My latest theory on being a successful band in the club scene

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Joe Nerve, Sep 3, 2003.

  1. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses, Hipshot products
    Some bands draw huge crowds, some bands draw nobody. My experience tells me this has little to nothing to do with how good, or how entertaining the band is. I've seen GREAT, GREAT bands play to totally apathetic crowds or empty rooms, and I've seen horrible bands pack a club and have the room screaming. The following is one of the MANY REASONS I think this is so....

    Bands that do well more often than not have lots and lots of friends, or are popular people in their neighborhoods. When a band plays a first gig and gets 75 or more friends to support them, they're going over well, no matter what. The 75 people cheer and scream, and anyone else in the place thinks "hey, these guys/girls are happening" and they follow right along.

    [disclaimer: the band has to have at least a minimal amount of talent]

    Having brought 75 or more people to the club, the club manager will now happily give the band a prime spot on weekend where they can play in front of even more people. If they can bring 75 or more again, and do this a couple more times - they're in - end of story.

    Why? Because it is my belief that people are more interested in the social scene and being a part of what's "happening", then to hear great music and/or support a band they think is great.

    Is this sour grapes thinking? A little yes, mostly no. I'm in an age group where our friends are NOT going to continually give us the kind of support we could use - but we found our niche with teenagers and we're drawing very respectable crowds at all ages shows. That just sorta happened.

    All that being said, if I won lotto or something in the past I would have put the money into all kinds of crazy promotional ideas. Now I'd first invest in this one. I would pay off an audience of 200 people for 5 shows in the most happening spots in the city (of course they'd sign contracts stating they couldn't tell they were paid off :D ), and if after those 5 shows we weren't one of the most happening bands around - i'd sell my bass, take the rest of my lotto money and move to an island in the pacific.

    all other thories, arguments, whatever are welcome.

    nahh... i couldn't sell the bass.
  2. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    First of all, you recognize a truism straight-up - It is about the social scene, not the quality of music for the most part....unless you're playing a good club where musicians tned to meet and greet.

    It's more about "hooking up" rather than "a musical experience" in the club scene. I got over that years ago, although, we do play good roadhouses where people go solely for the music.

    Here's one strategy you may not have tried yet - Go into all the best hair salons in town and give the stylists guest passes or put them on the "Guest List" wherever you're going to play. These women are usually hotties and they service all the local hotties, so guess who's going to follow them to the club where you're playing???.....all the guys!

    It works for us. We just pick up a Yellow Pages and find the hair salons with the most far-out names.
  3. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    Your theory is sound. The Colonel paid chicks to scream at early Elvis shows. The hairdresser idea is brilliant!
  4. Tsal


    Jan 28, 2000
    Finland, EU
    Yes it is, and the choices are infinite. How about those trendy clothing stores that college girls like? University bookshops? Student cafes? Just pick the stores that fit your audience.

    You might throw a helluva show, but at the end of the night, it's how you get the crowd in - marketing skills are extremely important for a band.
  5. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    People don't go out to see cover bands.
    Cover bands don't attract people.
    People go out to drink and get laid.
    It does'nt matter who's playing.
    Bar owners hire cover bands that:
    A.Show up on time
    B.Don't argue about volume
    C.Have at least 4 members(preferably 1 is a female)
    D.Don't repeat songs
    E.Have little to no dead air
    F.Play tunes that everybody in their club knows and likes.
    G.Will wait without complaining until 4am to get paid.
    H.Has included new "hit tunes" on each repeat gig.
    I.Does'nt ask for more than a 24 on ice.
    J.Wraps wires for the sound man after gig(who can't mix anyways.
    K.Does'nt complain about the crappy PA.
    L.Will play a Mon/Tues./Wed for peanuts and beer.

    OK,somebody else finish the 2nd half
  6. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Yeah, there are a few local hotties I'd like to service myself, but that's another story altogether...

    ;) :D

    All jokes aside, the hairstylist strategy sounds like a pretty good one.

    A casual proof of Joe's notion that it's more about the scene than the actual music: Just notice how a given song will totally pack the dance floor one night, but have tumbleweeds blowing through on the next. The song wasn't any different the next night, just the social dynamics out in the audience. I agree that anything you can do to finesse that is a big positive for the band...
  7. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    I'll disagree with that, at least in my area. My cover band gets paid between $700 and $900 a night for weekend bar/club gigs, and we're booked almost every Fri and Sat night, because we DRAW people.

    Some of the bar owners refuse to book us on Fridays, since they have built-in crowds on that night and put "lesser-draw" bands on those nights, and will only book us on Saturdays to draw the crowds. We have a (cough) 'following' of people that will follow us around a 50 mile radius, at least 20 or 30 of the same faces at many of the same clubs, and we make an effort to talk with them personally on breaks to keep the good will going.

    Personally I think networking on breaks is MUCHO important, as well as keeping the sets seamless with no dead air AT ALL, it keeps the energy up and makes the band seem much more professional.

    I agree with you that bar/club owners judge a band on how many people are there, and whether their dancing, but once you get a following - whether friends or fans - they will think much more of you regardless of how good the music is, within reason of course.

    Funny story: about two months ago we had a club owner bitch us out via telephone a few days later about the volume at our last gig. The place was packed, a line out the door, and the people were drinking hard. I'm certain he made more money than usual over the bar that night. Our response "it was a busy night, and the bodies were packed in the club, perhaps all of the bodies were blocking some of the volume from reaching our soundman. We'll tell him to knock it down a notch next time." We were polite, but let him know in a casual, non-threatening manner that we filled the place for him and not to be too concerned about the volume.
  8. If your talking about an original band this is my thought
    Your friends will only come out so many times to see you play. Sooner or later you gotta attract strangers. If your sound turns on people who don't know you, they'll come back to see you again. Next thing you know you have a scene going on and then your friends want to be there and it starts to feed on it self.
    There is alot of competition for peoples attention.
    Yeah the club owner will be impressed if you have a bunch of people the first few night's but eventually, even given a good spot you will have to produce bodies.
    I used to go see Billy and the Beaters (long before they broke big) on Monday nights at midnight at the Troubador in Los Angeles. You couldn't ask for a worse time slot than that. Yet eventually it was SRO every Monday eve.
    Same thing with Chuck E. Weiss and the Goddamn Liars (he's the Chuck E in the song Chuck E's in LOve)They used to pack the Central (now the Viper Room) Every Sunday night at 11pm, also a lousy time slot.
    The thing is they had "It". There is just no substitute for "It", it's more than just being a good band. It's about making people's heart beat faster, raising the hairs on the back of their necks. Do that and they will come.

    Now if your a cover band, I think it comes down to one factor... Do you keep the dance floor packed? If you do, your working and your money, if you don't then your working for peanuts and beer and you need to reasses the set list. Oh yeah and never, never ever under any circumstances play Brown Eyed Girl!

  9. AS I read this thread, my initial knee-jerk reaction was to agree completely with Conu and Mcbassdude, but Eric Moesle's counterpoint got me to actually think a little...(dangerous).

    I've come to the profound realization:eek: that Eric's approach works well for one type of band, but perhaps not for all. A young, up-and-coming band is seeking a following, like when I was young: there would be Deadheads going to each and every Grateful Dead show. Mostly original songs, typically.

    But for us older folks, getting gray-haired and senile...we're more into just relaxing and having a good time, we don't have the energy or commitment to follow a band. Hey we've got a mortgage that keeps us preocuupied. So on Friday or Saturday night we want to dance, party down, and listen to recognizable songs. Classic rock stuff, for example, or even disco, in a familiar bar.

    So a band should therefore seek the approach that fits their inteneded audience.

    End of brain activity.
  10. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    No, it IS sour grapes. Just because YOU think the band isn't great doesn't mean their audience thinks so.

    Consider any superstar(s) that you think suck...Britney, J. Lo, Kiss, Bon Jovi, P. Diddy, whatever...there has to be literally millions of people who think they are great, because they are buying the CDs and going to the concerts.
  11. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    We'll have to agree to disagree then.:cool:
    The clubs that I've played that draw upwards of 3 or 400 people on a week-end night,will still get that crowd,band,DJ whatever.We got and kept those gigs because we played new and recognizable material,sans jamming,a vocalist that can cop really well the different voices,we looked good and the sound from the stage was tight,pro,and controllable.Bringing a few fans has absolutely no bearing at these venues.
    The smaller ones,we got and kept,by doing the above also and establishing a friendly rapport with the owner and existing clientele.Again IME those people would go there anyways,regardless of who's playing.If they happen to like the band,great.

    Being in a cover band is the best job I ever hated.
  12. Here, Here!
    I concur in spades!

    No matter how well I do my day gig nobody ever stands up and applauds.
  13. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    Great points made by all. One thing for certain, you really can't generalize here. Things are different between original bands and cover bands, types of venues, specific locale or market, TYPE of cover band, quality and character of the specific establishment, yadda yadda yadda.

    Some places have built-in crowds, others don't. Some places are conducive to dancing, others give a vibe just to sit and watch. Some places can get packed and have the dance floor full all night, but not make any cash at the bar, while other places can have most people sitting and watching contently, and the cash will be flowing for drinks. Its just too hard to generalize here.
  14. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    Pennsylvania are right on!!!

    I think the hairdresser thing is a great idea too.

    I have had similar success in the past in college towns contracting sororities to come to a show. If 80% showed up by the time we came on stage, we'd play a party at their house for free.

    They didn't make the 80% cut, but they got a nice number of girls in the door.

    I still think that could work.

    BTW, Joe, I missed you last week. We had a few at the Heartland on Union Sq, then waited at the bar from 9:30 to 11pm at Balthazar to be seated. We didn't get out of there until 1:30am. By then (after the brews, cocktails at the bar, wine with dinner, and aperitif...we were out of it!!!
  15. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses, Hipshot products
    no problem. hope you had a good time. i'd prefer you saw us at one of our original shows anyhow. the cover gigs are a whole nuther animal.

    brianrost, i don't understand your comment. it seemes to me like you're agreeing with me. i also do think that kiss is a great band. :D

    i like this thread - it's got some great stuff in it. gonna try the "guest list" idea. my friend is the super in one of the dorms at the school of visual arts.... why i haven't thought of taking advantage of that till now is beyond me.

    and ConU, thanks for my new favorite quote - "being in a cover band IS the best job i ever hated".
  16. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    joe nerve,

    You said "it is my belief that people are more interested in the social scene and being a part of what's "happening", then to hear great music and/or support a band they think is great".

    I think a lot of people DO think the acts they are supporting are great.

    Now it may be that the social thing contributes to this, making the two interrelated but I wasn't really trying to agree with you!
  17. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses, Hipshot products
    :D I know you're not, but you are.

    you're going to tell me that Britney Spears is HUGE because of how talented she is???? People may very well like her, but it's based on the fact that she's been jammed down kids throats so much that everybody thinks she's "happening". She's not drawing huge crowds because of her talent, she's "happening" because people have been led to believe that she's where it's at. wherever that is.

    what you said is also very true, people do THINK the acts they are supporting are great. and there are of course people who do also support great talent. dream theater isn't exactly collecting free meals at the poor house.
  18. I'm no fan of Brittany Spears by any strech but I think it's wrong to say she has no talent. She's no Aretha but she's a great Cabaret type artist. She's a performer and she sells it. NO different than Madonna, who IMO is also a cabaret performer. Some people actually like this stuff as hard as that may be to understand. Different Strokes. And both those girls work vewry hard at what they do.
    Like Col. Tom Parker said 50 million fans can't be wrong.
    I think there is room for everyone from the Ramones to Miles to Brittney and plenty of fans for all.
  19. Edwcdc

    Edwcdc I call shotgun!

    Jul 21, 2003
    Columbia MD USA
    Would it hurt the club owners to do a little radio advertising now and then! I have found that when people hear about one of our gigs on a radio spot they think its going to be a happening show. We as a band have only a small budget for promotion. We do the usual mailing list thing and the schedule cards to pass out at shows. The best thing that ever happened for us was a Thursday night spot at The Horse You Came In On, in Fells Point, Baltimore. The door man was letting hot under-age girls in. It wasn't long before the place was at capacity every Thursday night. A lot of guys started coming out to shows to see the girls, and us. It became known that if you went to a Still Counting show, you might see some boobies. Why does it always come down to boobies? I'm not complaining:D :cool:
    Of course we also rock the F out of that place!!
  20. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    They did that at a place I played,Café D'Enface in St.Jérome Quebec.They lost their liquor license for 60 days...twice...