It’s an old story and this is just my turn to vent about it. Catharsis. My weekend warrior rock cover band has been gigging for nearly a year now. And not gigging much. It’s tough to break into the bar circuit when most of the bars already have their regular bands. There’s a rock club (a music venue, not just a bar) that I’ve been trying to get into for a while. It's in a part of town that I haven't played and several friends that haven't seen us have mentioned it as a place to play. This place has a lot of tribute acts on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as local original bands, artists that were big 30 years ago, and artists that were members of known bands 30 years ago. I spoke to one promoter about getting us on a bill as a support act at this venue. He offered us a pay-to-play deal to be support for a local original band. The band wasn’t a good fit, and the pay-to-play made it a no-go. So we declined. This promoter only does shows at this venue (although not all shows at the venue are promoted by him) and he says that this type of deal is the only way he structures his shows and is based on what management wants. Last week, an acquaintance in a band tells me that his band is opening for a tribute band and that the venue’s manager is looking for an additional support band. It’s the same venue as above, but the venue is organizing this one, not the promoter. He asks if I want him to recommend us to the manager. I ask about how the “arrangement” works. It turns out that this is not a pay-to-play gig. Actually, despite the fact that the venue is charging $15 a head, we would not be paid at all for our set. While I did appreciate this guy reaching out to us, I was surprised that any band actually would go for this. As it turns out, one of the guys in my band wasn’t available for the date, but I can’t see us playing for free while someone is making a profit from us. Finally, I had booked a show for September at a small music venue that does cover bands on Fridays and charges a $5 cover. Deal was that we get the cover. Not a great deal for us, although a great deal for the venue, of course (i.e. free entertainment for the venue while the bar sells drinks), but what the hell. Last week, they cancelled the September gig, citing a format change in the fall. They did offer us a date in August. I took the opportunity to clarify that we could have someone on the door and that everybody pays the cover charge. The reply was that they reserve the right not to charge regulars. That’s a GREAT deal for the venue. They pay the band nothing, and their cost of acquisition of new customers is zero. In fact, the new customers pay for the privilege of being acquired. The regulars, who I assume come to see a band, don’t get inconvenienced by having to pay a cover charge. We get the honor of paying for the regs and keeping them in the bar drinking, and we get no compensation whatsoever for that. And the people that come to see us are the only ones who have to pay. The venue gets to sell our people drinks, too. No dice, man. That’s not going to fly with us. I know that this is not a new story. What I find disappointing is that both of the venues that I am talking about are dedicated music venues – not just bars with bands on the weekends. These music venues are taking advantage of musicians – the very people that they showcase to bring in revenue. We get more respect from small bars that have a band on Fridays or Saturdays. They may not want to pay a lot, but they haven’t been trying to take advantage of us or make a deal that costs them nothing and gets them free performers while they rake in money from ticket sales or the bar. And now I feel better. If you got this far, thanks for reading.