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The should be infamous by now open letter to crappy club owners.

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by hover, Oct 4, 2013.

  1. hover


    Oct 4, 2008
  2. 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
    Full-time saxophonist, Dave Goldberg, wrote an honest letter to venue owners addressing their disregard and exploitation of the working musicians. The post is powerful and I asked David if I could republish this article on Grassrootsy. I’m hoping that you’ll read this and think about what part you play. Venues can take advantage of you, but only if you let them. [original post]


    As Ive been looking for gigs lately, I’ve never seen so many free and low paying gigs. Well the economy is bad, so I can understand that a little bit. However, it is no longer good enough for the musician to be willing to perform for little compensation. Now we are expected to also be the venue promoter? The expectations are that the band will not only provide great music, but also bring lots of people to their venue. It is now the band’sresponsibility to make this happen, not the club owner.

    Just the other day I was told by someone who owned a wine bar that they really liked our music and would love for us to play at their place. She then told me the gig paid $75 for a trio. Now $75 used to be bad money per person, let alone $75 for the whole band. It had to be a joke, right? No, she was serious. But it didn’t end there. She then informed us we had to bring 25 people minimum. Didn’t even offer us extra money if we brought 25 people. I would have laughed other than it’s not the first time I’ve gotten this proposal from club owners. But are there musicians really doing this? Yes. They are so desperate to play, they will do anything. But let’s think about this for a second and turn this around a little bit.

    What if I told the wine bar owner that I have a great band and we are going to play at my house. I need someone to provide and pour wine while we play. I can’t pay much, just $75, and you must bring at least 25 people who are willing to pay a $10 cover charge at the door. Now wouldn’t they look at you like you are crazy?

    “Why would I do that?” they would ask. Well because it’s great exposure for you and your wine bar. The people there would see how well you pour wine and see how good your wine is. Then they would come out to your wine bar sometime. ”But I brought all the people myself, I already know them”, they would say. Well maybe you could make up some professional looking flyers, pass them out, and get people you don’t know to come on out. ”But you are only paying me $75. How can I afford to make up flyers?”

    You see how absurd this sounds, but musicians do this all the time. If they didn’t, then the club owners wouldn’t even think of asking us to do it. So this sounds like a great deal for the club owners, doesn’t it? They get a band and customers for that night, and have to pay very little if anything. But what they don’trealize is that this is NOT in their best interest.

    If you want great food, you hire a great chef…It needs to be the same with the band. You hire a great band and should expect great music.

    Running a restaurant, a club, a bar, is really hard. There is a lot at stake for the owner. You are trying to get loyal customers that will return because you are offering them something special. If you want great food, you hire a great chef. If you want great décor,you hire a great interior decorator. You expect these professionals to do their best at what you are hiring them to do. It needs to be the same with the band. You hire a great band and should expect great music. That should be the end of your expectations for the musicians. The music is another product for the venue to offer, no different from food or beverages.

    When a venue opens it’s doors, it has to market itself. The club owner can’t expect people to just walk in the door. This has to be handled in a professional way. Do you really want to leave something so important up to a musician? This is where the club owner needs to take over. It is their success or their failure on the line, not the musician. The musician can just move on to another venue. I’ve played places where, for whatever reason, only a few people have walked in the door on a Saturday night. The club owner got mad at me, asking, “where are the people?” I turned it around on him asking the same thing? “Where are all the people? It’s Saturday night and your venue is empty. Doesn’t that concern you? What are you going to do about it?” Usually their answer is to find another band with a larger following.This means the professional bands get run out of the joint in favor of whoever can bring in the most people.

    But here’s where the club owner doesn’t get it. The Crowd is following the band, not the venue. The next night you will have to start all over again.

    Eddie Mechanic, who has slaved all week fixing cars at the local dealership, also plays guitar. Not very well,but he’s been practicing once a week with Doctor Drummer, Banker Bass Player, and Salesman Singer. Usually they just drink beer between rehearsing a few tunes in Eddie’s garage, but this week they answer a craigslist ad and line up a big gig. Well they don’t sound that good, but they sure all work with a lot of people everyday. All these people can be given a flyeron Monday and after being asked ”are you coming to my gig?” everyday all week, will most likely show up on Saturday night. So mission accomplished, the club owner has packed his venue for one night.

    But here’s where the club owner doesn’t get it. The Crowd is following the band, not the venue. The next night you will have to start all over again. And the people that were starting to follow your venue, are now turned off because you just made them listen to a bad band. The goal should be to build a fan base for the venue. To get people that will trust that you will have good music in there every night. Instead you’ve soiled your reputation for a quick fix.

    I think we as musicians need to fight back. Sure You can get mad about it, but that won’t do anything.We could all agree not to play those for the door gigs, but you know that isn’t going to happen. But what we can do, is explain to the club owner that it’s not in their best interest to operate their business like this. There is too much at stake for them not to be truly interested in the music presented in their venue. Convince them that if they think that live music is important to the demographic that they are trying to reach, then they need to reach out to that demographic in a professional way. [Read "HOW TO NEGOTIATE WITH A VENUE THAT SAYS THEY CAN’T PAY YOU"]
    If you asked a club owner, ”who is your target demographic?” I doubt they would answer, “the band’s friends and family.” But yet clubs operate like it is.

    Would you expect the chef’s friends and family to eat at your restaurant every night? How about the dishwasher, the waitresses, the hostess? You see, when you start turning this argument around, it becomes silly.

    Another example, I answered a craigslist ad for a nice looking place in Beverly Hills. The ad read… ”looking for a high energy jazz band, if you can bring the band and have a following, I will put you on stage.” That logic seams to say that they think musicians in a jazz band know lots of people living in Beverly Hills. And the people those musicians know, have lots of money to spend. Those are two pretty big assumptions. Good luck finding the combination. Even if you find that combination, are you going to find it every night? Friends and family of a professional musician won’t come out that often. They can’t. This is what we do every night. Would you expect the chef’s friends and family to eat at your restaurant every night? How about the dishwasher, the waitresses, the hostess? Or how about the club owners friends and family? You see, when you start turning this argument around, it becomes silly.

    I’ve started arguing with club owners about this. It happened after I played a great night of music in LA. We were playing for a % of the bar. There were about50 people there in this small venue, so it was a good turnout. At the end of the night, I go to get paid, and hope to book another gig. The club owner was angry. ”Where are your people?” he asked. ”All these people, I brought in. We had a speed dating event and they are all left over from that.” I pointed out they all stayed and listened to the music for 2 hours after their event ended. That was 2 more hours of bar sales, because without us, you have an empty room with nothing going on. He just couldn’t get over the fact that we didn’t walk in with our own entourage of fans. Wasn’t he happy that we kept a full room spending money? Right when we were talking, a group of people interrupted us and said ”you guys sound great, when is the next time you’re playing here again?” The club owner, said ”they aren’t, they didn’t bring anyone.”

    I went home that night bummed out and sent him an email telling him most of what you are reading here and how his business model and thinking is flawed. After a lot of swearing back and forth, because I’m guessing that musicians never talk to him as a business equal. He eventually admitted that what I was saying made sense. BUT, that’s not how LA clubs and restaurants work. And he has bands answering his craigslist ads willing to do whatever it takes to get the gig. It’s been a couple of years now since that conversation. I called his bar, and the number is disconnected.

    So there you go, LA club and restaurant owners.The advice is free. But you’ll most likely ignore it because ”that’s not how it works”. But if more musicians kept telling them the same thing, perhaps it would start to sink in.
  3. bassinplace


    Dec 1, 2008
    Yet another example of how art and business don't mix. If someone's going to try to make a business out of their music, they're going to have to expect this kind of reaction by business owners. They don't think like an artist does. My recommendation is to go DIY. Write, produce, and sell your product without a middleman. At least that way the artist controls their own product. Keep the focus on making music and let the restaurant owner focus on the business of serving food.
  4. The last time that popped up was less than a month ago and that would have been the umpteenth time.
  5. hover


    Oct 4, 2008
    Hey that's cool. For clarification, what comes after umpteenth, so I can make this statement next time? Don't wanna be that guy all embarassed after proclaiming it's been up here umpteen times, when it's actually been up here one more than that. I don't wanna be THAT guy.

    Rather, I hadn't seen it up here before. Do you feel it's no longer relevant, or that it should be a sticky? I for one think it should be a sticky. Mods, could we make it a sticky? If we made it a sticky, then when someone else who hasn't seen this thing posted before on this web forum feels he'd like to share a pretty spot-on article with others who would care about such thing, I can then zing him over it and say "Harrrrgh NooobZ, check the STICKY", and we can all have a laugh.

    BTW, is my Maple / Rosewood SX-Squire(Squier)-best bass under 125 dollars for the money-can you help me out-Bass better than your Fender American Standard Sadowsky the BEST bass for metal, carrots?
  6. Tituscrow

    Tituscrow Banned

    Feb 14, 2011
    NW England
    I'd not seen it before, and I'm all over TB like a rash.

    An interesting read, thanks hover.
  7. ulynch

    ulynch Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2010
    Nor Cal
    <devil's advocate>

    How is this any different from any apprenticeship or internship? Prove that you can do the job, draw a crowd, make some money, and the situation turns around.

    </devil's advocate>
  8. +1. Yes, thanks hover and Stumbo.
  9. Schizoid75


    Apr 27, 2005
    Columbus, OH
    There are some interesting points in there and I agree with a lot of them, but some of the analogies don't work. If the wine bar doesn't want to accept a lowball offer, come to your party and promote themselves, they still have their brick and mortar business; they can just open when they want and wait for customers to come in. If bands don't want to accept a lowball offer, then often they stay home and have zero potential audience. Bands have to rely on venues in order to work.

    And sadly, I think our culture just doesn't value live music as much as it used to. There's so much competition, so many ways to be entertained these days. From a strictly financial analysis, I doubt there are many venues who need live music to succeed or grow. A lot of venues could probably keep the $600 they were going to pay the band and end up in roughly the same place at the end of the night.
  10. hover


    Oct 4, 2008
    Right, but the idea is if the brick and mortar business doesn't already have a built-in clientele or the business acumen to realize they themselves need to promote their establishment, they're going to potentially fail just as easily. You can't have the "build it, they will come" mentality these days, because there are so many options. You have to make people WANT what you're offering. I know...basic business 101, but it's so LOST on so many places, this basic concept. Bands I know, including mine, have ALWAYS done their own promotion, but it's for the BAND, not the VENUE. If the venue cares about quality, then their part of the promotion of the band should be regarded/chosen/ treated with as much care as an item of food on a menu. People remember crappy food and associate as much with establishments, and they remember crappy bands / entertainment too. At least I do, and gauge my repeat-patronage accordingly.

    There are SO MANY underground places catering JUST to the music these days, and that's where the true music fans go, and they are buying merch, and paying modest covers to get that experience. Not the best for all genres, but they fly so under the radar of less forward thinking venues like described in the article, its a shame there aren't more places trying to bridge that gap.

    It's because (IMO) 70-80 percent of people out there aren't real music fans. They just want the latest beat and 20 syllable chorus. The same people that would think nothing of dropping 150 bucks a ticket for the de riguer/ hang in a big crowd-get drunk just because they have an excuse- date rape experience, repeatedly, would never condescend to hang in a lowly 150 capacity joint and take in a more intimate musical experience. Either that or the real live music clubs aren't on their radar, in favor of the meat market clubz. And it's just as much up to the music-offering venues to make the people aware there's a good (musical) product to be had in their joint, and then consistently deliver quality. Get people excited with the whole experience. But they don't. They make excuses and shift blame, as that costs nothing.

    But it's the same from the big industry on down...music is just product, and push what you can "move a lot of" or exploit them to push other product (beer). That's usually where the sh**** bands who bring their drinkin buddies filling up the bill thing comes in.

    I know it's pretty much been this way since the concept of "charts" and "popular music" in one way or another, but it's never been so apathetic to the audience as it is nowadays. I still tend to believe back in the 60's / 70's labels gave a damn about nurturing artists. Ah well, I'm going all tangential on this discussion and letting frustration drive my rant. Sorry folks.
  11. But, that's okay! I think this particular blog the OP posted should be a permanent fixture, and, required reading for bands on this site. There's rarely a day that goes by when I get on here, that there's a post regarding some kind of band business.
  12. Plectrum72

    Plectrum72 Supporting Member

  13. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007

    Interns are getting free on the job training to get them ready for their "career" and alot of times its tied into their curriculum at their school. Maybe you could associate that to a young inexperienced originals band getting their chops up, but not an experienced cover band like the one Im in. As a matter of fact, I dont even know any venues around me anymore that support original music. There may be, but I dont know about them!
  14. soulman969

    soulman969 Banned

    Oct 6, 2011
    Englewood, Colorado
    What he's saying in this article is absolutely true. Even a band with a decent following won't pack a club with "their crowd" every time they play there. Most of us have had this experience many times before and I've explained it to club owners but most are like the one the author dealt with in his story.

    I can think of one particular place where we had 40 or 50 show up our first weekend there but the club dropped the ball. They were charged a cover because they weren't "regulars" (even though they were our "regulars"), groups who came together couldn't get seated together near the band (some not even in the same room), the service was lousy, there was no place to dance, and the single women were getting hassled by obnoxious drunks all night who wouldn't take NO for an answer.

    Things like this didn't happen at our regular clubs and as a result our crowd (pretty much a 30-50 age group with money and a willingness to spend it) wouldn't go back a second time. When the owner pointed out to me that we were drawing less our second and third times there I explained why. We did just fine as far as holding his crowd for four hours but our following just wasn't comfortable with the place and the way they were treated. So like any other patrons of a bar or restaurant they chose not to return. We had no control over that.

    He disagreed so we went our separate ways and canceled our future bookings. He ended up hiring metal bands who brought in people alright but they were much younger, trashed the place, started fights, refused to pay a cover because they were all on the bands guest list or tip for service and brought in under aged guests. Within a year the place lost their liquor license and was shut down.

    Smart club owners hire good bands and do it to keep their regulars happy so they stick around for the night and also invite friends to hear the band. If the band is good they not only develop a following of that clubs regulars but word of mouth brings in more people from other clubs and business improves as a result.

    Every successful club I've ever played had an owner or manager who realized that our ability to put butts in seats was limited but our responsibility to keep them there once they arrived was not. I agree and that always worked out well for both the club and the band.
  15. That&#8217;s okay. Good post. FWIW, it&#8217;s a pet peeve of mine too. Crummy bands, crummy pay, etc. :meh:
  16. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    In all honesty, he loses me at:

    "The music is another product for the venue to offer, no different from food or beverages"

    IMHO it is in practice a much different product, no?
  17. I think you&#8217;re missing the point - being that if a promoter/venue is going to have live music (just like anything else, food, drinks, poll dancing, etc) - they need to promote/advertise/sell tickets/etc!!!!
  18. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    Absolutely, but the methods for promotion that work are very different for each of those things IME and IMO.
  19. Oh okay, how so?
  20. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011



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