Your thoughts on cover charges

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by jive1, Dec 8, 2004.

  1. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Just wondering what y'all think about cover charges.

    If the club is hopping and popular, then a cover charge would make sense. Otherwise I think a cover charge is detrimental to the club. A $5 cover charge can easily be recouped by the bar if the person buys a few drinks. But, if the cover charge discourages potential clients, then the bar is out more than $5. Sometimes a cover charge will lose a bar more money than it would otherwise make. It also might discourage people from checking out a band they haven't heard of, especially if the band is on break when the people get to the door.

    I personally do not like playing for the door. I'd rather get a set fee and let the bar make the extra profit off of drinks. You also run less risk of "miscounting" the money made.

    Any thoughts?
  2. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    i used to play for the door in the 80's. we were young and stupid. Some places gave us a flat fee, but in the 80's some places could get away with charging 8 or 10 dollars to get in! Just to see us! Now you can't charge so much. I never play for the door anymore, although we used to have a friend on the door back in the day to make sure we didnt get screwed. Today 5 dollar cover charges are way too much, 2 or 3 dollars is a little better, or course no cover is even better. If you don't have this big young adult following the bar is gonna lose patrons with a cover charge. Drinks are almost pure profit. the club might as well get them in and then fleece them for all they got! I'm with you that cover charges usually mean less revenue for the club and the band.
  3. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    I agree. If the club is popular and more upscale a cover charge makes sense. Let's be realistic, Those types of clubs cator twards people who have some money. In these types of clubs (at least in my area) it keeps out degenerates and those who often cause trouble.

    Most smaller, less popular clubs around here are usually dives, They attract people who have little money and often have a very bad reputation. In these establishments a cover is not a good idea since it will deter any clientelle from comming into the club.

    Personally, I don't really care to play these type of establishments, they usually pay a cut of the door. If not that, they'll pay you so poorly that everyone earns $50 at best. The clientele that they get is also a big turnoff to me.

    I personally do not like playing for the door. I'd rather get a set fee and let the bar make the extra profit off of drinks. You also run less risk of "miscounting" the money made.

    I couldn't agree more. I've had more people try and stiff the band on funds owed by playing for the door than I ever have when it was a set fee. Even when providing tickets to keep record of the amount of people who paid to get in. They (club own/manager) will usually retort with something like, "Well for all we know, your doorman could've pulled more stubs than actual people who came in."
  4. ambolina

    ambolina Guest

    Apr 7, 2004
    San Diego, Ca
    There are a lot of diff. types of bands here, i.e. those that make their living gigging, those that have day jobs but make a decent living gigging, bands that just play to play....

    Come from the last group, when it's our choice, we prefer no cover. I'd rather play to more people and since we cater to the hipster/indie/rock crowd here, those kids don't like to pay for their local music so much (me included; I just saw a local band charging $10 a tiny bar we just played last week for no cover and I thought to myself, who the heck is going to pay 10 bucks for two ok local bands?). I'd prefer a just a cut from the bar sales or a flat fee instead. But I do agree that if you're playing clubs that are already known for a cover, then it's fine. People were going to pay that to get in anyway.
  5. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    I agree with this method. The mark-up on booze gives the club owner a better spread of cash to pay the band and still not hurt the club owner's bottom line.

    If patrons have to pay a cover just to get in, that may help sell more drinks at another venue.
  6. xush


    Jul 4, 2001
    mobile AL
    we get a flat fee, but charge a small cover and the bar pays the difference between what that nets and our agreed amount. That way the bar doesn't hurt too bad, and the crowd doesn't balk at a high cover.
  7. johnvice


    Sep 7, 2004
    When you're getting established you have to play for peanuts or nothing (...or you have to pay to play).

    Once your established, be a professional: establish a price and stick to it. I don't like percentage of the door or percentage of the bar becuase you can be a victim of shady accounting or outright fraud.

    How the bar/night club runs their business is up to them.
  8. Edwcdc

    Edwcdc I call shotgun!

    Jul 21, 2003
    Columbia MD USA
    I have gone both ways. Wait...that didn't come out right.
    My band has played for the door a few times and made out pretty good but it could have easily gone the other way. For instance, lets say the weather is bad and you still have to show up and play but no one wants to venture out in the snow to see you, you get screwed. On that same night if you were getting a set amount you make out OK. You might even get to go home earlier if it's dead.
    Getting paid a set amount is money in the bank but getting the door is too much of a gamble.
    I'm no gambler.

    Hey Jive, How's it going?
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Widen your perspective, guys. You don't really think that Jim Hall or Roy Hargrove are playing for the amount collected as a cover charge when they play the Blue Note or the Vanguard, right?

    Cover charges can be awfully useful at making sure that anybody sitting in the audience WANTS to be there and isn't there just to get drunk and have a good time. I mean, if you have a choice of having somebody in the seat that has paid money just to get in the door to hear you or somebody who is there because they couldn't be bothered to go five more steps down to SLIM'S Y KI KI, who do you want to play to?
  10. Schwinn


    Dec 4, 2002
    Sarasota, FL

    I don't think cover charges really make a difference in who comes out to the bar - its only 5 bucks and, if you are like me, you spend about 40-50 bucks at the bar anyway.

    The only time a cover charge has turned me away was when I knew I only wanted to have ONE beer and leave.
  11. Edwcdc

    Edwcdc I call shotgun!

    Jul 21, 2003
    Columbia MD USA

    That's a good point but I think there may be people who would be more inclined to see a band they never heard of if they didn't have to pay 5 bucks to do so. If you have a good following and you know you can get good money for the door then that is your better option and it assures that you will have people in the seats that truly want hear your music.
  12. I'd like to see more specific answers here as far as what type of venues people are talking about.

    If you're playing a live music club here in Ottawa, you're playing for the door. Period. The cover charge is usually set by the venue, occasionally with input from the band. It's usually $5-$12 depending on the show - and is definitely an increase over what shows cost a few years ago. Bands are paid from the take at the door (generally between 90%-100% of the door money depending on the club). Every show I'll see people arrive at the door, learn there's a cover charge, and leave. I fail to understand why people won't drop a few extra dollars at the door to see some bands when they're going to be spending money already to buy beer.

    If it's a pub type show where you're playing multiple sets, lots of covers etc, I'm fully in favour of having no cover (or maybe like $2) and the band getting a set fee. To me, this equates to the venue paying for and providing 'live entertainment' to their drinking clientele.
  13. Schwinn


    Dec 4, 2002
    Sarasota, FL
    Yeah, it seems if you are willing to pay 600+% markup on drinks, what's another $2-$5 at the door?
  14. eric atkinson

    eric atkinson "Is our children learning "Is our teachers teachin

    Feb 4, 2001
    I guess this just depends on the club alone! If we r out in a area that we dont know very well we like to have a set amount! But if we play a home gig we charge for tickets at the door! The only times we get bad cash is if it snowes real bad or a wicked thunderstorm comes through! Always check the weather for the day you r gonna play! can make a huge diff some times!
  15. eric atkinson

    eric atkinson "Is our children learning "Is our teachers teachin

    Feb 4, 2001
    Also if you play at a club that has good food and drink try to add that into the show! Like my fav place to play in my home town is the Bi-Pass. Well its connected to a place called the kitchen-pass! They have great food and we always eat all we want for free! Also get free drinks just about every place we play! I awlawys found that if a club owner wont pay for your drinks then he is gonna be hard to deal with!
  16. johnvice


    Sep 7, 2004
    Ffor this reason, never advertise that there is a cover charge.
  17. It's interesting reading the other posts. Coming from a mostly original rock band perspective, it's been the same at most every place I've played in the past 19 or so years. Usually a three band bill, $5 or so cover- most of the time the PA is owned by the bar or operated by the big company that does sound for most of the places in town. Most of the time it's a bar employee or a band hanger-on doing the door.

    That's the way I've always seen it done, it makes sense to me. On the other hand, if you're doing a cover band and you're playing 3-4 sets it's a different ball game. The same goes for a jazz gig or whatnot.
  18. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I dunno, I paid $25-30 a set for tickets at NYC clubs when I traveled down recently.

    I was at the Blue Note and I'd guess it seats 200, 200 times $25 is $5000 per set and they do two sets a night!!! Do they really pay their acts more than $10K a night?

    Maybe I'm missing your fact I'm pretty certain I am :confused:
  19. vbass


    May 7, 2004
    Bay Area, CA
    Around here, as an original band, you don't have much choice to not play for the door. It usually results in getting less money than you should, but that's the way it goes. If you're lucky, you'll find one of the few places that gives each band a set amount, but those are few and far between so you can't be too choosy. My band has often not even gotten enough for gas money, but that's the name of the game.
  20. These people are good enough to come out and support us, I'm not going to be dishonest to them with not advertising the cover charge.