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House Band - what's the deal? Have you been in a House Band ...

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by SMASH, Sep 7, 2004.

  1. SMASH

    SMASH Guest

    Jan 18, 2000
    Might get the "house band" spot at a popular club in town playing funk/rock/r&b and originals, which is exactly what we've been doing all Summer anyway. Not yet sure what night(s) of the week, just glad to get the chance to audition and knowing the quality of this band I know we have a good shot.

    Question is for those of you who have been in "house bands". What's the deal?

    I imagine it's a run-of-the-mill cover gig only with regular dates/billing/pay. Probably the management will have some requests in re: set lists.

    Beyond that, let me know your experiences, tips, caveats, or issues that might not be obvious?

  2. 20db pad

    20db pad

    Feb 11, 2003
    I been everywhere, man...
    None. At all.
    I did this for a few months when some new management came into a popular and established eatery. A house band job is actually quite a rarity, IME.

    The pros are no setup or teardown, a steady paycheck - above or under the table - and some sort of at least temporary job security. The management let us rehearse at the place as well. In addition, the group learns the acoustics of the room very well and can end up sounding great. You also don't have to hustle as much for one-nighters because you're already booked. This frees up a lot of time. Plus, the constant schedule does wonders for your playing and overall musicianship. The house band gig also opens up a lot of doors to meet more people and widen your contact list and circle of influence. For me and some others I know who did this sort of thing, meals are usually comped. Establishing friendships with waitstaff and barstaff of the opposite sex is a benefit or a liability depending on your personal interpretations :) Other than that, an average night is basically just a cover gig, but it's less of a party and more of a job providing a service.

    The cons are that it is as close to punching a clock as it gets in terms of a paying job performing music. We even did a strict 45 minutes on, 15 minutes off schedule. Of course, getting along with your co-workers and being respectful of management and your superiors, no matter how idiotic they are is uber-important. Professionalism is key. This is obviously real-world common sense stuff. Might be no problem for you, but it was for me because I was still a rebellious young buck at the time. I also like the change of scenery that playing one-nighters brings, so being in one place night after night got kinda old for me.

    Overall, the pros easily outdistance the cons in my book. I'd recommend playing a house gig - it's nice work if you can get it.
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I've done many house gigs over the years, in fact I have two right now (both are blues jams).

    In the Boston area these gigs are highly coveted, many are pickup bands comprised of local pros looking to have some fun working with friends on an off night. They range from slick top 40 acts for upscale hotels and harbor cruises to funky blues, jazz and folk gigs in small Irish pubs. Boston being more of a music town than some cities there are even house gig possibilities for original rock bands; Morphine was originally founded to play a house gig.

    20dB described it well. The fact that you don't have to hustle for the gig is a big deal, especially if it's a weeknight where it won't interfere with booking weekend gigs at other rooms.

    You do risk overexposure, a house band can't really play elsewhere in the same town especially if there's no cover (who will pay to see you any where else if they can see you for free every week).

    Believe it or not, in 20 years of doing house gigs I've never seen the venue management suggest material to the band. The only things we ever heard about were our (too funky) appearance or our (too high) volume.
  4. learn 2 or 3 or more new songs a week, don't nessecarily have to play them evry week, so you don't get stale. Work out a drinks rider. the venue might try screw you on money cos of garaunteed gigs ect. Get the money you want.
  5. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md

    I have two house band gigs, Monday and Tuesday nights.

    The bonuses...

    Very low pressure gig, decent regular pay, I get to play with friends on an off night, it's a good place to blow off steam, excellent exposure for me personally (I get lots of gigs off people seeing/hearing me on these gigs), I have absolutely no idea what we'll play or how we'll play it from week to week (I consider that a big plus). I have no idea how many songs I know, easily in the thousands... gives me a good place to utilize that memory.

    The negatives...

    Even the trainwrecks can be fun so I guess I can't think of any real negatives outside of the BS you can run into on any gig if the people running things are FOS. Fortunately that's pretty rare in my circle.
  6. +1
  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    A couple of concerns -

    Get the holiday/time off thing set up with the original contract.

    Have a good list of subs, you don't want to screw the gig cause the drummer and singer are sick (or away or dead) at the same time.

    You have to decide whether or not it's worth it to negotiate a different rate of pay for the big holidays (New Year's Eve, someplaces Halloween, Mardi Gras etc). A lot of venues think that because you're "on retainer" you don't make any more on these nights. If you're getting paid very well, it might be prudent to fold, if they are paying market rate for the band every other night, then they should expect to pay market rate for New Year's Eve.

    SUBBING OUT THE GIG- Brad said that he gets a lot of exposure and hence gigs from doing a steady gig at one venue. This happens for the whole band as well and, if you're the house band for the week or for Fri/Sat, then you are going to get a lot of calls to do private gigs on Friday or Saturday night. And generally you can book these for AT LEAST double the salary you make for a night at Slim's Y Ki Ki. So you don't want to piss off the members of the band by turning down a lot of good paying work. And you don't want to piss off the club owner/manager by leaving him in the lurch (good way to LOSE your good paying house gig), so work out something ahead of time. Have a sub band (that you can trust not to screw you), have an agreement in place. Everybody's happy.

    House gigs can make even smart musicians do stupid ****. Back in East Bum**** GA where I'm from, these guys are doing 5 nights a week playing jazz and getting about 32K a year each and 2 weeks paid vacation a year. They can sub out a night with no worries, they can sub individuals with no worries. But every year there's a big golf tournament there and the joint is basically printing money. So a couple of cats kind of "forget" that they are still making $32K a year playing exactly what they want to (even when there's only 3 people in the place) and start hassling the owner about "more bread".

    So now, they are playing one nighters when they can get'em.
  8. RicPlaya


    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    I've seen this ruin decent bands and destroy their following. That band had broken up and yadda yadda. Be careful....somehow keep it interesting and fun for the patrons so they don't get borred with seeing the same band "every" Saturday at So and So's bar! Maybe like someone else already said get some sub bands in there to spice things up.
  9. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Just don't bring in a sub band that is more hungry and puts on a better show;)
  10. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    The beauty of my house gigs is that they're on off nights... not much going on anyway. I haven't found the need to sub out. The drummer has provided a sub a couple of times, when he had gigs with his main high profile gig. I'm a lot busier since I got back out in this scene because of the exposure. We get gigs as individuals and as a group.

    I'd say it was amazing but it's not. I had stopped doing club dates a few years back because it seemed like there was a bumper crop of idiots like this around here. Sometimes the big picture isn't big enough.

  11. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    My own experiences with house gigs has mostly been the leader gets the gig first then assembles a band.

    In other words, there was no band to get ruined...that band existed solely to play that gig, all the members had other gigs with other bands.
  12. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Same here.
  13. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    I tried that once. You have to be very careful when you do something like that. I was positive that I could get all the musicians I needed for the gig, but it backfired on me. I only got 2 of them. I had to cancel the gig and it was an extremly ebarassing & unprofessional experience. I had to do much apologizing to the owner to get back in good standing with her. It took roughly 3 or 4 months before she gave me another shot. I was very fortunate to get even that.