So can you pack the place ?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by cman227, Sep 29, 2017.

  1. cman227


    Dec 21, 2014
    I was recently asked this question by a bar owner when pitching my band. There seems to be two schools of thought on this. Musicians seem to think it is up to the club/bar owner to properly promote an act while club owners seems to think they are paying a band to bring people into their club. I know from my own experience in past bands, if we fail to bring people into a club, that's probably going to be the last time we are asked to play that establishment.

    In my last band, this was not a problem as the BL was also a bar tender and new many of the club owners. He also had a large family and many friends in the area. Unfortunately this is not the case with this band, so I think we might be in a tough spot when it comes to booking gigs despite the fact that the band sounds really good.

    Has anyone else run into this and how did you overcome it?
  2. No real way to overcome this. Do your best to promote the gig and bring out as many folks as you can. If this is the only time you play this place, hopefully you are creating an audience for your gigs based on this gig.
    The flip side is: play other places while doing all your promoting and then after you feel you can bring in 30-50 people, you go back to this place and tell them 'we can generally get x amount of people to a gig'. Good luck!
    lokikallas and Jimmy4string like this.
  3. Bullitt5135

    Bullitt5135 Supporting Member

    Nov 16, 2010
    SE Michigan
    When asked this question, I'll respond with something like "we cant guarantee a number, but I can tell you we promote the hell out of our show on FB, email, posters, etc. -- we had 40+ friends/family at our last show, which is typical."

    In my experience, the bar owners/managers who ask this question within the first 30 seconds are businesses that already have a foot in the grave. These are the places that can't be bothered to put up the posters you dropped off, or list their events on Facebook. It's always "how much do you charge and how many people will you bring?" I understand venues need to find a balance between cost and quality. But in the long run, what good does it do to hire cheap, sub-par bands -- who may bring in a lot of friends and family (who may or may not fill the till) -- if it drives away your regular customers and earns you a reputation for having lousy music?

    Maybe it's different in your neck of the woods, but it's becoming pretty common around here. It's hard not to get cynical about the whole thing. I have yet to talk to a venue that said "tell me about your band...we always have a packed house and we only hire the bast acts."
  4. oldrocker

    oldrocker Supporting Member

    Got this trying to book my band into a new place last week. He also asked how many people in the band as he expects each band member to bring in about 20 people!!!!
    bassbully likes this.
  5. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    ^^^ right here^^^ In my neck of the woods its almost normal to get asked how many folks can we bring. We always say we will promote the gig and we bring all we can get. Most of the places that ask this never get good crowds so that is why they care and ask.
    Its a two way street. Try to not over shoot what you think can bring out and hope its a good night for the locals to come in. We have played many gigs were late in the night our fans and folk's are the only ones there supporting us drinking and dancing. It looks worse on the club but I doubt they care.
  6. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
  7. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    The gigs we play usually have a built in audience of sorts, but not always. We will bring some people that wouldn't had been there otherwise, but might not pack the place. We are there to entertain the regulars really, and us bringing extra folks is just icing on the cake. That might result in a packed house or might not depending on a number of variables.

    Alot of this depends on the situation though. I do agree with the comment about the business being on a down turn. Especially if a bar/restaurant, maybe not as much if a venue built for shows. For a bar/restaurant, music should be a booster, not the whole draw.
    DirtDog, J_Bass and Ekulati like this.
  8. mstillman


    Dec 6, 2011
    MetroWest MA
    If a band passes the "acceptable" musical threshold, having lots of (drinking) friends who follow the band drastically trumps any 'supra-threshold' musical ability.

    As musicians, we care about sounding our best and delivering a great show.

    Venue owners care about $$ made, not hosting a great performance.

    Average bands with good followings get more gigs than more talented bands that don't help venues sell lots of booze. I've been in both situations.
    DirtDog, obimark, leegreenman and 3 others like this.
  9. The bar/club that draws a full crowd regardless and only want to you to entertain the crowd/keep them a little longer is practically a myth, at least around the Chicago area. There are a few waterfront places in the summer or a gig like playing the Cubby Bear after a game where the crowd will be built in and you just need to entertain, but in order to get those gigs you need to have proven that you can draw a crowd at your other gigs.

    So yes, you need to be able to draw if you want to establish yourselves in the bar/club scene. How it used to be in the 80s, or how it "should be" are meaningless. You need to be able to draw enough people to either 1) clearly make the evening a financial success for the owner or at minimum 2) let them convince themselves that any relative losses they may have had will be covered by return visits from some of the new people you brought (not likely, but let them sell themselves on whatever they want)

    As you noted there are two schools of thought. However, the only one that really matters is the thought of the people signing the checks.
    Gearhead17 and LowActionHero like this.
  10. Bullitt5135

    Bullitt5135 Supporting Member

    Nov 16, 2010
    SE Michigan
    Strength in numbers. One of my regular venues has shifted from 4-5 piece bands to solo/duo acoustic acts. Despite the fact that we typically drew over 50 of our people (usually more) -- who came for dinner, stayed for drinks and dessert and more drinks -- the owner decided he'd rather pay $50-100 for the talent instead for $400. On the two occasions that I went to check out these acoustic acts, the place was virtually empty by 9:15PM. That's 3 hours of lost revenue on a Saturday night. The place went from having a reputation for good bands & music and a fun scene to being boring, lame and dead before 10PM. I don't get it.
    FenderB likes this.
  11. Shishka Bob

    Shishka Bob

    May 28, 2017
    Your job is to bring people to the bar AND to get those who come on their own to stay. Don't play out and expect to get paid if you don't understand this fundamental of being a musician.
    Johnny Crab likes this.
  12. PluckyThump

    PluckyThump Supporting Member

    Jan 4, 2008
    The Hammer
    If the bar can't draw people without a band then they lean on the band to be the draw, that's just how it is. But who goes to a bar just to see a band these days? Your friends will only come to see you so many times.
    obimark, Spectrum, Gearhead17 and 5 others like this.
  13. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    If you do the math, you can see why venue owners are reticent to hire unknown bands. We get $100/man for a 3 hour gig (chicken feed, we know). That's $500. To cover that nut that the owner needs to put about $2000 or more (that's 50 people spending at least $40 each) in the till in excess of what he would without the band. That's a lot of beer and pub grub. Now, if he hires a solo at $100 for the same three hours, he only needs to see $500 in additional sales (or 25 people spending $20 each). It's just arithmetic.
  14. Liam Wald

    Liam Wald Supporting Member

    May 17, 2011
    California Coast
    If a club is so bad that it can't attract patrons on it's own merits and the owner/manager believes that it is up to the band to fill the place I will not get involved.
    DirtDog, Spectrum, Gearhead17 and 9 others like this.
  15. Bullitt5135

    Bullitt5135 Supporting Member

    Nov 16, 2010
    SE Michigan
    In my town, there are a lot of crazy-talented musicians playing only for tips or a "suggested" $5 cover charge. The bars benefit greatly from this scenario. They would be empty on a Wednesday night if it wasn't for the band on stage. It's too bad they don't return the favor by paying the band something.

    I don't know what the answer is, but it feels like it's only going to get worse. I'm trying to find more community festival and summer concert series gigs. At least if I'm going to get paid next to nothing, I'm playing for the enjoyment of families in my community. I'm under no obligation to bring a crowd, and some sleezy bar owner isn't making a buck at my expense.
    JMacBass65 and smogg like this.
  16. Odinbass


    Dec 6, 2006
    Cleveland, OH
    Pull up your sleeves and prepare to do the promo work. Draw is something the vast majority if bars are concerned with. Some help with the effort. Some dont.

    If you ever want to escape having to harass friends every week I suggest being very social at shows. Try to create fans out of strangers. Nuture those relationships through social media. If you do that enough you'll have multiple groups you can tap into for draw as opposed to just your personal friends.

    Alternatively - get into the wedding and private events biz. Around here its mostly monopolized by booking agencies but you can still snag some independently. Again, be social at shows. You may end up scoring private events from people you meet.
  17. If a club CAN attract a crowd on it's own merits, why do they need to hire you in the first place?

    EDIT - Not trying to be snarky, looking for a legitimate cost/benefit reason
  18. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    A bar with no clientele is not one I want to play in.
    obimark, aprod and smogg like this.
  19. pbassjbass


    Jun 21, 2013
    Indoor busking
    Charlzm likes this.
  20. hardtop

    hardtop Supporting Member

    I think a couple folks nailed it already but I'll add.... It's an unfortunate stage of the game, but you kind of just have to play along until you build your fan base. Its some what upsetting to think that you have to do the promoters job, and play music skillfully, while they do nothing, yet they can and will prevent you from playing again, if you don't do their job well enough. However, if you do self promote and your music is good, you'll eventually have a large enough following that you'll be able to work with venues that do promotion themselves and wont make you jump trough hoops. I recall a couple years back, our band was new, we'd only played a couple bar gigs, but we knew we had something pretty good happening. We asked local promoter if we could open a show for a national act coming through town at a local 500 cap venue. We would have been a perfect fit for this band. So I called in a favor just to get contact info (this was with AEG) and sent the guy some links to a review of a demo, a live video, and our bandcamp page. 60 seconds later he basically said we had no business asking to open the show. Didn't listen to a single song. Basically, he said we didn't have enough facebook likes. It was and is pretty upsetting, but its just the game most venues and promotion companies play. They don't care about the quality of the show or music, they just want bodies, and they dont care why they are there. They ended up putting some cheeseball battle of the bands hairspray act on because they once drew a big crowd. So, we just continued to play the game. We continued to play bar gigs and diy spots, asked all our friends and families to like our facebook page, put pictures on instagram, told everyone "tell your friends", and all of that jazz. Finally, we got booked on a show at the same venue... but they wanted us to sell tickets. We didn't have a minimum to sell, it wasnt a pay to play thing, we were going to get paid a nominal fee either way, this was just about looking good to AEG. I was quietly pissed about it, but i bent over and took it like a good little struggling musician. And it worked. We sold a bunch of tickets and they thought we were terrific. We also had an album release around the same time, and that got good reviews nationally, so that helped too. But now they take us for drinks and dinner and ask us to headline that room from time to time.

    Its kind of disgusting, but its just the trials and tribulations of getting a band to a spot where you can book decent shows. Good luck with your new project.
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