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Question about pay for Blues Bands.

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by perkidan, Jun 28, 2014.

  1. perkidan


    Sep 13, 2000
    Augusta, ky
    Ok guys, here is what is happening with my latest project. We are a 3 piece band who has just hit our one year mark. We are guitar, Bass and drums, and the guitar player and I share the vocals. We have competed in the Cincy Blues fest and got very good comments and reviews. We have enough original material to start recording our first Album, and I feel the material is very good. I also have a management company looking at us when we get the CD finished. Now, here is the stumbling block I am hitting. I have booked over 40 jobs in the past year, and usually get anywhere between 250 to 400, with 300 being the usual rate., Now the guitar player has decided that this is not enough money and he is balking on playing the kind of clubs we need to play to get our name out in the Cincinnati area. Am I wrong in thinking that 300-400 for a 3 piece Blues band in the Cincinnati area is about the best we can expect for a trio that is basically just trying to break in to the circuit? The drummer and I feel like we need to play at least 3 times a month to stay tight, but if the guitar player, who is very very good, won't play anymore for that sort of cash, is it time to call it a day and look for something else. Any insight into this dilemma is very much appreciated.
  2. It's one thing to say "we're not getting paid enough", and another to have a viable plan to get paid more. What's the guitarist's plan? Play bigger, higher paying venues? You might get more per gig that way, but can you play those places 40 times a year?

    It sounds to me like you're doing really well. The blues band I play with has a heck of a time finding gigs that pay $250, and we have to split it five ways.

    On the bright side, if your guitarist wants to quit, it will probably take all of ten seconds to find a replacement. "Wanted: blues guitarist. Have 40 gigs a year that pay $100 per man." Stand back for the stampede.

    IMO, IME, YMMV etc.
    Bassist4Eris and buldog5151bass like this.
  3. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    $100 a man for a bar band is pretty decent pay in most markets. If the guitarist wants more, then he should have a plan to make more, or quit.
    Rocky and interp like this.
  4. Not sure about the market in Cinci but in Louisville $100-150/hr, as a band, is pretty typical for jazz/blues. Sometimes it is much more but rarely less.
  5. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    If he he needs more than he should start beating the bushes to find the places that allegedly pay more, and do the booking. The only bands in CT that get much more than $100/ man here in CT are:

    1. Bands with a big following that come to every show and drink.
    2. Bands that book their own venues (sans promoter) and pack the theater.

    Club/bar owners are only going to pay as much as will net them more money than no band. They are not there to underwrite your project.
    DWBass likes this.
  6. Winfred


    Oct 21, 2011
    Unless the guitarist has a plan to get better paying gigs, and is willing to do the legwork to make it happen, he should shut up.
    Remyd and interp like this.
  7. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg , Conquest Sound
    It really depends on how good you are and the type of venues you want to play. I was in a touring original blues band for many years. We were a 4 piece and never played for less than $700 per night and usually made between $1,000 and $1,500.
  8. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    People forget that club owners (at least the ones who stay in business) don't care about booking the best musicians. They care about what is in the cashbox at the end of the night. It's just that simple.

    If you have enough followers, you can switch to play for the door, or enough gigs that you don't mind them saying no, then you can raise your prices. If the owners know how many people follow you, and it is worth him doing so to keep you, THEN he might pay more.
  9. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
  10. singlemalt

    singlemalt Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2007
    White Salmon, WA
    Sounds about like the situation many a weekend warrior band finds themselves in after a year. Things are settling down to a routine, and the idea of working your family's weekend around a $100 gig on Saturday night, or making Friday a marathon of work, schlepping gear, and hanging in a dive bar, just isn't that exciting.

    The better money is going to guys who want it bad enough to play two or three of these average gigs a week, hustle up a mid week open mike jam to host, have the cd's to sell, drive farther for gigs, hit the festivals, ect. That's the blues scene, coast to coast.

    That's hard to sell to a guy who might be getting a bit burned out on the once a weekend gigs on top of a day job. Even harder to sell it to his wife. "honey, I'm using my vacation days to go to on the road with the boys!"

    Pretty much par for the course, and there aren't any easy answers. If you push the issue hard enough, you'll need a new guitarist, and you take that first step towards the not so fun stuff in music. See the "autocratic bandleader thead"

    I see quite a few guys who are "the act". They book gigs and line up backing players at the destination. They don't even try to maintain a band, since finding guys on the same wavelength in all aspects is tough.

    Best of luck.
    jnewmark likes this.
  11. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    I'd tell him to go book those better paying gigs he wants to do, STFU and play your $100/man gigs, or GTFO. Maybe he just doesn't want to gig as much as you?
  12. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.

    Bars are not going to pay much more than $100 per man. Period. My band works only one nightclub. It pays $750 per night. We split it 6 ways. All the bands in that room's rotation are 6 and 7 pieces. That's what the owner wants. He likes full bands with extra pieces, fiddle, steel guitar, etc. I played for years in bars that paid $250-$400 period, no matter how many were in your band. You just have to deal with your market.

    If you want to make more money you'll have to play more events, private parties, amusement parks, casinos, etc. If your album is well-received then that may open doors for you. But you'll have to get out there and promote yourself. Kelly promotes the crap out of our band and really hustles up the work.

    Playing a bar for $100 beats not playing and nobody hearing you. If your guy wants to make more money he'll have to do some legwork. Are there any agencies in your area who could hook you up? We get a lot of large private party and corporate events through agents. But being an original blues band, you may not be material for a corporate event. Do you do any covers? (I know that is blasphemy to some original bands.) But if you want to make a little more money while you promote your original material, do some covers and slip in your originals throughout the night. I've personally known several bands who've done this, like Big House, Boy Howdy, etc.

    I wish you all the best. Good luck to you.

    Thank you for your indulgence,

    KingKrabb and Not yet like this.
  13. VSUBass


    May 27, 2014
    Closures are dumb, stupid & not very smart
    As Roadkill and others have suggested it is definitely the way to go. I recommend approaching it from a "on your side" angle though:

    You: You know where to get gigs for more moolah? Well what have you been waiting for?

    Guitarist: No, I just think we need more money.

    You: So you can show me how to get the guys who have been hiring us to pay us more money? GREAT! Show ME how and I'll start doing it right away!

    Guitarist: Well, no...um...
  14. Mojo-Man


    Feb 11, 2003
    $100.00 a man for a bar gig is about standard. Just to be clear where talking Bar gig not a club, or private party.
    Tell your guitar player to book better gigs, and charge more. Or better yet, find another guitar player. Sound like he is not into playing a lot of gigs.
  15. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Ask for more and see what happens. Nudge it up $25-$50.

    What's to lose?

    The problem with $100/man is that this what the fee was $20 years ago.
    Winfred likes this.
  16. obimark


    Sep 1, 2011
    News Flash- Live music doesn't pay any more.

    Sad but true. All over, everywhere, with inflation and high gas prices you don't even make half what people made in the glory days of the 70s and 80s. And out of town gigs? Forget it, you won't even cover your expenses for the average cover band.
  17. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    Add in the economy, internet djs and juke boxes, and dui crackdowns, and this is what you get. Ease of music access works both ways.
  18. Sputnik Monroe

    Sputnik Monroe

    Feb 11, 2014
    Ya don't want to come here... like Austin is for indie, it seems everybody and their second cousins brother wants to come to Memphis to play blues, and most end up playing for tips. The $100 dollar a man is about right IF your known around here ... and on good nights with the right venue on Beale st tips can go way more than that (or not). If your not willing to play the national circuit and we are not, then to get better pay you have to be a step up to the plate band and take it to the next level and make folks want to hear what ya got and tip accordingly. To that end my band is adding a new member tonight, making us a 4 piece, this sax man is so good we feel it should make us more marketable and that's what it's all about.
  19. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Unless you are a known band with a solid draw you're not going to make much money playing the Blues. That's coming from a guy who loves the Blues and playing it. $100 per man is pretty standard in many places, and there's LOTS of Blues bands that don't even make that much. The problem with playing Blues is that it's a style of music with a low entrance and limited market. On any given weeknight in a major city, there's a Blues jam going on where a bunch of players show up and jam the Blues with no intention of getting paid. And some of those players are pretty talented too. To play the Blues well for an afficionado takes talent, skill, and feel. But for the average punter (and many club owners), all it takes is 3 chords, a pentatonic scale, a shuffle or slow beat, and you have their version of the Blues. Because of that, there's an overflow of hobbyists, wannabes, middle aged guys getting back into the game, kids starting out, etc. that are playing the Blues, with many of them not caring a bit whether they get a dime. Because of this, it's hard to make money playing the Blues.

    Add into that mix many really talented musicians who can put together a killer Blues band or back a Blues act in a drop of a hat with little to no rehearsal, the competition for the gigs that pay become that much tougher.
    Rocky and cdavisshannon like this.
  20. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
    ^this^ in a nutshell is the local blues music scene. A handful of fronts who just dial up a band when they book a job.

    Almost forgot. The going rate for a bass player for these jobs is a hundred bucks a night.

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