yet another idea on being a huge success!

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Joe Nerve, Sep 17, 2003.

  1. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    in a previous thread i spoke of 3-peice predjudice our band was getting (as a cover band). jest for the record for those who don't know - the nerve! is and original band who took to doing some cover gigs for the extra money and a little fun.

    anyhoo... round our parts it's really tricky and difficult getting into the better bars to play. they're usually booked by agencies that are difficult to get into, and if not, they more often than not have their set bands that they use all the time and are comfortable with. unlesss your band is going to guarantee them 100 plus people they're pretty much not interested.

    my idea - and my problem with it:

    we played a handful of happening places and had the crowd really dig us, but didn't get a return gig for one or more of the above reason. when we play crappy bars we often get stiffed for the money. our expereince has been a bit of a roller coaster ride. i thought yesterday - let's just play for free, every other week at one of these happening spots for a month or two. i'm almost sure we'll develop a substancial following, if not - we can pack it in and join other cover bands that have already established themselves. it would be a two month investment, and would probably in the long run save us a whole lot of time, energy and money.

    problem: are we starting trouble by playing for free? is this thread starting trouble by giving others the idea of playing for free? will bar owners start thinking bands are willing to do this, and start simply looking for bands that will play for free? some clubs in jersey already do this. ohh the dilemma.

    nuff said. what are your thoughts?
  2. I'm not a gigging musician so take this with a grain of salt.

    I'd advise against working for free as this might have unintended consequences. An example is Pepsi. When it first came out the CEO decided to charge the same amount as Coke but serve double sized portions. For decades afterwards Pepsi had the reputation as "cheap", "lower quality" and "stuff you wouldn't serve guests". While Coke, by doing nothing at all, suddenly became considered a premium brand. That's what I mean by unintended consequences. You might introduce an impression into people's minds that your performances and music *simply isn't good enough to charge for*. In one stroke you could end up undoing all your work.

    If you're talking about getting gigs vs drawing more people into gigs then why not consider alternatives? Especially if you're thinking of performing for lesser amounts/free. After all it's one thing to not charge for a paying venue, like a bar, but it's a completely different animal when it's a charity or church. I don't know if the music you play would be appropriate for any specific venue, that'll have to depend on the specific negotiations, but I'm positive that there must be many potential opportunities available.

    An example would be fund-raiser parties for charities. They would deal with the booking and administration, you would provide your services as a donation (which might be deductible for IRS purposes). They get fun party as a fundraiser, you get greater exposure.

    Another example might be churches and youth groups in your area. I can't think of too many such organizations that wouldn't be very pleased with an opportunity to have a teen oriented party with a live band. I know, from experience with friends, that the parents would be overjoyed to get their kids out of the house. The only issue might be dress/music but that can usually be negotiated. It would be especially useful if you can convince the organizer to include a couple representative teens, who will most likely be entirely on your side, who could provide some input. After all who wants to throw a party where nobody has a good time? Again this might also apply as a donation for IRS purposes (but in ALL cases check with your accountant!).

    Like Lenin said. Get'em young and you've got'em for life. If nothing else you'll get a lot more exposure.

    Just my two shekels.

  3. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    I personally am against playing for free or pay to play. I doubt that a dishwasher, or waitress, or bartender, or even a bouncer will work in a club for free. Why should a band? Heck, even a jukebox costs a bar money.
    There are guys out there who make a living out of playing music. Some are even trying to support families. Playing for free doesn't do them justice. Also playing for free can bring down the overall music scene of an area. If too many bands are willing to play for free (usually startups or hobbyists), then there's less places for established or more talented acts to play. Alot of times bar owners are looking at the bottom line, and if they can save $200 or more by having some unknowns play for free, then many times they will.

    But, there is the concept of exposure that draws us to play for free. So see how much that exposure is worth, and if it is worth the loss of $$. If the exposure helps out you draw 50-100 or even more to other clubs that you play at, then playing for free is like an promotional expense like flyers or mailing out postcards.
    Consider the place that you are playing for free. Does the club owner give you crap if you announce other clubs that you will be performing over the PA? Some guys don't like you trying to get their crowd to go to a competitor's club. Is the crowd that is at this club attracted to music, or the club itself? If the club a place where all the locals gather, or it is the "hip" place to be, then it wouldn't be the best for building your following. For example, if the bar is filled with people who are walking distance away who just want to hang at their local club every weekend, those people may not go across town to check out your band. Also, if the club is one of those "hip" places to be seen in, then those people aren't as interested in the music as they are with the club's scene. Will they go to a venue to see your band, if you are playing a place with a different scene, or a place that is "unhip" or unknown? What it all boils down to is whether not people in the club will go somewhere else to see you play.

    Just my 2 cents.
  4. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    Agree on the "cheapening" effect. If the bar owner wants a live band it's only because he feels it will draw more people, and make him more money. So, he should pay. I also like to add that by playing for free you may be taking away an opportunity for a paid gig, either for yourselves or for another band. Even though my two bands are strictly amateur and don't need the pay per se we never play for free, it's a principle to not compete unfairly with those who try to make a living. The only exception being charity type gigs, we're probably playing un-paid at a cancer charity soon, and I have also helped local schools by letting them use my PA and helping with the sound for performing kids.

    All that said, playing for free once at a specific bar, with some kind of understanding that if it goes over well with the crowd you're hired for another paid gig, might be your only way of getting a foot in the door so to speak. I'd use it very sparingly though, you might just be taken advantage of and never hired for money.
  5. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    i'm getting the feeling my post wasn't entirely understood. my thought was to play for free at one particular really happening place for approximately 6 shows in order to develop a consistent following. the particular place i have in mind is a very poplular bar in the city. we played there already for pay, won the crowd over, but the guy won't give us another gig because A - we didn't draw as many people as he's have liked us to on our own, B - we're a 3 peice band (he had some sorta problem with 3 peice bands), and C - he has set bands that he feels safe with playing there.

    the crowd would not know we were playing for free, so the coke theory doesn't apply. plus we already know we go over well there - the bar owner saw it himself....

    the dilemma is whether or not this is wise and or ethical due to how it effects the already strained paying gig scene, for both ourselves and others. that's all.
  6. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    Sounds like the owner has pretty much made his mind up, and they are not known for taking chances. Given that he has other bands already perhaps it's actually better to concentrate your efforts on finding other places to play?
  7. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    I agree with fret no more.

    Since they are gonna make money off you, you should get something from them. I can give away to a charity, but not to a profit making organization. It's like giving Guitar Center your unwanted gear so they can sell it in their "used" section. Why not give the gear to an organization that provides music resources to the needy? Even if you have no altruism, at least you can get a tax write-off.

    In many ways, it would be great if all acts would band together and refuse to play for free or do the pay-to-play thing. Lemme tell you that there aren't many DJs, magicians, clowns or exotic dancers that will perform for free.
    Imagine if those cheapskate club owners of "hip" clubs had to entertain crowds with a bunch of middle age lawyers and CEOs who just happened to buy a top of the line Gibson Les Paul along with the newest thing from Sharper image, who decide to combat midlife crisis by taking up the guitar. Or a bunch of angst ridden teens, who just got axes two months ago from their moms to impress the chicks, who play too loud with no taste and drive away the crowd. Or imagine if a club had to get a clown who makes poodles out of balloons to entertain night club audiences. Forgive me if I offended anyone, just wanted to make an illustration.

    There are plenty of people who think that because you love music, that you should play for free. Sure playing music is fun, but lemme tell you that I'd rather play Birdland than Mustang Sally for the millionth time. Playing the Hokey Pokey, or learning some oscure 80's tune by Rick Astley for a wedding requested by some freaked-out Bride is not what I call fun or playing music for the sake of music. There's very little room to be an artist here. Nope, this is work. A neat-freak might actually enjoy cleaning, but it doesn't mean they will clean outhouses for strangers for free.

    I've had club owners say that they can get a band for $50 a night, or for free. My reply is "Get those bands. But, nothing loses clientele faster than bad music." The only time I play for free is in a club that we regularly play at (they pay well too). It's sort of like a buy 2, get one free kinda deal. We use it to do rehearsals on weekday nights once in a while when we want to hone our live sound and show. They give us free food and drink and a place to rehearse about as loud as we want for as long as we want. We have no obligation to play, but the place is available if we need it. Much cheaper than a rehearsal room, plus we get some audience feedback and generate goodwill for one of our better customers.

    Unfortunately, the music business can be extremely competitive and dog-eat-dog. And club owners and people in the music industry know it. That's why there is pay to play, and alot of bands play for free.

    Just 2 more paltry cents.
  8. hmmm. i think if you're going to be playing covers, you should get paid. if you're doing originals, you never get paid. i think you should stand your ground and ask for money [reference my "crappy bar owners" post] for the covers. i don't know so much about the repercussion for other bands problem, but it certainly don't help your cause.

    smogg is the poster child for no-pay gigs. it's really sad. what's also sad is that people really like us when they see us, but it's so hard to get the second gig, for all the reasons you mention.

    it's just such a no-win sitch sometimes. which is why i think you need to put equal effort into shopping your music to labels.

    uh-- if ya ever want to double-up on gigs, lemme know. sometimes the power of 2 is greater than the power of one, coz you get more people in and have a little more leverage.

    break a string-
  9. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    My concern would be that after you play in a bar for free, even if you DO draw well they may be quite reluctant to pay you. Why should they since you just played for free and they made a boatload of money? Why not just fire you and get some other idiots willing to play for free?

    A better idea is to convince the bar let YOU run the door. Start out free, than start charging after a while, start low, $1, $2 and then work the cover up over time. You get 100% of the door, of course :D

    My $0.02.
  10. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    Don't do it. Your other idea was better!

    The club will just take your 6 free shows, and then say "no thanks" when you want $ because there is a lot of competition and you just set a non-pay standard in the club-owner's eyes. The crowd might not think you are pepsi but the owner will. The most you can hope for out of this plan is 100 or so new names on your mailing list. Non-agency bands will never consistently draw huge crowds to the A clubs simply because of the adveritising budget that STARS and Omnipop have at their disposal. On the shore, it's not uncommon to see huge billboards promoting Lifespeed or The Nerds or whoever -- thousands of people see those signs every day and this exposure just doesn't compare to 100 more names on your list that *might* not block your emails and *might* come to see you once in awhile.

    Original gigs are another matter. Then it's supposed to be more about your art, and the thrill of sharing it might make it worth taking a hit on the $.
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