Tickets/cover to your gigs - How much is too much?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by ForestFriend, Apr 26, 2019.

  1. ForestFriend


    Apr 14, 2019
    Just curious what everyone's opinion regarding ticket prices/cover fees is. I play in an originals band and I've noticed there's not much of a relationship between how much it costs to see us vs. the value to our fans (e.g., set length, quality of venue, matching of genre with other acts on bill). We've done some gigs where we're supposed to sell tickets at $20 (Canadian) so people can watch us play for 20 minutes, and some where cover is $5 and we get a 45-60 minute set; sometimes within a few weeks each other (seems to be feast or famine when it comes to shows), so it can be tough to promote the more expensive sets in good conscious since we won't be able to give our audience as complete of an experience. I'd rather tell them to see the cheaper show - of course that's not going to look very good when we play the other show with no audience.

    Another thing one of our local organizers likes to do is have advance ticket prices, and bump up the price at the door (or are they discounting the advance prices?). I can see their logic - encourage fans to buy the tickets right away, rather than having them decide they don't want to go out on the night of the show, but there's also the downside of people deciding not to go on the night of because the tickets are too expensive. Our next show has a $15 advance price, and it's $20 at the door.

    Personally, I think the $15 is already pushing it, and $20 is overboard. $10 seems like a reasonable amount to me - I think getting people to spend the time to go to the event is harder than getting them to spend the money for it at that price. We're talking small local acts, mainly playing originals here (or unknown touring acts who need a few local acts to bring in an audience). Obviously, the solution is to not accept the gigs with higher ticket prices, and yes, we are kicking ourselves for not finding that out before accepting. But what do you think is a reasonable price for these kinds of gigs?
  2. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    Twenty dollars for a 20 minute show is insane.
  3. ForestFriend


    Apr 14, 2019
    I guess I should add that we weren't the only band playing that night. I know it's a bit narcissistic to only be concerned about my band's set length, but I'm so used to the majority of people coming to a show to see one band and ignoring the rest of the acts anyways.
  4. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    I understand that, but I assume if you are selling the Tix, they would be coming to see you, and had no special interest in the others. I agree $10 is a fair limit.
    ArtechnikA likes this.
  5. Tnavis


    Feb 25, 2003
    Minneapolis, MN
    Are you playing all ages/under 21 (or under 18 in Canada, I suppose) shows? I'lll frequently see raised ticket costs for shows that they expect will have lesser bar sales.
  6. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    The ticket price can be thought of as a barrier to entry, and depending on the variables surrounding the gig can be good/bad for each party involved. Sometimes charging for entry is the kiss of death and you can expect nobody to come because of it. In a good scenario, the band(s) playing are good enough that folks are willing to buy a ticket and you pack the place. In that scenario charging was a good idea. Sometimes an entry charge is only good for the venue and the band gets screwed(i've experienced this personally).

    I don't think you should write off a gig due to high ticket price, but read the situation to see if it is going to pan out positively for the band. If a venue is charging for entry and there is a turnout expected, i think the band should also be getting paid more. I played a gig last year where $15-20 tickets were being charged for at a dinner listening room. Along with that comes a minimum drink/food purchase of $13. I believe about 60 people came through the door. I walked out with about $40 and it felt like a giant waste of my time for about a 5 hour time footprint. Screw that place.
  7. ForestFriend


    Apr 14, 2019
    Never really considered that - Looks like the $15/$20 show is in fact at an all-ages venue.

    That's a bit ridiculous... That's like 4% of the door costs, plus the venue was making money off of food. Most of the shows I play are fairly upfront about how pay will works, what portion of the ticket sales (minus expenses like sound engineers) we're going to take home, etc. Granted, if my band only gets a 15% cut, then my individual cut would be comparable to your show.
    Seanto likes this.
  8. When I was playing originals, we always tried to open for a known headliner. It was easier to sell a $20 ticket to someone that wanted to see Dramarama, then it was if I said "come see us." Plus a known name will draw a bigger crowd so it gets you in front of more people. When we played with other unknowns then people would show up just to see their friend's band and then leave, practically pointless. So I think the right price for me depends on the whole lineup.
    mikewalker likes this.
  9. ForestFriend


    Apr 14, 2019
    100% agree that would be the ideal scenario. Unfortunately, we live in northern Canada rather than Southern California, so well-known acts are a bit of a scarcity here. I know some local guys opened up for Uriah Heep not too long ago - but I guess finding the connections for all that is for another thread.
  10. OogieWaWa


    Mar 17, 2013
    Oak Harbor, OH
    Two beers, the camping spot fee, or whatever the fraternal organization dues are for us. But obviously that's something else entirely. But hey, we're working on it.
  11. funkinbottom

    funkinbottom Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2006
    Oregon Coast
    Yeah, the originals band exploitation thing has been going on forever, and seemingly getting worse. It's bad enough that they don't want to pay, but want you to bring all your fan base to sell their liquor and food to. How nice for them. Bar stays open, all their bar employees are paid, and after gas in the car, a beer for a good pal that came to see you, goes home $ out of pocket. Lately a bunch of the venues are telling bands they are charging at the door so they can pay them. You say "cool, we expect a pretty good turnout tonight" They then tell you " yeah we'll have someone at the door for you, we keep the first $100, and you get the rest" What????? The latest is, venues that have always had PA systems and sound person, are telling bands PA is available, But.... band needs to pay $100 to the sound guy/gal if you want someone running foh. I'm sure as time goes on, they will find even more ways to extract money from deserving artists.

    I'm fortunate. The originals band I'm in have been around a long time (16 -17 years now). Early on, we became good friends with local promoter/booker that had us open for a ton of known bands. A a result, we've always been able to land descent paying gigs. We have plenty enough material (covering many genres) for your typical 3 hour bar/restaurant gigs, wineries and weddings.

    If you and some friends have bands with with a good following, you could through your own gig. Us and a couple bands we were friends with had descent following, so we rent local halls and charged a "donation" at the door. On average, most folks threw $5 or so in the till. Some more, some none. It was all good. At the end of the night we split $ evenly between all players (not split per band) After paying the rental for the hall, we usually all made about $40 $50, not much, but the point was-- our money, not bars money.
    SoCal80s, Wisebass and Waltsdog like this.
  12. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    A ticket price is fair if it's competitive for the location of the venue, the genre of music and the commercial stature of the act. Period.

    When it's a multi-act bill, it's hard to argue about a high ticket price because the audience is paying to see multiple acts. It's not the same as performing at a venue where you are the only act or at least the headliner.

    Now if the question is about "pay to play" or similar situations where you are trying to sell advance tickets for the promoter to your friends, well that is a whole other discussion.
  13. Ross W. Lovell

    Ross W. Lovell

    Oct 31, 2015

    I see a couple of issues here.

    You are playing a bill with other bands but are selling tickets JUST for your band's set.

    Do the people have to leave after your set?

    Guessing the multiple bands playing could not agree on a fixed split of a negotiated ticket price?

    What percentage is the venue getting, is that different with each group?

    Lots of questions here.
  14. Anything over $25.
  15. FenderP

    FenderP Supporting Member

    May 7, 2005
  16. TheReceder


    Jul 12, 2010
    2+ hour shows, we sold out a 600 seat theatre for $10 tickets. A 100 seat pay to play theatre down the block set a ticket price for us at 20 bucks. We were lucky to sell what we did, maybe 75 seats. We barely made anything on the gig.
  17. It’s a dollar a minute, makes sense to me!
  18. Turbo Sparky

    Turbo Sparky Supporting Member

    May 14, 2018
    South Eastern U.S.
    I also play in an originals band. Similar set lengths...$10 is the limit, even with multiple acts/bands.
    If you're playing with/opening for a "national" act, maybe $20-25...maybe.
    Libations better be cheap.
  19. Wisebass


    Jan 12, 2017
    Lost in Space
    Hi ForestFriend :)

    Today $10 seems like a "reasonable" price.

    10 years ago $ 10 were a "reasonable" price

    20 years ago $ 10....

    30 years ago…

    The "reasonable" price for live music hasn' t changed a lot.

    The beer price…? :(

    (not saying that it was ever reasonable :D)

    may the bass be with you

  20. ForestFriend


    Apr 14, 2019
    I guess I should clarify - the tickets cover the entire event, so yes people that I sell tickets to get to see all the bands (assuming they want to). As much as possible, I do want to be able to tell people that the entire line-up is great and they are getting a night's worth of entertainment, not just our set. Sometimes the other bands match up with us musically which makes this easy, sometimes they have nothing to do with us.
    On the other hand, I don't see more bands necessarily meaning that ticket price should be higher. If you have one band playing an entire concert, they draw a certain number have fans; bring on another band and they'll bring additional fans, and so on.
    And as mentioned before, people do have a tendency to go see their friend's band, then leave. I've seen full rooms get empty while one band is clearing the stage and their fans follow them outside to hang out while the band puts their gear away and has a smoke. So that's why I'm mostly concerned about the value my band is able to bring to the show.

    I've never experienced the issue of ticket prices getting higher but the band making the same amount of money, fortunately. The organizer that has been raising the prices has kept the same policy; you get the same percentage of the profits after they pay the sound engineer. Theoretically, if we sold 50 tickets at $20, we'd make more than twice what we'd make if we sold 50 tickets at $10. To me, the bigger issue is what if we could sell 50 tickets at $10, 30 at $15, or 10 at $20? These are made-up numbers, of course, so I'm interested in finding out if someone has found that magic number that makes the most money. I'm more willing to err on the side of having more people at less total ticket sales because it will mean a better atmosphere for the audience, more chance for merch and bar sales, and though we hate the e-word, more exposure to people who have never heard you.