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Bad Bar Owners - Does This Sound Familiar...

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by sixway, Jul 26, 2007.

  1. sixway

    sixway Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2006
    Kailua, Hawaii
    I recently sent this out to my local gig-email list. I'm sure most of you have had similar experiences... I could have put more of my grievances in the letter, but thought it covered the high points. Open letter to the Owner of a local Oahu bar:

    To all Musicians and Friends,

    This is to let you all know that because of the attitude of the Sand Island R&B club owner, I will no longer play there in any capacity - from playing gigs, to supporting and jamming on Wednesday Open Mic Nights.

    And I ask all of you to do the same!

    Apparently, I have been accused of only inviting water-drinking friends to the club, which results in low bar sales. Therefore, I'm not "liked" by the owner anymore, and any band I'm in has a slim-to-none chance of playing at the R&B in the future.

    Most entertainment these days seems to be in bars and nightclubs. And there are people these days who no longer choose to drink alcohol, but still enjoy going out to see bands. Usually, they bring a drinking-buddy along so they won't feel out of place, but sometimes buy sodas or food if it is available.

    For a bar owner to get angry at a band member because their friends or acquaintances choose not to spend money on alcohol is not only petty, but shows the owner is not not taking direct responsibility for promoting the club. A good band with a following helps a club to be successful, but a good owner is the reason for the overall success of a bar or club. Advertising, bar promotions, food sales are just a few ways to increase traffic and bar sales, and none of these are currently being done by the owner of R&B.

    Last year the owner of R&B ripped the old stage out, and placed a pool table in that area, most likely deciding that musicians were too much trouble to deal with, and another pool table would generate sales. Guess what happened? Those damn musicians were bringing in more traffic and money than the additional pool table, and people liked seeing and hearing live bands while they were drinking. So guess what happened? Bands were asked to play at R&B again!

    As you all know, John Hart, along with the help of friends and volunteers, built a new stage and transformed the R&B into a great place to play, and many of us have worked hard to promote the club over the past six months. In spite of our best efforts though, the owner has done next to nothing to promote the club, leaving the promotion entirely up to the musicians to bring listeners into the club.

    Because of this attitude, as some of you know, band fees have always been an issue, and the bands themselves, in the owners eyes, are the reason for poor bar sales. This has resulted in the owner backing out of paying the agreed-upon fee at times - instead, trying to get the band to except less money at the end of the night.

    The owner has recently decided to pay twenty-percent (20%) of the bar's profit to the band, which places the burden directly on the band to bring in friends and patrons to realize a decent cash amount, or "payday" at the end of the night. This burden is entirely on the band because, as mentioned above, the owner makes no attempt to advertise the R&B, and as most of you know, there is no walk-by traffic, other than what the strip club generates from next door.

    I could go on, but I think you get the point by now. To recap:

    I'm no longer supporting the R&B, and I don't think you should either. The owner has created a negative playing environment, and for that matter, a negative working environment. Don't support that by playing or drinking there!

    Permission to pass this on is granted.

    Thanks for reading...

  2. bassman314

    bassman314 I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process...

    Mar 13, 2005
    Bay Area, CA
    dude.. that sucks..

    It's cool you are taking that to a head, tho..
  3. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    Tell that greedy bar owner, if he doesn't charge a cover or have a drink minimum then he can't complain.
  4. Dan Molina

    Dan Molina TalkBass Secular Progressive

    Jul 17, 2002
    Murr Town, California
    Why no two drink minimum?
  5. LumpyGravy

    LumpyGravy Guest

    May 8, 2002
    If a bar owner is relying on a band to bring customers, what does that tell you? His bar is lame. Regular customers are a foundation for the bar's survival. The band's following helps add to it. But say your band is playing out of town. How many fans would travel 50+ miles to see you on a regular basis? My band deals with that situation a lot. We play in a "too widespread" radius. Not by choice, but because it isn't an option.
    Another thing is "talent agents". Watch those fockers. They will strip you naked then throw you into the street. Always make sure a contract is presented to them. Not the other way. If more bands said no to these sharks, I think they would go away.
    Food for thought, or just pure heartburn.
  6. Lazylion

    Lazylion Goin ahead on wit my bad self!

    Jan 25, 2006
    Frederick MD USA
    Why doesn't the dipshik just start charging for water?
    When I was in CA, there was an increasing number of people who just came to dance, and drank water. It was like an exercise club. The clubs just started charging for water.
  7. Dan Molina

    Dan Molina TalkBass Secular Progressive

    Jul 17, 2002
    Murr Town, California
    You can't charge for tap water. I think it's some sort of law.
  8. LumpyGravy

    LumpyGravy Guest

    May 8, 2002
    Only in KALYFORNIA
  9. IanStephenson

    IanStephenson UnRegistered User

    Apr 8, 2006
    It's the guys bar - he can book who he likes...

    It's a bit personal blaming you that your followers don't drink, but going to a bar and drinking free water all night is a bit cheap. Bars make MORE money on a soda than they do on beer, as there's no (or little) tax on a soda. A $5 is $2 to the brewrey, $2 to the government and $1 to the bar. A $4 soda is $0.5c to the supplier, and $3.50 to the bar. If you want to go to a bar and not drink, then get a soda.

    If he says he looses money when he books you, then it's pretty reasonable he's not going to book you back. Your not a charity - you play to make money for him.

    Of COURSE he expects a band to bring in more punters - do the maths: if the band doesn't bring in X people spending Y, then you can't afford to pay the band X*Y. We've lost gigs where the owner has said he just can't make the money work - not usually anything to do with us , but just bands aren't working in the venue.

    Sounds like this has got personal, but remember it's just money.

  10. Lazylion

    Lazylion Goin ahead on wit my bad self!

    Jan 25, 2006
    Frederick MD USA
    Maybe the charge was for ice, and a clean glass... ? :p
  11. sixway

    sixway Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2006
    Kailua, Hawaii
    Good posts so far guys...

    Ian, I agree with you that if all of my friends came in and drank water, I'd not bring my band back either. On the night my letter is written about, I think there were two people drinking water in the bar. And I agree with some of the other posters that a door charge should be in place when the band starts playing, that there should be a charge for water ( I worked in a restaurant that charged for it, because of the cost of cups, ice, cleaning glasses, and the person who is hired to serve it), or a one or two drink minimum.

    That would all be fine, but in this case the owner does nothing but grumble and place the blame on the musicians, rather than put suggestions like these in place. By the way, this bar is in the industrial area out by the Honolulu airport, eight miles from Waikiki. if it wasn't for the strip club next door, there would be literally no traffic on the street, other than the occasional truck rumbling by.

    And that is why advertising, and promotions, are so important in this case. Even the top bands won't play at this club because of the lack of it. So the regular patrons will continue to be mostly blue collar workers from the area, boat people from the harbor across the street, and whatever military personnel who stop in before or after visiting the strip bar.

    I know the owner (who by the way is a middle aged Korean woman), has the right to run her bar, and hire anyone she wants, as she sees fit. And as much as she likes to tell the story of how she ran a successful club in San Diego, and knows what it takes etc., I see none of her professional acumen in this club.

    As the saying goes, "Money Makes Money". She obviously doesn't understand the concept.

  12. IanStephenson

    IanStephenson UnRegistered User

    Apr 8, 2006
    I know it's frustrating - sometimes bar owners don't seem to be interested in promoting events at their own bar. We send out posters to ALL our venues a few weeks in advance, and it's annoying to turn up to a half empty venue, and find that not a single poster has been put up.

    We do as much promotion as we can. Our drummer is a regular caller on the local radio station (after a couple of months they know who he is now, and are happy to have someone fill up a few minutes of air time). The local venues all know how hard we can push a show (if necessary), cause they've seen our posters for other places in town.

    The trouble with a cover charge is that it keeps people out - the guys on their way to the strip club won't want to drop a couple of $ on getting into your gig that they could be spending at the strip club.

    Stopping doing live music, and then bringing it back is a DISASTER. One local venue started down that route - gigs were cancelled, then not. When they realised they needed something to draw in customers (out of town venue - no passing trade), and put bands back on again it took the new owner 6 months of putting on bands before people realised it was a live music venue again (we played some harsh gigs there, but now it totally rocks again). Consistancy is key - you need bands Fri and Sat EVERY WEEK for months before people start to turn up.

    If she's backing out of an agreed fee that it bad news, and we would never go back to anywhere that tried to pull that on us. Playing for a cut of the bar seems fair, but difficult to administer/check up on. Esspecially if she gets to pay you based on "profit" whatever that might be.

    Just don't take it personally, and just be proffesional.

  13. sixway

    sixway Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2006
    Kailua, Hawaii
    Thanks Ian, all of what you say is true. I've worked hard, along with my bandmates to promote the nights we play. And that's the only reason we've made our money from the bar. I feel like saying to the owner "I've brought in my people, where's yours?"

    Yes, she has payed bands less than the agreed upon fee, and some have bitched and taken it, and others have gotten in her face until she payed the amount. She actually threw the money in the face of one of my friends when he demanded the full fee. Apparently she was mad because he wouldn't accept her low sales story. And what's worse, the bands that have taken the reduced amount bitch, but come back to play!

    As to being professional, I feel like I've lived up to my end of the bargain. I play in good bands, play with quality equipment, show up on time, at times play longer than the stop time if patrons are having a good time, mix with customers during breaks to establish a bond so they stay and drink, and have always been courteous and spent time talking to the owner.

    All I've done at this point is put into words what a lot of others musicians have been grumbling about for years. And the emails and phone calls I've received since mailing my letter out has been 100% supportive, with people sharing their own tales of woe with me.

    Sometimes you have to take a stand, and show the owner, whether it be the owner of a bar, restaurant, clothing store, repair shop etc., that they can't get away with ripping customers off, or in this case taking advantage of independent contractors. As you would tell your friends not to eat at a restaurant because the food is bad or the service is dismal, I have decided to tell my friends of my experience at this particular bar. After that, they are welcome to decide if they want to play or drink there, or not.

    I muddled over the decision to write my letter for several weeks after I was informed by a bandmate of the owner's opinion of me. It wasn't written in the heat of anger or passion. I feel my letter is very factual, and professionally presented. I'm not accusing the owner of anything that can't be proven. As you know, the only way we improve in life is when someone tells us we're not doing something right. I would hope this all gets back to her and she acts as a professional to promote her bar. If not, it will continue to limp along in survival mode.

  14. Voyager


    Sep 19, 2006
    Bottled water sells for $3.00 a bottle at concerts. There's the answer right there. What's $3.00 to see a good band?
  15. BetterBottomEnd

    BetterBottomEnd <- Not me I just like looking at her

    Jan 9, 2007
    Cable Wi

    Sorry it was really bugging me.
  16. sixway

    sixway Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2006
    Kailua, Hawaii
    I accept you taking exception to my grammatical mistake. I always proof-read before posting... I'm surprised I missed an obvious error like that!:rollno:
  17. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    I would never play for 20% of the bar's profits. Who's to say what entails their "profit" and what's to keep the guy from cheating you?

    We play for a flat fee. up front. Win or lose, we get our money. I wouldn't play in a bar that would play these sort of games.

    Unfortunately, your letter will fall on largely deaf ears. Even if everyone on the list boycotted the joint, plenty of hungry bands will step up and play in your spots. In most cities, there are far more bands than venues. So I doubt your attempts will be successful.

    He's a jerk. Ignore him and his bar and move on. If he's as bad as he says, eventually he'll ruin his business.
  18. Thor

    Thor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Was this the same Korean lady who ran the bar on that
    MASH re-run? The really cheap one?

    That was the episode where Winchester refused to give
    some free liquor to the Provost Marshal, and ended up
    getting the watering hole shut down. Classic stuff!
  19. butchblack

    butchblack Life is short. Do good. Find and do what you love.

    Jan 25, 2007
    Waltham Massachusetts

    This is one part of the music biz that I don't like. There are too many club owners who try to s***w the musicians who play at their venue, whether it be not paying the full amount agreed on, working for the door, showcase clubs etc. A lot of good suggestions have been offered, but it sounds like the owner would rather complain. At some point you need to take a stand, like you have. Unfortunately I also agree with the poster that said there are many bands that will gladly take your place, although I imagine in Hawaii there are probably less then in other areas. Hopefully, you have other venues to play at. Maybe you can convince one to host a jam on the same night as the R&B.

    My 2ยข
  20. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    So what did you hope to accomplish by mentioning that she is a middle aged-Korean woman? Trying to play up to stereotypes of Asians who run small businesses? Or warning people not to deal with Korean club owners? or that women don't know how to run a bar since they are illogical? ;)

    Personally, I don't feel the need to mention that when I got screwed over at a club that the guy was a middle-aged white guy, even though he was.

    Anyway, I'm sure you did not mean anything malicious at all. Just pointing something out and how it can be construed.

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