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Psychology on Cover Charges, why?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Shimmi, Dec 18, 2017.

  1. Shimmi


    Jan 28, 2015
    I notice a lot of people have personal gripes against cover charges. I've even heard people I considered friends complain about venues charging a cover.

    For an event I put together I frankly couldn't get around it. In order to pay the bands a fraction of what they deserve our bar would have to A) Charge a $5 cover, or B) Raise drink prices for the night to about 50 cents.

    After surveying customers most people hated the idea of a cover charge, and more people couldnt fathom paying more for their drinks. (exaggeration but you get the point.)

    As someone who usually only goes to bars to see live music(aside from when I'm bar tending) I never had issue paying cover, its $5 bucks how cheap can you be? Maybe I'm just empathetic from experience playing gigs either way I'm trying my best to reach out to the live music enthusiasts and make this event a success.

    Has anyone figured out the weird psychology of people being cheap when it comes to seeing live music?

    I'm thinking its either they don't want to "waste" $5 if it turns out they don't like the band. or maybe they are completely ignorant to why?
    Mr.Ace likes this.
  2. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    it may not be as complicated as all that. a lot of people i know are either cheap or broke. if someone buys 3 drinks at 50 cents more per drink, they'll still be paying $3.50 less than with the $5 cover. even if someone has 5 drinks, he/she will still be saving $2.50 over the $5 cover.
  3. Shimmi


    Jan 28, 2015
    That's a good point.

    Part of what influenced my decision is that we are having drink specials for the event. $2 shots $3 bombs and also we're including a $2.50 drink chip with cover.
    HolmeBass likes this.
  4. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    We don't need no stinkin' cover charges!

    Everyone wants music for free.

    They think live music is equivalent to utoob. Why pay?

    How about a $10 cover and raffle?
    Take $5 from each and put it into a pot to be awarded 2 or 3 hours later. Must be present.
  5. btmpancake

    btmpancake Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2015
    Apollo beach, Florida
    I'm not rich but if I was concerned about cover charges and drink prices-I'd stay home.
  6. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    IMHO, the fact that no one wants to pay for live music is partly the result of the following"

    1. At any given time, you can find live music all over town, and what are you going to do -- go to the place where you can pay nothing to get into the venue, or pay $5.00?

    2. In Jazz, the music is sort of a commodity. Everyone tends to play the same book of standards, and even original music is not really original sounding if it sticks to the traditional jazz voice. It is more of the same. To me, I can hear the differences in the songs after years of playing them, but a lot of people cannot. Most of my clients can't distinguish between smooth jazz, classic jazz, latin jazz, or jazzy fusion.

    3.As a Jazz composer and performer, it hurts to say that, but it seems true to me. I can show up and play all my original music at a background music gig and no one bats and eyelash -- whether we are playing standards or original music -- it all blends into a kind of pleasant background sort of situation.

    Many musicians don't put in the necessary work or time into creating something truly unique. Being an artist means more than playing well -- it means creating something new, and novel that people want to see. When they look at it, they think it's cool!!!

    Think about it -- why are people not willing to pay to see people like you and me, but are willing to pay $40 and up per ticket to see bigger name artists?
    gebass6, Mind Eroded, zon6c-f and 2 others like this.
  7. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    The psychology? People are weird when it comes to money.
    Wisebass, GlennRH, bassmeknik and 9 others like this.
  8. garp


    Feb 7, 2009
    Connecticut USA
    Can't ignore this factor. People will gladly pay $200+ for a ticket and $8 per beer to attend a U2 show. Rationale: The band is a "known entity," and people expect to be absolutely gouged on adult beverages at these venues. In contrast, if I've never heard of "Uncle Leadfoot & The Stop Signs," $5 or $10 becomes a sizable wager, and if I dislike them, the $3 beer or $5 cocktail becomes an insult to injury.
  9. I would pay to see a band called uncle Leadfoot & the Stop Signs!
  10. Paulabass

    Paulabass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2017
    Unless a bar seats 1000 people, how are they going to pay a good band? Nowadays you can't drink, so unless you're right in the downtown core, and everybody walks to your show, they might have two beers.
    $10 cover- about what you can find behind the sofa cushions. The band can get paid decently, and nobody's baby goes without food. The cover last Saturday was $20, because it was a $1000 band in a 150 seater. A bargain. Everybody made money, everybody was happy, and it made up for dismal bar sales.
    Morrighan likes this.
  11. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    This theme has been going on forever, or at least as long as I can remember playing out.

    The best answer I can give is that is the general public doesn't value music on a local level, and never really has. I know some cities are exceptions to that, but I'm speaking in general terms. The average person thinks that to be a quality musician/performer you must be on TV, radio, etc. They can't fathom that a guy down the street playing at a bar could be just as "talented" as the stuff they see on TV. It's only gotten worse as the format has become almost 100% digital, and disposable.
  12. 73jbass

    73jbass Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2004
    A lot of folks think that local bands are just playing for exposure, or doing it for fun. You would think if its that bog an issue, they would call ahead and see if there is a cover charge.
    fretter likes this.
  13. Paulabass

    Paulabass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2017
    Entertainment has been devalued to the point that for $10 you get Netflix. None of my friends go to movies anymore.
    Joe Bonamassa and U2 give away their brand new albums. Full concerts on Youtube.
    It is hard to justify charging for your art, but you absolutely have to. YOUR band has to be so Effing good that the few who believe will leave the comfort of their homes to come and see YOU. AND pay for. If you can not set the bar that high, perhaps rethink your business strategy. A great band, with a good show, good tech (Yes, Virginia, you DO need to bring lights) will get the money at the door, and get people to stay.
    If the biz wasn't tough, everybody would do it.
  14. Bingo.

    I won't pay $200 to see anyone. I will pay $50-$80 range for an act I REALLY want to see.

    I can see bands that are "known entities" in small theaters - last time I saw Leftover Salmon (at the Ark in Ann Arbor which seats about 300) I paid less than $30. I'm not paying $20 cover to see a band I've never heard of, unless I've gotten a lot of recommendations from people I trust.
    gebass6 and whatizitman like this.
  15. Paulabass

    Paulabass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2017
    I won't pay $200 to see anyone-period.
    No, a band no one's heard of won't get $20 at the door. Be a band people want to hear. This band sold out in one day, a month ago. Why/How? Because they are really good, and bring a good show, and tech, and give the audience a small concert, not just a band making noise in the corner.
    If you bring a rented box mixer, and two vocal mics, and play in the dark, you can be Dream Theatre and NOBODY will care.
  16. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Depends on the venue and the band. If it's a dedicated music venue, I understand. If it is a bar/restaurant/club that is open all week without live music, the traditional view is the band is there to entertain the patron, not draw in fresh ones.
    JRA, Shimmi and Miker27607 like this.
  17. Roland GR 88

    Roland GR 88

    Sep 16, 2013
    Stop booking shows where the competition is stiff. Cities with lots of entertainment choices are tough places to make $$$. There are usually plenty of bars offering live music without a cover and small venues charging $20 or so for known acts to compete with. Then there's theaters, restaurants, museums and sports to consider.
    The most successful shows I played were always in small towns, self promoted where a $15 cover and cheap beers sold by a local charity were well received.
    Miker27607 and fourstr00 like this.
  18. Paulabass

    Paulabass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2017
    ^ Being the only game in town is the way to go. I have always made more money in the 'burbs, and small towns.
  19. For sure - a really good band can sell $20 tickets.

    ... but you'd better be really good (like multiple albums people in the town own), and tickets aren't a "cover charge".

    Local bands capable of getting $20 cover charges - aren't really "local bands", they're national bands who just happen to be playing in their home city.
  20. Paulabass

    Paulabass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2017
    Tickets, or $20 at the door are the same thing. The show would still have been sold out. The band is a tribute, and say what you want about tributes, they can make great money, and never sell an album. They will never be national, and never be a household word.
    I was playing in a pickup band for one night. They bar owner said 'You know you guys played 10 Willie Nelson songs?'
    Yeah... So come back next time as a Willie tribute and I'll give you a $1000.
    covermego, DaDo625 and smogg like this.

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