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Negotiating higher pay with venues?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by jmattbassplaya, Jan 5, 2013.

  1. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    Hey guys,

    A lot of these threads talking about venues, bands, and profit margins has gotten me thinking about my band's relationship with venues and whether or not we're what a venue would consider a 'good investment'. Overall, I think signs point to yes because of a few reasons:

    - most venues have moved us into their weekend rotation of bands who only play Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and for special events
    - we consistently bring out large crowds (for these venues) who enjoy dancing and drinking. In other words, we make the venue look good because we have a younger, more attractive crowd, and we help them make more than decent money
    - we never scare away people who've never seen us before. In fact, we tend to get them up and dancing, too!
    - this ties in with the last prong, but we play good music that people can dance and sing along to, and our musicianship/performance quality is quite good
    - we're easy to work with and professional when it comes to booking. We also have pretty close relationships with the owners/managers/bartenders of most the places we play
    - we are really good at promoting gigs and put in very apparent work by putting up quality posters around the city and by pushing our social media relatively well
    - lastly, we always get asked back :)

    I would like to believe that venues think we're a good investment because of these reasons. That in mind, our pay has pretty much stayed the same since before we even got our act together as a band and before we were doing nearly as well as we are now. I think we're in a position to now ask for a higher going rate with these venues, but I'm really not sure how to approach this topic with the places we're playing at. Would it be smart to just politely ask for it, or should be somewhat firm with it, or should we be logical about it and list how we're benefiting each venue, or should we enter negotiations and look at it from a more legit business perspective, should we do it via email or in person, should we ask for a specific pay increase or should we leave it open to see what the venue might offer us, or what? Needless to say I'm not exactly sure what's considered proper business etiquette when doing something like this, and we could really use some help!

    Thanks :)
  2. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Staff Member Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    How long have you been playing at these venues, how much are you currently being paid and how much of a raise are you looking/hoping for?
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Did you get a bump when you moved from weekday to weekend? If not, then ask them to move you back to a weekday so that you "can keep the weekends open for higher paying gigs" and see what they say. You should have some answers ready -how much of a bump you're looking for, what benchmarks you'll say you'll hit before you talk even more money, that kind of thing...
  4. Is it a cover or no cover venue?
  5. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg , Conquest Sound
    Assuming you have been playing there for a while and have been drawing a good crowd, I would politely ask for an increase. I think doing it any other way would unprofessional.
  6. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    We're a relatively young band and have only been around for a year and a half now. In addition, we're an originals band, so we need to keep that in mind, too. We've been playing most of these places for at least a year now, so we definitely have a good reputation with these places if they've been asking us back for this long and have moved most our gigs to weekend dates.

    Our pay rate isn't really standardized right now since each venue pays us a different amount. However, whatever amount each venue offered us for our first gig at each establishment has pretty much remained their standard rate for us over the past year. In other terms, we're providing better services and are drawing much larger crowds than we used to, but we're still receiving the same pay that we got on our first gig at each place (with one or two exceptions).

    Just to give an example, one place pays us $200 a gig. We got that amount for the first gig that we played there on a Tuesday night a year and a half ago. They now only hire us for Fridays, Saturdays, and for really good after parties. Our crowd has tripled in size since that first gig, and we now do great promotional work for these gigs, too. I did some fast math, and with their cover charge and drink prices, I estimate that they make anywhere between $1,100-$1,400 off of us alone each time we play there (before expenses, of course). I wouldn't be ashamed to ask for $500 a gig from them, but I also think that might be a little too steep of a jump. Keep in mind, I don't want to hurt relations with them because they've been really good to us. If you think that price still seems low then let me know because I don't know what's a normal spread between how much a band should pull compared to a venue.
  7. smogg


    Mar 27, 2007
    NPR, Florida
    I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell
    For each bar you play, find out what the top tier bands average for pay. If you are part of the top tier rotation then ask for that level of pay. Use the points you mentioned here to justify the request(s). Obviously the average will vary from venue to venue but it's easy to keep good books of your venues.
  8. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    That's not a bad idea, but it still doesn't necessary give an example as to how I should approach the topic with a venue (although it will definitely help me figure how much is fair to ask).
  9. smogg


    Mar 27, 2007
    NPR, Florida
    I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell
    Well... I approach it it in a friendly business manner. In person face to face. Just like asking for a raise at my day job. IE: X amount of time has occurred without a pay increase, point out your (the bands) strengths (professionalism, etc.,etc.) and the benefits you bring to the venue.
  10. Wally Malone

    Wally Malone

    Mar 9, 2001
    Boulder Creek, CA
    AFM International Representative Endorsing Artist: Accugroove Cabinets & MJC Ironworks Strings
    What smog said!

  11. All negotiations come down to the relative positions of strength. If good cover bands are dime a dozen you're weak. If their business model is hip young original bands that sell lots of booze when everyone is cover bands and DJ's you're still weak if there's another up and coming young hip band wanting your spot.

    Bar maths isn't too difficult. The good nights have to make profit to cover slow nights. The question is how much better does your band make the gross than the next cheapest decent band? Call that X, but how consistent is the turnover when you play?

    Depending on consistency I think you could feel confident asking for 20% of your estimate of X on top of what they pay now. I wouldn't get into non guaranteed profit sharing or share your maths even. A friendly "we think we're worth a lot more than 200 for what we do for you, we would like $Y from now on please"

    If that doesn't work chase a new gig and show them cellphone vid of flat out bar staff.
  12. Gravy4001


    Jan 9, 2012
    Here in CT cover bands generally shoot for $100 per man minimum for this type of bar gig. The more well known bands command much more of course. And there are some newer bands that will work for much less because they're just getting started and are not nearly as professional as you are.

    So at least shoot for $100 per person and as far as bringing up the subject, have your band leader just do it! However it feels most comfortable just put it out there and see how it goes. If how you described your situation is accurate they'll be on the same page and will be happy to keep you happy!
  13. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    Thank you for your thoughts! I think $100 a head seems fair for what we bring vs. what they make off of us. I understand businesses (especially venues) need to do really well on good nights to make up for bad nights, but if my numbers are in the ballpark then we definitely should be getting an increase in pay.
  14. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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