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Auditioning for bar gigs

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by chris4001asat, Nov 10, 2004.

  1. chris4001asat


    Dec 16, 2002
    Toledo, Ohio
    Warehouse Manager : Reverend Guitars
    I'm new to the world of cover bands, and twice so far, we've had to audition at area clubs. Both times, 2 sets, at night. Is this common practice or is the club getting a free night of music? We have a professional live recording, and have played out at least once a month for the past year.
  2. Funkee1


    Jul 19, 2002
    Some clubs require this, but they are usually the clubs that pay the least. One thing you could try is finding out what agent books the clubs in your area, and getting him your demo.

    The downside is you have to pay him 10 or 20 percent.

    However, if you get enough of the other clubs, you may noit have to worry about it.
    Just my 2 cents! good luck!
  3. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Sounds like the club is getting a night of free music, if ya ask me... especially if your demo sounds halfway decent.

    I've never experienced this, but I bet Funkee is right about those clubs being the ones that pay the least... an established working band isn't likely going to play two sets for free. If you're new to the cover band scene, then this may be the sort of thing that "low bands on the totem pole" have to endure in your area until they earn enough cred and/or representation to get into the better clubs... just a guess. If you have other options, I'd avoid those gigs unless the potential opportunity is just too good to pass up (doubt that somehow). :)
  4. mr e

    mr e

    Nov 17, 2003
    go there on open mic night and tear the roof off!

    or, hire a booking agent and play for a guarantee
  5. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Sheesh! When I was on the bigger-side of the music business doing audio, we had agents and managers; the closest thing I can think of was when we'd play a PAID one- or two-nighter to 'try out' for a one or two WEEK gig (I remember we got a 6-week gig at the Silver Dollar Saloon in Vegas after a two-nighter try out. Boy - I'm sure I could think of a couple posts for the 'Gig Stories' forum just from that one!). Anyway - After I got off the road, I ran sound for a couple years with a local band, and they never would have agreed to that! Now I play with a band who hasn't gigged out much, but I can only imagine a big "yeah, RIGHT!" to that idea with us guys. We wouldn't care if we're new in the area or NOT - We're not setting up our equipment for an hour and a half to play for two hours, and then that for FREE! Sheesch - I guess if we ran into a club like that that for some reason we really wanted to play, we'd offer to make a video at our next gig to bring to them or something... maybe, I guess... (We already have a demo CD) Maybe we're just crochetty old men or something, but we might well just decline work at the club if they wanted to dick-around with us like that.

    What? - is there some huge competition in your area or something? I suppose if you're in New York or L.A. or something I could see it working that way.

  6. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Playing free "audition" gigs on an off night has long been a common practice. Onerous sure, but the real question is did you get some paying gigs out of it? If so, don't sweat it, water under the bridge.

    It's when you play freebies and get told "thanks but no thanks" that it's a total drag.
  7. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    ..So that's how they do it in Texachuse... Where?!

  8. Tim Cole

    Tim Cole Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2002
    Findlay, Ohio
    Chris, What clubs were these if you don't mind me asking? I am pretty familiar with the Toldeo clubs, and keep hearing different things on their booking processes. I know the distillery wants you to play a crap night or two to prove yourself, and am told the prime time's, meet market, and others all have the same owner (Kip) and wont even deal with bands unless they are with a booking agency.

    Fact or fiction?

    I've been keeping my eye open for good bands in the Toledo area needing a bass player...the above mentioned clubs are primarily where I would like to play.
  9. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    I did this once. It was only a set and I was out of the place by 9:00, though. You're right - it wound up being a low-paying gig and was a dumpy place to boot. They also wound up double-booking us with a DJ one evening. From what I understand, the bar is under new management. I hope that got their stuff together.

    If you're going to play a set or two for free, you might as well open for a popular band. At least that way you get some exposure to a wide audience.
  10. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I did this once. I will not do it again. Now, my cover band rant:

    If your goal is to get to the top of the cover band scene, then you just may have to do it, BUT, IMO, if you're not going to PACK the place on your audition night, you're doing nothing more than giving the club your playing free entertainment for a night. I feel these clubs take advantage of bands, I think it's a real lowlife practice, and I don't like supporting such places.

    What I think would be a much better thing to do is find bars, any bars, that will book you and pay you and play there. When you're drawing enough people you either won't need the the clubs that make you "audition", or they'll pay you without any of that crap.

    last thing I'm gonna say. Some bar owners, many actually, are frightened creeps that want to get over any way they can with musicians. Their bars are suffering, they hope you will help, and they think your time is worth nothing. The way I see it, if they hire you, THEY'RE taking the gamble. Not you. If nobody shows up in their place it's not your responsibility - unless of course they make this clear beforehand. I can't fault a bar that lays it on the line for me and tells me that they NEED me to bring people. If they do and I agree, and then I don't produce - well, then that's my problem. But back to my point. Many I've found are creeps, but I've found if I simply walk away from those creeps, clear the space for other bars, the universe seems to put some really great people in my path. One of the bars we play offered us their place for an entire day and night to raise money to press our cd - AND WE DID! we kept ALL the money that came in the door, they took only drink money which was nothing because it was an all ages show. the guy who owns the place even donated money and came to our cd release party. another place has us back a couple of times a month and pays us regardless of how many people are there. they put our cd in their jukebox, they request our own music as opposed to covers. they're becoming family. i've written enough.

    i'd say walk away from the guys that leave a questionable taste in your mouth, and stick with the ones that do you well. they're out there. you don't need the others.
  11. Ryan L.

    Ryan L. Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2000
    West Fargo, ND
    I agree with most of what has been said in the above posts. One thing that has been pretty good in my area is that other club owners will come and check bands out when they are playing in another club nearby. We got several gigs that way at different clubs when the owner/manager came to check us out at their competitor's bar. But, this probably isn't the same for all areas of the country. It's probably a different world up here. ;)

    Now that we are with a booking agency, and also have made a pretty good name for ourselves in a wide area, we don't have to worry about it anymore.
  12. HamOnTheCob

    HamOnTheCob Jacob Moore Supporting Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    Cambridge, Ohio, USA
    Endorsing Artist for Warwick Basses, Mesa Engineering, Joyo Technology, Dr. J Pedals, and Levy's Leathers
    Being a fellow gigging Ohioan, I can say from experience that I've run into this a lot. Many clubs around Pittsburgh PA are like this, and I've run into clubs in Cincinnati OH, Covington KY, Kent OH, and Cleveland asking the same sort of things. Maybe it's a regional thing?

    It just depends on how bad you want to play there. If it's a big-time club that has national acts often, it's probably worth it to play a night for free, but if it's "Joe Schmoe's Hole In A Wall" I'd pass.

    Although, I will say that even if we're talking about a national-act type of club, that doesn't guarantee that it's worth doing this. Peabody's in Cleveland is the most shady, back-stabbing, bull****ting venue I've ever played. They have big-time acts, so my band wanted in. We're from about 3hr45min from Cleveland so it was a big ordeal for us, but we thought it was worth it. We did a battle of the bands, where the guy in charge promised us a weekend gig if we sold at least 50 tickets out of 100 (at $8 a pop, none of which we were allowed to keep!). Well, we sold all of them. We went there, played, kicked @$$, had a ton of devoted fans from our area make the long trip just to see us play that show, won and went on to the finals, and in the end got nothing. They made probably around $1300 just from my band's ticket sales for the 2 shows, and then didn't even offer us a gig! If selling out of tickets for an over-priced show almost 4 hours away and actually BRINGING a big crowd that far for a show doesn't prove that your band is deserving of a gig, I don't know what else is.

    Sorry for the rant, just saying that there are no guarantees. This unpaid audition thing might be worth it, it might not. I wish you the absolute best of luck, though. I've never played up in Toledo, but I'd love to be up that way permanently. It's not TOO TOO far from Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus, etc... all of which have thriving music scenes. The metal scenes in those cities, for instance, are some of the strongest in the nation, not to mention I've heard a lot of good about Toledo itself. My aunt and uncle live in Erie, Michigan, which is across the state line from Toledo, and I've been contemplating a move up that way. Though it sounds like getting a gig might be a pain. :)
  13. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    And THAT's why battels of the bands are bad things, especially with clubs that have national acts. No disrespect, but did you honestly think they were going to give you a paying gig when they have national acts there on a regular basis, when you were from WAY out of town, were an unknown, and just because you sold 50 tickets to a multi-band show previously???

    I've played Peabody's many times over the years, mostly in the late 80's early 90's. I opened up for some pretty heavy bands there as freebies (including Steve Morse, the Chick Corea Elektric Band, and others) and did paid gigs there as well, but when a non-national act does a paid gig booking there, it is because they have a local following and will bring people. The few times I saw Peabody's try a non-local, non-pro act there were about 3 people in the house, and they were the band's girlfriends . . .
  14. HamOnTheCob

    HamOnTheCob Jacob Moore Supporting Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    Cambridge, Ohio, USA
    Endorsing Artist for Warwick Basses, Mesa Engineering, Joyo Technology, Dr. J Pedals, and Levy's Leathers
    Did you read anything I wrote? They promised us a weekend slot on a bill. So, yes, I expected to be given one.

    And of all the places I've played, Peabody's is the only place to ever welch on a promise like that. If a club tells you "I'll give you X for doing Y and you do Y and they don't give you X, that's shady. As far as I'm concerned, this situation is on the same plane as a club refusing to pay you after a gig.

    Also, I said nothing about a paid gig. We were promised a slot on a bill on a weekend show. When we went up for the first round, the guy in charge took us upstairs to the office, showed us the calendar and pointed out a few bills we could get on. They were all lesser-known national acts, and we were stoked about the opportunity. When the finals of the BOTB was over, we called them again about one of those bills he offered us and they kept saying "Give us a few days to figure some things out and we'll get back to you." They said this several times. Those shows came and went, wtih no contact from Peabody's, and when we finally DID get a chance to talk to someone, they told our manager "We don't remember ever offering your band any slots." No big deal, I'm not whining. Just saying to beware when a club promises you something.

    And it's not like this is a one-time bad experience. I've played with a bunch of bands from Akron/Cleveland/Youngstown/Columbus who've played there, and I've not run into a single one who was fully satisfied with the way they were treated. Most of them have heard my story and said "Yeah! That's what happened to us!"

    I'm not saying there aren't bands who've had a good experience of it. I'm just saying that in my experience, it seems to be a shady venue. Being in Cleveland, there are always plenty of bands for them to dupe, I guess.

    Oh well.
  15. Gabu


    Jan 2, 2001
    Lake Elsinore, CA
    My band has only played one cover show for free. All the rest were paid. I think if you can play the hits well, then you are providing a low-risk service to the bar, and for that you should be paid. In my experience playing in SoCal, we were paid $250 as a band that had NO following but did play hits.

    Bands I knew that had followings did a lot better. Some of the bands that played Funk and Dance stuff could earn $1000 to $1500 for three sets.

    The only time we played for free was when we were playing at a bar that an agent asked us to play at so he could listen. After that, he booked us for the payed gigs. Also, He got paid by the bar, not by the band.
  16. chris4001asat


    Dec 16, 2002
    Toledo, Ohio
    Warehouse Manager : Reverend Guitars
    Well, we still haven't got a confirmed date from the club owner, but he says that he wants us. It's one of the best clubs in the city to play in. Considering we're a 9 piece band, we need the good clubs to play in since they pay the best.

    Tim, we just got booked at the Distillery. You have to play Thursday, Friday, and Saturday there! Have you found a Toledo band yet? I haven't heard of anyone looking for a bass player yet. We did also book the largest church festival here. On saturday night no less! That should open a few more doors hopefully.
  17. Tim Cole

    Tim Cole Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2002
    Findlay, Ohio
    Awesome bud, good to hear that! The distillery is a great gig from what I have seen. I'll have to make it up to see you guys sometime. No luck on finding a GOOD working band in t-town yet. I got to know the guys in Government Honey a while back, but their guy decided to stay......those guys are pretty good!
  18. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    I saw this word agent pop up in a couple of posts.

    IMO, and if you haven't already done so, you'd be better spending some money on a promo package, then seeking a booking agent. A good agent will find you fairly well paying gigs (because he wants to get paid too) and you won't have to worry about having to play a night for free.

    If you don't want to go the booking agent, then at least have a professional quality promo pack (if you don't have one already.) Then either mail it to the clubs and make follow up calls or go to the clubs and then make follow up calls.

    Under no circumstances would I play a club for free, unless it was a very high exposure gig. It's just not economical to do so.
  19. johnvice


    Sep 7, 2004
    If you are just starting out, I am ASSUMING you have some gigs and want more. If a bar wants a demo I invite them out to our next gig as the bar can check out the band and their competition.

    After all, the bar has your press kit with a tape/CD of your music, pics of the band, a promo poster, a cover letter. Your conatct info (email. phone/web addy should be on all of this)

    By inviting them to check out a gig it is a subtle way of pointing out you are gigging/professional musicans which puts you in a stronger point of negotiation: if you do a free demo gig for a bar manager/owner, you have basically given away your services for free. This sets a very poor precident for charging a fee.