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Bar Manager Refused to Pay Us! Now what?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by TooManyThinking, Dec 14, 2008.

  1. TooManyThinking


    Dec 2, 2008
    Hey guys,

    Hope this is the right place for this, I'm brand new here.

    CLIFF'S NOTES: Manager tells us to stop playing halfway through our set because we're too loud and incapable (mediocre drummer) of turning down, then refuses to pay us, not even prorated.

    So we get an email from a bar downtown wanting us to play a 4 hour set on a Friday from 9:30 to 1:30 and agrees to pay us $350 (plus a $100 bar tab). We set up our gear and he tells us we can start as late as 10 if we want when the bar starts picking up.

    A few songs in he comes over and tells us that the bartenders can't hear patrons ordering drinks and that we need to turn down. So we all turn down and bring down the horn section and vocals on the mixer and continue with the set. A few songs later he comes back and tells us he still can't hear so we turn down more. The only problem is that our drummer is self-taught and has no formal instruction, so he's a total beater and has 2 volumes: loud and very loud. Obviously there's no volume dial for the drums so the rest of the band has to match our levels to his.

    Anyways, about 2 hours into the set he comes over looking furious and tells us we need to turn down or stop playing. Long story short, he refuses to pay us ANYTHING, not even half of what was agreed upon. We threatened him with legal action, telling that if he needs to either pay us or be prepared to show up in court, and he responded with "We're 15 chains strong and we have a team of lawyers," assuming we don't have the patience or know-how to follow through with this.

    However, in his defense, there was DEFINITELY a strong correlation between us starting to play and the bar clearing out and us taking a break and the bar filling back up. I noticed that the two corner walls behind the bar were lined with brick, which as you know doesn't absorb any sound and so maybe that's why he perceived us to be so loud. But you could hear the band from across the street and they were incredibly loud, and somehow people could still order drinks... just like any bar with loud music I've ever been to.

    And we're not some crazy death-metal punk band or anything, just a hip hop/reggae/rock/funk fusion with some catchy tunes. And we've never ONCE, ever ever EVER been asked to turn down by anybody.

    So now what do we do? Between the 6 of us, we have 3 lawyers in our families that we can ask for consultation, but I was wondering if anybody here might have some personal experience with this kind of situation. We have email correspondence between this guy and myself confirming the $350 agreement we had, and we have multiple witnesses that saw him ask us to leave. Also, we're in California if that helps.

    Any help at all is appreciated!!

    - TooManyThinking
  2. Kael


    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    You could initiate legal action against the bar. Perhaps it will be a more attractive offer for them to pay you than to deal with the legal costs. Still, if you couldn't turn down and provide a reasonable volumed show by your own admission, then it sounds like you were incapable of providing what they were at least intending to contract you for. Quite frankly, I think that it isn't worth the $350 to risk pissing off the establishment to the point that they bad mouth you to others. Then again, if they already told you to stop and refused payment, they probably are already none to fond of you.

    I'd recommend chalking it up to a life lesson and fire the drummer if he isn't competent enough to play quieter.
  3. Smash the windows with a steel pipe.

  4. stingray56funk

    stingray56funk Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2005
    I second that...but add in smashing their liquor as well. It will hurt them a little harder. :smug:

    On a serious note, consult your family law connections but it would most likely not be worth going to court or even initiating court action due to legal costs. If someone in your families would be willing to work for free, file the paperwork for free, etc...then spend the time and stick up for yourselves.
  5. kingpin2512


    Aug 9, 2008
    I wouldn't take them to court. I like that idea but I just don't think it will help in the long run, and would be a pain. Try talking with your drummer and see if he can play quieter.
    coilcbl_RT likes this.
  6. If he has big windows, as in shop-size, it's gonna get expensive, if not, take as many as you can (I am sure there's sometime where the place is all deserted?) and then get the **** out of there (balaclava was a good one!).

    Going to court for $350 sounds like a lot of trouble for little.

  7. stflbn


    May 10, 2007
    Learn to work with someone who's employing you and adapt your volume to the venue you're playing.

    The amount of money you're talking about is not worth legal fee's.
    coilcbl_RT likes this.
  8. Kael


    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    Seriously, just start actively telling an abbreviated version of this story to every musician you can get to sit still long enough to listen. Let the bar get the rep of stiffing musicians.

    Then fire your drummer and learn to play quieter.
  9. cmewhinney


    Jul 11, 2008
    Concord, NH
    Piss on the bar van!
  10. Pursue street justice.
  11. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Duh ... if you can't adjust volume to suit the venue (and the venue owner) then you aren't professional, and maybe he felt completely justified. He did say "turn it down or stop playing" ... which did you do? A $350 loss is a cheap lesson. Beat the drummer up or play in venues where ear-splitting, brain numbing volume is appreciated.
  12. IMO it's really not worth your time, effort or your own legal costs for $350. However, these issues really have more to deal with the principles of the deal that the $75 (including the bar tab!) each of you would've gotten from the gig right?

    If I were you guys I'd chalk it up as a lesson learned and refuse to have any further dealings with that bar manager again. It's also probably worth noting that you should have a discussion with your drummer about this issue...maybe get him some brushes or dampners or something.
  13. LowG

    LowG Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2006
    Milwaukee, WI
    I don't really think that it's worth the trouble to get the money out of him. However, if someone pissed me off enough, I'd go after the money just for the principle. It's really up to your gut feeling.

    He really should have given you someting for playing - he did come to you, after all. It's not like you were begging him for the gig. He should have thought it out ahead of time and talked to you about it if he thought volume would have been an issue.

    But it seems like your gut is telling you to let it go. With the comment you made regarding the crowd's responce to you, it seems like you have bigger problems than this one date.

    If you're wanting to play the sorts of gigs where you get a flat fee and are playing for people who are not coming to the venue because you're there, this won't be the last time this happens. If you just want to play concerts and not be background music, then volume won't really ever be a problem - money will be.

    Does your drummer know that he's causing problems in this respect? Does he care?
  14. David1234


    Jun 1, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    Endorsing Artist: SWR Amplifiers
    I think your drummer owes the rest of you your fee, and owes the barman an apology.
  15. BetterBottomEnd

    BetterBottomEnd <- Not me I just like looking at her

    Jan 9, 2007
    Cable Wi
    What you should do is reign in or replace your drummer. If I'm the bar manager I'm probably not going to pay you either. It's a tough lesson and some free drinks. You did start into that $100 bar tab right?
  16. The drummer got you fired. Might want to find a one that can play with some dynamics or this will likely happen again.
  17. NorCal Dog

    NorCal Dog

    Nov 28, 2005
    played a gig last friday night & the opening band was waaayyy toooo loud & wound up emptying the place ( way to go morons ) you could tell that they were competent musicians, but their songs just sounded like noise layered upon noise layered upon noise, absolutely zero groove :scowl: ( i wish the mgt would have pulled the plug on them before they emptied the place like they did )

    we need clips,, or a link,,, it might not be all the drummers fault

    hey,, these guys are in business to bring in customers & keep 'em there spending money, if the band is driving off their customers,, especially being asked twice to bring it down,, you guys got yourselves fired, in the middle of a gig

    ya live & learn,,, or ya don't,, your choice
  18. Sounds about right. :ninja:
  19. LowG

    LowG Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2006
    Milwaukee, WI
    electronic drums
  20. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets

    This is not legal advice, but IMHO, you owe him an apology. He gave you two warnings before he kicked you out. Trust me on this; you *do not* want a reputation of suing clubs who stiff you.

    Were you playing at your normal volume level or lower?

    $0 is not acceptable because you provided what you agreed to provide (your standard musical services at your normal volume), and the fact that your band's normal volume was too loud for this particular club is arguably their problem, not yours. If they want quiet, they should have hired a jazz trio. Think of it this way: You don't hire Metallica and then get mad when they blow the roof off the place. You also shouldn't get mad if you hire a 6-piece electric band for a bar and they are too loud to talk over, assuming they are not playing extra-loud on purpose.

    On the other hand, a professional, competent drummer (and your band as a whole) should be able to use dynamics to suit the room, within reason, given the limitations of the lineup and the genre. If you performed less than professionally (drummer included: he is part of your band and represents all of you; if your collective fault if your drummer is too loud, so don't single him out), you should not be entitled to the whole $350.

    Consult one of your attorney buddies, and see if s/he thinks it's a good idea to write a letter offering a settlement of $175, considering it's both your fault that you were behaving unprofessionally (too loud), and the bar's choice to stop the show early. (A bar deciding to cancel or end a show early ordinarily means that you still get paid the full agreed-upon figure, unless your contract says otherwise.)

    Personally, I would apologize in the letter for playing too loudly to suit the room, but still explain why I think $175 is fair instead of the full $350, considering that you provided your normal services as agreed, and they are the ones who made the choice to ask you to stop early, knowing that sans a contract stating otherwise, they're still responsible for paying you as agreed.

    P.S. Next time, either use an electronic drum set (I own a six-piece Roland TD-6SXT, even though I don't play drums, for this reason), or get a different drummer. Also, have one of your lawyer buddies draft you a performance agreement, so you don't have this problem again. You should *never, never, never* gig without a contract. The fact that you have lawyer connections makes this even more inexcusable. Frankly, if you get any money from this at all, be grateful :smug:

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