). As the good venues in Houston are an hour (or better) away, and we all have full-time day jobs, going this route just isn't in the cards, yet.

    Like every other band in town, we were making $300 for our cover shows. We are definitely not getting booked at this price for originals (we don't carry a big following....I know, our own faults). We are now floating the idea of reducing our price to about $100 per gig so that we can play more regularly.

    I'm really torn on this one. By reducing our price, we undercut all of the musicians in our area. We surely are not trying to torque any of our fellow musicians, but it seem inevitable. On the other hand, we are all in our 30's and 40's and our friends and families aren't generally into the bar scene. As such, we are a bit behind the 8-ball when trying to start a large following (we have a very consistent 20 to 30 folks who come to our small/medium club shows). We have booked gigs with other original and cover bands to try to introduce a broader palate of music, but it has been a much bigger pain in the butt than it was worth in almost every case. Although we may continue this practice to some degree, we are focusing on one-band-only shows.

    I'm hoping that some of my Forum bretheren have been in this position and may have some positive insight. Flaming me (us) for looking at low-pay gigs won't be of much help (I'm already pretty disgusted by the thought, but may have little choice if we want to gig without turning this into a regional tour). Thanks for any thoughts you may have!! (BTW- tried a search on this, but didn't come up with much outside of the flames to other folks who were playing for free/pittance....). If someone is familiar with a particular thread that covers this, please point me in the right direction!!
  2. cheezewiz

    cheezewiz Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2002
    That's an interesting problem. Let me say though, we have one band of "kids" (18-20 year olds), going around underpricing all the local bands so they can get booked, and it pisses me off to no end.
  3. Maybe you should play covers, but add originals in as well. It might be the only way to get gigs short of undercutting everyone else.
  4. There's cover bands, and there's original bands. They don't make the same money or play at the same bars usually.

    You may find that $100 a gig for original bands in the area isn't really undercutting anybody, you may be pricing yourself out of the market instead... Talk to some other bands if they'll share that info, remember, it's in their best interest to make sure you don't undercut their prices too.

  5. bassontherun


    Jul 9, 2005
    Thanks for the input! Looking forward to others' takes, as well. Lady-- we've already worked through the "all covers", "mostly covers", "some covers" and "very few covers", so going backward isn't really going to suit us. Good point, Randy. As we haven't made the full-out push as an original band, yet, maybe we will see that the pay scales are, in fact, different! As well, Houston and its 'burbs are so stinkin' big, most bands don't network the same way they will in a place like San Francisco (my last hometown). I kinda miss the San Fran scene, where original music was the rule, and no one got paid much (if any). At least here, it's easier to keep the finances close to the vest.

    Thanks again, all!
  6. Tingly


    Jul 16, 2005
    Yonkers, NY
    Like any other business, a working band has a "market" that it "serves." It appears that you are turning your back on the market that has supported you. That requires that you go elsewhere, to where the market exists, for the product you are now putting out.

    Original work requires a more sophisticated audience. From what you wrote, Houston is probably where you'll find them.
  7. You have to think about where you want to go musically.

    For me, it has always been about writing my own songs and recording at least one album with said songs. I like playing music, and I can see how you benefit from playing covers, but it's not where my heart lies. So I'll keep playing them until I can fill a show with my own songs.

    Imho, there will always be room for originals bands, so I agree with what Tingly wrote. I realise that I'm lucky to be in a country that a) is small and b) is so musically diverse, but I'd say: move out to go play gig in places that want you. You can always charge them for the costs of transporting band+gear.
  8. If you were all 18 - 20 year old naive players hoping to "make it big" with your own material, I could possibly see the sense in going down the route you are considering. :eyebrow:

    Things being as they are, though, if you are all 30 - 40 with established families/careers etc and all that goes with them, all you will achieve is to be playing less often for less money to an audience which may well be less appreciative. The only UP side being that you get to play "your own material". :eek: :eek:

    Forgive me, but that seems kind of silly to me. :meh: :meh:
  9. theshadow2001


    Jun 17, 2004
    The rest of the members in my band are more or less sick of playing covers. I admit that the songs we play are deffinitely not what interests me musically but at the same time I still enjoying playing the music. Simply because I enjoy playing for playings sake.

    I realise that there's no money in original music especially compared to what can be earned in covers. What I intend to do is play covers gigs and also play originals only gigs. This might involve having a second name for the band to fufil this dual purpose.

    We can use money from the cover gigs to make studio recordings of original music and we can use it to cover costs of playing showcase gigs where I expect the pay to be between almost nothing and absolutley nothing. We can also use the money to hand out free CD's of our music at original gigs promoting the bands music. The main thing is we would be getting our music out there and hopefully making some waves as well while at the same time making some money for ourselves playing covers and what not.

    Bassicinstinct is right though if you go soley down the original route:

    "all you will achieve is to be playing less often for less money to an audience which may well be less appreciative. The only UP side being that you get to play your own material".

    One of the plus sides of playing here I haven't experienced bands undercutting prices. Bars can pay between €300 and €1800 for a covers band to play depending on the venue and the band. But the way it is here is one night you might have a €750 band playing while the next you have a €1200 band playing. Sometimes you get bars the won't pay over x amount but it's the band that states the price and not the bar in my experience.

    Another thing we often play gigs over 2 hour drive away it could also run up on 3 hours and in the future maybe a little further. Our singer and guitarists have full time jobs but are willing to sacrifice a nights sleep to get playing. It does take a high level of commitment to a band to do something like this as well.

    Anyways there's some food for thought
  10. bassontherun


    Jul 9, 2005
    In most cases, the money earned at gigs is a big focus for the band. In our case, however, the money is almost a non-factor. We have our own recording and CD production equipment and none of us need the cash to suppliment or regular income. Funny, we used to think this was a good thing!! ;) I guess we must move forward and tread lightly.

    Thanks again, all!!
  11. If I may ask a silly question... and I really don't want to sound stupid here...

    You said you play mostly original material with one or two covers... now how do you manage to do that in clubs that only book cover bands?

    And the second, hopefully more helpful chapter of my reply:

    Surely it makes sense to play one cheesy song per gig if that solves all your problems?
  12. bassontherun


    Jul 9, 2005
    Actually, that is a very good question! Hadn't really discussed that above. In our case, we found that as we moved the ratio higher and higher toward originals, we were not getting new bookings at the clubs that booked covers. We are finding (rather unscientific, but appears to be true) that we need to play well over half covers to get repeat gigs (one or two originals per set seems about the norm).

    If I had a lick of sense, I'd buy a bar and have an instanty house band! ;)
  13. It's my opinion that when most folks go out for an evening of relaxation, they prefer to listen to music they're familiar with, whether they're dancing or just drinking.

    My band plays strictly covers. While that may seem boring, we work hard at entertaining the crowd, and they seem to appreciate it. We make some pretty decent money playing private parties....

    So at my age, I have no desire to play originals in an empty club for no pay. But that's just me. :D
  14. +1. Leave that for the kids I say. ;) ;)
  15. steers b-c

    steers b-c

    Aug 23, 2005
    Austin, Texas
    If you can find a place in Houston that will book original bands without large followings for a set $100, let me know. We do nothing but originals, have good press and relations with the clubs in Austin, get on great bills, and only on a rare occasion do we get more than about $60.
  16. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    Man, I hope that is 60 a piece!?!?!?

    If you are playing originals and hope to get a record deal than money isn't the issue. You want to play as much as possible to expose the music and get a following. Playing for "free"will promote your objective. I mean the goal is to be good enough at what you are selling to eventually get pay that is actually going to provide income. This may take some time. There is so much talent out there. You have to persivere and hope that you catch on in a social context and become a valued commodity somehow. Then you set the price.

    Leave originals for the younger folks. WHY :confused:
  17. steers b-c

    steers b-c

    Aug 23, 2005
    Austin, Texas
    Nope, total. Often less, occasionally more. I can count the number of times we've made over $100 as a band on one hand. Welcome to Austin, "Live Music Capital of the World." Saturation level is beyond all comprehension around here, but the truth is it doesn't get all that much better anywhere in Texas. We've played gigs with pretty large bands in terms of the type of music we do, we've been part of the cover story for the weekly, we can book shows at all the good clubs in town with an email...and this is the kind of pay that is standard. Now, I must confess that we don't do commercially friendly stuff at all...mostly instrumental noise/metal/rock, but we've managed to pack places out. I consider anything over $50 good pay, honestly.
  18. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Ha.. Yeah - I've recently become involved (as audio tech - they haven't even heard me play bass there yet!) with a new, local coffee house that's attempting to be very live-music-centric. (off-topic here - it's absolutely heart-warming and inspiring to me to so many really-GOOD original bands - and many of these musicians are younger than nineteen or twenty years old! Just humbling and inspiring...)

    Anyway: Ohhh-yeah, these original-band kids are just lined-up at the door to play their hearts out for free.

    Now sometimes we get a 'bigger' act in - they get half-the-door. The last one I can think of was The Inkwell Collective, out of Fondulac. They drove out of their home area (maybe an hour-or-more drive down here to West Bend) for half-the-door. Just like Steers said: they walked-out with fifty-four dollars between'em (I was kind of pissed, though, that the venue was supposed to collect the cover, and they WEREN'T very dillegent about it - supposedly only eighteen people payed their $3 cover, but there were WAY-more than that in the house!).