Open Letter From a Bar Owner to Musicians

Note: I have moved this letter to the following address, which is where I am now posting all my music-related material. Click here to read original letter:

http://onstagemagazine.com/open-letter-from-a-bar-owner-to-musicians/

I’ve re-opened commentary here so people can have continuity.  The comment function wasn’t working on the new link, but it has been fixed. So a new thread can be started over there as well. 

Thanks,

Chris

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455 Comments

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455 responses to “Open Letter From a Bar Owner to Musicians

  1. Pingback: Open Letter to Musicians & a Bar Owner in Tampa | The Good Groupie

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  3. jim

    as both a bar owner and a HUGE fan of the arts I understand both sides,i work with the bands as we have entertainment every night of the week.it was and is our goal to give our town a place to go and to give our artist a place to play , the problem is people refuse to pay a coverage charge unless your in a big city with big bands..so we eat the cost of the bands and advertising for the events, with factors like popularity and then things like other events going on or weather and so forth it is hard to predict if your investment is going to pay off..it is a great undertaking!! and of course there are people that just want a quite evening that will leave or walk out because they don’t want to hear the band no matter how good they are and then when a band does draw a crowd they want more money, and of course all bands want there bills comped and pay under the table..it has to work both ways..and anyone who has had a basic level of business training know that to go into a bar or restaurant business is out of passion not money..i think even a bar or restaurant that is in the 30% that makes it still is lucky to make min wage when you add up your hours.

    • Hotdog

      Rock Musician:Sought after and popular
      I’ve been in the rock music industry and more talented then every fucking moron in the business. Some suck and pretend they dont’ while the industry babysits numbers of drug addicts who churn out talentless grime.

      One thing I do know is that the industry needs to sog off all the female musicians who use male artists. I have had it up to my neck with female artists who steal male artists work.

      To boot they cry feminism. My ass. 99% of the females artist in the industry are without question ex cons.

      They want money for no talent. None of them come out to a rehearsal. None of them deserve more than cover and the bar.

      You. You thought that I was going to side with all musicians. You wish you knew who it was.

      I don’t. I really don’t. I’m right there with the bar owners on somethings.50% of the time they need to go with cover and door. Male artists need to teach female artist to shut up.

      And to start fricking accepting the industry will get you more shows that you can handle. But to pay your dues.

      So many female divas need to leave the industry. Yeah I’m talking to you.

      The need to leave the industry. They are not worth the money they’re asking for.

      They immitate every other artists and have no original ideas. Female artist
      suck. Especially White Female artists.

      Lady Antelbellums Song “I Need You Now.” has the exact lyrics of Alias
      I Need You Now. Tom Petty was right. They sound like bad pop music on MTV that is boring and sucks.

      anonymous

      • Interesting that you don’t have the stones enough to be accountable for your tasteless and arrogant comments that are from a bitter and angry person. and your ego tells me you really think your a star! Most of us who actually work in this biz , know about Imaging and packaging and creating something that may not vocally or talent wise be top notch. The invention of auto tune ,voice attenuators ect. ….. have taken true ability and made it not as essential as back in the days of yore. aside from the hint of your racial comment, most musicians and artists don’t know anything about business, thats why most of us are broke when we retire.
        Part of the global problem in the industry is ego everyone thinks they’re god to their genre…..BS. Get Humble and appreciate your talents that are gifts.

    • I booked a club for 4 years and also saw both sides of the story. Bar ultimately closed after struggling mightily. Many artists strolled in like they had zero obligation to promote “By the way I have a gig tonight” and played in front of an appreciative room of empty chairs by playing the artist role. Why not work in tandem as we all struggle in this?

  4. Pingback: Canadian Musician Blog » Blog Archive » Bands That Wanna Play Bars: Read This

  5. Just remember, a bar owner is a bar owner because he/she is not an artist. They didn’t have the discipline to learn anything useful in life, so they ended up selling alcohol to people so they can get drunk.
    A real musician, not a cover song player, is an artist who has devoted his/her life to learning something useful that can contribute to the well being of the human race and the world as a whole. A musician is someone that deserves complete respect regardless of what they are wearing, baseball cap, baggy pants, who cares, an artist has earned that right.
    A bar owner is someone that bows down to the artist, as there would be no bars without entertainment, no dancing without music, and no profit without hiring musicians.
    The musicians are the ones that are the boss. At every venue a musician plays at, they are in control. They are the boss, and that is why bar owners are so scared of them. Its like a monkey that wants to be human. The monkey can add and subtract, and even think for itself to a small degree, but the monkey will never be human. The bar owner will always be inferior to the artist musican, always. And that is the key to life my friends. Take the time and learn a skill, like music, and you will be happy. Don’t end up a bitter old bartender who lives to see people stumble out of his establishment at the end of the night.

    • This was such a great post from Stephen that I reposted it. its brilliant. Congrats Stephen.

    • Marc

      That is probably the most insulting reply and opinion to any ‘bar owner’ I have ever heard.

      There is no one superior to anyone, the artist to the bar owner, the construction guy to the doctor…. but in this case, you’ve really shown how low, narrow and closed minded you are.

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  8. D White

    Ok suck it up because here it comes. if your not making money playing music it’s not the fault of the owner of the venue. We are all responsible for each others well being. Everyone that listens to music live should contribute to the income of musicians. But people in general have learned to avoid each other. Especially when it might cost them something..Musicians have been working so hard to learn their instruments and promote themselves against a tide of people that think technology, starting with the phonograph, radio, tv telephones computers, is somehow going allow them to exploit a handful of musicians and maximize profits by by actually eliminating the musician.. When people listen to music now what percentage of it is live?
    Did you hire a DG or a band for your wedding?
    Oh But you want the music to be good. Perfect in fact. So somehow over the course of the last century nearly all of the events that were once reserved for human beings that play music are now given to people who operate machines. Machines that play recorded music from a tiny tiny handful of musicians compared to all of the real living breathing musicians out there.writing songs that will never be heard.
    Most times now even living humans that play music are expected to regurgitate replicas of recorded music.
    So all of these posts are missing the point completely!white
    Wake up! This is no Accident. Technology is control. Control of information.
    You can control what our world is like. Vote with this=$ Turn off the fucking tv. Throw your fucking “Smart” phone in a volcano .Has all this shit made the world a better place?. Are you actually able to connect with more people now?
    Seems to me that we are more divided then ever.
    Divided by politics, race, sex, religion, money and now bar owners against musicians.
    The truth is, we all want the same thing. To love and be loved.
    To stay warm and feed our kids so they can grow up and dance to live fucking music!
    D White

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  10. As a club booker who had to try to appease the club OWNERS, the MUSICIANS and the PATRONS, I tend to get annoyed by the simplistic and negative perceptions that inevitably the club owners are evil capitalists. In a tough economy and in a society where folk are more and more happy to plop themselves down on a couch in front of a TV (or in front of a computer), they quite often struggle to survive. And club owners need to smarten up- the musicians aren’t interchangeable and just because there’s a steady stream of them, it doesn’t mean they’re going to be good or draw. If only everyone worked on the same team! Musicians who perceive publicizing themselves to “not be my job,” stop playing the artist, willya? If you don’t draw flies, you don’t come back. How hard is it really to post your gigs on Social Media and try to get some fans in? And I don’t mean 2 hours before the show or after it (I’ve actualy seen this!). Really. And club owners, you’re not music critics. Be more open minded about your acts/genres and you, too, can do more in the promotion department. I know there’s 20 other things to do at the venue, but the bottom line is you need folk in there.

  11. stephen

    A bar owner is a bar owner because he/she is not an artist. They didn’t have the discipline to learn anything useful in life, so they ended up selling alcohol to people so they can get drunk.
    A real musician, not a cover song player, is an artist who has devoted his/her life to learning something useful that can contribute to the well being of the human race and the world as a whole. A musician is someone that deserves complete respect regardless of what they are wearing, baseball cap, baggy pants, who cares, an artist has earned that right.
    A bar owner is someone that bows down to the artist, as there would be no bars without entertainment, no dancing without music, and no profit without hiring musicians.
    The musicians are the ones that are the boss. At every venue a musician plays at, they are in control. They are the boss, and that is why bar owners are so scared of them. Its like a monkey that wants to be human. The monkey can add and subtract, and even think for itself to a small degree, but the monkey will never be human. The bar owner will always be inferior to the artist musican, always. And that is the key to life my friends. Take the time and learn a skill, like music, and you will be happy. Don’t end up a bitter old bartender who lives to see people stumble out of his establishment at the end of the night.

    • Mag

      Haha,great! But humanity needs booze,no? ;-)

    • wanker : gig :: baby seal : sledge hammer

      …and what planet are you on?

    • I’m Lmho with your commentary!!!!!!! Stephen, Bar owner are not scared of Musicians , I managed a Bar for many years and fired many bands who where as arrogant as you. I believe your a youngster in the business world. I am also a moderate well known recording artist and road musician. I can guarantee you one thing; if you talk to an agent or a talent buyer with your attitude ,you very Quickly will not get hired in ANY major Venue. Secondly, One of the most successful venues was Gilley’s , and Dillon’s in Nashville , Owned and operated by musicians and people associated with the industry. So If you entend on Playing and getting venues , Change your arrogant attitude.!

      • Gary Guitar

        “Stephen, Bar owner are not scared of Musicians , I managed a Bar for many years ”

        Now THERE’s something to be proud of – The legal version of a drug dealer.

        “I am also a moderate well known recording artist and road musician.”

        And you still ain’t doing anything. We see what the nationals are up to, as well as the locals. Anyone who thinks there’s anything worthwhile left in this business is pissin’ up a rope.

        ” I can guarantee you one thing; if you talk to an agent or a talent buyer with your attitude ,you very Quickly will not get hired in ANY major Venue. Secondly, One of the most successful venues was Gilley’s , and Dillon’s in Nashville , Owned and operated by musicians and people associated with the industry. So If you entend on Playing and getting venues , Change your arrogant attitude.!”

        Do you have any idea, any concept whatsoever, of how many incredible musicians simply DON’T CARE anymore? Have a ball!

      • I actually, do get it , and the fact am curious as to the degree you have from school and exactly what your occupation is .You also enjoy talking crap! about what the music biz is.and who should ascribe to your cynicism.I Can Prove my credibility.

    • Stephen – I am a full-time working musician and I can tell you that you are clearly off-base here. I suggest you read my article and learn the truth of what it takes to be a successful working musician. http://stevewitschel.hubpages.com/hub/Top-Tips-to-be-Successful-as-a-Musician-in-a-Working-Band

      • Gary Guitar

        When ALCOHOL and catering to drunk people are the main event, and the entertainment is a secondary consideration, the entertainer is in the WRONG environment. It’s a lousy scenario from the start. What we need is more music venues where the reason for being there is the MUSIC first – and oh yes, by the way, you can also buy a drink to quench your thirst. The theater works this way, concerts and festivals work this way. Bars are the EXCEPTION..

        I watch you “bar owners” start up your little businesses, time after time, staying open for a few months or a year, before folding. A few months later, someone else gives it a go in the same location, same clientele, same business model, before they close the doors too. You were so sure of yourself. YOUR bar was gonna be the exception, because you somehow knew something that nobody else “got”, right? What the hell happened?! I’ll tell you what happened. Your priorities are skewed, you didn’t do your homework, and M.A.D.D, along with the legal cash cow they created have got you by the short hairs. Suck it up, because there’s nothing you can do at this point. That’s the way it is. And any musicians who put their eggs in that particular basket are just setting themselves up for frustration and disappointment. Smarten up, players. Don’t be so pathetic. How desperate ARE you?? Really.

      • I ‘ve written on this before . I recently watched a bar go under the bar owner allowed bands to play whatever and however they pleased. band didn’t advertise , they didn’t have any show Quality and the Bar owner didn’t promote his venue. The Letter from the Musician who is working is correct on the 10 steps to increase your profit over a few years.I don’t work a lot because I frankly don’t believe Playing for next to nothing and dislike those bands who put on sub par shows ( I.E. no stage dress, no energy and stage presence, playing too loud). Most bands I see in clubs are garage bands playing for tips and 35 a man. that not the Bars Fault, ask any one who Plays casinos or Vegas , L.A. Austin and Nashville are mixed. However Business is Business . Giving a more Polished Show that draws people that buy bar product and like the band will come back to see more professional acting Bands.20 yrs. ago in the mid 80’s the economy began to slide, many bands had to go further away or quit.Older semi retired local began hiring out and the owner began to pay lessbecause local band bought into the no need for travel expenses (gas was still cheap), big mistake I need not go further, musicians who play for less then $150 a nite + meals/ room are giving bar owners an excuse to pay like crap. I told a bar manager last week, I play for $ 250 , me and my guitar and I get it. So all you complainers look in the mirror and see if you aren’t the real Problem.

    • Mag

      I agree completely! Hahaha

    • And I …….. really can Imagine Stephen you………make music that brings in a living? and you are respected in the music industry? ……..(lol) Some advice from an old Pro. stop taking hallucinogens……. they obviously have given you a dangerous god complex and most of those similar Artists are either dead or have been black listed and broke. I’m being nice……because you are young and delusional.

  12. Mag

    In San Francisco I stopped trying to get gigs at “venues” that were really desperate businesses asking for a “following”. I could not open my own venue so I decided to make the city itself the venue, and my band plays outdoors to EVERYONE every week on the street where we don’t get hassled because we can realy play at at a reasonable volume.

  13. Ok, here’s another ugly truth: this bar owner is a jerk. When I play in England, or Scotland, or Austria, or Holland, do you really think I bring people from home? Yet, the venue is packed. Why?

    BECAUSE THE CLUB OWNER GETS OFF HIS/HER ASS AND PROMOTES IT.

    For example, I’m playing at the Eel Pie Club in London at the end of August. Warren and Gina are already promoting the hell out of it. It’s one of the few places I’ll play for the door, because I know they will get a huge crowd. If they want posters or whatever, I’ll supply them. When I played the Rocking Horse in Nottingham, they made a huge damn sign to put over the stage. Was it a good crowd? Hell yeah.

    We’re not on the level of Shemekia Copeland or Derek Trucks. We play smaller venues (sometimes WAY smaller). We cannot guarantee a crowd. If we could, we’d open our own damn club.

    We don’t need your $100 a man, which is what we made in 1990. Thanks, but it won’t cover our bills. What do WE want? More fans. We’re trying to build a buzz, and are willing to work for what (in 2013) amounts to gas money to do it. But you have to do your part.

    If you can’t get your own people to come to your club, then we cant’ help you. Your club is going to fail, because you don’t have a following. People don’t know that YOUR club is the place to go to hear great live music, get drinks at a reasonable price, and have a good time.

    And that’s your fault. We can’t fix that. Unless the band is so lousy (or so loud) that they’re actually driving people away, an empty club is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.

    Oh, and by the way – do you really think you can get a band that brings in 100 people, or even 75 people, for $500? Any band that can absolutely guarantee that many clients is not going to play at your club, or at least not for that kind of money. The same as YOUR till, the math doesn’t work for the band, either.

  14. JMG

    There are many types of bars. There are venues that have live music, then there are live music venues. I would surmise that the author owns the former and if that’s the case, it’s fine. Live music venue owners are usually fans of the bands they hire.

    The one great thing about the Texas Music Scene is that the fans dictate everything. Most are too savvy to let ‘pop’ radio shove a bad song down their throats as if it were castor oil. They are loyal to the venues that consistently bring in great bands and once a venue gets a reputation for that, they can bring in lessor known, but also great bands.

    Telling a band what to wear is asinine. I would be much more annoyed by a bro band that showed up wearing suits because that’s not who they are. Ballcaps are fine. They aren’t showing up at the gf’s house to meet the parents for the first time, so chill out on the attire-tude.

    If the author’s bottom line is derived solely from drinks, he probably needs to diversify a bit. Bands aren’t the only ones that can sell ‘schwag’. Most music venues I’ve seen sell tons of ‘merch’ and other items that add to the income statement.

  15. StevenCee

    If you won’t listen to CDs, or visit a band’s website, and have no time to get out to hear any, how exactly do you determine which bands to hire?

  16. Hey all, don’t like to politicize the whole music thing but here are my thoughts to the author of this letter:

    I might be a dinosaur but:
    Sir, we (bands) are a product that you choose to hire because you believe our music, look and attitude will sell your drinks. Our job is to get up there and do what you have hired us for and what we have practiced to do for the last 15-35 years, in a professional manner that entertains and pleases. If the repertoire is wrong for your bar its YOUR fault not ours. Afterall you chose to hires us. If you want us to do something other than play our music which you hired us to do, you should ask if we are willing to do this before hiring us. I’ve never said “no” to push a drink with a funny comment if the owner asked me to. But afterall, if we wanted to sell drinks we would have owned a bar and not become musicians.
    Sets are for you to decide, ie: how long and how many. You should know your club and clubbers. They are structured by us to better enhance the music which, as I said before, you believe will sell drinks. I do agree not to stop if the “house is a rockin” but that is lesson 1 at bar music high school. I also believe to work hand in hand with the owner, within reason. However saying we are there to sell drinks is your agenda and not ours. I won’t go into how we are abused by owners…and could write a reversal letter. But the truth is respect. Your letter strikes me as very disrespectful to the entire life I have spent behind my guitar.
    So before blaming all musicians and casting doubts about our professionalism I would suggest you take a good look at your band selecting process because it sounds like you just don’t have the touch.

    • As a club BOOKER- whose job is to keep the owners, musicians and customers happy- and who really is a middle man of sorts, the truth here- like everything is, in face, in the middle.
      The fact that in most cases, owners, bookers and musicians are all struggling in a bad economy, would indicate that maybe- just maybe- they should consider themselves more of a team rather than do the old- “that’s his job, not mine.”
      For example, musicians posting on Facebook the day of a gig (or sometimes incredulously) the day AFTER probably aren’t helping their cause. The “it’s not my job to promote” is fine and good but if you don’t draw flies, you’re probably not coming back.
      And the owners AREN’T music critics. When I hear owners say that a great band is “terrible,” just because it’s not the style of music they enjoy, well, maybe they shouldn’t have booked them in the first place if that’s an issue. Or even better just count the cash register receipts.
      Owners who refuse to publicize, put signs in windows, have drink specials, etc. also probably aren’t helping their cause.
      And fans who think it’s OK to nurse one drink all night and break into a cold sweat at the sight of a tip jar aren’t doing anyone any favors either. Stay home if you can’t afford it or are too cheap to really support a scene.
      I could go on and on.

    • Gary Guitar

      AN OPEN LETTER TO CLUB OWNERS

      As musicians who get all the glory, we feel it’s time to thank those whom we rely upon for the opportunity to showcase our talent and express our creative faculty to the local community. Because, as everyone knows, musicians don’t really need the money. We do it all for beer and blow jobs. We’re artists. We have no time for such trivialities as kids, mortgages, or car payments

      Some of the things we love:

      • When you send us home early and pro-rate our pay for the night when it’s slow. This gives us a special thrill, since we know that you’ll one day give us a big bonus when it’s packed. Plus, by leaving early, we can now go watch our friends play at real bars and spend our night’s wages.

      • When trying to book dates, we love when you ask us if we’re “free on “the 17th.” Sure, let us check our fucking calendar. Yeah, we’re open that night. Oh…you meant of November. Of this year?

      • We also love when you say, “Well, we might be doing something next month for Thursdays.” Yeah, we might also be doing something next month. Foreclosing!

      • One of our fave questions is, “Do you have a following?” Of course we do! We firmly believe club owners shouldn’t have to concern themselves with such banalities as advertising. Or promotions. Or drink specials. The responsibility for attracting customers must fall solely with the band. We have no doubt whatsoever the people who saw us regularly at that bar in Islamorada will charter a bus and trek up to Margate to hear us play Smoke on the Water. Put your minds at rest, o’ troubled bar proprietors.

      Just a few of the things we’d like to thank you for:

      • For canceling us forty minutes prior to our arrival at your bar, because as everyone knows, babysitters are free, and frankly, we have nothing better to do on a Saturday night.

      • For replacing our four-piece band with the clove cigarette-smoking guy and his $129 Fender acoustic guitar, paisley button-down shirt and soul patch. There’s a reason he works for a hundred bucks.

      • For paying the exact same wage for a duo that you paid in 1986. So now, we have to work six jobs a week instead of four to make a living.

      • Thanks for not cashing your own checks. We realize how this complicates your accountant’s life, and his happiness is all that matters.

      • And for having the house music set to the local oldies radio station, we salute you. We love following “Unchained Melody” with “Rock the Casbah.”

      • For not having a stage. It’s a real treat to stand on your wing sauce-saturated carpet. And being on the same level as your patrons makes it much easier for drunken assholes to approach us and fall into our equipment while spewing a three-foot stream of vomit onto the drum kit. Thank you.

      • Thanks for the track lighting above the stage. Makes us feel like rock stars. Especially when they’re colored.

      • Also, thanks for the break on food and drinks. Fifty percent is such a gift. It’s our distinct pleasure to shell out $3.25 for a shot of Jack that costs you twenty-two cents. Grazie. Merci. Domo. Danke.

      • Thanks for hiring the three laid-off bus mechanics who threw a band together after the economy shit the bed and will now play for $75 a man. Enjoy their ripping 11-minute rendition of “Cocaine,” complete with 64-bar bass solo and fudged lyrics.

      • Thanks for cancelling us on a Thursday night for the Browns-Lions game on NFL Network.

      • Thanks for putting TVs directly over our heads, so people can watch “World’s Scariest Videos” while we play. It’s always a thrill to hear such expletives as “WHOA!”, “HOLY FUCKING SHIT!” while navigating the soliloquy from “Nights in White Satin.”

      • And let us not forget the bartenders, who listen to us all night without once clapping (if for no other reason than to induce the comatose people at the bar to clap).

      • And thanks so much for cutting off the jukebox 10 seconds into “Sweet Home Alabama,” so that we can hear that collective “AWWWWWW….” from the audience as we hit the stage. Most inspiring
      .
      • Thanks for waiting until you’ve served all drinks, lit every cigarette, wiped off the bar, stocked the coolers and done your side work before moping toward the cash register with the quickness of a tai chi instructor to give us our meager salary while muttering, “They make as much as me, and only worked four fuckin’ hours.”

      • Yes, it’s a travesty, but most high-level universities no longer give out bartending scholarships. And please note that it took us slightly longer to learn our instrument than it took for you to make it through Billy Bob’s Bartending School. And we doubt seriously that you sit at home practicing bartending in your spare time. So thanks for handing over the dough and shutting the fuck up.

  17. Kevin

    I think many of you missed the point of the original post. It was written by a BAR owner, NOT a promoter, a booking agent or someone who runs a dedicated music venue. As a band that plays original music the only reason to play a bar is for the exposure and for fun. It’s simply unrealistic to expect to make any real money playing bars, they’re in the business of selling alcohol not promoting music and talent. We go to a gig at a bar expecting a modest amount of comp’d food and beer and maybe a dozen or two new fans that will show up with their friends at our next gig at a real music venue, that’s what makes it worth the effort and expense.

    The best way for an band to make money is through merch sales anyway. In an 8 week tour we barely made enough to pay expenses from what the clubs gave us, but we sold $22k worth of shirts, records, posters, stickers, ect. We hired a merch girl (a smart attractive girl can sell way more stuff than any dude), We paid her based on a % of sales and she wheeled and dealed with the fans like an arab trader and sold everything we brought with us in the first two weeks, we had to order more and have it shipped to a venue across country. So I don’t see the point in bitching about what the venue pays because if you know what you’re doing you can make it worth while. We played a party for a guy that owned a taxi/limo service and instead of cash we worked a deal where he had a limo fairy us to and from our gigs for a year, IMO that was priceless. You have to consider that there are more ways to get compensated than just cash.

    It seems like many of you have the attitude that because you have some talent and you’ve logged the hours that you deserve to be treated like rock stars right out of the gate, but those aren’t the things that make rock stars, fans do. You could be the most talented group on the planet that doesn’t mean squat if you don’t get out there and get heard and sometimes in order to do that you have to play gigs for nothing or next to it.

    • y0u are a breath of fresh air! (can I barrow that sales girl) lol. You said I worked with Mike McDonald years ago and he had a table to the side of the stage during breaks he had two attractive womwn ,one his wife the other her sister, T’s and cassette ( before the invention of Cd’s,…God I’m Old<lol). within 2 days he made $6,000 after expenses of buying Merch. I was double booked in moose jaw once and the owner said tell you what Play the breaks , I was doing solo gigs back then,I pay you but I can feed you and give you one of the suites.I said sure can I put a tip jar out sure , I made more money playing 3 45min set s with a tip jar then the artist doing the main gig. When you gotta eat and we don't get unemployment you learn to be humble and hungry. Thanks

  18. Ray

    Music is both an art and a craft. As a craftsman, we have all performed music that wasn’t art. It is your choice to work for someone who is all about the business of his establishment. What this gentleman (and I do use the term loosely) is saying is that if you have made that choice, then he expects you to get with the program, and there is no doubt that you are in fact his employee for the night. Never forget that you made the choice to be a craftsman and get over it.

    As an artist however… Yes, you may choose your venues differently and adjust your expectations accordingly. No problem. If your art is that good, you will reap your own rewards in time. That is not ignoring the realities of the business, that is accepting them. Every start-up takes time before it profits, whether that be in dollars, notoriety, or anything else you are actually driving towards.

    The goal of a craftsman is to deliver a well-crafted ‘product’ that people already want. The goal of an artist may be better defined as opening someone’s mind to something they didn’t already know and love, but might once exposed to it. An artist’s success is almost never defined in dollars, but can be, once again, if you’re that good, which is where the craft and the art converge.

    All of this argument here seems to be about conflicting these two very separate ideals. You will find no one on this planet more guarded about their art than these musicians who treasure it so well, me included. But playing this gentleman’s club is not art. It is craft, it is as a carpenter to a general contractor, and no more. And it is not my choice to work in that respect. He doesn’t get to hear my art, so be it, he didn’t want to. Nor do his bachelorette parties, or frat boys, or his otherwise shallow patrons who don’t care about the art. But that is a choice, and no more. Choose well for your own goals and his argument evaporates.

    • Marc S

      Bravo, Ray. Well put.

    • Absolutely consummate Ray! It is a choice . Just like I said one of my diatribe to this thread, I choose to be an entertainer and a artist .I’m fortunate to be able to do both .and get paid for it .I don’t see any argument ; the Bar owner is correct and he is also incorrect as are the musicians art is creation, entertaining is a skill an those who it for a living, know what is expected of them no what the venue. Very well Put.

    • Ray

      Thank you Marc, and you as well Don. There is a larger subject here that this post so wantonly and subtly provokes in most musicians’ heart and soul. In an effort to not ignore it…

      This letter is a fantastic example of the cynicism so many of us feel about the currency of music itself, whether it be art or craft. Mozart was ‘signed’ – commissioned – to write waltzes, well below his level of brilliance, so this is not by any means a new subject. However, his contract was more about keeping his head from being cut off, than about making a personal choice to please his following.

      The state of the art allows just about anyone to make ‘music’. This liberty we all know to submit to the world what we can create has a progressive downside. It is in the definition of the art itself. In the same way that one could compare a Hemingway work to the newest James Patterson novel, we all feel the sting of what the world now calls music. We want the notes to matter more. We want it to be good because it is musical, not because it’s a cultural iconic device, a vehicle for one’s wealth, arrogance, or fame. We would all like it to have more depth, and less frivolous manipulation by an industry that lowers the standard by markers every year.

      For my part, that present state of my very personal art/craft can feel like pins and needles on any given day. It can be literally painful to know so many excellent musicians who have to give way each day to the masked ignorance of popularity, and to an industry that no longer represents them in any serious way.

      It is this very cynicism, so patently and flagrantly posted in this letter, that drives these passionate responses, drives us to argue with each other, and frustrates us all to such bitter end.

      Music is not a business, it never was, and never will be. It is an art form, unsurpassed by any other. It reaches deeper than just the words on a page, it raises the creative force of film to a place unachievable without it, and can level the heart of even the strongest of us with the simple stroke of the right notes in the right context. The power of that art is shown in the industry’s covetousness of the money that music commands, as misused as those dollars may be.

      And this gentleman would like me to think that I sell beer. Awesome.

      Not so much.

    • david vandenberg

      Has this owner ever written and or dealt with contract law and/or arbitration? I have and a single word in the wrong place can screw the event completely for everyone involved!!! So choose you words carefully and I strongly advise a lawyer be consulted towards said contract.
      As a venue coordinator, former I.A.T.S.E. stagehand, personal security agent, professional photographer, etc…, i know one must have the “riders/contracts” satisfied, PERIOD, that includes “NO RED M&M’S” if stated or that is breach of contract thus the band has the option to refuse to play if written into said contract and/or seek thru legal means compensation for said breach.
      The band has no legal obligation to promote a concert unless again written into a “rider/contract” tho many will do so as a courtesy to the venue, often that depends on the treatment they receive from the owner and/or their agent and also the staff they have to deal with.
      With that being said i tend to side with a musicians point of view yet my experience lies in dealing with national/international acts that can pack a 20,000+ venue to overflowing every nite and keep them coming back and wanting more, not some “titty flop” searching for an extra buck in the coffer.
      i for one have always provided “a step above the rest” in the treatment of “my bands” before, during and after a gig and have been rewarded not only monetarily but in long term friendships that have lasted thru 26 years of being in the industry. To have a musician state 20+ years down the line “you always made us feel welcome, we felt like a house band Thank You” is a very humbling experience. Yet to have such a statement made an owner/promoter must allow his people to have the freedom to go that “extra mile” by providing services that others refuse to provide.
      As far as setting up and sound issues, get over the fact that noise is being made, a guitar or drum kit requires tuning and that is a fact that will never change thus the setup noise then the sound check prior to the gig. Again the venue must realize this and if it is unacceptable then i suggest the owner consider opening a Tibetan Monastery where soft chanting is the norm, music requires the noise that goes with setup prior to the concert. Would Keith Moon stand for a promoter telling him to be quiet, i think not, Keith would have knocked this fool out, period point blank.
      As to liquor sales, that responsibility is solely one of the bar/club/venue not the musician, they are there to perform not “hawk booze” and as a sober, drug free employee i discourage the entertainers from partaking in any extra curricular activities until they have finished performing, there is nothing worse than a bass player passing out on stage during a drum solo and crashing into the drummers kit, “Give the audience the show of a life time every time” and the venue will survive any eco-terror bad times may bring.
      Attire is also at the musicians discretion, if you don’t like the way the band presents themselves then don’t book Kiss or Sid Vicious in to your country club stuffed shirt bar. Rule of thumb, “don’t like the look don’t book”, not all musicians are pretty boys so remember talent does not take form in a look it takes form in “TALENT” & years of “DEDICATION”

  19. Marc S

    Since this has turned into an absolute sh**storm where the negative attacks outnumber actual decent advice, here are some positive pointers that *I* have used over the years which *I* have noticed to HELP my band/artist/gig be successful

    1. Get the names of the staff working your gig and give them a shout out. EVERYONE likes a little recognition.

    2. Learn to say THANK YOU.

    3. Talk to the manager, head bartender or owner before you go on to find out the drink of the day/special of the day

    4. Ask the manager if they will give YOU permission to make an announcement on a special

    5. Start your set on TIME

    6. Be sure you understand load in times and locations.

    7. Understand the rules of your sound checks. Owners get riled up when you are launching into your Metallica Medley while diners are trying to consume their dinners. This is Chippy’s Chipotles Bar and Grill NOT Madison Square Garden.

    8. Don’t expect a bar tab, ever. Don’t expect to ever drink for free. Ever. If you expect to get free alcohol, you might wanna check into local laws, as most states do NOT allow bands (subcontractors) to drink while ‘employed’. Not only that, expecting free alcohol doesn’t make you a professional, it makes you a drunk.

    9. Don’t try to compare your PA or stage gear to the money the owner has tied up in his venue. Trust me, he has more money tied up than you.

    10, Try to look like a professional.

    11. Try to treat it like a business. There is an art side to music, there is a reward side to audience recognition and playing a great night, but NO REAL PRO will ever try to convince you there isn’t a business side to what they do.

    12. You spend a lot of time trying to get people to sign up for your mailing list, Facebook page or other social media. Replace one or two of those announcements to mention the VENUE.

    13. In a cover band situation, it’s NEVER about the “I play and do my thing and hope that people dig it” Play stuff people recognize and dig first, then you’ll have latitude to play ‘your thing’.

    14. Do NOT let your buds get up and jam with your band at a gig. That’s not what the venue hired.

    15. Learn how to adjust to the crowd you are playing for.

    16. Don’t play 35 minutes of straight dance material, Give them a chance to sit down and order drinks.

    17. Don’t book yourself into 5 clubs within 10 miles of each other. Ever. You need to learn exclusivity means a lot to a bar owner AND patrons.

    18. Talk to your audience. BETWEEN sets. That means having decent between set music playing at a DECENT volume. Giving the patrons a chance to converse is really important.

    19. Get a decent light show. You wanna be remembered? People remember visuals much more than what you played. The bartender? Won’t remember what you looked like, but they will have listened to you all night. Might be a good idea to talk to them and get a read on what they like and put it in the set.

    No one owes you, the musician, anything. Just because you picked up an instrument and started playing, you are owed nothing. if you are an ‘angry’ musician because some seem to be getting more success than you, then examine why that is. Steps can always be made to move towards more success…. once you have the rep of being ‘difficult’, it will always haunt you.

  20. virgil havice

    some bands sell music , others are good at selling drinks , sponserships , like beer companies n liquior brands, the flip side is bands have thousands of bucks tied up in equipt alone ..needless to say hours of travel , rehearsels, and travel expenses …most are underpaid , appreciated yes ..but in the end their playin for string money ….and the enjoyment of lettin someone else dance , holler , n have a nite of fun …jussayin …ol rocker

  21. Greg Marks articulated most of my thoughts very well but maybe everyone is focusing too much on the club owners. Here’s the rub… Professional musicians should not play on spec. Get a contract or get another gig. Bar owners… don’t expect professionalism from amateurs – you get what you pay for.
    I managed a major jazz club in Seattle for 4 years. We paid our musicians top dollar and still made it. In fact, the club has been there for over 30 years and still survives.
    In Washington State you must have a restaurant to obtain a liquor license. Then you must have food sales at 60% or more to maintain that license yet somehow this particular club thrives,
    Why? Incredible artists on a consistent basis gave them a great reputation. Good food and service helps too. Everyone does their job – everyone gets paid.
    Muzos – If you don’t get paid, don’t do the job. Simple as that.

  22. Al Quaglieri

    Fair enough. Now here are my Ten Suggestions to Bar Owners from Musicians:

    1. Don’t cheap on us by telling us what good exposure it’ll be. As a friend of mine said, people die from exposure.

    2. Stop making our load-ins a humiliating experience. Forcing us to tiptoe through your back entrance full of sewage and rats is just insulting. Come in early so we can set up without disrupting your customers during busy hours.

    3. Don’t tell us what to play. You knew our repertoire when you hired us. We don’t tell you how to make drinks.

    4. Don’t expect miracles. If your club is dead on a Thursday night and you hire a band to liven things up, don’t think the band’s going to populate the place on its own. If you really want to cultivate live music on a given night, you have to promote it and give it time.

    5. Build a decent stage that isn’t an electrical fire hazard. So many performance areas seem like afterthoughts. Just pushing tables aside in a little corner of the rooms is a shitty way to present entertainment.

    6. Know when to pull the plug. If a night isn’t happening, cut a deal with the band to finish early. Making them stay until 2 or 3 am playing to tables and chairs sucks.

    7. Cherish the musical acts who consistently deliver for you. They will go out of their way to give you your money’s worth. Treat them like dirt and you’ll get what you deserve.

    8. Don’t make well-rehearsed bands play open-mic nights. It’s torture for them. There are enough wannabees out there to populate any stage, any night of the week.

    9. Acknowledge that the musicians make you money. The saying goes, when it’s a bad night it’s the band’s fault, when it’s a good night it’s because people love the club. This is petty and insulting logic.

    10. Install a decent sound system. It’s a one-time investment that pays off in satisfied performers AND customers.

  23. Dez Crawford

    A band is four people who load $30,000 worth of gear into a $4,000 car to drive 100 miles to a $500 gig, right? My husband and I have owned two live music clubs. I disagree with the author that the music has to be “pop,” unimaginative and highly danceable to get customers to stay, and I also disagree with the notion that customers don’t want to hear long guitar solos or non-top-40 music. Customers do want to hear GOOD music. They will stay and drink for long guitar solos which do not suck. They will stay for jazz, blues, whatever … if the band is good and this means practiced, professional-looking musicians (wear some groovy threads and not your torn-off khakis, dudes. Look like a BAND.) Try to read your audience and have a little variety in your song list: if it’s a club at the mall, play mostly dance tunes. If it’s a roadhouse, lay on the guitar solos. Get a feel for the clientele — that means, arrive early. Have some personality onstage. Thank the audience for coming — don’t presume they think you are wonderful. Remind them that it’s happy hour or if there is a drink special. Tell them something like, “Janet looks bored and she is WAY too cute of a bartender to have nothing to do — order some drinks, people!” Give them teasers: “we’re taking a break now but we’ll we playing our most popular song in the next set and we’ll be giving away a few CDs, so stick around and have another beer while we do the same!” DON’T abuse the bar tab if one is made available for the band — it is only for people who are WORKING: the actual musicians, roadies, sound/light people. The tab is NOT meant for girlfriends, boyfriends, roommates of the band. Bar owners love a band who knows how to make a good, tight sound check, because NOTHING drives the happy hour crowd out like an extended sound check — especially on the drum kit. Be as quiet as you can while setting up if the bar is open during that time. Be organized, pack up efficiently and clean up after yourselves.

    • Dez , I can tell by your post you’ve been in the Biz. Musician take heart to what this post says! Playing a good club is about 3 things if you are being paid: 1.knowing the real reason why you are there! to put bodies on the dance floor for 2 hrs but also too get those people to buy what the club is selling. 2.using psychology through music and showmanship to accomplish #1 3.IF YOU ;AS A BAND accomplish the above (you’ll know that by going up to the till or bar and looking at the long register tape flowing in layers on too the floor and the big smile on the Bartender face along with the owners).you will achieve your pay plus a return date. Bar owners don’t need headaches from bands or their girlfriends, boyfriends ect. I’ve say the same thing to these threads about this who needs who in the music/ bar Biz. The ultimate goal of both parties IS to Keep doing what each entity loves to do respectively. If your Goal is not to make a living at what you do then find something else to do and leave it to those of us who can and Do make Money for both entities involved! I’ve seen successful club owners apply the above concepts in both Us and Canada , I know most of the top Artists and bands have done their fair share of road work and got enough exposure doing it to get picked up by labels ,AR,Talent buyers. where are they now ? many of my famous peers are doing those old clubs because that where they started.

      • I’ve got a small bar/restaurant and we book bands on Saturdays. The best sound check I’ve ever seen is by a local band called “Crazy Chester”. Their sound check consists of a Neil Young song (perhaps one of their strongest songs too). They take their turns over the course of the song to dial in. There’s often a crowd transition from dinner to band and that sound check retains ALOT of customers who might have otherwise finished off the evening after dinner.

        “Well, that was our sound check, we will be back on in 45 minutes”.

        The difference between “check, check, check” random drum beats and guitar riffs and what Chester does is night and day.

        We will make room on our schedule for Chester any time, any day.

  24. beer-selling bassist

    The job of every vendor, regular employee and contractor (the band) in a bar is to sell booze.

    • Gary Guitar

      “The job of every vendor, regular employee and contractor (the band) in a bar is to sell booze.”

      Have a ball. I’d rather sell shoes.

      • Realist

        Have fun playing music at the shoe store. I’d rather play music at the bar.

      • Gary Guitar

        Don’t need to play in shoe stores. There are private parties and special events, and I can pick and choose the gigs where I won’t be treated like a third-class citizen. I hate feeling like a chump, and bar owners are so good at playing that game. There will also be contracts involved, one of the stipulations being that the band is paid cash up front. Don’t want to go with that? No problem, see ya! I’m not an employee of the venue, I’m an independent contractor performing a service. And I require cash up front. That’s my policy. Chuck Berry figured it out years ago, I’m fully capable of learning the same lessons.

        Recently, I broke my “no more bars” rule, and relented to play another pitiful, hole-in-the-wall bar on a last-minute call as a favor to a friend who had to cancel. The bar owner was desperate for a weekend band, and seemed happy to land a band at the “12th Hour”. I hadn’t played a bar in some time, and as I looked around, I thought . . . “Great. Same old, same old . . . dark, dingy corner of a nasty, dirty room, smokey with no ventilation, no stage, no lights. Could it get any more depressing?”

        As it worked out, one of the guys got there late because he had to juggle some previous commitments. But he made it. We got started 15 minutes late, but the important thing (I thought) was that the bar had a band for Friday night when they wouldn’t have otherwise, and the audience LOVED the music. How did the bar show their gratitude? By docking the band’s pay from an already paltry $300 to $250 for 5 people working hard for 4 hours! Boy, you folks are SWELL! Call me again, I’ll be real quick to bail you out next time your ass is in a sling for entertainment – about as soon as pigs fly.

        Never again.There are plenty of chumps out there to exploit, but you don’t get me. Nearly 50 years of gigging experience has shown me that nothing ever changes for the better in the bar biz, and my interest level at playing or even patronizing bars anymore has reached absolute zero. (For what??) But I wouldn’t try to deny anyone else their fair share of punishment and abuse. If that’s what floats your boat, please – have at it, by all means. ;-)

      • Marc S

        Maybe the guy docked you unfairly. You still started late. Don’t take the gig if you don’t know if everyone will be there on time, and ready to play.

        And you’re not an independent contractor. And I don’t believe for a minute you are paid, cash, ahead of time. Paid by check at the end of the night, even for the Nationals, is the standard procedure. Even the Nations sometimes wait for checks to be mailed out. There ain’t a place on the planet that hands them cash. EVER.

      • Gary Guitar

        Marc S, I think you missed the general gist of it. First, we were doing it as a FAVOR. They had no band at the last minute for a weekend night, and we bailed them out. Trust and believe, I’d have just as soon been something else, like maybe going someplace classy with my girl instead of a wasting the night in a little piss hole bar. They should have been grateful we were there at all, rather than focus on the 15 minutes longer that it took to pull it together and make it happen for them. Seriously.

        Second, yes I AM an independent contractor, I am responsible for my own taxes, and the terms of the engagement are spelled out in the contract. (Hence the word “contractor, get it?) You don’t have to believe that my contract specifies cash in advance, or that I even get it. And if I played bars, of course, you’d be right. But with the exception the night I described, where I was trying to help someone out, I do *not* play bars, nor do I have any plans to ever do so again in the future. It’s a losing proposition every time. Put your hand in a bucket of shit, and I guarantee you it’ll come out stinking. EVERY time.

        Third, I *do* get cash up front for weddings, parties, and other events. If someone makes a mistake and shows up with a check, they’re just gonna have to go out and get some cash – at least 50%. Chuck Berry does it, and little ol’ me, I do it too. Do you really wanna argue about it? You can believe it or not, it’s all the same to me.

        Until musicians realize that they don’t have to be subservient peons to sleazy bar owners, crawling on their hands and knees to pick the pennies out of their loafers, they’ll continue to be treated like the chumps that they deserve to be treated as. Me, I really don’t need to play that bad.

      • wow, all interesting , I never got paid by check except for one time for a hockey booster club. Most of the gigs I did were pre paid50% in advance then the rest on completion of gig. This was back in the 80’s. To the guy who has been giggin for 50 yrs. you should already know that when your hired; start time is agreed to either in contract or a standard known time. It is not the bar owners responsibility to wait because your members are late , Never take a gig that you can’t fulfill on time . If you have a member who is late Start with out him. We all talk being pros but being pro is not allowing for un fore seen problems; If the Bar owner was in a jam and he was the one who hired you then you should have cleared it with all your members before you took the gig. I had Gig where the band I was going to use for a major local festival on the main stage bailed,at the last minute leaving me to scramble for a replacement Band , I ended up doing the gig with my Nephew for a huge drop in pay . I never used that group again and the word went out about stiffing me , they never worked that circuit again . My point is :If you are hired you need to be a professional in every aspect. If your not then you make it harder for those of us who have a Rep to maintain . Business is Exactly that Business!!!!. I don’t become friends with Owners or agents for that reason. I’m friendly ,honest and willing to help someone out but not to gain favor or slack off because I’m doing you a favor getting you out of a jam. That’s no way to do business.
        B bar clubs hire garage bands or mediocre caliber players for $250- $300. A club circuits ask for show bands and National opening acts. Pay $800-$1000 per show. Vegas national acts -$1500-$3000 depend on band contract. ALL agent bookings are contract and specific to each club or venue it represents. Simple Want good money work for it ! No one Owes you anything. I ask what I ask in a contract If the venue agrees then we do the gig. Payment as stipulated in contract . PERIOD! How Is this So hard to understand ? Money is Money! You want to Be Paid well then Earn It by being the Best and most Professional Players around!

  25. Skip

    If I may, am going to comment as a “paying customer” to these bars that hire live entertainment or a band.
    I understand there is a bottom line and that they both are in business to make a profit. However, and I have seen this for years, I do not like paying a cover charge, to sit and listen to a band tuning their guitars/amps etc, going “check 1 2, check 1 2″ for over 1 hour or more.And this is usually done over music coming from the jukebox. (a side note, why would I pay money to hear a live band and then feed the jukebox?)
    I have gone to places where the band is still “setting up” at 9 o’clock and then they stand around because they do not start playing a “set” till 10:30.
    I have gone into places at 9, the band was not only set up, but about 3 songs into their first set.
    Guess, which band, am I more likely going to go back to see? And which bar I’m going to spend money in?

  26. I am also a musician and I have worked for two entertainment agencies here is QLD Australia. Since the introduction of the “Pokies” in QLD the entertainment industry (as far as clubs and pubs are concerned) has changed dramatically – i believe this has also been effected by modern media.. These days I see the clubs and pubs mostly as paid rehearsals for my four piece band. Generally speaking, whether you’re a band or solo with backing, the money on offer is usually the same. I chose to have a band as I like live music, so I earn less money in this area – my choice. The insights from the above Publican are right on the money. Whether he should or should not have a different opinion is irrelevant, he is telling you what the opinion of most publicans is – it’s not even bums on seats, it’s money in the till from drink sales. I market my band to private functions mostly these days, the money is better, they give you meals and drinks and treat you like a special guest. At pubs I am lucky if I get a soft drink. That’s the reality. So pubs and clubs are good to keep your band working and tight, and they give you exposure to pick up the higher paying private functions. Unless you have an exceptional act, the pub and club scene won’t feed your kids – diversify. I personally have always had a second job – I am a wise husband and father.

  27. Bars and or Clubs also have the responsibility to be “professional” if they decide to have live music. No stage, no power, nobody in charge of setting up,etc. is not good business if you want to have a band entertain and your patrons to buy drinks. “House Draw” is also important if you expect people to want to come to or play at your place. If the venue is lame and the owners incompetent or missing why should it be the band’s job to bring in people and get them to drink? It’s a two way street.
    This being said, the bar owner in the CL ad makes good points, if you play in a club or bar make sure you are making an effort to give people a good time and keep your ego out of it. My opinion….

  28. Josh H

    Reading many of your posts, including those of my old and valued friend Greg Marks (who is an excellent musician, composer and arranger) have led me to a few thoughts.

    A premium brand is clearly marketing excellence… (yes, often using smoke and mirrors). This is one of the reasons, that before changes in legislation, alcohol and tobacco companies lined up at jazz festivals to shower them with corporate sponsorship money. Excellence and class are the clearest, most effective associative tools to have expensive product sell itself. A great band can create this, in the context of their care and attention to product and detail. Trying to shill and have band members ask for liquor they themselves don’t want to drink? Note the music choices in premium product advertising… Often Classical, Jazz, Parisian, often sultry, but most often dignified. want Where I’m not suggesting a radical new playlist for a bar, I am saying that associating one’s business with the higher end of culture has its advantages.

    Now, if you want to aim as hard as you can at the mainstream… go ahead, but don’t expect a quality musical product from low rent bands with a yessir mentality.

    I haven’t had high expectations from club owners for years… fortunately my music career no longer requires it. Many of us are now seeing the value of taking the niche market of music of artistic value into the “house concert” market. After all, the discrepancy between alcohol prices between liquor store and bar/restaurant has increased at a startling amount in the last few years.

    Great musicians don’t have to resort to these silly games to get a bar thumping… I’ve had ‘em lined up down the block and sold the wells out on the force of energy in the club. Find the right band and you can sell a boatload of liquor, and up your club’s reputation as the place where THAT happened. They won’t (and shouldn’t) come cheap, and they have been honing their craft for years to give you an amazing, amazing clientele. It’s out there! And it’s out there in sophisticated, interesting, original ways. Be discerning, thoughtful, and take chances where you see talent! Not stupid ones.

  29. Pingback: Link: “Open Letter From a Bar Owner to Musicians” | Your Man About Town

  30. I’ve read the 300 comments in hopes of learning everyone’s point of view on the subject because I am in this business as a cover band musician playing in a multitude of bars. Our band isn’t really looking for ‘one night stands’ with an establishment – we are hoping to have a successful relationship with the bar owner, staff, and patrons, that will result in re-bookings. The professionals realize it’s all a business, it has to pay off for all involved. So, although most of you reading this already know it – each person’s job relies on the other’s doing their jobs respectively. Our band is approaching our 500th performance in South Florida, most are repeat bookings with successful venues. We play popular covers from the last 50 years to get people out onto the dance floor. Most people, especially men, are shy at first about dancing. It takes a set or two for people to loosen up (by drinking alcohol) and get the courage to go out on the dance floor. If the band is bad, people will just leave and go party somewhere else. So having a good band keeps people entertained and wanting to stay to hear the next set. Girls dance, guys watch, they drink while they watch, they eventually get the courage to join the girls on the dancefloor, and by the end of the night it’s one big party. There are some things that might be helpful that are not mentioned. I and my friends frequently say that the service or attention from a bartender or waitress is so poor they couldn’t get served. I have seen many places lose hundreds of potential dollars by not serving people fast and politely without an attitude. I have stood at many bars trying to get the attention of a bartender and then having to give up waiting. I have never ever been asked by a bartender if I would like to try a better top shelf drink ) i.e. if I order a vodka cranberry, they don’t ask if I would like to try grey goose vodka – I have never seen a bartender try to upsell drinks or ask you to try a new drink. I have never had a manager come up to the band to talk to us at the beginning of a show to share their expectations, requirements, or knowledge of the kind of music their patrons like to hear. We play 75 minute sets. 45 minute sets stop the party just as it is getting started. If we take a break after having a full dance floor, I would expect all those sweaty people who have just gotten a full dance workout to run to the bar to get something to drink and catch their breath before we start our next set. How many songs do you dance to in a row before you go sit down and rest? We travel up to a 100 mile radius to perform, most people go out to drink locally. We can’t be expected to bring our friends to come out and drink and have to drive 50 miles back home at 1 a.m. As for our music selection, yes we roll our eyes when someone asks to hear ‘Brown Eyed Girl’, but thats the same as a bartender getting tired of hearing someone order a bud light. The club owners should also be aware that when we post and advertise a performance, and our following looks them up on a web search, their failed inspections come up — critical violations – gunk on the soda guns, rust in the ice machines, improper handling of food, etc. etc. etc. The pro clubs stay in business because they know it all works together. The pro bands know they have to act like professionals in addition to being versatile musicians in order to get hired again.

  31. Kelli

    Wouldn’t it be great if people just… treated each other like PEOPLE, and not as resources to be exploited? That goes for the owners of bars that feature live music, musicians who want to make a living playing music, and the customers who are the ones paying for all this in the end anyway.

  32. As a club booker I’ve met clueless owners AND musicians. But more clubs die than survive which indicates that ALL have to work together to make it all work.

  33. Marc S

    Let me ask all you high and mighty original artist Einsteins a question.

    How many of you actually OWN all the music you have on your iPod, iPad, phone or computer? None of the material you have has ever been ‘passed on’ or borrowed, or downloaded from shady website, right?

    So, you’re willing to steal, I’m sorry, borrow someone else’s music while copping that whole club-owners-need-to-treat-us-with-respect BS

    I know, it’s just not fair. The world deserves to hear MY stuff. And pay for it. The club owner, the patrons, the record companies. You want it all to happen your way, the way YOU expect it to, and everyone is out to screw you.

    • RobertWadlow

      Marc S: I have actually purchased all the music on my I-everything. Because I care about the state and future of my beloved industry. Since you are an experienced session musician and apparent “hired gun” with tons of royalty income and years of road experience, why don’t you promote yourself here and let us know what veteran musician we are engaging with? Who are you? I am very interested. All the talk about pushing yourself and getting yourself out there, I am sure I am not the only one who would like to support such a hard working experienced professional and you can stand by the concept of “whatever it takes” to get your name out there. It is pretty easy to speak like an experienced veteran behind the internet’s anonymity. You stated you get BMI checks and have several credits on Nashville sessions etc. So please grace us with your identity and stand behind your statements as a self promoting do what it takes music industry veteran. We are waiting (I almost expect instead a rant about how you protect your associates without including them in your own thoughts on the industry).

      • Marc S

        Robert,

        If you live somewhere in the New England area, I’ll be happy to send you a full show list and you are most welcome to come to any gig I am playing. I’m not going to drop names or emails addresses in an open forum, just to prove a point. Feel free to drop your pants and put your email address out there, and I’ll be sure to respond with whatever you feel makes me become ‘legitimate’ in your eyes.

        I do get BMI checks for mechanical licenses in writing credits, both musical and lyrical. Does that mean I have my song credits on someone famous’ album? Nope. Does it mean I have song hucksters shopping material I have co-written with people to labels and artists? You betcha. You know what else happens? Artists buy out mechanical licenses so their name is the only one that appears. Ugly side of the business, but it sure does happen. I do plenty of pre-production work in Nashville, but if you know anything about the music biz, especially in Nashville, you already know that there is a pool of about 20 guys that get all the label work, and a bazillion that do what I do.

        I could go on about all the negatives that are in the music biz, and that is a whole different discussion. There are plenty of amateurs (not that amateurs are bad), wanna-bes, pros and everything in between. And they ALL have a place in music. Even the karaoke queens that go into American Idol and The Voice type competitions. If you’ve got the stones to get up in front of a crowd and perform, I give you props and my support. Not everyone can do it. However, there are far fewer places that you can get ON a stage to do it, and it helps to understand that realistic expectations get you a lot farther than demands.

        I’m not trying to get my name out there. I am trying to get information out there. From the perspective of a working musician who has played both cover and original material. I merely stated some basis from which I was posting and you called me to task on my experience. You’re doing it now as well.

        Tell me, what part of what I said doesn’t make sense? Which part have you found to be untrue or bad advice? This discussion isn’t about me, it’s about the adversarial role musicians and venue owners get into, and there’s no need for it at all.

      • Gary Guitar

        You know, I cannot fathom, for the life of me, why anyone would want to be even remotely involved in such a ludicrous occupation. You’ve gotta be a total glutton for punishment.

      • OMG!!!, why? is this getting Personal? For @##$%^,This is exactly the reason Our Industry is dying , because of Ego Maniac who think because they 4 or five Chords and blare into a Mic that they are the end all authority on the Music Biz then we find out the person has a day job and does music fo next to nothing for beer money then criticizes those of Us who Actually make a living at it and have albums out ; Here’s My website: http://www.donhaleymusic.com Don Haley BMI- My Album gets Airplay on http://WWW.Spacecoastiradio.com, Canadian Station Wolf 97.1 Canadian artists I’ve Played with :Rick Tippe: KEN McCoy Buddy Gouchi ,Willie Nelson , Mark Chestnutt ; Bands Incognito Contact them!, I respect Mark and I do Know his Credentials ! So far all you ” Hater” who have to be arrogantly Neg. Try being Proffessional and respectful.

  34. Given this discussion, I honestly do not see why musicians play in bars.

    I can understand why entertainers who want to make a small amount of money and don’t like other forms of employment might want basically to volunteer to sell alcohol for someone else, but not a musician, someone who wants to communicate something of substance to an audience and have that reflected back by the audience. A bar seems like the worst possible place for the presentation of anything with any meaning at all. A musician can usually not be heard at a bar, and patrons of a bar are often drunk and are therefore not really reachable as an audience.

    If the art of music is not going on at bars, why do bars have music? Honestly, bars probably would do better with sports. Some bars used to have boxing nights; boxing is completely compatible with drinking. Although I assume bar owners would still prefer boxers who boxed at no cost to them.

    It may be true that entertainment with some form of music in bars is all about alcohol sales, but music, the art form, is not about bars or sales or money at all.

    The discussion here has been about the business of bar-owning and the business of entertainment. Commenters who said that there is no actual reason why the bar owner’s need to make money is more important than the entertainer’s need to make money are right, of course. What is it that has us valuing bar commerce over entertainment commerce?

    One thing is simple: I think musicians should stop playing in bars. Leave that work to entertainers, who can decide for themselves how much abuse to take for how much money. They don’t have art driving them.

    Musicians, let’s work on developing a way to replace the current music industry system. House concerts are wonderful alternatives, for instance, and in addition there are increasing numbers of places of business opening themselves to being, in essence, places where house concerts are held. For the real music-going public and for musicians, it’s a more effective way for audiences to connect with the music, with fewer middle-people and, happily, no need to sell anything other than admission.

  35. Lester

    I like this. Although, I would say that there are some people that go to see music, they like to go see music, and they are engaged by seeing the music they like. I feel like these rules apply if a bar is filled with people that like to go to bars, and if there is a good band that’s a bonus. There are people that go to see music in bars, and then there are the people that go to bars that may pay attention to the music. This may be written for the ladder.

    • Lester

      this is interesting. Although I’m not sure I totally agree with him. Sure its great for a band to look slick and cool. Works for the Sadies. But I feel like there are people that go and see live music, that’s what they do, and if you have a house full of people that like to go see live music its okay for the band to look like shit. But if you are catering to a bar full of people whose purpose was to simply go to a bar, and they coincidentally have a live band, then perhaps the band should adhere to his suggestions. I guess you just have to know your audience

  36. Saumon Sauvage

    The club owner makes sense — it’s a business.

    The bars are not the right place to showcase new acts or original innovative music or performance pieces that are out of the ordinary or worthwhile acts without much of a following.

    But there aren’t many places in the US that welcome or encourage live performances that may be musically or theatrically worthwhile but do not fulfill a commercial goal.

    This is the real problem — government subsidies are not the answer. We don’t have the tradition of subsidy in entertainment that European nations do. Consquently, only what the mass will pay for — which isn’t necessarily very good — is produced. This holds us all back.

  37. Ben

    Wow, I’ve read a lot of interesting perspectives on here but I think we are making things more difficult than they need to be. I play a ton of solo acoustic shows as well as front a 4 piece cover band (both private events and in local bars) and I’ve never had this kind of trouble.
    There is no need to be so adversarial towards the each other. If everyone manages expectations up front I think you’d find you’ll have a much better experience and both parties benefit.

    Here are “Top 10″ simple rules to remember for both club owners and (cover)musicians: –No particular order

    1) Club owners do your due diligence on a band before you book them (how do they sound, repetoire, appearance etc.)
    2) Bands do your due diligence on a club. ( how big is it, what is the atmosphere, clientele, do they have a stage etc.)
    3) Set expectations pertaining to all aspects of the performance
    up front before (not after) the gig is agreed on (pay, cancellation,bar tab, repetoire)
    4) Don’t confuse your personal worth with the worth of your music services (they are two seperate entities and as with any service you are worth whatever someone is willing to pay)
    5) Musicians need to know what they want to be and accept the consequences and limitations that come with that decision– be it a weekend warrior cover musician or an original artist
    6) Bar owners hosting full bands: PLEASE build a stage and provide some simple colored stage lighting and turn off the TV’s if there is nothing of local sports interest on. Don’t treat the live music like an afterthought or your patrons will follow suit and you diminish the return on your investment. You have to create an atmosphere that focuses attention on the band.
    7) Don’t be overly profane on the microphone. I’m no angel but nobody likes to here the F-bomb with 2000 watts behind it. –just not necessary
    8) Bar Owners: Don’t book a popular band’s performances too close together or you’ll wearout their welcome.
    9) Band’s whenever possible sound check before the place gets crowded( nobody wants to hear the kick drum from “iron Man” over and over again until the right amount of “punch” is achieved.
    10) Musician’s: You’re in a bar cover band, you are not on tour, nobody is paying to see you “in concert”. Playing music should be a fun experience for you and a release. That said, it takes time, money and effort to perform in a band so there is nothing wrong with having a minimum you’ll play for. If you don’t “need” the money don’t play for less than your minimum otherwise you will end up jaded and on a message board for disgruntled musician’s. ;-)

    Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’

  38. Phil

    Just remember, a bar owner is a bar owner because he/she is not an artist. They didn’t have the discipline to learn anything useful in life, so they ended up selling alcohol to people so they can get drunk.
    A real musician, not a cover song player, is an artist who has devoted his/her life to learning something useful that can contribute to the well being of the human race and the world as a whole. A musician is someone that deserves complete respect regardless of what they are wearing, baseball cap, baggy pants, who cares, an artist has earned that right.
    A bar owner is someone that bows down to the artist, as there would be no bars without entertainment, no dancing without music, and no profit without hiring musicians.
    The musicians are the ones that are the boss. At every venue a musician plays at, they are in control. They are the boss, and that is why bar owners are so scared of them. Its like a monkey that wants to be human. The monkey can add and subtract, and even think for itself to a small degree, but the monkey will never be human. The bar owner will always be inferior to the artist musican, always. And that is the key to life my friends. Take the time and learn a skill, like music, and you will be happy. Don’t end up a bitter old bartender who lives to see people stumble out of his establishment at the end of the night.

  39. Christine Martucci

    right on Marc S you nailed it! :)

  40. Matt Young

    I haven’t read through all the replies, so what I’m saying might have been said already, so forgive me if its been repeated.
    There are good debates on both sides of this, but as for the owner who wrote this letter: THIS IS WHAT HE WANTS FOR HIS ESTABLISHMENT!
    If you’re a band and you differ from the opinions of what the owner or bartenders want (and yes, their opinions count), you risk not playing there again. Its a matter of choice really
    If you’re a band, you would not play someones wedding and do whatever you want to do. You’re being paid to perform a service, not to express your artistic vision to people who want to go and have a good time.

  41. as a previous bartender it is my job to sell drinks to customers and to keep them coming back for more as a wife of an original band musician it is his job to play music people enjoy listening to whether original or covers and people should pay a cover charge in case some of you do not know it but the cover charge is usually not that much and it is usually split between the bar and the band the band should appreciate their crowd by catering to them and they should also be polite to the bartenders and treat them with respect yeah a band should get free non alcoholic drinks but real ones they should buy themselves and if they are real professionals they will care more about their music then getting drunk playing at any bar is a job so is working at one so the deal is be professional if your bartenders are good enough at their job and the band is as well there should be no issue packing the place and making money

  42. jason

    When I play at a bar as a solo artist or with my band, I make sure I’m treated the same way they would treat a well known band. If that bar had Coldplay for a night, you know that idiot bar owner wouldn’t be running his dirty mouth whether or not he was selling drinks. If I’m treated with the same respect as a band like Coldplay would get, I may consider playing there again, otherwise I would walk out after playing my first song.

  43. This could easily be written from the other point of view.

    Hi. We’re a band. We print up flyers; advertise on twitter and facebook; tell all our friends; lug our own heavy equipment; show up 2 hours early for a 45-minute set. All to bring people into YOUR BAR who wouldn’t otherwise be there. And you take half the door, plus ALL the money for drinks. And for some reason, all this is repaid by you treating us like GARBAGE, and not even providing a frigging sound check. WE ARE HELPING YOU MAKE MONEY. Act like it.

    • Marc S

      If you are showing up 2 hours early for a 45 minute set, then you are playing original material in a showcase club, and expecting to get a sound check shows you don’t have a clue on how to behave in a multi-band showcase night.

      Let me clue you in on how it goes in national tours.

      The headliner sets their stuff up, gets the sound check as long as they need. Once the headliner clears the stage, the opening act (or the second to last act on a multi-band night) gets set up, and they get a line check, usually a quick check of vocal mics, and MAYBE a DI check for keyboards and acoustic guitar. The opening act(s) rarely get soundchecks.

      Showcase nights? You’re making me laugh. To expect ANYTHING for a 45 minute set is ridiculous. It’s not like you’re Godsmack showing up at a showcase night.

      And if you walk into a showcase night and don’t know if you get a sound check or not, depending on your time slot for the night, whose fault is that?

  44. Marc S

    Cold hard facts…. and I’m not afraid to say them:

    1. If you are relying on your ‘band’ to be the cash flow that supports your lifestyle, you are a dumbass. The term starving artist didn’t come into play by magic.

    2. If you walk into a venue and see 50 seats, don’t think you are going to get paid top dollar. The numbers won’t add up EVER.

    3. If you are an original artist, you already know that you have to whore yourself for your art. Unlike food, drink and other material things, your art is a luxury, not a necessity.

    4. If you are a cover band, you’re either going to play what the customers want to hear, or you’ll be out of gigs fast.

    5 Just because your Mom said you were great… or some drunken chick at the end of the night swore you were the best band she has ever seen…. that doesn’t make it true.

    6. If you have the CD sales and support of a fanbase, then you’ll get paid decently. If you are a cover band, you will get what the market will bear in any particular area.

    Let me say that again:

    If you are a cover band, you will get whatever the market will bear in that particular area.

    What that market is is dependent on you and the venue… but if you build up your show, your following and make your market ‘worth’ the $1000 price tag you ask for, then you’ll get it.

    The biggest BS I see here is that there are musicians who want to walk into a joint and command the $$ the top act gets, and it just doesn’t work that way.

    Would you allow a person to stay in your band who routinely doesn’t do what you ask of him, like turn down, play in the right key or even do some practicing at home before he gets to rehearsal? No, you wouldn’t.

    If you spend thousands of dollars on education, and thousands more on gear… then honed your craft until you were a killer player, chances are your goals weren’t set on being in the best cover band in Fargo, North Dakota. And if that WAS your goal, you certainly didn’t need to spend all that money.

    The club owner owes you *nothing*. He doesn’t NEED you. He’s only asking you to work within some guidelines, and those who do that will get asked back a lot more than the dudes who are doing nothing but bitching and moaning about ‘their art’ or ‘their monstrous overhead’ or ‘the years and years I put into practicing’

    The chronic complainers need to get back into their Dominos Pizza delivery vehicles and get a pro attitude.

    Every gig I am out to pride myself worth my cost, and always strive to be better…. and on the occasion I have an off night, vow to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    I’ve even been on a cover acoustic gig, and after the first set, told the owner he didn’t need to worry about paying me cause it was a dead night. I cut out early, and I got called back for 20 more shows at the same place, and all because I actually worked WITH the owner.

    It’s shameful that some supposed musicians on this thread descend into name calling and calling for boycotting, and I can tell you, that says a lot about your character and how you approach business.

    • Yodel

      “1. If you are relying on your ‘band’ to be the cash flow that supports your lifestyle, you are a dumbass. The term starving artist didn’t come into play by magic.”

      I see, bar owners and their ilk get to make a living, but I don’t because artists are “dumbasses” and don’t count. FU!

      “2. If you walk into a venue and see 50 seats, don’t think you are going to get paid top dollar. The numbers won’t add up EVER.”

      I don’t expect that, what I do expect is to be paid a reasonable wage for what I do. Apparently the term “what the market will bear” does not apply to alcohol in a bar, and I see few other professionals willing to have their salaries put on a sliding scale based upon the business’s capacity. I can’t go to the grocery store and tell them, “You have to accept less for this can of corn because I’m a musician.” Again, FU.

      “3. If you are an original artist, you already know that you have to whore yourself for your art. Unlike food, drink and other material things, your art is a luxury, not a necessity.”

      So that’s how you see it? I’m a whore? Whoring means one is willing to do ANYTHING for money. I’m not. Most true artists care far less about the money, and far more about approval then anything else. We all wanna be rich, you included, but real artists try do so without compromising and, excuse me, but when did alcohol become a neccesity? Most idiots that are presently globally famous generally are not artists by true definition they are the whores (ala the “ortis” li’l Wayne), then again, who’s the bigger whore? So called national artists or the fat, old jewish men making millions off exploiting them? If true artist/musician constantly comprimises, then they will be playing Freebird in some dumpy little downtown club forever. I’m not doing that just because some two-dimensional asshole has decided that that’s the way I should be. Again, FU.

      “4. If you are a cover band, you’re either going to play what the customers want to hear, or you’ll be out of gigs fast.”

      That’s right…a COVER band should do that, but if all bands did that there would NEVER be anyone signed to a deal again, and there would never be ANY new music.

      “5 Just because your Mom said you were great… or some drunken chick at the end of the night swore you were the best band she has ever seen…. that doesn’t make it true.”

      That’s true of anything and anyone, not just musicians. It’s even true of barowners and booking agents – so that comment doesn’t fly at all.

      “6. If you have the CD sales and support of a fanbase, then you’ll get paid decently. If you are a cover band, you will get what the market will bear in any particular area.”

      I see, so if I compromise and be a good little lap dog for the bar owning community, then I’ll be able to develop CD sales and fan support? How? Not on what you’re paying me! Same old LOVE/HATE relationship. The general public loves to lap up new material, steal it off the internet, hang out in bars and be entertained and amused by stage antics, but when it comes time to pay up they act offended as if something intangible, like music, should actually be paid for. How ridiculous, besides it cuts into their bottom line and musicians aren’t really people and music really isn’t really a business or profession, right?

      “Let me say that again:

      If you are a cover band, you will get whatever the market will bear in that particular area.

      What that market is is dependent on you and the venue… but if you build up your show, your following and make your market ‘worth’ the $1000 price tag you ask for, then you’ll get it.

      The biggest BS I see here is that there are musicians who want to walk into a joint and command the $$ the top act gets, and it just doesn’t work that way.”

      That’s not it at all. We want to be paid FAIRLY. That is, it is NOT my responsibility to partner with you, kissing your ass, in order that YOU may profit. What you’re suggesting I do is PANDER.

      “Would you allow a person to stay in your band who routinely doesn’t do what you ask of him, like turn down, play in the right key or even do some practicing at home before he gets to rehearsal? No, you wouldn’t.”

      Yet, it’s perfectly fine that I should accept being jerked around, discounted, devalued and demonized by working for the door. I’ve had too many nights of busting my ass for $13. And, that’s exactly why clubowners bitch about bands. So, you want me to bring in clientele, make them drink…a lot, do and pay for promotion for my own gig because you’ll be GDed if you do, and all for $13 – then don’t bitch about the results. Again…FU.

      “If you spend thousands of dollars on education, and thousands more on gear… then honed your craft until you were a killer player, chances are your goals weren’t set on being in the best cover band in Fargo, North Dakota. And if that WAS your goal, you certainly didn’t need to spend all that money.”

      Nope, I did all that because I love the craft. For me, playing in bar bands was always seen as a means to an end, not an end in itself. While that’s not true of the majority of musicians, it’s true of many of us who worked every bit as hard as you did building your club.

      “The club owner owes you *nothing*. He doesn’t NEED you. He’s only asking you to work within some guidelines, and those who do that will get asked back a lot more than the dudes who are doing nothing but bitching and moaning about ‘their art’ or ‘their monstrous overhead’ or ‘the years and years I put into practicing’

      Then doesn’t it reason that musicians owe the club owner nothing? And I think most bars that don’t have entertainment could sure use it, so, in essence, they do need musicians, otherwise it’s just a room with tables, chairs, booze and barflys, and likely those things aren’t going to do much for your bottomline.

      “The chronic complainers need to get back into their Dominos Pizza delivery vehicles and get a pro attitude.”

      I think what you mean is a “take-it-up-the-ass-I’ll-do-anything” attitude.

      “Every gig I am out to pride myself worth my cost, and always strive to be better…. and on the occasion I have an off night, vow to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

      So you’re taking it in the ass and still playing dumpy clubs after all these years. Hmmmm. Begs the question: which is more important? To pander forever in order to be average and make a living, or to not pander, work hard on material and slowly move upward to the bigger dollars, bigger gigs and bigger respect.

      I’ve even been on a cover acoustic gig, and after the first set, told the owner he didn’t need to worry about paying me cause it was a dead night. I cut out early, and I got called back for 20 more shows at the same place, and all because I actually worked WITH the owner.

      Wow, that’s not “working with the owner” if you offered it up, and did the club owner promote the gig, or were you just musical furniture? That was just stupid, and a precedent that you might have to repeat over and over because you insisted on establishing it. That’s so awesome of you to discount your own profession like that. Thanks, but stop “helping” musicians. So tell me, how many of those 20 more big “shows” of yours ended up in a dead night? Gosh, I’m sure you forsook being paid for those twenty dates because it’s so NOBLE to do so. Trying eating a plate of NOBLE sometime. Let me know how that works for you.

      • Montstr

        AS the old joke asks “How do you get a slide ‘bone player off your porch ??” ……………………………………….. Pay him fo the pizza.
        If you are depending on playing in bars to support yourself and a family..ROTSA RUCK !!!!.. Get tp the virtuoso level and maybe you may make it. As far as the bar/club owners…. if they own a bar they need to know what their draw is going to be and advertise that way. If a “bar”.. maybe they don’t need or want a band… if a club they really better have some good $$$$ behind them until they get established. Shitty little local bands very rarely if ever will make it as the lead for a club has a “vision”. As a musician you really need to be professional and sit down with the owner of the venue and figure what will work for the two of you together. Arrangements with another will also very rarely pertain to your band nor yours to another group.

      • Gary Guitar

        “1. If you are relying on your ‘band’ to be the cash flow that supports your lifestyle, you are a dumbass. The term starving artist didn’t come into play by magic.”

        There was a time, if you were good and had a head on your shoulders, you could make decent money playing in a band. I’d say up to 4x as much, with a national economy where the dollar was worth 4x as much. That’s quite a significant difference. The state of things now is at an all-time low. Too many musicians cutting each other, idiots who’ll tell you, “I don’t do this for money. I don’t need to get paid, Ive got a day job.” Does anyone thing club owners aren’t wise to this? Musicians have screwed the pooch on their own, and it’s been the amateurs who are worth any money who do this stuff, consistently. They hurt you, they hurt me, and they DON’T CARE.

      • Marc S

        Yodel,

        Obviously you have an axe to grind, as you wanna go over point for point, things I’ve said as they relate to you personally. Let’s discuss this, and I’ll use small words.

        The original post from the bar owner NEVER EVER said anything about original music. It was directed at cover bands.

        End of discussion. Your ilk of ‘original artists getting tons of respect from bar owners’ makes me chuckle. When you have 10k units sold, then we’ll start to talk about the ‘respect’ card.

        You wanna be paid fair, but in the same breath say it’s more important for audience acceptance. Good Christ.

        As far as me personally, the night I worked with the owner because it was a slow night, the other 20 shows turned out to be decent nights for the room it was, and I got paid, in full, every night. But thanks for asking. And no, I’m not taking it up the ass at dumpy gig, but I do my share of cover gigs.. and I do my share of original gigs in support of other artists, most of whom have LOTS of gigs, opening for acts higher up the food chain. They don’t compromise their original material, but they all do cover gigs to make money too… and every one of them displays a lot more common sense than I have seen in this thread.

        And I’m not suggesting you take it up the ass, but you sure can be mistaken for one with the way your post comes across. Don’t mix the Original verses Cover band arguments.

        You wanna be paid a fair wage, negotiate it ahead of time. If you walk in and the booking manager or owner gives you a price that isn’t in your range, have to stones to thank him for his time and walk out.

        The point is, that owner, cover or original act, provides you with a stage, electricity and a room you can bring people into. In turn, you provide him with quality entertainment, some promotion on your side and an understanding that in order for you to make money HE has to make money.

        And, on top of that, you’ve measured up your problem pretty well:

        “The general public loves to lap up new material, steal it off the internet…”

        Exactly. Steal it off the internet. On top of that, your target demographic changes, constantly.

        And as far as whoring yourself, yes, in some instances you are going to do or have done gigs for far less than you want to earn. Maybe even for free. And that’s part of the ‘artist’ side. You want to be heard. You want to be accepted. You want a deal. You want money.

        Don’t try to make the argument that it’s about the art… and then, in the same breath, “it’s about being paid fairly”. You know that is an intellectually dishonest argument.

      • Marc S

        Gary,

        I will agree with you, ‘there was a time’.

        It does not exist now. To make money at being a ‘musician’ means you have to have LOTS of sticks in the fire. Gigging, writing, teaching, recording, etc… there are very few who get their cashflow directly from just ‘gigging’.

        There are those musicians who will undercut other bands to get the gig, and usually it comes back to haunt them. That is a whole different discussion. There are also MORE ‘musicians’ in the pool now than there were before.

        There are a lot more weekend warriors too, all looking for a piece of the shrinking ‘entertainment’ dollar.

      • Gary Guitar

        “I will agree with you, ‘there was a time’. It does not exist now.”

        Nope. It’s dead and gone., forever.

      • Yodel , Obviously you don’t work much in the music business. Did you Go to Julliard or Berklee in Boston ? Do you Play in a symphony ? You don’t make a $100.00 – !’000 a gig? Depending on how the owner has had success having you perform you will be paid accordingly and if you have integrity you will give a little because if you truly are an exceptional artist and market yourself well you’ll impress owner – who see $$$. If you ask for pay then you negotiate a price. If you “Feel your ass is get filled then don’t do the gig.I don’t see you as a humble person by your blog. I done a few “kindness gigs” and years later got top Dollar gigs because of my willingness to “bend ” a bit.I had come into town to see a fellow artist playing in this club where I had done the Bar owner a “solid” .My Buddy saw me in the crowd and So did the Owner, long story short the Owner remember me from yrs. back the Solid I did for him , I was asked on stage as a Guest; sang 4 songs the floor was packed, I left that club with two things : $1500 from the owner and a 2 week promo ad,and a $2,500 ech show contract for 3 shows spread out over my off time. Both Marc and do get what we want because we are humble but also have built good reps.and can deliver what owner want .

  45. greg cobb

    First off if you’re hiring bands to bring you business that you cant get otherwise you’re the one thats failing. Not everyone has the same taste in music. You wont ever please everyone in your bar. If you want that one band that will pack your place every time be prepared to shell out the money. They’re band members and not servers. My guess is that the only way your bar makes money is with help of the bands. That would mean tbere is very little else that interests people in your place. Bands play dead bars too but I dont see the bartenders passing around the tip bucket for them.

  46. wanker : gig :: baby seal : sledge hammer

    great post, and yet, this is just one bar owners perspective. although, it’s one that encompasses the basic tenet of being in any business planning to BE in business long term: do what makes the most ROI.

    so, I don’t have a problem with this one iota.

    i’m definitely moved, tho, when i read responses by musicians itemizing their time and effort spent to perfect their show, and actually expecting club owners to take that into consideration at the end of the night.

    oh, i also drive a unicorn to my gigs.

    there is no time/talent equation, rockstar. if you put in 10+ years of preparation and you’re still scrounging for gigs, guess what, it’s not the club owners fault, it simply means you suck. …and you can’t fix suck so stop whining.

    on the flip side, i’ve seen some pretty shitty bands out there making good money on off nites. why? because they’re doing exactly what this club owner is suggesting.

    if the club owner sees that you’re there as a team member, you’ll get the gig. otherwise, unless you’re the Stones, prepare to play for free and own it.

  47. Christine Martucci

    Well since I love tequila and have a big following I never have to pay for a drink, thanks to my loyal fan base, they love to eat drink and party, and we draw on average about 100 to 300 depending on venue size, I love what I do, I work with the bar owner and the bartenders we are a team that night.
    We are a professional band, you are a professional bar owner, you need not worry about the ego laden drones out there..hire the ones that fit your location, fit your regulars, and all will be a fun full-filling night. We also get an extra bonus from owners if we ring even more up for the bar, or venue.
    I know its a tough business when you are out there making a buck, if we both understand what each business is investing then we both walk away very happy. And most importantly the regulars and fans are you bar will want us back. Cheers and hope you have a successful business and thanks for hiring live bands!!!

  48. I have played professionally for over fifty years thirty five of which were 5 to 6 nights a week. I was able to buy houses and send my kids to school. Different types of groups..top forty…heavy classic rock….disco and now doo wop. I learned early on the only music a club owner likes is the ringing of the cash register. You want to work for top dollar and often learn that one lesson!

    .

  49. Andrew Noce

    Plain and simple. If you want to play your originals and get noticed as a professional band then start playing at actual concert venues, unless you want to be doomed to a life of playing crappy covers at bars that wont give two fucks about you.

  50. dan

    This article is so bad i couldnt even get through it, worst bar owner i ever read about. Has douche bag written all over it, sad these kind of people in the bar buisness.

  51. This should be helpful for musicians, but unfortunately the ones who don’t know this stuff are probably the people who won’t read it. I’ve been working as a full-time musician in New Orleans for some time now, and most players down here know these fundamentals. Sadly though, not all do. I made a helpful list of some songs to play that always work in a live, cover band situation. Check it out if you like. http://stevewitschel.hubpages.com/hub/Top-10-Cover-Songs-Nightclub-Edition

    • stump

      ya and some of these songs will really get some people sick , why do so many musicians think they have to play the same material everyone else is ?. ya , u must be really happy playin these beat down songs all the time “please” if the music is upbeat , popular and dancible it will work . all these songs are way old . . u can play these on request but man ugg

      • stump

        another thing is, are u gonna still be playing these same beat down songs 10 years from now? c’mon . some people actually like to hear some different popular songs

  52. Jason

    Because that’s the real meaning of music: making bars money. Bars in my area can pull in $2-3000 in one night. They complain about losing money and they’re paying us $2-300?? I quit the music scene because of bar owners like this.

  53. Sean

    This bar owner should respectfully kill himself!! For many reasons.. My band the top draw where I play… Glad it’s not at this douche bags place.

  54. I appreciate this input, if only for those few among us musicians who don’t already know all this, which is precious few of us, since we are constantly in the environment. There’s just one really huge, elephant-int-the-living-room problem with this. You can say the exact same thing about every other input cost, but you only get one of them without paying, which is us. Your bartender is not unpaid, even if nobody shows up to drink. The guy from the beer truck is certainly not showing up if he only expects to get paid of the door does well. The newspaper or radio station where you run your ads don’t bill you only if the placement you paid for actually translates into increased traffic in your establishment. The landlord gets his rent whether business is busy or slow. The person who made the awesome sign over your bar that’s supposed to get everyone’s attention gets paid even if his sign attracts nobody at all. I could go on, but I hope everyone gets the idea. The problem isn’t that musicians don’t understand your business, or the role we’re expected to play in its operation. The problem is that everyone else in the same situation gets paid, and we don’t. We’re supposed to be happy to get “exposure,” to just get what we do in front of people, even if your bar doesn’t have any customers. When we call you for a date, you ask us “do you have a following?” But if I asked you the same question, you’d laugh, or sneer, and hang up.

    Believe it or not, I, too, am in business. I started music lessons when I was four. My instruments, amplifiers, microphones, and PA systems cost tens of thousands of dollars, and need costly annual maintenance to be functional on a professional level. I pay rent for rehearsal studios, and it takes at least 100 hours for my band to get a night’s worth of music to a level good enough to confidently present to people with our name on it. I entertain people, and that’s a product. Unlike your beer, I make my product myself. What I offer your bar up front is not customers (although at some point, after a few shows, hopefully that enters the picture), but a high quality product that can be associated with your bar’s brand, just like the types of beer you serve, or your food, or your super-hot waitresses, or your 27 simultaneous sports TV’s, and whatever else makes up the package of what you hope gets people to patronize you. You have no problem paying for all of that stuff at the risk of losing money, but you want me, and all I do, and all I’ve spent to bring it to you, for free. And you want me to be understanding of that. Well, unless you’re saying the same thing to all those other people, I’m not. If you can’t promise me your bar attracts at least 100 people on a typical weekend night, I have no reason to agree to work for the door, or for “exposure,” at your bar. I have bills to pay, just like you. You want live music as part of your bar’s customer outreach? Great. Pay for it, like you do with everything else. Otherwise, have a nice life. Your bar can be a place where people just get drunk while watching hockey on TV. That wil be your reputation, and you’re welcome to it. I have other ways of reaching an audience that doesn’t require that my family starve.

  55. Yodel

    Well, if my only job is to be a pitchman and a liquor salesman for the bar, first of all, they didn’t teach that class during the four years and $120,000 I spent getting a music degree – there must be some reason for that. Perhaps I should ask for my money back? Riiiiiiiiight. Secondly, it places music in the position of being merely a means to an end, that end being. of course, someone else’s profit, not mine because you will be GDed if you’ll pay one more nickel then some arbitrary, armchair, bottomlining standard of what you think is fair, and I’m sure that’s a sliding scale based on last week’s bar receipts – sliding downwards, that is, from your $75 dollar per night/per man standard – seriously, could you survive on that? Being a professional musician is not a summer job, it’s what I do. Apparently you feel as though your hopefully vulgar profit takes precedence over my merely surviving and barely making rent – pardon me, but I get to have a life, too. Apparently you feel as tho my job is to pander to profit motives. Buy a fucking radio, or have a DJ every night if you just want automatons to crank out 80’s and 90’s hits for four hours.Yes, do put a boombox in the middle of the stage and see how many drinks you sell. Frankly, if you, Mr. Barowner, only give a shit about your money, then I will only give a shit about my money. And I don’t have any because I don’t own a bar and, like 95% of the other musicians in the US, have not yet hooked up with that major national artist willing to pay me $10-12k per week on tour – hence my “bro” clothes. There are plenty of people that will be your monkey for the alcohol distribution industry, but, just like you, I have hopes and dreams as well that include vulgar amounts of money. I don’t think I’m ever going to get there by being an unoriginal, organ grinder monkey with Doowhackadoo and the Doowhackadoodlers, playing “Cocaine” and “Freebird” three times per night because some drunk idiot is buying rounds for the entire bar (and not the band) while he’s screaming and yelling at the lead singer as he’s trying to perform. Think you life sucks when your profit margin is less than 100%? Try dealing with all the above including not being able to pay your rent, buy food have health insurance, etc., because assholes like you think that music exists only to put a profit in their pocket – because most of us are not acting the way you think we should. It’s because we’re not typical that people stare at the stage. I didn’t put you in the bar business, you did. If your only motive is money, then you will get the exactly the crappy, lukewarm bands you deserve. You will likely make your profit because there are plenty of musicians out there willing to do what you want not because they think they’ll make a 100% profit, but rather because if they don’t, their kid won’t eat or they’ll have to live in their car for a week or two when the tiny amount of money they’re paid runs out – I doubt you have those same concerns. Musicians are often seen as losers, that might be true were it not for society’s insistence of placing musicians on a far lower rung because they are only tools for profit making, that is, until we “make it” which typically means that some money-grubbing ass, that has some influence in the industry, has decided they can make a ton of money by exploiting our “loser” talents, ala, Justin Beiber. Think that kid has ever had to work a bar circuit?

    • Gary Guitar

      Jeez, Yodel, I hope you play better than you write. throw some paragraphs in there, will ya? :-))

  56. Jade

    If you have a band or are a musician that is making real, engaging, artful music – play it in a REAL venue that is geared to you and your audience’s needs. Get live music out of the bars, leave that crap to the DJs and the jukeboxes.

  57. Here’s a few tips that I can leave as a promoter.

    1. Never promise things you cant deliver. (dont say you’ll bring 100 people, then show up with 3 friends and argue to get them in for free)

    If you are an untested band (if your still asking to play gigs and not actively being booked you are) ask to play an off night. When you show up, show up early. Know the crowd your playing for, and play for them, Dont expect to blow their minds with your new style. Play a solid set, be respectful, tip the bartenders. Be pleasant to the employees and gracious to the manager. Odds are you’ll get booked again.

    You dont have to pack the house, but you have to make sure people dont leave.

  58. Barry Brake

    Bullshit, line up the right group for your venue, and AT THE CORRECT TIME, plus you and the band split the advertising, you should do fine. (on the right eve also)

  59. Chuck

    Cheap bands arent good,and good bands arent cheap.

  60. Chuck

    Bars never advertise and expect a band to solve all of the problems by bringing a crowd. When it’s busy never any talk of more money. Slow always talk of taking the already 15yr old pay rate down. It takes a lifetime to be a good musician. Anyone can buy a bar. If you book bands at least have the courtesy to book good ones. Then be proud of the bands you book and ADVERTISE!!! People do care if the band sucks. Even when they don’t walk out right away it erodes the business till noone is there over time. Then getting it back is twice as hard. Cover bands job is to keep the people that THE BAR BRINGS, so they will yes spend more money. When they have a good time they come back. Thats how we contribute. Bars book good bands and advertise it. Band plays good music that the people in that bar like. Bands only real responsibility is to put on a good show so that people stay. Many bars charge cover and pay the band less than the door. But at the door when asked about the cover they say we have a band. One sided always has been always will be. Open mic nights generally suck as does karaoke. Everyone has the same liquor,but not the same bands.

  61. Seniorblues

    Venue owners . . . a simple question. How far do you think our fans should travel to see us? If we’re talking about personal friends, they’re going to wait until we play locally, and it stands to reason that our band would play no more than the once a month or so that you book us. How hard to you expect us to work to get tight for that?

    If we’re talking about fans who know us only through our appearance at a particular venue, then it must have been your venue’s reputation that got them there initially, right? So how do they know when we’re coming back? Do we really have to convince everyone who saw us at your venue to Facebook friend us and check our schedule . . . or should they check your calendar on your webpage to find out when we’re coming?

    Bands have to be willing to travel further than fans in order to play enough gigs per month to be a viable working group. You need to be able to book a band who will draw absolutely no one the first time in or you will be stuck with only local groups forever.

    So it’s a chicken and egg thing. If you can’t take a chance on a band that’s willing to travel an hour to your establishment, we’re both stuck.

    • I’ve only had a bar for a little over a year. Our policy towards music has been to try and book the best quality bands possible that fit within our budget.

      We operate under the belief that if we the band playing is always good, we will build a reputation for good live entertainment. If we build that reputation, people who want to see live music will choose us and the actual band playing will become irrelevant (not that a band is irrelevant, but that patrons will come not because band “x” is playing but because whatever band is playing, they are going to be good).

      If your band has a built in draw, thats a bonus for us. It just increases the exposure (there’s that dreaded word again) because you are brining in people who might otherwise not have ever set foot on our property. But having a built in draw isn’t a guarentee that we will have you back.

      We booked a 70’s,80’s,90’s hard rock band when we first opened that was just incredible. I think they pretty much played that first night to just my brother and I (and a few other people). Absolutely hemmoraged money on the day (which is very, very scary and stressfull… unbelievably stressfull). But damn, they were just so good. Surely, if people hear this band, they will come. We booked them again (lost money again) and again (lost money again) and have booked them at least once per month since (and have them booked out until December of this year). Fortunately our belief in them panned out and they now have a consistant local draw when they play. They have canceled on us (they had the opportunity to play main stage at a fair… cool good for you guys!) and we have canceled dates on them (we stopped having bands on fridays and had a couple fridays booked with them).

  62. Bob Blunn

    There’s gold to be mined here… (Not just the bar owners rant, but in some of the comments as well.)

    My take/rant?

    Venues hire bands/musicians as entertainment for their patrons. Period. Certainly, bands can do things to add value to the relationship above and beyond just playing music as suggested by the bar owner. But for a venue to expect bands/musicians to not only bring paying customers, but to also do all the promotion/marketing/advertising, (as many venues tend to do these days), is ludicrous.

    Here’s an example – If I run a restaurant – (I have). I do not expect my chefs / wait staff / baristas to bring their own paying customers with them every night!!! Certainly, having a top chef can draw people to the establishment, (added value of being a top chef) – but to expect them to bring all the customers every night and to do all the promotion/marketing/advertising is flat out insane and a sure recipe for failure. Why? Because they are not promoters/marketers so they are not likely experts at it – They’ve spent most of their lives perfecting their craft! If I ran a restaurant with the expectation that my chef or other staff person was the only draw and only source of promotion/marketing/advertising it would fold in a hurry!

    Running a business comes with costs. Recognized. And yes, having top tier talent for any position in any business is a draw to bring more customers. Recognized. If you want to hire musicians/bands as a “draw” and be known as a venue with live musical entertainment – Then ALWAYS hire good ones so your venue gets a reputation for having good bands/music.

    “Draw” only works when you are already a well known top name act – The simple fact is very few local bands can “draw” on a regular basis. Promote/market/advertise your venue accordingly using trained professionals to build up your business!!! Or, become an expert at it and do it yourself. BUT, do not leave these key activities up to the hired help with no vested interest in your business!!! I don’t care if they do know a little about it – Leaving these key activities up to total strangers with no vested interest in your business is a sure recipe for disaster!

    Or, you can let other unskilled people do these key activities for you and “just get by” with drunken misbehaving crap bands or misbehaving drunk patrons at open mic/karaoke nights and continue to be known as that “dive” with the lousy bands that will likely become a statistic and fold within a few years – Your choice…

    Rant over…

    • Mike

      Here here – this is what I keep saying about the band/bar business. The most successful bars I know are the ones that the patrons don’t have to find out who is playing there week to week – they just know the bar hires good entertainment, and they come. These bars always pay their bands the best because they do good business every week. Consistency is the key…one thing leads to another.

  63. The Grand Wazoo

    Bar owners are going to be convinced that they are in fact a part of the band as easily as a band members are going to be convinced that they’re part of the bar staff. period. This is a stupid thread. It’s stupid because it’s impossible. Each serve his own function and shut up. Bar owners, you’re there to sell your sh*t. If selling your sh*t means making the band feel good about being in that thankless field, then make them feel good. Band members: if playing means you have to make the bar owners and their drunk customers feel good, then do it and shut up. Whether you believe it or not when you’re twitching behind a grin doesn’t matter. You’re each getting what you want: a chance to sell your sh*t.

  64. Patrick Edwards

    That’s why I play music; to sell beer! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!my life sucks!

  65. Bill

    I book the music for a local bar and cannot agree with everything the bar owner says, as we only book bands who play original music. The one thing I can agree with though….. “Your continued employment is directly dependent on my bartender’s opinion of you”. It’s pretty much true. If my bartender says that you act like an ass or bring in a bad crowd, I will probably stop booking you. So always treat your bartender well and tip them well, even though your drinks are free.

  66. joe

    hi…my name is joe ….Ive been in the bar business for 34 years….30 of it as a consumer….34 of it as an entertainer…my 3 cents….says..that while the bar owner is mostly right…it dont have to be pop for the band to sell booze..its just gotta be good….and likeable…dress….attitude….and equipment…do it…

  67. Sorry, this guy’s logic is all wrong.
    I don’t go to a bar primarily to drink. Cheaper and safer to do that at home or at the local corner pub that serves great burgers and beer, probably more cheaply than his misguided fool.
    I go to a bar like his to hear GOOD, live music. He wouldn’t have me as a customer last Friday or Saturday night if he didn’t have a band and none of my money would have gone into his till. Sure, he’ll get the usuals but you won’t get the occasionals, pushing it to a money-making, capacity crowd, if he didn’t have the band. The band brings in the extra bucks by being there. Mr. Bar-owner, I pay for your wife’s shoes; the usuals keep the lights on.
    As to bands chasing customer’s off, that’s on him, too. Some bars have dedicated entertainment managers that take the time to sift out the special— bands that make the crappy parking, smoke, high-priced drinks, and other such hassles worth it.
    Belly up to reality, Mr. Bar owner, and care enough about your business to provide stellar value-added services.

  68. A.D. Adams

    So YOUR business is the only one that matters, Mr. Bar Owner?? You’re so full of your own shit, it’s pathetic! Your myopic, self-centered view of YOUR business is borderline retarded. You’ll be out of business, and my band will keep on playing…for years- like we already have! I’ve seen sooo many bar owners like you fail…you’re just another one!

    • The Bar owner said he pays out $600 guarantee, that’s a Laugh Riot, the lack of pay is about the same as it was 30 years ago and hasn’t changed.
      Most bars the last 20 years came up with the scheme of a $5-$12 door take and bands do all the promotion and entertain all night as well, you play there once with no rebook and the bar has a new audience that was developed (not by them) . The band WONT get any bar sales or percentage after keeping people there drinking all night and the IF there’s any money made at the door the 1st $200-$300 off the top goes to the door guy, sound guy, in house booker, etc..if there’s any left the band might make a few bucks like $100 total for playing 4-5 hours and that’s not including travel time and gas. (CD’s are over and done and you might sell a few, exposure potential is non existent since they have desperate bands every night but bars use that ploy anyway)….Most Bars have already burned their bridges, look at the spiraling club environment and reputation they’ve created over the years, they grinded down everyone (musicians = No or low pay / Customers =High drink prices and door fee). When it was a good economy Bars / Employees would grind everyone..even more since they’re hurting now. (Just self induced greed). I checked out of this Bar scene a long time ago as most professional musicians I know have as well and started writing original music (not flavor of the month stuff) and built a home studio, play Festivals and house parties and now Co Ops are building steam like the old days again bringing a healthy respectfull partnership in business. Everyone can win without greed here!

  69. Mike N

    I’m part of a group that owns an upscale restaurant/bar/lounge in SoCal. I read the post and all of the comments. I’m a little disappointed, but not surprised by what has been written; but most of you are missing the point. Let me try another tact, it all comes down to what is the ROI (return on investment).

    Consider this, for every $100 we pay a musician, it requires about $400 of additional revenue to break even (thus, 3 guys being paid $100 each = about $1,200 of additional revenue to make up for ALL the extra expense caused by the band). [note, live music requires more internal labor and longer hours, additional marketing expense, increased licensing and permitting fees, etc.]

    What the guys that pay musicians want to know is very simple … how is that band going to help us sell:

    – an extra one hundred (100) $12 martinis? or
    – an extra one hundred and fifty (150) $8 beers?

    On a Friday or Saturday night in the lounge, we know we are going to make a profit, with or without live music. The other days, we will make a profit by keeping our expenses down.

    We also know that once the band starts playing the energy will change, both good and bad. That guy that comes in and orders a few 15 year old Scotchs ($17 profit each) and that older couple drinking a bottle of $85 wine will be the first to leave if the music goes above a certain decibel range or isn’t their style. Also, once the bartenders and cocktailers can’t hear the orders, we are looking at many more mistakes, bad for profit and customer service.

    On another note, your “fans” can make or break the evening. Are they the type to sit down and milk two $8 beers all night? or will that table of 4 be good for $350 in food/beverage sales?

    Taking a step back for a moment, if I were a musician looking for gigs, I would promise to do the following:

    1 – Arrive early enough to speak with the manager/bartenders and ask, what is being “pushed” that night, what are the premium signature drinks, what events are coming up, etc.

    2 – Take that knowledge to the stage and work it into your sets/between songs, etc. You have the microphone, use it to help us push “ounces” as the original post suggested.

    3 – Understand your venue, there are high class and low class places. Please, please, please understand that opening up your set with a “How the F(#$ are you A$$Hole$ doing” doesn’t work in some places (like mine).

    4 – When you are in “our” house, you are part of the team, whether you like it or not. You are there to help us sell, otherwise, you would not be there. It truly is the only reason we brought you in. Follow the advice of the bar owners above and come up with ways to indirectly sell. What is wrong with saying “I just want everybody to know that Bob the Bartender makes one of the best XYZ drinks, I have ever had … Bob, can you make me another?” or “The band is getting thirsty, a free CD to the first person to buy a round for the band.” (that self-published CD costs about $.50 to make and you would have given it away for free anyway as part of your marketing/promotion).

    5 – For those without an established reputation, be creative in your offer to play. As owners we know what an average Friday night is going to be (our POS system tracks that). Consider offering me a deal, where you take a percentage of net sales above my average. I very well might pay you more than I would with a straight deal … its a win-win for both of us.

    • Marc S

      My brotha, one word:

      TRUTH.

      Any musician who doesn’t recognize the simple logic you put forward here is just kidding themselves and will most likely have a crap-ton of rehearsals in their Mom’s basement, for no one in particular.

    • RobertWadlow

      The ROI a venue gets from a band is the band bringing fans into the establishment in the first place. All music business is about numbers. It doesn’t matter how good a band is, but success comes from the amount of people you can draw. If a venue is booking blind without investigating the draw a band gets, they should probably just retire from the business of being a music venue and buy a juke box or karaoke machine. You can spell out your cost all day, but frankly it is tacky. If the band draws people, great! They shouldn’t have to pitch some wanker’s “mixology” skills to up the venues profit. That is just plain stupid. I understand the concepts you so eloquently draw out Mike, but it sounds like you are coming from a very one sided place. You have not considered all of the work a musician must do to perform professionally, but I think it would be very tacky and unprofessional to “spell out” all of our costs, and I don’t believe you would take those costs seriously. So I don’t understand why a musician should worry about “internal labor” and “clean up time”. I have played many percentage, guarantee, and door gigs in the 20 years I have been performing, and have never felt the need to pimp out the bartender or the bar sales. I show them respect by allowing them to do their job while I do mine. And when I am making $900-$1K on a 10% of bar sales gig, I know the bar is doing just fine. Musicians have tough gigs where they don’t make shit. I understand bars and their owners/employees don’t plan on having things to fall back on because most likely they are working in the hospitality industry because it is the sole thing they know how to do, so when times get tough you want to blame the internal “outsider”, but if you really want to work as a team with the performing artist then you should probably just let them do their job or have a prediscussed arrangement with the management. See you at the Rock Show!

    • RobertWadlow

      A silly thing about all of this is that hard times create struggle, and restaurants definitely take a hit…..but we are the ones that in the last decade have lost 70% of our product (as a small business) due ti the digital age of music and performing artists rely more and more on live performance income. I truly believe that the attitude that has been displayed here is very damaging to the relationship of venue and performing artists. If you are struggling with your entertainment ROI than you should consider starting a relationship with a talent agency. Both Florida and Southern California have a ton of them. You can get all the crap Top 40 “cover” or “tribute” bands your heart desires at a commercial cost…..and they draw people! And since the musicians in these outfits have already sold their own artistic integrity for basic survival needs, they should have no problem being part singer, part venue host, and part product salesman! The attitude spelled out by these club/bar/restaurant owners indicate they might be working the wrong entertainment circuits. Good luck!

    • RobertWadlow

      I’m sorry I keep responding but this is killing me……the mentality that a CD cost $0.50 to make and we as musicians should give them away for free so you can get a round of drinks in the register is not only disrespectful as hell, it is also an indication of how little “Mike” knows about the small business that is a performing artist.

      • Marc S

        Here is the rub, and everyone keeps missing or purposefully missing the point.

        An artist has a CD to sell at a gig. The whole letter written above, and the general commentary here doesn’t apply, as they are Original Artists, looking to ply their wares… and they KNOW they aren’t going to get paid for gigs, other than their merchandise sales.

        A cover band, on the other hand, doesn’t have a CD to sell. They just want the money, they want the beer for free, they want the built in crowd, and on top of that, they want the owners to stick their tongues up their asses and tell them how great they are.

        All this nonsense applies ONLY to cover bands. Very few venues cater to original material, even fewer pay for those acts and even FEWER actually pack the house with tickets sold (at least the ones who don’t have several CD’s out, mass produced, distributed and have the backing of a label.

        Usually, the dudes who have very strong opinions about getting paid are the guys in cover bands, and that has been my experience in 40+ years of playing.

      • Mike N

        Robert,

        Marc S understands my point and may have hit the nail on the head with his comment regarding original vs. cover bands. Let me address a few points you raised:

        (1) The ROI is not what the band brings in, this is incorrect thinking (albeit partially correct) for almost every restaurant/lounge/bar. The ROI comes from (a) bringing in new customers (i.e. your fans) and (b) keeping my existing customers entertained enough to buy a few more round of drinks. Generally speaking, as an upscale restaurant/lounge we have never had a band bring in sufficient business to pay for itself with its “fans.” The band generally only brings in about 10-15% of the bodies, the rest are regulars or locals out for the evening.

        Note, my experience is that of a small, intimate venue that caters to the over 30 ground. Jazz, classic rock, singer-songwriter music works. Heavy rock, punk, Pop, Hip-Hop are for clubs and 180 degrees off for MY venue. Also, the “groupies” of most of the independent bands are also young, poor folks that never order the Johnnie Walker Blue or 1942, etc.

        (2) Spelling out the costs is the whole point of this thread/post. Chris reprinted a bar owner’s rant, which was essentially to point out that musicians that want to play at that bar need to understand what is motivating the venue owner … (hint: its “selling ounces”). Tacky or not, a musician needs to understand the true cost of live music to a bar owner if that musician wants to play at the bar/lounge and get paid.

        (3) Your experience appears to be more of a club/music venue experience. The original post was addressing more of the bar/lounge thing, not dance/concert clubs. We are talking apples and oranges.

        (4) Talent agency/cover comment is spot on, and basically what the original post was aimed at. In my place, this is what walks through the door everyday. That said, we don’t need a talent agency because we get 3-5 offers from solo, duets and cover bands every week.

        (5) Cost of a CD / Digital Music. First, I’m talking material cost and technically its about $.35 to $.52 per CD in bulk. Second, most bands send these out all day long … its their business card. Insults aside, I know what your material cost is. Likewise the material cost on that $10 cocktail is about $2-$2.5.

        (6) To reiterate a previous point, the original post is not about bands with 10,000 FB followers, independent distribution/label, a producer, and actual music sales that play at actual “music venues” (concert halls, clubs, stadiums, etc.) The original post was about the upstarts and cover bands looking for gigs at the local bar/lounge. My comments were aimed at the original post. A venue that keeps its doors open by selling liquor has different considerations than a venue that keeps its doors open by selling tickets.

        Finally, your opinion is perfectly valid and clearly you are not the guy for the average bar/lounge, no problem and congratulations. The fact that you are able to make a living playing music is wonderful.

    • RobertWadlow

      Marc S: I am highly doubtful you have “40+” years performing. That would place you at best as a 58 year old who has somehow missed the literally thousands of venues that host original music (www.jambase.com is a great resource across the nation of places that host original music). If you are being honest about the amount of experience you have on the performing side, then I am sorry you have the experience that original material does not generate money.

      • Marc S

        I’m 52, been playing since 9, did my first paying gig in Flushing NY as a 12 year old guitar player at a local greek joint at dinner time. I play in several acts, some covers, some originals, do fly gigs for dudes in Nashville and have opened for Nationals on the summer circuit for the better part of 10 years. I’ll be doing at least 75 shows just this summer… and if it weren’t for a stroke that has forced me to slow down and do some serious relearning, I’d be up around 125.

        So, Bob, it doesn’t really matter to me what you think… or what your opinion is on my experience. I have friends who own bars, where I’ve earned upwards of $2000 for the band in a night. I’ve earned $0 opening for JoDee Messina (or a whole list of names I could drop). I’ve done GB gigs in the range of 5 figures, have album credits in Nashville and get mailbox money every month from my BMI library.

        I’m blessed, and very fortunate…. and I’ve been to every corner of the US and many parts of Canada ‘doing shows’ and there ain’t a single part of the country that this ugly discussion doesn’t come up.

        So, I am not just talking out my ass to be a belligerent prick, because I am that without being a musician.. I actually know what I’m talking about, Have played for all kinds of great venues AND some real hell holes… and I’ve seen every type of original and cover act there is.

        So, if you wanna debate, I am giving you my perspective gained over the years of playing and earning money doing ONE thing, music.

        And believe me, when you give a shout out to any of the staff during the night, it makes an impression. Also good to know who your FOH engineer is, and most importantly, who your monitor tech is. Treat ‘em right, call ‘em by their first name, and you’ll almost always get what you need.

        (here, you can have your indignant soap box back now)

    • Hey Mike, you make some valid points, but I have to say that musicians would be hard pressed to find a any bar owner that is willing to show a musician/band leader their end of day or hourly sales reports with anyone. The problem is that most restaurant/bar owners just don’t trust musicians enough to share that kind of information.

  70. RobertWadlow

    The origin of this letter came from Florida. Florida’s music scene is a big heaping pile of crap. This bar owner perpetuates crap. Ce la vie. I feel sorry for any creative person in the entire state of Florida.

  71. Marc S

    Comical. Musicians are comical… and they all have an opinion that shows they are ‘right’ and they are worth much more than they can actually get from venues.

    Takes money to make money? Really? How many more quality gigs do you get when you buy that uber-collectible amplifier or super-custom built guitar? Oh, that’s right, NONE.

    Insulting to not get a free beer or two? Please. You are an EMPLOYEE of the venue when you are doing your show. So you want them to pay top dollar AND give you free beer, all for that most excellent rendition of “Gimme Three Steps” they hear weekend after weekend. If you want free beer, then expect to get paid less, after all, you want them to give you something for free, so why not give them their last set for free?

    And to the HVAC guy, every business is looking to save money on their expenses. I am positive tho, you go out and buy the best systems you can, and then mark them up appropriately so you make money back. Yeah, you guys pay every bill, on time, every time. Yep.

    The sooner musicians get hip to the fact that unless you’re selling millions of CDs, the club owner (and more importantly, the club patron) won’t worry one whit about you the day after a show. Build up the rep, the numbers and prove yourself a worthwhile commodity, and the club owner will treat you differently.

  72. George

    This bar owner wants the best and wants it for as little as possible. Sucks to be him. It takes money to make money. Guess he’ll learn that after he goes bankrupt.

  73. likeahurricane

    I read this at first feeling pretty pissed off that my performance is supposed to sell alcohol for this guy, but then re-read and I understand Tampa is a different animal than New York. My advice to Tampa bar owner is to hire cover bands and pay them appropriately. They know how to behave. Don’t try to fake like you’re a live music venue trying to get the musicians in when what you really want is dance covers. You’re cheating. Also if a couple of tap beers for the band is too much for you than please get out of the music business. It’s pennys for you and you know it. Breakdown the $50 bucks you give a 4 piece band and try to understand how insulting it is to rock-out a venue and end up owing them money for a couple of beers. At least haul some amps and drums & set-up like we do before you tell us to go beg your customers for a drink. Learn one single solitary chord or rudiment before you call someone’s music shite. It seems what you want is for musicians to play for nothing & fill your bar. Wouldn’t that be a wet dream for you. We’re not as stupid as you think and your bar is struggling because you are an utter shithead.

  74. Scott

    Wow. Sounds like you’d be best served by the local Nickelback cover band. I’m quite sure that the writer of this sad tirade runs a mediocre sh*theap.

  75. jimmythelid

    I think the drinking habits of the Baby Boomers led to the unraveling of the local music scene. Durring the 70’s and early 80’s, they drank like fish, and bar owners were primarily concerned with the logistics of how to fit in one more bartender so they could sell another 125 drinks durring the rush. The bars all had bands, but almost any band would do, including poor ones, because it was party time. Bar owners became sloppy about local band selection as a fit for their place. People were there to drink(excessively) and dance, and after the third or fourth drink, any band would do. However, everybody made money. In the mid 80’s, Boomers started to cut back at the local watering holes. Mothers Against Drunk Driving began a very succesful campaign and licencing authoities began to hand out stiff fines for over serving.Owners began to panic as revenues dropped and they started to take a closer look at what they were booking. Unfortuneately, by that time most owners had lost the sophistication needed to select acts that would develope a character for their place that would attract a set of regulars. They wanted bands with “followings,” just like the bigger places that showcased National acts. They would have done better to have redeveloped reputations as places that always had good bands of a particular genre. Bars closed in record numbers and local live music all but died.

    In my opinion, todays best owners of music venues have rediscovered the art of developing a room with character. They are aware of their surrounding demographics. They pick their target clientle carefully and develope an ambieance for them. They have a staff that enjoys serving their target customers. They carefully select bands of a genre that will please the customers they want in their place. They don’t stray too far from their chosen music genre. The bands become co-creators of the rooms ambieance. In such places, a good band’s performace will enhance the venues local reputation by word of mouth (priceless) and bring in more regular customers. The drinks will sell themselves. People won’t even complain about a reasonable cover charge.

  76. shane

    He missed the biggest point tho…. That bar owners are just cheap… I use to sell HVAC equipment to bars, they would always haggle to get as low as possible and then you still had to take them to court for your money…. Never ever ever heard any band get a raise cause the bar did good that night, most bar owners would most likely still say the sales were slow and try to cheap you. They do it with everything… why would entertainment be different? If anything it’s easier for them to do it. Especially, as the writer puts it, he’s constantly being approached by musicans.

    • TWANGSVILLE

      NAILED IT!!!!!

      • Gary Guitar

        Right on. Cheapest skinflints walking. A buddy of mine, a licensed electrician, was hire at one bar to do some stage repairs and install some new electrical lines. He and his son worked the better part of a day, and at the end of the day he submitted a bill for $200. He said he though the bar owner was gonna fall over.

  77. Mr. Beverage

    In my opinion the bar business went down hill when the drinking age was raised from 18 to 21! Bars used to be full of 18 – 20 year old customers who were out every weekend for the live music and would spend money because they didn’t have many personal expenses in their life yet. When the drinking age was raised to 21, that eliminated half of the bars regular crowd! I used to be out with my friends every Friday AND Saturday night listening to bands and eating pizza and drinking shots and beer from the time I turned 18 until I got married at age 23. That was 6 years of spending money at bars. If the drinking age was 21 back then I only would have spent 3 years patronizing the bars!

  78. Music Lover

    This guy is a troglodyte. He thinks life is all about his cool little cave. He’s wrong! It’s his job to sell beer and the musicians job to play the instruments. If he just wants to sell beer have the budweiser girls come in and sing kareoke.
    I’m in the music and film industry in L.A. and guys like this with their little clubs bug the crap out of me; they ruin musicians, they ruin bands and they ruin the music.
    If you like playing at his club or clubs like his, keep going. You’ll make a great cover band, but you’ll find that once you do everything the way he wants you to do it, he still won’t be loyal to you, the way you’ve been to him. He’ll replace you on a whim.
    You must have mutual respect. He knows nothing about the creativity of your personal music talent and he doesn’t want to know. He’s not your boss! You’re also taking a chance at exposing yourself at his venue. He is trying to take advantage of your insecurity, ’cause in his mind you’re all a bunch of whiney artsy musicians without a clue about how the ‘real world’ works.
    This is a guy that spends his day talking to bloated beer reps who are pressuring him to sell more beer and he wants to lay that nonsense on you.
    I would never talk to musicians that way. Musicians expose their entire souls for their art. I would lose my job if I talked to musicians the way he’s trying to talk to you.
    Move on don’t play his club. Find the one club that treats you with respect, where the Proprietor believes in you, and play there. Let this guy figure out his beer sales, that’s not your job.

  79. CVjoints

    man the world isn’t just about money. And if you focus a bar on that, then it looses aesthetic. You defiantly don’t want to sell too much beer and cause a ton of car wrecks. Sometimes its good to have a band to run people off. It a wakens them, and makes them happy. Music is a commodity just like anything else but pays a lot more than gold. Don’t treat bands like employees , treat them like gods. Otherwise you wlll just build up more sleaze.

  80. AC50

    Nowhere in that article did I see mentioned the biggest root of the problem, which has more to do with the nails that M.A.D.D. has hammered into the coffin lid of the entertainment industry. It’s pretty short-sighted to lay the blame on the bands because people are afraid to drive across town and have a few drinks anymore. As for this man’s attitude, it’s precisely the reason I don’t care if I never play another bar in my life. (At 62, with nearly a half-century in the business, I’ve played my share).

    Sorry, Mr. Club Owner. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but I didn’t spend years perfecting my musical skills so that I could sell booze. That’s not my job, it’s YOUR job. My job is to entertain people at any given establishment, keep them there, and make them want to return. It’s YOUR job to promote your own establishment, it’s YOUR job to price your drinks so that people can afford to hang out without feeling like they’re paying your mortgage, and it’s YOUR job to consistently hire good entertainment, thus ensuring that YOU have a following on any given night of the week. And you’re not going to do this by hiring the entertainment out to the lowest bidders. Why, half the time, the joint doesn’t even have a stage – the band has to move the tables and set up in a dark corner, because you can’t even install proper lighting! Is this supposed to be some kind of joke??

    You buy cheap, you get cheap. That’s the way it works. If you can’t afford a band, you’d be better off with a good jukebox, rather than with a bad band, karaoke, or another ubiquitous, mediocre “Blues Jam” or “Open Mic” run by amateurs, for amateurs. If you’ve got a problem with your business, figure out why and fix it if you can. You know what M.A.D.D. has done to the industry with the drinking laws, you know that people don’t go out like they used to, and yet you still decided to open a bar? What are you, soft, or just a glutton for punishment?? It would appear to me, at the very least, you’ve made a terrible decision – you’re in the wrong business.

    That’s my story, I’m stickin’ to it until hell freezes over, and I don’t care if I never play another stinky little BAR, run by some clueless owner who decided to get into the business long after the industry had already bitten the dust. It’s time for a general wake up call at somebody’s establishment.

  81. Good points, When I was doing the club scene I would have much rather been playing some deep cuts from Rush,or Dream Theater but people would much rather hear mustang sally played for the 900th time…its just the reality, that’s why I don’t play in clubs anymore.

  82. Funky78

    Hello guys,

    The bar Owner is absolutely right….

    I’m a full time musician,and i understand the musician’s point…BUT we need them to play, they need us to increase their sell….that’s that simple!

    Without the Bar Owners we couldn’t play, whithout us they won’t earn enough money to stay open! It’s a partnership!

    we aren’t their employees, we are their PARTNERS!!!!BUT we HAVE to be professionnal (take care of your look, think about the show, show up on time, gentle….)

    I agree with the fact that we are not bar tenders, and we can’t ask people to buy us a drink…..that’s just crazy and not correct! and that’s the bar employees job! BUT as partners , musicians can encourage people to drink, and remind to the custommers that there’s good booz in this bar as well as good music!

    But you can do whatever you want, if a custummer don’t want to spend more than 10 bucks he just won’t do it! just like if they don’t like your music they won’t listen to you!

    The bar owners need us too, we bring more people…and as said before if they just want us to increase their sell, why are they working in this bizz? a licor store will be beter for those ones!

    but still, we are partners, and just as we like to be payed, the bar owners like to earn money…quite normal…they help us, we help them!

    We are not there to promote ourself! we are there to entertain, play music, and help the bar’s buisiness!

    You got to keep that in mind! they hire us, for the ambiance wich increase their sells! think from the custummer perspective, you got 2 bars in front of you, one whith a band the other without….unless you want a quiet place, and that’s not the biggest part of us, you choose the bar with the band! and i think every bar owner knows that! So pu your rock stars ego ahead and play by the rules!Do your show, talk to people in the audience, encourage them to drink (but don’t ask them to pay you anything that’s just crazyness!) and you can even do beter with a little and discreet “commercial” announcement!

    If you want to promote yourself try you tube ^^

    If you are a real professionnal musician, you don’t need to proove it, people will recognise it, so just play, get a professional attitude (and it doesn’t just consist in asking money) that’s it! O

  83. Seniorblues

    I don’t have time to read every comment, but I know that things have changed for the worse since I was a full time road warrior playing top 40 in clubs. The band’s job was to to entertain the club’s clients. They didn’t know you from Adam but if they liked you, two things happened. You’d be asked to come back again, and more importantly, you have done your part in maintaining the reputation of an establishment that can be counted on to bring in top notch entertainment.

    Who’s hosting the party . . . the venue, or the band?

  84. Nick

    I agree with a few points here, dress well, don’t play too loud, act professionally etc. But in general this message is condescending and demeaning to musicians. “Your job is to sell booze. You’re not here for any other reason.” No fucker, my job is to kick ass on stage. If we have done that and you don’t want us back because we didn’t upsell your top shelf liquor I could give two dick bags & a rat fart. Obviously we are there to create a welcoming environment and enhance the audience’s experience, but we ARE NOT booze merchants. I didn’t spend decades honing my craft to be equated to a glorified vending machine. More-so there are plenty of places I can play where I’m not treated as such. It’s bar owners like this that are ruining live music at a local level. Try this: don’t have live music. Have some turd biscuit DJ come in and spin Nickelback all night for a $150. You’ll save yourselves a whole pile of money and cater to your clientele which don’t sound like music lovers, but rather pop culture lovers AND you’ll free up musicians to play at venues where they are more appreciated.

  85. Mike

    This is crazy. 35 years in this business and I’ll tell you, what the bar sales are never crosses my mind. Why?? Because I never asked for the bar receipt from the owner. As if he/she would ever show me. I’ve done gigs where the band drew well over a hundred people and on some nights 20. A good following is only as dependent on what the following (800 people on an e-mail list) has going on that particular night. They have lives too and can’t be expected to show up for every gig. I remember a gig where they were overwhelmed at the turn-out…had a line of 40 people waiting to get in..inadequate parking..and totally understaffed. They still made a few thousand dollars. We got complaints from our following how much this place sucked. And they would never go there again. A night where we wished we played at a better place. You think we got a bonus for a night where they probably exceeded the fire regulations of people allowed in the building. LOL. Not a dime extra. Needless to say, when they asked us to play again we said NO!! A one hundred dollar raise did not cut it.

    We are professional and show up on time, get their early, in cases where the establishment doesn’t have adequate power supply but may have a kitchen (which has been verified by a visit there well before we play), tap into their 220 0utlet(s), with our own power service so we don’t have a night of humming through the amps and PA, set up our own lights that are a drastic improvement from what is offered (if any). This is more the rule than the exception unfortunately.

    I’ve seen a lot of bands as this guy has said who don’t have a clue what it takes to make it in the “bar” scene. Rock stars without a clue is what I can them. But serious musicians do what they do. They play what they do best. And enjoy. If your patrons are a different genre than what my band plays, don’t hire us. It’s that simple. I can’t always count on my following being at your place any one week. No one can. All I can assure is that we are ready, prepared, did what we have to do to try and get the most people to come and stay for as long as they can.

    But NO WAY IN HELL are we doing this to sell alcohol. Contribute to accidents, which by the way, certain places will allow a drunk to continue to buy and not offer later to provide a ride within reason. It happens. When the main theme is to sell alcohol.

    I think most bands and bar owner need to realize that it IS a 2 way street. But from my experiences, the good band get lumped in with the bad bands by most bar owners. And the day a bar owner shares with me the actual amount of money he made from my band, will be the day I probably die.

  86. Marc S

    I think it’s amazing, all these guys who say “I’ve been doing this for XX years” or the whole “screw him, what does he know”.

    If you’ve done any amount of steady gigging in a cover band, anywhere, you will see how much truth there is what this club owner says…. AND you’ll also know there are exceptions to what he said… and exceptions to everything about every band, every gig, every venue, etc….

    The sad part is that musicians (who already have a poor rep as a whole) are coming here and lambasting the guy and having a piss poor attitude to boot.

    You don’t deserve anything. Especially when you haven’t proven yourself. And those who HAVE proven themselves know not to make asses out of themselves here or in front of potential venue owners.

  87. Hit the street and avoid the bars altogether. I make more bucks busking than I ever did playing bars.
    Click here for a sample:

    • A few months ago I posted this article to my obscure little blog here. It’s now become a full time job approving comments. Ha!! My blog is approaching 100,000 views, and 90,000 of them are for this article…which I didn’t write. :)

      Cheers to all the varying opinions and attitudes here. Can someone tell me how to exploit this blog traffic with regard to advertising? LOL

  88. Armen Boyajian

    Well, here’s my take: I’ve been playing in bars and clubs since 1978 and here’s how I see it: bands have to do their part of the equation; practice, perform well, market themselves via the Internet, Facebook et. al., show up on time and not have an entitlement mentality. They also have to take ownership of the contract and payment. The club has to provide the venue, and work to market their lineup of groups that perform. IMHO, it’s the club’s job to sell drinks, but the bands can enhance the experience — i.e. they have to be value-added. If a four-piece band is making $400, they have to be worth the $400 the club owner is taking out of the door or a percentage of the gross revenues — and I’ve seen too many examples of bands that showed up late, played poorly, and then wondered why they weren’t asked back. However, it is erroneous to assume that the band is supposed to market by itself — it should be a joint endeavor with the club.

  89. Joe Musician

    It’s my responsibility to sell his booze?!!!!!! FUCK HIM!!!!! If he’s releying on others to make his business survive?!! His head is so far up his ass he needs to be flipping burgers for someone else. This guy has the biggest brass balls EVER!!!!

    • So ,I assume you make a living playing music with that attitude ?And the article did not it was Your responsibility , it basically said to advertise specials. Here’s Question Joe,… I say to you , I’ll pay you x amount of money to wear my bar Tee shirt … while your playing would you? If bar said to you I’ll pay you $250.00 extra to promote every set our drink specials would you? If you said “no” to the above Questions then you don’t get the concept of making money. Being in this music /entertainment business isn’t about YOU, it is about money ,that is why successful musicians are successful because WE Get It . If the Bar isn’t making money you don’t eat if your a pro …Bottomline! If I ‘m asked to promote owners booze hell yes when I make $1500 -$2300 a night. I like Steak instead of Mc D’s, I like to be able to buy better Equipment because I understand business.

  90. peellle

    give me a break, dousche bars attract dousche bro dudes. seems like this is a bennigans, hooters 1993 mash-up, dont expect non-bro-dude bands if your place is just that.

    • I have one easy solution to all of you serious musicians. Don’t play these kind of club’s period. I know. I have been playing for 45 years now and these kind of Bar owners and so called Club owners haven’t really got a clue!

      Don’t you think if this guy really had a great club to play he wouldn’t have what he calls musicians coming in and wearing Bro-clothes. Well I can tell him I just saw James Burton one of the greatest people and musicians alive today wearing a black baseball cap w/his logo on it and a cool black shirt w/street rod’s on it and some nice black Levi’s jeans on and nice black dress shoes on.

      Saw him in Austin. But I guess James wouldn’t make the cut playing this guy’s club. This guy is just another bad toilet along the roadside and Not even an attraction to me. I can already invision what his “shithole” look’s like!

      This guy is in it for the “Booze” what does that tell you right from the start.

      So don’t promote or play these places. You would be better off renting a grange hall or play @ the Eagles.

  91. Mitch S

    Anyone who treats artists like menial labor is a worthless piece of garbage.

  92. bbdrvr

    I suppose that’s a valid business plan, but it’s not the only one. There’s trying to get your regular customers to buy more booze, and then there’s reaching out to bring in people who wouldn’t normally set foot in the place and maybe getting them to pay a cover charge.

    The only reason I ever go to bars is to listen to music I like. I don’t mind paying a reasonable cover charge. If the bar sells hard liquor, I might even buy a drink. (Sorry, can’t stand beer and I’m allergic to wine.) If you have a crappy band in there, you’ll never even get me in the door. It’s just the way it is.

  93. AgriCruiter

    The guy is on point. To people that don’t want to pay cover, consider this: I ran a bar in an Iowa small town (3000 people). We’d get some recognizable names from the neighboring college town sometimes, but they wanted twice what we normally offered which was anywhere between $300-$500 for three sets. We didn’t charge cover, and we only increased drink prices by $.50 to $1.00 depending on if it was beer or liquor. So let’s say we sell 200 beers and 150 well drinks…band is paid for, right? Wrong. We also have to pay fees to allow live music to legally be played in our venue to ASCAP and BMI. That’s right, every time someone murders “Ring of Fire” the whomever owns the rights to it gets a little piece. Same goes for karaoke and the jukebox. I’m not saying that someone keeps track of every single song, but the fees we pay are averaged by how often we have live entertainment and what our maximum capacity is. This isn’t to mention the other expenses that go into running a bar like Iowa having the only state law in the country establishing mandatory minimum levels of dram shop insurance for bars. There’s also extra staffing that needs to be paid for on the payroll when live entertainment is involved. I mean, you don’t want to wait a half hour for a drink because there is only one bartender and one waitress, right? Then there is this: If a cover charge is $5.00 and the bar doesn’t raise prices, and you have 5 drinks over the course of 4 hours the bar is losing money on the band. If you don’t want to pay cover to loiter around a business nursing drinks then stay home and listen to your iPod. Support local business and local music drinking the f**k up!

  94. Great insight into a bar owner’s head!

    “You’ve got maybe 60 seconds to make your “elevator pitch” and just a few more minutes to make it stick. There is a sales technique I’m seeing that’s impressive, stands out and really works, but out of respect for the bands that figured it out, call it a trade secret. ”

    Any idea what the big secret is? Business plan? Market research study?

  95. ggtth

    We need the bars more than they need us…

  96. Rick

    I feel the need to comment a little further on this and hopefully shed some light on what’s occurred. My disclaimer is that this is only my perspective based on observations and experiences; and may be only applicable in the area of NY state where I’ve lived since a teenager…your milage may vary.

    I’m approaching my 60th birthday in a few more months. I’ve been a working (albeit part-time) musician since I was 14 and played in my first “garage” band back then. The first band I was in as a teenager, played at school
    dances and teen clubs in the area and we were paid on average $200-300 per 3-4 hr. job back then. That was in the late 60’s/early 70s. Venues were plentiful and bands were plentiful as well. It was easy to find gigs even though it seemed as if there was at least one band rehearsing on every street in every neighborhood. Live music played by a live band though not exactly a novelty, was cool and exciting and part of “the scene”.

    After high school and after I was of legal age to do so, I played in bar bands. Again there were a lot of venues in which to play and again many bands in the area. But we all worked as much as we wanted 2-3 nights per week. It was easy to ask for and get $200-300 per bar gig,and often more, in any bar.The bars and venues were always packed and never lacked for patrons. Patrons loved and appreciated live music and had a variety of venues and
    music for their choosing. Any band worth their salt had as much work, within a 50-75 mile radius, as they wanted.

    Then during the mid to later years of the 70s and continuing on into the early 80s (and after) some changes occurred. The two most notable being disco and “canned” music clubs began appearing and a public awarness of excessive drinking and accidents resulting from drunken driving began to emerge. The public awareness and concern, especially over accidents and excessive drinking by the 18-20 year old demographic (which made up a large percentage of bar patrons in clubs with live music), became very polically charged and a force of change in the bar/live music venue scene. Eventually the legal drinking age in NY was raised from 18 to 21, drunk driving laws were toughened and enforced with a vengance. This effectively dampened and diminished many decently to well paying live music venues’ customer base. I personally know of a few clubs that had to shut their doors forever once drinking became a heated issue. Did this hurt the availablity of live music venues and their pay scales to working bands….you bet it did. Live locals bands were still getting paid in the $200-300 per gig range, but this was the first time I experienced bar owners starting to balk at a band’s asking price and the first time I ever had a bar owner ask me at the end of the night’s gig if we’d take a little less than what was agreed on for the gig as his alchohol sales weren’t great.

    The advent of disco clubs and “canned” music, although probably to lesser extent also hurt the live band scene. Clubs that at one time hired live bands began catering to the disco crowd and offering canned and very dancable
    stuff to a whole new demographic who didn’t really care about live bands or even what music was being played through the sound system as long as it was dancable and attracted females who in turn attracted males. This was
    born the modern day “meat market” clubs where you’ll find a packed dance floor and not a live musician in the place. These clubs have further evolved into offering “DJs” who can spin any tune asked for with the flick of a button and/or karaoke which gives everyone a spot in the limelight, and for often less than the price of a live band the bar owner and patrons have 1000s of tunes available for the asking.

    During the 90s was the first time I experienced the “show case” club concept and bar/venue owners instead of paying even a minimal fee for a live band were now asking a: the band play for free for exposure b: the band pay a fee for “privelge” of playing to an audience or c: the band sell so many tickets in advance and be responsible for all being sold (still with no pay or cut from the sales) in order to gain a spot in the venues lineup. Clubs that didn’t follow this concept were still only paying $200-300 per night if that, if you could get any interest in booking your band at all. To be fair, there were (and still are) a few venues that cater to an upscale demographic and offer them great food, classy atmosphere, high price drinks and a live “cover” band (usually paid at the rate of $75-100 per member) that plays everyones favorite new and pop tunes and hits. Usually there are a 2-3 long term, live, “pop” bands in rotation that fill these establishments needs. btw.. these venues really don’t care if the “pop” band makes them money or sells their alcohol for them…they hire the bands for the sole purpose of entertaining their customers which would be there spending money, band or no band.

    One last thing happened during the 90s and has continued on to current times. The public’s awarness and attitude toward smoking shifted from one of little concern or tolerence to a major concern and often hostilty towards
    smokers and bars/venues in which previously smoking was accepted and the norm. You the reader may welcome the shift or not, may agree with it or not and I don’t speak from an emotionally moral or ethical veiwpoint, but bans on smoking (along with the publics increasing intolernce for drinking) in bars/venues, including those with live bands, has hurt the bottom line for those businesses as well as the demand for live bands to play in many
    venues. To be fair, I know of a few bars that continue to thrive even though their patrons can’t smoke while there (or drink until they get a major alcohol buzz going). But I know of many more bars that are barely hanging on financially and many more in the area that have simply shut their doors, beaten down by the laws curtailing both smoking and drinking. Many of these are bars that would have, at one time, been a place for my band to play and be paid at least minimally well as we entertained their customers.

    Taxes too (along with a piss poor economy) have played a role in dampening, if not ending many venues abilty to have live music and pay at least decently well.. Alchohol has become very expensive and many that would drink a lot and spend money simply can’t afford a night out in your bar. That hurts you and me.

    Mr/Ms. bar/venue owner I get your plite and all the crap you’ve been handed to deal with in owning and successfully operating your live music venue. If you want to hire me and my blues band to play live in your club we’ll work with you as much as we can to make that happen because we want to be there playing too. We’ll show up on time, dressed well, well rehearsed and musically tight with pro equipment and attitudes. We’ll play the hell out of the blues we play and give your customers a show and make them glad they’re there, in your place. We’ll give much more than you’ve payed us to give. But please understand us too and don’t insult us by telling us our only job is to push your ounces of alchohol. If you’re running your venue correctly to begin with and if we’re entertaining your customers with good music played and presented well, the booze sales will happen automatically. It doesn’t bother me that my band only makes now as much as my teenage garage band made in the late 60s. I wish it were more but I understand the forces in play that keep it from being more and I love playing blues enough in front of an
    audience who digs what I’m playing that’d I’ll work with you as long as some respect is shown. In the end, business or not, it’s all about respect and attitude and how you treat another human being. Nuff said.

    • Wow! What a great thread! Most educational. I can tell you that if the bar owner does not work with the band/musician, then nothing creative and entertaining will truly happen. When I did my singer/songwriter days, there was a restaurant I set up a gig with. I gave him samplers, flyers and info and in turn he displayed them, handed them out, and put my stage name on his billboard with gig time and date. We had a full house! Great gig. A month later I did the same thing…flyers, samplers, the works…he forgot and did nothing. No one showed. He apologized, gave me a free meal, but the gig was a flop because he forgot to work with me on it. This wasn’t even a paid gig, it was promotional for me. When you combine businesses for profit, there should be support and understanding on both ends.

      When I had a band, I held a CD Release party at a pub and did everything from advertising to working with other small businesses for food trays and coupons and it worked out well, except the bar owner didn’t really do much to take advantage of a Sunday crowd. It was like pulling teeth to get her to take part. I brought her a full house that Sunday and she didn’t even have to pay me for it. Did she say thanks to me or ask me to come back or provide specials that day? Nope. Not one word.

      I guess what I’m saying is if the bar owner doesn’t make an effort to work with you, then don’t perform there. And bar owners, if the musicians have no ideas or work with you on how they can help make it an awesome night, then don’t hire them.

      It’s supposed to be a simbient relationship, right?

  97. Rick

    ” Your job is to sell booze. You’re not here for any other reason”
    I couldn’t disagree more with this statement. My job is to draw people people into your establishment via the genre of music my band plays, entertain them while there and keep them there as long as possible which gives you to opportunity to sell your booze. to them.
    If my job is to sell booze,instead of keep them there and entertain them, perhaps we’d both better off with you paying me minumum wage to walk back and forth in front of your bar wearing a sign that advertises your drink specials.
    As another poster put it, if as bar owner you don’t like all the headaches and overhead associated with running your establishment, including dealing with live bands perhaps you’d be better off running a liquor store; or simply get a juke box loaded with the latest and greatest hits.

    I’m musician and I’ve played in many bar bands over the years. I agree fully that professionalism should be shown by any band. Promptness, dress, working the crowd, all being elements of that. However if you hire my band knowing that we promote ourselves as a hardcore blues band and expect us to play “pop” tunes or country to please your “top 40″ or country crowd then you’ve fucked up, not us. Know your clientele and know your market before hiring us or any band. As one who loves playing what I play before an appreciative crowd, I don’t want to play at your establishment if my band’s music is the wrong fit for your crowd. It will make for a misreable evening all around, for you, for my band and for your customers.

    • I think he was saying that by getting the people there and keeping them drinking was a joint-venture…I hope.. If you are making a cd and it cost thousands….you have to have people to buy them. I do think a band should help advertise where they will be Saturday night…fb. twitter and all the free publications and just maybe the bar should chip in with the local news papers by paying for the ad and add both the websites{without them and the local bars you as a band will always be a “local band”. ) The people I use does this, if we had a good crowd, we say we sure got them turned on. WE BEING THE KEYWORD. Think this…I will never be any good without the bars promoting me and the bars need to say if I dont help them by promoting, my bar is going broke. Everybody can piss and moan who is at fault but its strictly a joint venture. If your last bar did not promote you…when he calls again, tell him to ________and when he dont call you in 45 days,,,gather up your ads that you ran and have a “set-down” with him.

  98. Al Fleury

    It’s unfortunate we don’t know the bar owner who wrote this letter. I would like to thank him for shedding light on the subject of a musician’s job in a bar. To those who posted comments on here claiming this bar owner is wrong, you just don’t get it. Let’s cut through all the bull and accept it for what it is and what it should always be to ensure success for both bands and bar owners. 1- Bar owner hires band. 2- Bar owner is paying band. 3- Band should do what it is paid to do(entertain, be professional, play music people like to dance to, plug drink specials and acknowledge the servers, present band identity and uniqueness with “eye candy”/light show, stage clothes, band banner. 4- If band does all that and bar makes good profit, bar owner will be happy and hire you again. 5- Band is happy because it got paid and will get hired again at same bar. The musicians who think I’m full of it and only want to do their own thing without thought to bar owner or audience, are only interested in expanding their inflated egos. Don’t bother trying to get a paying gig. Go to an open stage night instead. I’ve seen many covers bands over the years and I’m a working musician myself; so I know what I’m talking about.

  99. Reblogged this on theremarkablesinger and commented:
    Open Letter From a Bar Owner to Musicians…better check this out!

  100. this is by far the most compelling argument for never playing in a bar, ever again. there are so many possibilities and venues for playing, without, I might add, a herd of drunken boors acting like, well, drunken boors in a bar. there are venues you can rent, there are festivals you can apply for and there’s a freakin goldmine in busking if you do it right. Funnily enough, I do a weekly gig in a club that includes a sports bar on the first floor and a live music venue on the second. The owner is a musician, and has established a base income from the food and beer sales downstairs so he doesn’t have to be a bean counting ass about the music, so don’t tell me it isn’t do able.

  101. Marc S

    Mitch,

    I’m not trying to insult you or get your back up. I respect anyone who has the stones to get up and play for anyone.

    That being said, laws of supply and demand are in play.

    You don’t want to take $100 a night because your years of training, and thousands of dollars of gear, plus travel and gas, etc etc means that you feel you are worth $200 a night?

    Good on ya, because there’s another person waiting in the wings, more than willing to take your spot for less money…. and, God forbid, actually do the job as well or better.

    If there were only 100 of us with the skills to crate a decent bar band, then we’d be getting paid that kind of money, but it just isn’t the case.

    The number of venues are decreasing, the number of patrons who go out to listen to live music is way down, and the number of musicians are up.

    When the venue owner has their pick of the litter, the economics are what they are today. In an area where there are fewer bands, fewer venues and lots of customers ( I can think of several in Maine, Vermont, Northern NY State, rural Ohio, Western PA and a few other places), economics are more favorable. In other areas, there is a glut of venues, musicians and fewer customers (per venue).

    IMHO, there isn’t an ‘artistic’ bent on bar bands. I’ve seen way too many of them that show up in ripped jeans, play in the same clothes they loaded in with, run up a bar tab and then they move on to the next gig the next night in the next town over. They are, literally, the scorched earth bar band types. They don’t treat it like a business, it’s how many gigs they can get, how close together they are and how many of their drinking buddies they can get out per night. And for a very few of them, this actually works. They have a loyal following that shows up and drinks.

    And the venue owner loves them. Why? Asses in seats, plain and simple. PLUS, they play for $75 per man, and don’t care.

    Want a real good piece of advice on how to get regular and high paying gigs?

    Get an above average female musician in the band. Not one that just slaps a tambourine on her ass, but one that has banter and talent, usually a singer, or occasionally, a guitar player.

    Women patrons will go see a band with a chick in it, because the chances of there being dance able music goes way up. Females will also go cause there will be guys there, watching a band with a chick in it… and they won’t exactly be on the “hunt” for the female patrons as much as if it were some heavy rock testosterone floor washing band. Guys will go because there is a chick in the band AND they know with a chick in the band, women will go to see that band. I’ve seen that formula work over and over, and usually to a financial gain for that band.

    Now, when you start talking original material, everything I just said above doesn’t mean a damn thing. Now you are in the ‘artistic vision/performance’ side, and there is little to no money to be made there besides merchandise sales….

    And this debate goes on forever.

    • Good, overview of our business , you get more responses then I do , cant quite figure that out but ……..,I find thisarticle , very understandable by the bar owner , course those that do are long time Road “Pigs” and in the days when country was hot and the pay actually if you knew your gig and provided the bar a 20 -60%over draw profit margin.The Royal Hotel in MJ Sask. prime example: THurs – Sat- 250 seat caberet ,$5.00 cover-9-1:00,an easy 3-5 grand overcoast.Al Boneski the owner , only brought in Show bands,we, the Silver Buckle Band,advertised and Promoted both the Bar on radio and 3 weeks prior in the local Paper.IT is Business ! You are so correct , I enjoyed making $2,300+rooms and a heavy discount on food. for 3 days work .I tried to get the guys 200+ per gig.It Is possiable but to get that money you have to work at it.All the commentors who are neg against the article , Guareenteed haven’t had to make a living at music. The fact that a band is pised at an owner , because he either doesnt have a P.A or a stage or lights . Makes me Lmho!!!!!!,Why would you use a a system that has been abused no doubt by Hacks who “Play” at being Professional grade musicians,All the Road “dogs ” I know come fully equiped with , a 20 grand P.A.w. lights and their own power plant to condition incoming elect.and their ownplug ins usually in a rack.Thats why we made what we made,then Came Cd’s,kere-jokie and over blasted thug crap!the went to hell, however it is coming back but it national tour that you need to hook up with or corperate casino s .
      You did a great response , you get more replies then bar I think i’ve only got one ! lol,I wonder why , we both basically say the same thing !
      have a great evening.

  102. Nigel Hawkins

    Well said. As a former frontman, I understand
    And agree 100%! the Saturday matinee
    jam at V-Lounge helps the bottomline
    I’m sure! Bartender Brad always hands me
    my first Corona there! Then I sing! and really
    enjoy pleasing the crowd!

  103. Weekend warrior, cover song bar band front man here with over a decade of experience doing this, generally playing for the door – sometimes successfully! I don’t rely on this for economic survival, but playing live music is important to my soul. I’ve done my best to help me band avoid getting sucked into the “Brown Eyed Girl”/”Mustang Sally” trap (I call this the “cover band race to the bottom”), but it’s freaking hard.

    Lots of black and white opinions being expressed here. I think it’s more a case of the relationship between bands and bars being symbiotic and having expecations sorted out beforehand. Ultimately, it’s a business arrangement and both parties want to profit (extrinsic benefit) from the relationship/event, both parties want to generate a “scene” (intrinsic benefit) that makes people want to come back for more. However, if there isn’t a fit between what is profitable and what consitutes a “scene” for the bar and the band, it’s time for both parties to look elsewhere. Unfortunately, I think that sort of dialogue is rare. Bands consistenly over promise and under deliver – as do bars, but in different ways.

    I think it’s possible to create a scene, for the band to play tunes that are not entirely middle of the road and for the bar to be profitable as a result. There’s clearly a huge proportion of failed “experiments” that litter the road to success for both bands and bars. Either party can only take so much failure and as such, we are collectively stuck in this race towards the bottom. Sucks!

  104. I’m 65, been playing for 50 years, I’ve broken every rule you writ, oh well, the nightlife ain’t no good life, but it’s the life I live’d.
    Slept on pool table, paid in Skunk Weed, live in New York with Noel Redding, recorded at Electric Lady Land, was there when Jimi died, Sept 18th. Been a hell of a ride, and I can see your side. But when we all get to heaven it won’t matter a twit.
    God Bless, Good luck to all you all and the commenters too!

    • hey Joe how you been?,Aint that the truth,long days ,longer nites and wakin up in places with people “say who r you” been places most only dream of or see in the docu dramas on tv.It is a hell ofa ride not for the faint or weak of hart.Your rt. in the endand we’re playing in that heavenly choir,what we did down here don’t mean a thing.

    • James Irwin

      Some of the posters here have complained about poor or non-existent stage, PA or lighting facilities at venues. My band will NEVER show up for a gig without a prior visit to do a TS–technical survey of the space. And, if there is ANY doubt about the suitability of the house system(s), we bring our own. Our contract and understanding with management also stipulate the availability of sufficient onsite AC power to run our enitire setup, the need for 90 minutes to set up, and 45 minutes to tear down and ship out. As for the performance, we expect only ONE thing: That both the band and–more importantly–the audience will have a really great time. We will do NOTHING to promote alcohol (no one in the band happens to drink) or food sales, but we will do nothing to impede them either. The rest is in the (hopefully) professional hands of the owner, bartenders and servers. To each his/her own job.

  105. Pingback: Wow. Lots of Thots on Bar Bands and Business by the ounce. What’s mine? « Noisy Boys Music

  106. I’ve been a professional musician for more than 30 years, and have been fortunate to have made music with some of my true musical heroes (check my website for context). Over the years, I’ve played for free, for a few hundred dollars and, more recently, for thousands of dollars per gig. For me, the music is the most important aspect of my job, and I am therefore typically willing to ignore the injustice shown to musicians by the lion’s share of American club owners (like the one referenced in this thread) in order to continue honing my craft.

    Guys in baseball caps get paid MILLIONS of dollars to sit on a bench. Accomplished actors (who typically have to simply show up) get paid HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS or MILLIONS of dollars for spending a few minutes in front of a camera while the rest of their paid time is spent in a dressing room or trailer watching TV. Attorneys earn an average of $350/hour providing their professional services. I don’t begrudge any of these professionals for working hard enough on their craft to now demand higher salaries than when they first started out. However and as a glaring comparison, with very few exceptions, musicians working in local clubs/bars typically earn a couple hundred dollars FOR THE ENTIRE NIGHT!!! That utterly offensive, insulting and disgraceful pay-to-talent ratio covers the following:

    1. Rental of rehearsal space and rehearsal for the gig (typically at least one 3-hour rehearsal including travel to/from the rehearsal space, and loading and unloading of equipment on both ends of the evening, equaling an average of FIVE HOURS and at least $100 in rental fee essentially *DONATED* to this and other unappreciative club owners).
    2. Promotion/Advertising for the gig (this typically costs me at least $200 including posters, flyers and online and other promo).
    3. Travel to the gig (oftentimes an hour or more) and any tolls therefor.
    4. Physical unloading of all musical gear.
    5. Physical setup of all musical gear onstage.
    6. Soundcheck. (Note: By the time soundcheck rolls around, most musicians have already been traveling/working for at least TWO HOURS before the first note is played.)
    7. Performance (typically at least one, and more often than not two full sets of live music performed from the heart with the sole purpose of entertaining the club’s patrons).
    8. Mingling with appreciative club patrons after the show.
    9. Breakdown/load out of all musical equipment (typically adds at least 30-45 minutes to the evening’s work).
    10. Travel from the gig (oftentimes an hour or more) and any tolls therefor.

    Adding up the above, the typical musician spends TEN OR MORE HOURS preparing for, traveling to, loading in and setting up, performing, breaking down and loading out, and traveling home from each gig. If one were to break down the typical hourly pay for such a musician, it works out to a shameful hourly wage of little more than $10.00.

    Bottom line? Fuck this club owner and all others who treat musicians as little more than worthless beggars who should get on their knees to thank these ungrateful yahoos for paying us a fraction of our worth, all while they bitch about nothing more than their ability to fill their customers with alcohol. Europe and the rest of the civilized world treats their musical artists as we do stars of sports and screen: national treasures exceedingly valuable to their culture (and compensated commensurately for such standing); I’d like to think that we can rise to similar levels of respect and appreciation for our own artists, but as long as club owners like the one here continue to demonstrate lack of interest in and appreciation for the music itself and the musicians creating it and only care about how much poison they can sell all while raping the musicians who play their venues (and as long as musicians continue to bend over for such club owners to have their way), I’m afraid this will continue to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    • Mitch,

      Thanks a lot for imparting your knowledge and wisdom here. I like your take on it. This club owner is obviously operating on a low-level playing field, as are the bands working for him. So your post is coming from a position that rises above this, which is what all serious musicians must strive to do. Unfortunately there are many musicians who have no scruples about where/what they play; it is pure glory and attention, and nothing else. These are the types of musicians this club owner is hoping to attract – gullible ones who will adhere to his capitalistic attitude. In his own world, however, he is right on all points. The crux of the matter is that musicians should not put up with it if they’re serious about their craft. I doubt anyone who plays for this guy is serious at all artistically.

    • Bart Tarenskeen

      Being a professional musician I agree with a lot of what you say.
      However, you’re forgetting a few things. You talk about the preparation time (rehearsal, travel time etc) for our gigs, but forget to mention actors, lawyers and almost every other profession have spent a lot of time and money to get where they are too. Are they overpaid in comparison to musicians. I think so. But the actors you’re talking about are the “stars”. There are countless actors who make less money than we do. And there are the “stars’ in the music business, a lot of them not accomplished musicians. They make millions too, by singing into a mic in a studio that autotunes or melodynes their voice to get it in tune, and lipsync to the playback of that recording in stadiums where tens of thousands of their fans, after paying too much money to get in, get to hear what they can hear for free on the radio.

    • Marc S

      MItch,

      I have to disagree.

      You are comparing the “elite” of their professions, such as ball players or actors and throw bar band guys into that comparison? Seriously?

      The “elite” of musicians, such as Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and others get paid the elite money. The bar band guy doesn’t. Why?

      Because the bar guy is playing covers, has no name recognition and has no ability to sell out a venue based on his record sales, radio airplay or anything else.

      I’m in the same position as you, having played for free and played with name acts, and to be honest, your post smacks of intellectual dishonesty.

      If you are a musicians playing in front of 100 people, you get paid like you are playing in front of 100 people.

      When it’s 1000, the money goes up.

      When it’s 10,000, you aren’t exactly in a bar band anymore, are you?

      Lawyers get paid at all different levels. So do ball players and actors. The elite are a commodity that consistently outperform their peers, and thus, can command higher salary.

      • Mitch

        Marc and Bart, I’m not comparing the “elite” to the inexperienced; all I’m suggesting is that as a country (and as compared with most of the rest of the civilized world), we value our musical artists exponentially lower on the totem pole than actors, lawyers, sports figures, etc., and this observation underscores the self-fulfilling prophecy that will endure as long as club owners continue to value pushing addictive, lethal poison over supporting American artists. Your post seems to imply that unless you’re Stevie Wonder or Paul McCartney, your musical ability is subpar and therefor deserving of no more than a few token dollars; I take GREAT exception to such a ridiculous, insulting and offensive suggestion. I support anyone wanting to earn an honest dollar, but by their very nature, musicians require an audience to fully hone their craft (unless they’re purely hermit-like studio artists who have no desire to perform in front of people, but those represent the minority). As I previously mentioned, I don’t begrudge actors, sports figures, attorneys or anyone else for working hard to get to the point where they’re earning what they’re worth; however, as you accurately point out, musicians typically get paid pennies on the dollar compared to their actual value and to other professions (i.e. if despite the decades of hard work and practice spent to hone their craft talented lawyers, actors and sports figures only got paid the equivalent of $10/hour, there would be an outcry; even the “newest” attorney who just passed the Bar can typically demand at least $150 per hour, when most musicians with DECADES of experience get paid that same amount for up to TEN HOURS of work). As musical artists, we usually just suck it up and play for a pittance, all because true artists MUST pursue their art regardless the inequities of the pay scale. I would suggest to you that thousands of very talented musicians throughout America (who despite your implication are exceedingly more talented than inexperienced first-timers) are currently being raped as they have been for years, and as long as this blatant lack of appreciation for our musical artists and national cultural legacy continues, we will never be able to get past the disgraceful and ongoing tradition shown by the lion’s share of club owners in this country. Perhaps if club owners started paying musicians what they’re worth (or at least CLOSE to it), the overall level of quality in live music venues (AND THE BAR SALES THEREFOR) would only increase. Intellectual dishonesty? I respectfully disagree.

    • Mitch , you sound very bitter! I doubt you have played on the road full time? Every business has or should have a budget and a cost analyis for doing your business.You sound like ,you don’t know how to negotiate what your worth, As musicians ( professional ones)who do this gig full time.1.Most pros, dont spend time rehersing for hours in a studio,we’re to busy traveling, 2.I know many Musicians making $120,000 a year , they Hustle-fly in , sessions and tours.A few have instructional videos out ,
      In your day job do you get payed to and from work? Do you tell you employer what he will pay you for your schooling? I don’t think so.
      Actors dont just work for 15 min a movie , I know I’ve acted , I realize some where you got burned in this Business unfortunately this business is for the dedicated and thick skinned. I have played for tips and for food when I was desperate and had no other way to survive in a foreign country.Musician have dug their own grave ,when they undercut wages just to play , I do not do the “Pay to Play”.their is a musicians union ,however a union is only as powerful as it’s members solidarity.If one club hire non union musician and union member dont do anything , then your lost , and pretty soon down goes quality and Pay Period!
      Buy the way , not all musician get treated well in Europe , ask a local european musician. So maybe rethink your attitude become more professional,oh by the way baseball players wear a UNIFORM w/a ball cap! I do know where your coming from but this bar owner isnt a aa or Show venue that is a fact! Most clubs I worked in used booking agency known to book show bands. So maybe you play in b curcuit or in your home town vicinity.I did that at 15 yrs. of age, escourted on and off the stage and during breaks sat in the kitchen or out back . Paying “Dues” when starting out is standard, ASK Dick Damron,Rick Tippi or his Dad Elmer ,Bobby Cortola Gord Bamford,Terri Clark ,I’ve worked with a few of them long before they were big.

  107. Abba Zabba

    Way I see it is that bands and bars both need to kick it up a couple of notches. Jerk off bands work for jerk off bar owners and make it real difficult for the rest of us. Problem is music needs to be performed live, out loud, and many a bar owner knows that and takes advantage of musicians needing to be heard. The whole thing snowballs from there. Truth is bar owner and musicians are codependent. Sick! Some bar keepers need to get out of the live music biz and some bands need to stay away from playing in public. Then the classy venues will have good music and no one will quibble about paying to see a good show and buy a drink or two.

  108. Perhaps we should be called “boozicians”, then there would be no misunderstandings.

  109. Owner

    If you are not charging a cover or selling tickets, you are not a live music venue. Turn off the TV’s, Kill the jukebox, build a real stage with installed sound and lights…..then you are a live music venue. If not, you are a tavern. If this is not in your budget or plans, DONT HIRE BANDS! Problem solved for both parties.

  110. Carrie Love

    Well written. Good advice. All rings true to me!

  111. Pingback: Best Links of the Week for January 11th | The New Dan Century Blog

  112. Eric Szeman

    I played for one of the most successful C&W dance club owners of all time…he had only a few statements on his success…it was his responsibility to bring people in, ours to keep them…if you can’t dance to it, don’t play it…be professional. If you have to be told what the latter entails, you probably aren’t…

  113. You ever see Justin Bieber play at a bar? Or PSY? Or Skrillex? Playing at bars is a shot at mediocrity these days. Either enjoy what you’re doing, playing at bars, or shoot for the stars. Good article, tells it like it is.

  114. As some one who aspires to “weekend Warrior” status I am finding a lot of interesting points of view from both sides here. I work in a museum and I have observed if you want to be a professional musician you have to be prepared to sit in the background and just supply music without being the center of attention, “wallpaper gigs” is what I call em. I see all these jazz guys with all the chops in the world and it kills me nobody is paying close attention but the event, dinner, conversation and networking is what people are there for. My question in regards to selling booze is what is my exposure to Dram Shop Laws? Do I have the same liability as a musician as I did as a bartender 25 years ago?

  115. Michele Gear-Cole

    That’s why I stick to Boston or places that have original music. To play the same thing night after night that’s already been played for 20 or more years or something now that just plain sucks, I’d rather not play…. And Ronnie Neuhauser is right the band is the entertainment. We don’t own the bar we are just hired to work there. In my day job we have salesmen that get the work and people like myself, admin assist., who do the work inside. I get paid to process the work not advertise or hoof it to find the work.

  116. Sam

    This guy can eat a dick. I have more eloquent thoughts on the matter, but that’s the upshot. The job of the musician is to sell booze? No. The job of the musician is to play music; hence the term “musician.” Yes, they should be professional and respectful and do their level best to draw a crowd, but ultimately, a bar that can’t draw its own crowd has problems no band is going to be able to fix. Its up to the bar owner/booker to make sure he or she is booking the right bands for the establishment; that this guy refuses to go online and actually listen to the bands he’s booking kind of says it all with regard to what a self-defeating idiot he is. Its never been easier for club owners to find out if a band is any good, or a good fit; play 4 shows in a group these days and there’s bound to be something online somewhere, even if you didn’t put it there. Club owners only have themselves to blame if the band they book turns out to suck because they didn’t take 5 minutes to do some basic-ass research. To put it another way, the job of the BAR is to sell booze, by selecting live entertainment they know will make customers more likely to show up and stick around. Its not being a “rock star” to say that a musician isn’t a salesman, any more than it would be to ask a plumber to conduct an orchestra.

    The only thing I’ll say in defense of this guy’s rationale is that his formula makes sense if you’re a Top 40 cover-band sports bar. Which I suspect is his kind of establishment. Under those circumstances, for a band to engage in such blatantly disrespectful acts of fan manipulation may not be such a stretch; if you’re already whoring yourself to the tune of “Brown-Eyed Girl” anyway, what’s a little extra on the chin, right?

    • clayton rushton

      Fucking A Right !
      This dude couldn’t sell icewater in hell.. My job is to show up ready to play,on time, with a crowd pleasing act… Tell your crowd how much I enjoy playing at this establishment for them, Actually play a crowd pleasing nights worth of music while every now and them asking for them to visit the bartender, and remember to tip them! Your job mister Douchbag slimey Low life and probably alredy out of buisness “Bar Owner” is to Thank and fucking pay me, whether or not you made it in the black or not, I pack my shit and leave…. Thats the cold hard facts JACK!!!!!!!!!!

  117. Rob

    the bar owner says “Your job is to sell booze. You’re not here for any other reason.” So what you’re doing Mr. Bar owner is trivializing music unless of course you can profit greatly on it. That’s what the mass media does. Thats the music business. Trivializing music and teaching that your music is unimportant so lets make it your job to make my bar money, thus making your band more important. As a guy who plays in a band and works in the liquor industry, I can say that I don’t really need you mr. bar owner or the music industry to help me or make me feel good when i play music. My job and reason to play in a band is not to make you money. Can you fathom that?

    • Interesting; then when you play in your band ,you either play in your garage or rehearsal space? If you do play out in bars you do it for free? if not, who pays you? If you state: “It is not my job to make you money” then your attitude and so many like you are the reason venues (paying ones) are far and few between.I guess I come from a true business aspect because music was and is still my livelihood,Touring and living out of a suitcase for months on end.I retired due to addictions and a downturn in the pay scales due to Dj’s and cut rate hack bands playing for beer money and tips.I not complaining,I laugh at most of these threads because I actually have ran a bar and had my own band,most of the neg responses are from week end worriers who haven’t had to depend on the gig down the road to eat,that is obvious. I My music gets played daily on IT radio,I am well thought of in the Industry and have played for many Stars in the 80’s.I do want to boast here I am a humble Road dog.I will tell this , If you had to depend on music as your only means of food because it is your life’s blood you would do as the man asks who is paying you.Incidentally for a solo act in a a circuit show I get $75 for a 45 minute show plus travel exps. and room. Just me my guitar that just for fun now,When asked for a full show at a festival or opening act w/band :band gets for a five piece $200 per man + sound, my price is Neg. starting at 850.00 for an hr.Do I work a lot ? when I want to and my health is improving from a back injury. Ask some of the major acts about what they endured to make to the top , few will tell you it was easy any not without bar owners setting down rules of what is expected ; after all would you tell your boss that you wont do this or that because it is his job even though it is a common request in your industry? I doubt it ,pride and ego don’t pay your bills at least; not mine.

  118. Another reason why this system is such a mess and people don’t understand art. The artist provides the music, not the crowd, that should be the bar owners problem. If he can’t get them in he should go out of business, not have bands bring crowds and make people drink. Here is a commentary coming from the other side, http://www.grassrootsy.com/2012/02/22/an-open-letter-to-venues-that-exploit-their-musicians/

  119. Joe M.

    Play “simple” music and huckster drinks from the stage? Oh, and the only way you’ll get considered for the gig is if you have a slick 60-second sales rap (you’ll throw their stuff in the trash otherwise)? My advice to young musicians is to not go anywhere near your place.
    I’ll never forget the respectful and compassionate way that certain club owners treated me years ago, when I was a dumb kid walking in cold looking for a gig.

  120. Frank

    I agree with most of what the bar owner stated. That being said, the time that it took him to articulate this letter he could’ve listened to a few band demos which “some” bands really spend a lot of money, effort and time putting together. If you want a taste and a sample of everything that goes into your business, then why not the entertainment itself?

  121. Jon S

    I for one certainly appreciate this bar-owner for taking time from the busy, never-ending job of operating an establishment to relay this perspective. I will do the same, as I should be recording and practicing scales and excersizes.

    While some information in this posting is common knowledge among gigging musicians, some is very insightful and I for one will accept the information and try to implent it.

    BUT, I must respond with this; Music is an art to the musician who is an artist. Yes, one can argue that had Vincent van Gogh worked according to his contemporaries, he may have become a better known artist in his day. But from a business perspective, I, for example, do not like the business models of Walmart and Itunes and I do my best to avoid them. As the free market dictates, you have the freedom to spend your money as you see most fitting. If you have found musical entertainment that meets all of your expectations, you should hire them again and again.

    Since the world does not revolve strictly around the bar-owner that wants a request-playing dance band, I’ll share this: There is not a musician alive that dreams of playing in a bar without the hope of being appreciated in some greater way in their life as a musician. Anyone who would wish to squelch such dreams should just hire a DJ for flawless, request-filled evenings of bland lifeless entertainment. Good day.

    • Marc S.

      Jon,

      With all respect to your ‘art’ and sensitivities…

      If a musician doesn’t know the difference between a bar gig for a cover band and a venue designed for listening, then you do need to go back and practice some more.

      Unfortunately, most musicians are as dumb as a bag of rocks. Most musicians start out with the best of hopes, but, that doesn’t change anything.

      ::: Know your GIG :::

      Dudes who tour play in Nashville honky tonks, for next to nothing. The bar doesn’t care. The patrons want music. Do they rip into the stuff they play on tour with Alan Jackson, or Jason Aldean? Nope. They are playing “Sweet Home Alabama” like every other cover band in the US. And usually, they play it better than Skynyrd too. I’ve been there and gigged there and it’s the most humbling place to be.

      If you are playing originals for art, money isn’t the end goal.

      If you are playing originals for money, it ain’t art.

      If you are playing for money, it ain’t original or art. It’s covers.

      And there ain’t no guarantee you’ll make good money either. You want good money, do what most other musicians do.

      They get a real job.

      Again, will all respect to your art and sensibilities.

      • Jon S

        Marc, I’m not certain that you are actually a gigging musician and here’s what gives you away; I know of only a handful of bands that play Sweet Home AL. Love the song but bands don’t play it if for no other reason for respect to Skynyrd’s method, much less the over kill effect.

        On the other hand, I know plenty of my piers who actually DO make a living at music. The applied concept is called diligence. It can be applied to music, management, art, parenting, etc. Some of them are doing very nicely at it too. But be sure that if they had not stretched beyond the boundaries of the bar scene, they would be framers or OTR drivers doing a little music on the side.

        One more correction; if you are creating, you are an artist whether you are paid for it or not. If you are a dancer, you are still an artist of expression even though you follow the direction of a choreographer.

        If you are truly a gigging a musician, you are obviously underestimating yourself, your passion, and your profession.

        Don’t hire a fish to climb a tree and then say “bad fish, I said climb”, Hire accordingly. If music is not an art to you, then hire a DJ.

      • Johnny

        “If music is not an art to you, then hire a DJ.”

        Thank you, Jon. Spot on!

      • Something is happening here , Be careful opinions are dangerous and can hurt what we should be thinking is how do we get a fair wage and also accommodate the man paying us.Many points are valid ,some are off the point and into another area entirely ;what constitutes art and so on. However Since Many of you play locally and not travel much and say that you make a living at it congrats.when I work is by choice in this field.I know many of the posters on here professionally.Most PROS,don’t PLAY Sweet home ALABAMA,not because of Skynard methodology but more of the crowd demografs.Crowds in their 60’s you’ll hear it for sure if the Band knows their crowd.I have been as I say reading these threads,A road band is totally different from a in city band ,different expenses,demands and psychologies.Good road bands are full time musicians. they work in road house , bars and if the connections are their and promoted the is to hook a tour with a National act.
        The 3rd musicians mindset is of a spiritual sense the love of creating a emotional feeling and that is the importance to he or she.,does not make that musician writer any more or less talented or virtuous.Those of us who make a living on the road have play with many of the Stars who made it big,I have,long before they were known.Not A good Idea to throw stones at your peers they may be just the person who can help your musical endeavors and please don’t tell me you wouldn’t take a million for one of your songs!!! I truly haven’t met any mother Teresa’s in the Music Biz.,
        the fourth type of musician is the Classically trained and or Teacher who is highly trained in pedagogy,has probably gone to Berkley school of music,or Julliard.
        My point is the article looks at the demands of a bar owner from his point of view ;which does have merit- it’s an entity that needs to show a profit ,is it the responsibility of the band to sell drinks ?This is all Quite Simple : 1. You ask the bar owner for money to play he says let me hear you =audition ( no demo s because usually aren’t live off the floor),he want to hear what he’s buying.2.you take his or her money you owe the owner your best ability to do what he is paying you for =putting ass’s in seats spending money on whatever his establishment is selling. ( good bands have a front man who is good at PR, and running the show ,it is his job to create a mood so the Employer can maximize his profit potential.3.keeping people dancing and also controlling the crowds behavior.4.Doing what you have to keep your band eating !!! Once you ask for money you must follow the guidelines of the employer,theses guideline can be negotiated by contract ,most agents and owner use them in AAA venues or professional music people. saves time and argument. I am one who definitely will enforce a contract for both sides.That pretty much says it from my point of after close to 40 yrs. throughout US and Canada touring and writing & self publishing music, Recording and vocal coaching and being in entertainment as an agent for a clubs in Canada and US. thnks The “California KIdd”

  122. Marc S.

    I want someone, ANYONE, to tell me what the difference is between:

    The Original Artist

    The Cover Band

    The letter (and meaning behind the letter) is aimed clearly at cover bands. In the New England area, most bands don’t have merchandise to sell. No shirts, bumper stickers, etc. They have giveaways and throwaways, usually shirts. They also have spaghetti strap tank tops they give to any woman with a heartbeat and cleavage. NONE treat it like a business.

    I dare say, and probably pissing off most on this thread, is that no cover band treats their ‘act’ like a business or product.

    If you are a cover band doing a couple originals a night, guess what? You’re still a cover band. Saying that sucks, and admitting to it sucks, but you’re not getting hired because of your originals.

    Every one of us wants to be on the big stage with a National tour, and that ain’t no lie. We ALL do. Some of us are lucky to have played a few shows in front of huge crowds. Very few of us (and I mean a very very small number) actually make a living at this.

    No bar owner has the time to go through and listen to every CD that comes in. I know of one I am close friends with and I see how many he gets in a day. He uses an agent to book and screen his acts, has entertainment on 5 nights a week, and has NEVER stiffed a band their money at the end of the night….. BUT there are bands who still walk in, tell him they want XX or else they won’t play there and he tells then he doesn’t need them.

    Their faces change so fast because, as with most cover bands, they think they are the only game in town.

    This same club owner went so far as to invite bands to show up on a Friday or Saturday night when the club was FULL, and offer to let the band get up on the break as their audition. No gimmicked CD’s or recording studios. Most said they wouldn’t do it because it’s not their backline, or not doing it for free…and none of those bands ever sniffed the front door again.

    A couple came in, thinking they could do it, and it was apparent they couldn’t, musically.

    One band came in, brought 75 of their own people in, got on stage and played the REST OF THE NIGHT. They had no issues with an audition. Both bands got paid their full prices.

    It was the best example of ‘put up or shut up’ I ever saw, and I saw it first hand. My band was the band that was originally booked. And the band that came up and smoked the joint was as nice and humble as I had ever seen a band, which was way cool. But the lesson was, they knew they had big d**ks, they didn’t brag about it, they just came in, whipped them out and showed the club owner why they deserved to be in the regular rotation.

    The moral of this post?

    Whipping out a big d**k and proving it goes a long way. Being a d**k gets you nowhere.

    Coming up next:

    Why cover bands are stupid: Don’t book 4 rooms in 4 weekends within 5 miles of each other: Exclusivity means a LOT

    • Mike

      QUOTE:
      The moral of this post?

      Whipping out a big d**k and proving it goes a long way. Being a d**k gets you nowhere.

      Coming up next:

      Why cover bands are stupid: Don’t book 4 rooms in 4 weekends within 5 miles of each other: Exclusivity means a LOT
      ====

      Lol .. I like this guy …

      • well said,Big difference between ego mania and confidence ..Most young musician are one of two mentalities1st loud band and fast means your good and every body will like the way you shred. 2nd.is the perfectionist “original” artist who believe it’s all about the SOUL of their music and they wont SELLOUT!Within 5 min or less I can tell how long a person has studied (played) before they even walk on stage just by how they speak to me.good seasoned players don’t bitch,they look at the stage blink and ask the manager where they can plug in a power conditioner and proceed to turn off and unplug the florescent lights that are using stage power.
        I never say word about conditions or house gear , I use my own ,Once your setup,the stage is yours.you always get more with honey,you hit it right , If you gotta talk about how good you are you aren’t quite their yet.I wouldn’t say any thing I’m blessed with talent,I just go and do it.
        Club owner who have been around awhile , know who can cut it and who doesn’t.you really know how good you are when you give a price and the owner says fine then after the show give your pay and says here’s what you should be charging me as he handed me an extra 300 on top of my1500.! for one night!
        So to all those who complain maybe it’s what you don’t bring to the bar owner that is the problem with how you are treated and paid?
        good article Marc S.

      • Mike

        Nice payout …

        We get on average $800-$1100 per night

        WOW, some may say .. nice pay out … and yes it is .. but it is ALL because I UNDERSTAND his view and he understands mine. That has led to a FANTASTIC working business relationship/partnership.

  123. I was initially uncomfortable with the “cadging drinks” approach, etc. suggested in the open letter, but I think I’ve come up with a solution that fits into this owner’s business model and allows the bands to make more money, too. Call it a “quid pro quo” solution:

    Any time there is a band performing, if a member of the bar staff is offered a tip, they are to refuse it, and ask the patron to purchase them a copy of the band’s CD or merch as a gift instead (with preference given to the stuff with the higher mark-up). We don’t care if they actually want it – they can give it away, toss it, or even give it back to us if they don’t have a use for it – just so long as the cost comes out of the patrons’ pockets and not ours.

    Another approach: if a patron orders a drink, make a deal of it; if they buy (their date, their table, the bar staff) band T-shirts or buttons, you’ll get their drink for them. (You might want to get the drink anyway; at least then you won’t chase them off.)

    Or maybe the owner could randomly go on the mic and announce “I bought one of the band’s CDs, and you really have to check it out; it’s a recording of pure happiness,” but be sure to do it in a subtly, classy way.

    I also have suggestions for product (e.g. sell simple stuff: people don’t drink the fancy liquor or beer, and only want the most basic of foodstuffs; Nobody buys merch after drinking Jägermeister or the top-shelf crap, or because you put a citrus garnish on their glass), and staff behaviour and attire (i.e. be professional, but give the customers the kind of show they want, even if it is an affront to your dignity), but I think we all get the idea. I look forward to doing business with you!

  124. M.T.

    I have no interest in playing bars or parroting back “classic rock cover tunes’ to an audience who could give a rats ass whether I was there or not. I would rather play to 10 people for free who are there to LISTEN than to 10,000 who don’t have a clue musically.

  125. sam

    I am a UK muso with a good amount of experience of the bar scene. I don’t think you need to sell your soul to please an audience or bar owner. If your tastes are in obscure music don’t expect to get paying bar gigs. Most musicians should be able to put a set together of crowd pleasers that they still enjoy playing. Our job is NOT to sell your beer, it’s to attract customers and/or keep them there. They will buy the drinks they want and as a former bar manager I worry that you’d want to encourage people to drink more than they usually would. It’s irresponsible and will only contribute to weekend drinking casualties. In my experience, cover bands over here make £50 per head at best. Once you take travel, bar tab, accom, replacing breakables and worn out gear, practice space etc from the fee there really is little left. I doubt any bar bands do it soully for the money so enjoying the gig and not selling out is essential. Sell your own beer and book entertaining, engaging bands who will fill your bar if you want a good rep as a live venue. Musicians, play to your audience as much as poss whilst still enjoying the gig.

  126. that is why I get paid a lot more for busking than I would from playing the bar ….A LOT MORE. you can keep your business model mr, Its gotta be win/win or there’s no dice

  127. Mark M

    As a gigging musician doing original material for an audience mostly younger than myself, I have little quarrel with most of the original club owner’s rant… as long as I give him the benefit of the doubt that he really does pay the musicians some significant (unspecified) amount of money.

    On the other hand, most dualistic arguments can be skewed in either direction depending on which side does and does not get the benefit of the doubt.

    The part of the rant that I would single out to criticize is what he describes as his method for evaluating new bands that want to play the venue. He admits ignoring the music itself that is offered up to him, going instead by what people say and their salesmanship and attitude. I’ve heard worse, but, look at the big picture. Self promotion has little or nothing to do with ability. The most confident seeming musicians you will ever meet, and the ones most comfortable with exaggerating their abilities to others, are the self absorbed amateurs who have not yet been put to the test.

    The supply of musicians always outstrips the demand, by far. If something other than the way the music sounds and the way the band performs is the selection criteria, then the club owner is part of the problem of shitty bands getting gigs and turning people off to live music. There are reasons why people don’t want to pay covers or drink at bars instead of home, and why music in general has little perceived value at this point. I’m not putting that all on the club owners, by any means – but clearly he is not helping matters by failing to select the best available bands for his money. (“Best” according to his real world definition which is the bottom line of the nightly take.) And I say that in full recognition of how difficult that is.

    If he doesn’t have time to chase down websites, fine, I get that.There are a lot of horrible “acts” and the entry bar is very low for internet-only offerings. It makes sense, then, to insist on what does work for him (say, a hard copy CD and a one sheet delivered in person in certain hours). This would serve to narrow down the flow to people that are at least serious enough to comply with simple instructions and make a very small investment of their own, and he could reciprocate by at least listening to the first 90 seconds of the first song on the CD, for those bands not disqualified by the content of their one sheet.

  128. There is no one way in the bar band biz. I am a professional musician.
    I make my living playing and have my whole life. My day job is owning a sound company so even that is music related. So I have a great deal of experience. Bands have to have a plan that works for them, just like any business, if you want to succeed. A club owner does not have ANY say in this. How you dress, what you play. A guy that quit his construction job five years ago to open a bar is no way going to know as much about this biz as me. What you do is form a relationship that both parties understand. A band is subcontractor, not an hourly employee. I dont have to wear a uniform like a waitress. Also I’m not jukebox in a corner. If you hire me and I do my part and the club does as well we both win.
    It truely is about what the customer wants. And sorry but the club is not the customer, the patron is. If I do my homework and pay attention to what the patron wants, put in the time and my bandmates are all on that same page (which is rare) success can happen. I always tell club owners I want them to succeed, or I’ll be looking to fill a slot. So like I said, a relationship, a plan, and a band and a club on the same page will get you farther then just a cookie cutter idea how things should be. I know some of this makes me sound like a dick, so be it.
    My band is booked for a over a year in advance for above average pay so I’m doing something right.

  129. phantom

    Well, I would rather play in a shit hot band, then a mediocre “johnny be good” BS band…..this guy doesn’t understand Musicians anymore than we understand Bar owners, and the bottom line is I am there to entertain his customers, not to sell his drinks…so if his Club sucks before we get there, most likely it is going to suck after we leave….and that is his fucking problem…..not mine…..MAYBE if he was a better business man, he would be successful at running a business, without trying to lay it at the bands feet!!?? He is a dushe bag….

    • Marc S.

      You are not there to entertain his customers until he gives you a gig, and that’s the point most forget about.

      It does not matter if you’re in a kick ass band or a BS band… bottom line, asses in seats = $$

      When some touring pros cancel shows, do you think it’s because they don’t want to play? No, it’s because they haven’t sold enough seats to make it profitable for them. Funny, I don’t see them forcing their way into the venue and demanding the full price when the place is empty.

      You, as a musician, are a commodity. If someone wants you, you’ll get paid.

      If no one wants you, then you sit at home.

      Cold hard facts dude.

      • phantom

        If a bar cannot support having bands in the front door, then they should not book them, as they do not have the patrons that care. We play in plenty of bars that are packed, whether it is us on stage or not….we do not have the issues this guy is complaining about, the clubs we play and have for years are rock n roll bars, and the people come to see just that, now how much they drink is not my problem, I am not there to shove alcohol down their throats…we put on a good show, and they stay till closing time….these are also “cold hard facts dude”…….

  130. David Skelton

    Holy Crap! I’ve spent the last hour reading this entire thread. I’ve never read so many different points of view which are all equally valid. Before Mr. Marks starts another “War & Peace” soliloquy (Greg Marks-this is a joke/I loved your posts!), I’ll drop my two cents. I remember hearing Roger McQuinn being interviewed and he related a story about visiting a po-dunk bar in the mid-west. The guitar player was better than anyone he had heard in LA. That was a light bulb moment for him that talented musicians exist everywhere!

    Every musician wants to share their art. Whether it be “Brown Eyed Girl” or an original twenty minute opus with wailing guitars. What everyone on this thread is bemoaning is the change in the bar business model. Art bands need to realize that the business model has changed. The internet and listening rooms/halls are more suited to your style of music. Cover bands need to understand that they are glorified jukeboxes and they’d better put on their party hats. Rock it, baby! Bar owners are struggling to survive. So if you play in an Art band (I do), and if you have a day job (I do) and you play in a bar (I do), you’d better be happy with ANY $$ that the venue pays you (I am). If you make your living as a musician (congrats), then you’d better consider every alternative business model to sell yourself, because the bar business is not going to pay you. All of this bemoaning the brick & mortar bar owner is wasted energy. Put that energy towards exploring a new business model for music. Drunk driving laws, DJs, illegal downloading, the lack of cohesive modern hits (ie death of top 40 radio), and the thousand other points listed in this thread… will not get any of us closer to feeding ourselves by playing music. But now that we understand the problem, let’s explore the future.

    PS. We have a few good bars in my small Oregon town. But we are very lucky to have one bar owner (thank you, Wes) who is in the business for “love of music”. My band gets $100 to play in his bar… I’ve spent all my pay and then some buying beers in his club as payback for his generosity to the local music scene (and I barely drink). The best thing to do when you have a fantastic scene… is to patronize that establishment. When you go out, suggest to your friends that you start your evening at your favorite hang out. Every little bit helps. Cheers to you all :)

  131. I’ve always known this and told my band such back in the 80s. Competition was so tight that eventually my band decided to be more efficient and started getting gigs without me behind my back. Been playing mostly for free and doing a lot of Worship music in church. I figure at least if I get ripped off by the congregation it will count for something eternal.

  132. I’m not a musician but I’ve had many friends who are, some of whom are still making great music after 40 years or so. I only hear one side of their life, but I believe it’s safe to say that musicians get shafted by bar owners a lot more often than the other way around.

  133. Pingback: » A bar owners perspective of musicians and business.

  134. paul

    yeah, we know, and we don’t care. You don’t care about us, guess what, we don’t care about you either, you’re not my buddy, you cry poverty at every turn, even when you have a house full of people. if you’re not selling enough, talk to your shitty help that’s ripping you off because guess what, they don’t care about you either. You picked a fucked business to get in to. Not my fault. You don’t want hire us? Great, there’s always another place. Yours will be closed in 6 months anyway. Stop asking us to promote your place for you, do some fuckin work yourself, it’s YOUR business….right?

  135. Negative views expressed here will not change the reality. In a bar we are employees or contractors just like the bartender or the guy who fixes the beer lines. It’s a job, not ‘art’.

    It occurs to me that being a ‘job’, the bar owner should maybe write a job description, like those that exist for other roles in the business. That would make it clear that we have to play music to the demographic.

    Don’t like the job…then don’t work there. Simple.

    • I agree, for the most part, with treating it as we would any job, but there must be artistry involved. If there isn’t some intent to showcase the art of musical performance, then having a live band vs a recording is senseless; the recording will always be cheaper, and generally be higher quality. Furthermore, a degree of artistic ability (aka skill) is required just to regurgitate the type of music a venue demands. Not everybody can do it. If it requires practice, it demands skill.

      Unlike waiting tables or fixing beer lines, musical performance is skilled labour – very few people have ever just picked up a guitar and played a gig without a significant learning curve – and the higher the skill expected, the rarer the availability and the higher the cost. That’s not to say all bar staff are unskilled; some clearly are. If he demanded a bartender who can expertly sling drinks and put on a show, he’d expect to pay better than minimum wage, and he’d audition applicants before putting them on the job. He similarly wouldn’t expect master chef quality food from a teenage line cook. Nor should he expect masterful quality performances from garage band musicians. He’s not going to get a brilliant interactive performance from a kid who still has to stare at his own hands to know if he’s fingering the chords right.

      It sounds like this bar owner keeps hiring bands that exhibit little or no artistry (or, put another way, finesse). As long as he is realistic about the job requirements/expectations, and recognizes what they cost in the real world, he should have no problems. Stating them clearly up front (say, in a legally binding written contract) and auditioning bands in advance would go a long way to establishing his business as a reputable venue and reducing his stress by eliminating some of the unknowns (and scaring off the wannabes).

      If mediocrity is, in fact, what he wants, there is no shortage of available groups to provide it. We can choose to be among those groups, or not.

  136. Reblogged this on Rybird Music and commented:
    For gigging musicians to read.

  137. Musicians don’t have any problem asking the customers to purchase their t-shirts or Cds, how hard is it to re-frame their crowd banter with statements like, “The bartender here makes the best Bullet rye old-fashioned I’ve ever had!” Then, when the bar sells a few more drinks based on that endorsement, hell, maybe the bartender will say to the customer, “That band’s Cd is great” or “You’d look hot in one of those tank tops!” THEN the band might win favor with the public and the establishment, resulting in repeat gigs.

    How hard is that?

  138. If this bar owner is concerned about the band sounding good maybe he should invest just a little bit in a sound guy. Musicians can do a lot but we can’t be on both sides of the speakers of the same time.

  139. Kenny Haddaway

    I’ve been an active club musician averaging 100+ shows for almost 40 years, along with many other types of venues and performance. Not bragging just stating a fact, and I came to the realization many years ago that when you were performing in a BAR you had better be selling beverages…You want to sell music? Play in rooms where music is what they sell! Yes this limits your performance outlets, but your music will be listened to, not just heard…I do both, but I keep the proper perspective of what and where I’m at and perform accordingly. A professional at anything would act accordingly.

    • I think you got it in a nutshell here. This is simply enough to understand, and doesn’t contain the emotion coloring so many responses.

    • Mike

      BANG ON THE MONEY

      This is not a case of “ONE RULE APPLIES EVERYWHERE”

      Each venue has to be looked at in its own way and in its own respective light (for lack of better words). This article is simply a view from a bar owner.

      I know my band tackles each gig different with regard to the “Buiness methods”. I have NO ISSUE and feel not one bit like I have “SOLD OUT” by saying, “He Bar owner, I know you are in the business of selling booze, let my band help you. Let me know what specials you have and through the night I will give a little reminder here and there”

      And in return it has ALWAYS worked well for us and let to a mutual respect and repeat performances at the same venue.

  140. Marc S.

    I really don’t understand the US against THEM attitude. It really is simple.

    A band is a luxury that no venue NEEDS. They need a cook to make the food. They NEED a bartender to make the drinks. They NEED the waitresses to serve the customers.

    They do NOT NEED you as a musician. Period.

    On top of that, no matter who you are, you are an unproven commodity, therefore you have no worth.

    The help at the venue starts out at a set rate, such as a bartender at $5.00 and works their way up by PROVING themselves. Bands are exactly the same.

    If you can prove you are worth the amount you are asking for, then you will get it. But you still have to prove it.

    Trust me, the cats who actually make a living at this, like I do, understand that the venue controls the strings for a while, but if you prove you put asses in the seats, the venue WILL pay you, and pay you well.

    So, all you guys who say the venue should pony up, up front…. tell me WHY.

    Don’t tell me about your expenses, or gear, or lights, or any of that. None of that matters… I’ve seen dudes with a Squire and a Line 6 amp play circles around guys with $2k Marshall stacks and $3k Les Pauls, but it’s the guy with the expensive gear always crying about he should be paid more.

    I gig every weekend, sometimes 3x a weekend. I do fly gigs. This is ALL I do. I play covers, do sessions and support B tier guys opening for Nationals to the tune of 200+ shows a year. I’m not saying I’m better or know everything, but the whole adversarial role I see here is a waste of time.

    • I remember so many clubs that thought this way from throughout my past two decades in the music biz. One or two even told me my approach to music was unprofitable, and I’d never survive. Funny thing: all of them are gone now, and I’m still living off of music. One club in particular comes to mind: they were in the best location imaginable with plentiful foot traffic year round, they had a solid kitchen and bar staff, and a beautiful space, and they thrived for years as a live music venue. I was part of their severely underpaid house band when they decided, once we had a good crowd turning out for every gig, that instead of paying us better (as thanks for their increased business), they could save money by not having a band at all. After years of successful operation, it took only two months for them to go bankrupt after they stopped hiring live music. Without the bands, they had nothing to offer, and found out the hard way that their VLTs and buffalo wings couldn’t support them. They discovered what any fisherman could tell you: a fishing boat without nets, traps, lines or hooks is just a boat, and won’t catch any fish. What’s more, the fish are fine with this arrangement.

      By definition, a “venue” is a place where something happens, such as a performance, and in this context, it is taken to mean live musical performance. Ergo, if it doesn’t have live music, it isn’t a live music venue. The band is a necessity to this paradigm, not a luxury.

      If you are using the term “venue” as synonymous with “bar,” then you are correct; bands are not necessary to the operation of a bar, and as I have stated a number of times, not all bars should have live music, particularly if they feel they cannot justify the expense and don’t really need it. Leave it to those who can and do.

      If a given bar thinks that live music is an unnecessary expense, and doesn’t feel like paying a reasonable wage for it, I encourage them to try an experiment: stop having any music for at least a month and see how the “venue” fares without it. In order to make this experiment truly effective, they must freeze their budget, i.e. agree not to spend more than they would if they still had the bands (otherwise they had no good excuse for avoiding the expense to begin with). I foresee two possible outcomes: 1) the business will find another way to draw people in (better service, food, etc.) and cease to be a “venue” i.e. opt to be just a restaurant or bar in order to lower their expense, or 2) they’ll go belly up for lack of customers. Either way, the result will benefit those musicians who like to be paid properly for their effort. For the sake of the venue owners and their employees, I pray for option 1.

      As for the “unproven commodity” theory: the only unproven band is one that has never had a gig. Every other group has a clear and demonstrable history. The only thing unproven is whether the venue and the band are suited to each other. Proving or disproving such a theorem requires the collection of data i.e. the band must perform there at least once. Since both parties stand to gain or lose – the venue loses income if the band doesn’t work for them, and the band forfeits the opportunity to work elsewhere, where they might be more successful or, at least, paid adequately – neither party should get a break on the costs. Neither party is without risk or reward. Furthermore, it is absurd to think that being an unproven commodity somehow negates the right to charge a fair price. To a new patron, the VENUE is the unproven commodity. Does the venue offer free drinks/food and waive the cover charge to new patrons?

      You are correct on one major point: this isn’t supposed to be us against them. We should be working together toward a win-win solution. Such a solution, in my opinion, does not include foregoing a decent income to save the club money, any more than it would involve fleecing the club for every last cent in their coffers. If a given band or venue isn’t interested in a mutually-beneficial relationship, there are plenty of others out there who are. Neither party is indispensable.

  141. At the risk of starting another round of debate and/or making a further nuisance of myself, I’m going to relate some hypothetical situations that any bar owner will understand.

    Say I walk into a bar and ask for a shot of Macallan 1939 scotch (which runs around $10,125 per bottle). If the bar doesn’t have it (and assuming they are honest and reputable, as the vast majority are), of course the bartender will say so, and may offer a lesser product which they do have, at a comparably lower price. If I accept the offer to buy a lesser product, say a shot of Glenfiddich 8 year old scotch, as substitute, then do I have a right to complain that it doesn’t taste like the Macallan? Of course not. They can only give me what they have, and I have the choice of accepting it or not. I can go elsewhere in search of the product if the one being offered doesn’t meet my requirements.

    Imagine, instead, that they DO have the Macallan 1939 (unlikely as that is). I say I want a shot of it, and proffer $15 for the privilege. Do you think the bartender will accept my $15 and give me a shot? Of course not! The product costs way more than that. You’d have to use an eye-dropper to dole out $15 worth. Even if I were to offer to pay full price for a second shot if I enjoy the first, this is still a losing deal, and too big a gamble. The bartender may offer other products in my price range, or (if the bar offers nothing for that price) may tell me they can’t serve me. This isn’t a matter of ego or attitude; it’s business.

    Does it matter if I tell the bartender that the Macallan 1939 is only worth $15 to me? Absolutely not; it matters what the product is worth on a larger market – somebody else will pay the full price for it, as its limited availability makes it a valued commodity – and it matters what the product cost to produce, acquire, and/or maintain. I have no right to be bitter about not being served the premium stuff if I am unwilling to pay the price for it. The truism, “the customer is always right” clearly has limits.

    Now, to be fair, most bands aren’t offering anything comparable to a really rare old scotch. A few are offering quality in the 30 year range (and many seem to be offering the equivalent of Great White wine), but most are offering the equivalent of Johnnie Walker Black or Green Label. The problem arises when a bar thinks they deserve to acquire this product for the price of Red Label, draught beer, or even tap water. It is highly unlikely that any product they can get for this little money will be very satisfying to consume.

    Another bar analogy: say a bar is being supplied with cheap draught beer. The price the bar pays for it is amazingly low, but the taste is unappealing to their customers. The bar owner decides to approach the supplier and demand something that tastes like Stella Artois, presumably because that’s what he or his customers like. The supplier may not be able to help him at all; it may be beyond their current ability to offer a different product (particularly if they are also the brewer of the product). Alternately, the supplier may be in a position to offer to sell the bar owner Stella Artois instead, but at a far more substantial cost. The bar owner has a few choices: 1) stick with what he’s already getting and be perpetually dissatisfied with the quality, 2) pay for the product he really wants and deal with an increase in his expenses, or 3) see if he can find another supplier (or even approach Anheuser-Busch InBev about getting Stella Artois directly from them) in hopes that they will offer him what he wants at the price he wants to pay. (Actually there is a 4th choice: cease to offer draught beer, knowing that what he can afford will only drive customers away). Which option he will choose depends on the bar owner, how important quality is to him, and whether he thinks he can turn a profit off of the more expensive product or make a go with the stuff he has already.

    If the bar owner who wrote the original letter treated his beer supplier like he treats his musicians, he would likely go so far as to tell the supplier how to package the draught, how it should come with free extras, and how it should have a magical ability to make anybody who consumes it dance for hours and imbibe more frequently whilst being exceptionally free and loose with their money. Obviously, he would never be so brash with his suppliers, and yet, for some reason, he is precisely this brazen with the bands who come to play at his establishment.

    To be fair, it is theoretically easier for a band to alter their appearance or repertoire than it is for a supplier or brewer to change their beer formula. Any producer of any commodity should be constantly evaluating the product, and endeavouring to improve it as the market demands, if it is their intent to sell the product in question. It is also theoretically easier again for a bar owner to alter his approach, moderate his expectations, or change his business model. The responsibility does not lie exclusively with the musicians to fulfill the bar owner’s every wish, nor vice-versa. There needs to be give and take, and a hefty does of realism on both sides of the bargaining table.

    • Why

      About the booze and sometimes the music, Cheap vodka whiskey or anything else if cold and you get the first couple down the hatch suddenly becomes acceptable and after a few more is dreamy for the rest of that evening at least untill a person becomes poisoned and his system rejects it, same with many bands as well but even some horrible bands have a painful first set and the next 2 and a half sets apperar dreamy (sometimes because of the cheap cold booze!) and not toxic till the end. Point is thereis about 75 percent of the night being enjoyable.

  142. JW

    Many good points in this article and as a musician, I try to adhere to them as best as I can. However, what was the price of a loaf of bread ten years ago? A gallon of Gas ? Milk? Eggs? From experience, I can tell you, that I don’t make much more money now, playing music than I did ten years ago. While the price of everything else has gone up, your local musician is almost making the same. It’s a business and an expense for us too.

  143. jody

    The major issue is most bands and entertainers are ego maniacs. We have to remember that it is not about us. It’s about the bar owner. Drinks, guitar solos, and cool changes are great but you have to put customers in seats. People who can and will spend money. You can do a couple of originals but playing music women dancejmack1918@live.com to is what it’s about. It doesn’t change..

  144. Rick M

    that should have read: SUMMARY !!!!

  145. Rick M

    SUMMANY: BAr owners need to define their place.. plain old ber and booze bar with pool table and dart board or music venue… pick one and develop as such !!!!!! Musicians… figure who the hell you are, what you want to do, the amount recognition that you need in terms of applause or money then NEGOTIATE your requirementsw with the owner of the MUSCI VENUE…. dont bitch when the palin pol “bar owner” screwe you….. you do it yourself…….

  146. Chris Boylan

    Granted, he does make some valid points. Nonetheless, I’d never play in that asshole’s bar.

  147. Gino

    While there is no question that what this bar owner is saying is true from his business perspective, it is also the main reason for the state of the music industry over the past 20 years or so. Why is there precious little good rock music these days? Why are most cover bands playing 25 to 50 year old rock standards? Were musicians just more creative back then, or were there more people willing to give them a chance to hone their craft? Is it only the economy? It seems to me that the bar scene here in NJ during the Carter administration was a hell of a lot better than it is today. Excuse me for griping. Sometimes the truth hurts. The bar owner speaks of “product”, well that is exactly what music is today-not art, not self expression, but product. Take a look at who is on tour this year…what is the average age of the bands that still play big clubs and arenas…mid-50s or older? Why do you think that is?

    As a side note, I wonder of this bar owner offers a taxi service or helps make arrangements for the customers he’s been pushing his top shelf product on all night.

    • The problem is that we’re all at the mercy of the bar owners. We’ve been given to understand that we’re supposed to be “professional” and mature, and that being professional means taking what we’re offered and liking it. If we demand better, we’re hit with a torrent of “grow up” and “it’s not about you”–kind of like on this thread. Well, we’re trying to get paid, too–why is it OK for the bar owner to speak up and not musicians?

      The OP’s viewpoint is legitimate, but it’s not the only legitimate viewpoint. Apparently we’re just supposed to accept the bar owner’s judgment forever and not try to change it, because that’d make you a HIPPIE, and hippie-bashing is the national pastime (whether American or Canadian).

      • Jon S

        Jeff, bingo! The underlying message in this ‘open letter’ is that it was composed by King Self-Centric Bar Owner Here To Be Served. Fight the good fight bro!

  148. Robb Sharp

    The author has made some very valid points and as in any business the key to making a sale (and that’s what you’re doing when you attempt to book your band…sell it) is to try and determine what your potential client wants. This individual just told you what he wanted, you don’t have to like it or agree with it, but it is important…TO YOU…that you understand it. Once you understand it then you can make an informed decision as to whether or not you want to enter into a business relationship with that person (Bar). It is your choice!
    As musicians if you/we want more respect we first need to respect ourselves, our craft, and present ourselves in that manner.
    The key point made by the Author is that this is all about business, and like it or not that’s a true fact. Art and Business have struggled to co-exist for more years than I’ve been alive and will always struggle but as Musicians we have complete control over how we are perceived and keep in mind the old saying “perception is reality”, it’s true.

  149. @GregMarks: I’ve heard of the glory days of the Horseshoe Tavern and i think people here should show some respect for you, not only for your eloquence and insight but for the proof that is in the pudding. Coincidentally, my band is playing at Horseshoe this Thursday, we’ve had success there over the last year. It wouldn’t surprise me if Craig (new owner) can afford to run it at a loss because of the fact that he books all of the talent coming into Toronto worth noting and Horseshoe has become a breeding ground for burgeoning Toronto talent, as well as a place for sellout touring acts. We learned the hard way that playing shitty venues where owners share the view of the OP doesn’t benefit a band in any way, at least not a band that plays original music with a vision. We are professional in exactly the way that bar owner wanted, and we realized that we are more necessary to them than they are to us. So after we realized that playing horseshoe has grown our fan base, gotten us exposure and made us money, i have to concur that finding a good venue that has the right mindset about music is the smartest thing a musician can do. We can pack a venue, and that’s our job, but making them buy booze is not our job. Hire friendlier bartenders and start stocking better beer, noone likes swill or assholes.

    • I appreciate the sentiment, but I didn’t run the Horseshoe (or anything near Ontario), and I would never claim to be anywhere near that successful at running a venue! The place I ran was intended as a service, not a business; it was expected to lose money. The fact it came out in the black was nothing short of a miracle! Nor would I claim that paying a premium to a band is a surefire way to make money as a venue – in the short term, the expense may well outpace a bar’s income. I merely maintain that bars invariably get that for which they pay (unless they’re really lucky and/or the only game in town). If they expect professionals of your stripe, and they want a rep for having the best music, they need to be realistic about the costs. I’m glad to hear that the Horseshoe’s current management seems to understand this.

  150. Screw this guy. Bands should not be acting directly as the bar’s drink promoters. And trying to get bands to have their fans buy them drinks so he can weasel out of comping them is lame. He needs to hire tribute bands, Hooters-type waitresses and get it over with.

  151. Kangaroo mom

    It’s funny to see all of theses comments by the “musicians”. Some of you are probably pretty good at what you do, but your ego and attitude toward this post are exactly why you are still playing in a bar scene! And the guy who said he ran a bar and was the last person to make a profit with it. Yeah, keep telling yourself that. I think the commenter OU answered with was right! NOBODY would give up a successful business nowadays. And if they would they either were rich, stupid or both!

    • Allow me to respond to that (since it is clearly directed at me, albeit somewhat boorishly): read it again. I already stated that I wanted a career as a musician, not as a venue owner. I wanted to create music, not exploit it. “Rich” (as you would define it) is a state I never expect to experience. Most musicians will never get rich. It’s also a state that, to the best of my knowledge, no bar owner has achieved off of liquor sales since the days of prohibition. “Stupid” would have been continuing to work in a dead-end career. My only regret with regards to my music career is that I didn’t dive into it earlier in my life.

      I also never referred to the venue as a “successful business” (or a “bar” for that matter); I said it turned a profit (ie ended in the black), such as it was. It wasn’t much of a venue to begin with, and it shut down the year after I moved on (~18 years ago). At any rate, I didn’t mention it in an attempt to claim I was a successful bar owner (a term that does not apply); I mentioned it to confirm that I do understand both sides of the issue, having at least some first hand management/booking experience on both sides of the fence. Do you?

      Today, I’d estimate that I’m one of less than 100 people in my entire province who earns a living exclusively from the music industry. So far in my career, I have chosen not to live on the road as a clubbing/touring musician (despite repeated offers), as the lifestyle doesn’t appeal to me. Besides, as a soloist or band leader, I can make more from a corporate gig in an hour than I can from most bars over the course of three nights. I play clubs maybe once a month (and then only as a requested sideman). I rarely look for work – work generally comes to me with suitable frequency to pay the bills – but I’ve got some new brands in the fire that will allow me to create my own regular work (without setting foot in a bar). Whether or not it pays, it’s bound to be a lot more fun that the “we can’t afford to pay you much” tango.

      It’s not about ego or attitude. I don’t claim to be a brilliant musician, or to have the ultimate bar band. I claim to be a qualified professional at what I do, and feel I deserve to be compensated fairly for my product (which remains music, not alcohol), as does every qualified musician. It is not ego or attitude to expect people to pay a living wage for my product if they want it; it is my human right. Ego is bar owners assuming that bands are only on this earth to sell their booze, or assuming that they deserve a better product than that for which they are willing to pay. Attitude is complaining about the way the musicians dress but not paying enough to even cover their laundry money, let alone dry cleaning or decent clothes; bitching about musicians getting drunk while suggesting they should be sucking back top-notch booze in high volume, courtesy of bar patrons, apparently in an effort to fleece said patrons out of even more money than they can drink themselves; or complaining about the lack of professionalism among bands while refusing to sign legal contracts with them or agree to guarantee at least minimum wage for their time (please note that this last item is a generalization, not necessarily attributable to the bar owner who wrote the original letter; he said nothing about avoiding contracts, and may well be a paragon of virtue in this regard, for all I know). The vast majority of musicians commenting here are seasoned professionals, and they’ve earned the right to comment. Their perspectives are valid, just as the bar owners’ perspectives are. Can you say the same?

  152. Mark

    Why Music Venues Are Totally Lost:
    An Open Letter from a Professional Musician By Chris Robley

    Jazz musician Dave Goldberg wrote a pointed and darkly humorous open letter to LA club owners that I thought was worth sharing. In it, he argues that it’s actually a counterproductive practice for venues to book bands who are willing to work for free. And when I say “counterproductive,” I mean it’s bad for the venue’s business.

    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 lets 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’t realize is that this is NOT in their best interest. 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 aprofessional 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.

    He then makes the point that professional bands will have a somewhat harder time playing the “friend and family” card because, well… they’re pros! They play every 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 of 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.

    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 likeit 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? Or how about the club owner’s friends and family? You see,when you start turning this argument around, it becomes silly.

    So what does Dave suggest? Start fighting back, with calm, reasoned arguments. He explains:

    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 about 50 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 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 what do you think? Can this battle be won by reasoning with one venue at a time? Or have the economics of the live music world shifted forever beyond our influence? We’d love to hear about your experiences as a live musician. Please feel free to comment in the section below.

  153. Perry Mason

    Bar owners are greedy bastards.

    • I wouldn’t go that far (though it does seem that way sometimes). I think they’re just focused on their bottom line, as many business owners are. Sometimes, that makes them callous to the needs of their contractors, employees, and customers. They forget that they’re not the only ones with bills to pay and mouths to feed. Musicians can be equally callous to the needs of the venue to make a profit. The sad part is when it makes either side unwilling to recognize the potential for profitable symbiosis.

  154. Marc S.

    One of the points that keeps getting missed in this discussion is that this is aimed at COVER bands, not BB King. It’s a whole different animal when you start talking about original material, bands with CD’s to support etc.

    Rules of cover bands:

    1. Fill the seats with asses
    2. Then, dictate your price.

    To be successful, you have to do it in THAT order, or else you’ll be passed over. The bar owner does not care about a “great” band verses and mediocre band. He cares about seats and average sales per customer.

    As an accomplished musician, you walking in the door brings nothing to the equation. You may not like the math, but that’s the truth everywhere.

    Want a piece of reality? Go get a gig in the honky tonks on Broadway in Nashville. $20 per guy for a 10pm to 2am slot. Take a break and it goes down to $10 per man. The rest is made up of tips. And those honky tonks are FULL every night. And the people playing are all the cats that are home off of tours with the nationals, and they do it all the time. They don’t have to, but they do to keep their chops up. I’m glad when I get to gig down there because it means I’ve got to raise my game just to step on a stage with those guys. That experience is worth something to me.

    Some of you cats just don’t know how good you have it in your area of the world.

    • Lol, Marc, yeah most of those bars in Nashville don’t pay because most of the player are writers or as you say off tour.i have definitely figured out who r the veterans and full time realists and those who dream of being in the game lol.adversarial attitudes don’t work in the real long term world.. If you are good and fulfill an owners profit margin expectations ,you’ll be back @ a better price if you let it be known before you take the gig , in my contracts I state what head counts should be obtained and what the owner expects to ring out.If I meet that # then my price will be x% more .It is about MONEY!, IF you want to play for free or for music sake go play at a coffee house or local artists guild.By the way Nashville is a very competitive city, musically but great people and excellent food.If you want to play go elsewhere like Memphis ,Austin or even AZ.

  155. A lot of great points have been made, both for and against the original writer’s point of view. I, for one, appreciate every perspective that has been shared here.

    In the end, I think it is all a matter of perspective. Yes, the bar must sell alcohol to make a profit. If the bar owner sees the world in terms of ounces, and the band as their employees, that is his/her valid perspective. The musicians see the world from the perspective of their music, as that is what they are actively creating, and if they are selling it directly to the bar, that makes the bar their client/customer (not their employer). This is also a valid point of view. Neither one actually reflects the big picture from the perspective of the real end customer: the patron.

    Believe it or not, alcohol is generally not the main reason why a given bar has patrons. People don’t go to a bar just for the alcohol; they could buy the alcohol cheaper at a liquor store and stay home (and many do). They go to a club because of the social environment (or, occasionally, exclusively for the entertainment, be it VLTs or a specific band). Chances are, if the entertainment and/or physical environment is perpetually inadequate, the social environment will also be inadequate.

    Just as a successful newspaper (there are still a few) isn’t focused on selling a paper product – it’s about selling access to the information, providing an experience, marketing the integrity/celebrity of their writers/reporters/photographers, not paper – and clothing companies don’t focus on selling textiles – they focus on selling fashion, comfort, coolness, etc. – the bar shouldn’t be exclusively focused on selling alcohol. That’s the death rattle for any bar. It’s really about selling a good time. For some, that good time will be about kicking back and talking with friends. For some, it will be about playing pool. For some, it will be about watching the big game. For some, it will be about hooking up. For some, it will be about dancing to a great band or DJ. Regardless, if you are a bar owner and providing a good time to your patrons doesn’t mater to you, you are in the wrong business – close shop now. If you recognize that it does matter, then you need to know which demographic(s) you want to reach (some are mutually exclusive or at least require significant environmental differences and/or separation from others), and then decide what it is worth to you to provide the proper atmosphere. If quality live entertainment is really what your demographic demands, then recognize that it has a higher price tag, being a scarcer commodity. Just as the bar must pay for the liquor it resells, it must pay for the entertainment it resells – it is a consumable, and only lasts for a brief period.

    As for the bands: we are also selling a good time. Musical performance is our means to that end. We, too, must know our strengths and our target demographic, and must recognize that music alone is no longer a saleable commodity; like alcohol, our patrons can get it in the comfort of their homes far cheaper (i.e. free) than at a club, particularly if you are a cover band. The difference is the level of the overall live experience. There is still something intrinsically and viscerally exciting about seeing and hearing a good band in the flesh. Even video recordings pale in comparison to a really decent live show (and, yes, contrary to the claims of the bar owner who wrote the original post, there are those who want to groove to amazing guitar solos; without improvisation, the tune ends too quickly and/or is no different than the original recording i.e. too predictable). It’s the difference between a bad time and good time, or a good time and a great time. That’s the commodity that bars really want to market, so that’s the commodity we need to push: we’re marketing our individual branded version of a great time.

    The challenge is this: venues want the best show they can get, but a really good show often costs more money than they are prepared to sacrifice. The larger the band, the better the show, and the higher the costs. The larger the venue, the bigger the show needs to be. The more polished the act, the more costly it should be. If the bar still sees their product in terms of ounces, they need to consider their capacity: if the venue holds 50 people, and the population is sufficient to fill the club no matter who you hire, then there’s no point in booking a top-notch act. Don’t waste their time and your money. Conversely, if the venue holds 200+, but the population is lower or the target demographic spread across a multitude of other venues, then you need the big draw to fill the club and create a buzz. The key for the bands: always book in venues that are just a little too small for your crowd, but don’t cut any corners on your prices. For venues: invest in groups that are a slightly bigger draw than you think you can handle, but don’t expect them to cut you a deal. Defray your costs in other ways than just booze sales.

    Remember that you are only as good as your last good time. If a band misjudges its own potential, or a venue misjudges a band’s quality or popularity, they will both end up getting burned. If, as a bar owner, you cheap out and bring in a crappy band to fill a night, you risk losing your following; you’ve violated your agreement with your patrons to provide a good time. This isn’t the band’s fault (although they are culpable). If, as a band, you aren’t prepared to put on the kind of show the audience wants, you will be judged accordingly, and you will likely lose more than just those patrons as a result. Taking such a gig is like putting a nail in your own coffin. The potential of encountering either of these issues is significantly reduced by doing your homework. If we both choose well, the benefits of the arrangement will extend well beyond the night in question, giving both artists and venue a reputation for providing a good time – this is why I call it an investment. Venues and artists must choose each other wisely, and work together to create good times for their patrons and earn their reputations. Only through such a partnership can both thrive together. Know your business, and don’t sell yourselves or your patrons short.

    On a final note to the bar owners: it is possible to do everything the original writer suggests (or even everything I have suggested) and still fail. Both bar owners and musicians survive off of the disposable income of the general public – a shrinking commodity in itself. Many people won’t go out no matter what you have to offer, because they have other priorities. For those that do go out, there are a multitude of choices. Of those that make it to your venue, some patrons will buy alcohol at the liquor store and drink it before going out, or even drink it in the bar parking lot, rather than pay a premium for it inside. I’ve seen good clubs die from this. The point is, if you want to profit form these patrons, you can’t focus on ounces; you’ll never sell enough of them to get by. You have to focus on the experience you are providing (or, more accurately, how the experience you provide is better than that of your competitors, who all likely sell the same alcohol you do). You need a better product than they can provide, and you need to monetize it. Cover charges, drink minimums, profit sharing deals for band merch, contest draws for event tickets/CDs/etc., exclusive contracts with the best bands (e.g. keeping them as house bands to ensure they don’t work for your competitors)… there are plenty of ways to make money other than booze sales and still have enough profit to pay the bands what they deserve. If live music is really important to your rep, and you cheap out on the bands, you’re really cheaping out on your patrons, and you’ll get everything you pay for in the end.

  156. Vicious Circle

    There is a technique I’m seeing that enables bar owners to build a large, regular customer base, retain enthusiastic, hard-working bar staff that love what they do and know how to sell product, present top quality bands on the weekends and make HUGE profits week after week while still having time for their families, friends, and other interests.

    “This technique is impressive, stands out and really works, but out of respect for the bar owners that figured it out, call it a trade secret. “

  157. Dawna Vinnels

    What i want to know is.. What got this article Yanked..

  158. Alan

    Bottom line, I’ve never played shit just to please anyone. People will respond to good music. I’ve been in SUCCESSFUL bands for over 40 years.

    • And I guess that’s the problem. The entire music business, live or recorded, seems to be pretty much based on the idea that people won’t respond to good music. If you’re right, how do we convince the people who hold the purse strings?

      • Rick M

        If you have a MUSIC venue that wont pay a reasonable fee then BOYCOTT the place. Visit the palce eevery night and tell whoever the band is what is going on with the place. Ask them to support a boycott of the place. As for for plain olf themill bars… GOOD LUCK. Most of the time they iwll pay extremelt low uniil they see how many people YOU can bring in… if YOU dont bring the people he makes NO MONEY and so neither do you.

  159. Keywizard

    Played for 30+ years with some good musicians from Mac Wiseman to Michelle Wright. Glad I don’t need to play bars to make a living anymore as it became a nightmare for serious players. I see both sides of the conversation here and some intellectual and very good points by Greg Marks.

    I’d love to see that bar owner tell a young Gary Moore (RIP), BB King, or Burton Cummings that his job was to sell booze. Insulting. Bottom line for me: There is a significant difference in what a “musician” is versus an “entertainer”. Some can do one or the other – and some can do both.

    Best wishes to my musician friends,

    JD in Canada

    • Hi JD,to sum it up you will remember theses clubs the pump(Sheila ANNs) Regina Sask and the Royal hotel in Moose Jaw, Sask. Both these clubs Ran full clubs every nite.we knew what was expected we put on a show got paid and treated fairly by bar owners,Until mid 90’s the good road bands where replaced by karaoke and canned music,and clubs went to 2 nites a week live music.I remember a local band was hired ,at the Royal and the show bands dried up and bands were cutting prices from 800 to 400 wk end warrior bands in traditional road band clubs.The owners said hey why not!theirs not much of a difference and we don’t have to provide lodging a local band.Making a living on the road is tough but one way to get a decent working relationship that gains the respect of owners is for all musicians to stand together and look down the road and realize the moment you undercut median prevailing price of good seasoned bands ,the whole system changes,because musicians got scared when owners began to hire locals during economic bad times.I never undercut my brothers.That’s not professional when it hurts your profession.All, of the whining or neg.s on the Bar owner telling it like it is for him , is not shocking to any of us older cats.Earning respect is about being respectful of club owners , manangers ect.If you allow a club owner to treat you like crap because 1. you dont know how to negotiate and deal,2.you do believe you are worthy of a fair wage 150 per man 4-5 sets 40 on 15 off.3.your new in this biz. I actual had that happen to me once ,owner expected me to do freebee matinee, because the last band did it , I laughed and took my pad and pencil wrote a figure down and said,I dont believe droping pay rates because it sets a bad precedent for maintaining livable pay rates

  160. Johnny

    I am amazed that a guy who – according to the collection of truisms he is lining up here – runs a mediocre bar hiring mediocre bands for sub-mediocre reasons stirs up so much attention.

    This approach is a devotion to mediocrity in both bar philosophy AND musicianship, fortunately I am experiencing so many examples of successful quality music bars out there proving this “open letter” being nothing more than a rant of a disgruntled booze salesman, who tries to sell us his poor approach as the “rule”. Yes, it’s the rule for him as it fits his rather simplified view. I’d rather order some take out “booze” to my home than join in a bar with that kind of philosophy…

  161. NoPayNoPlay

    I am NOT an alcohol salesman.
    I am a musician.
    I am not a moron, i understand capitalism.
    This guy seems to think he is the only one who is a capitalist here.
    Don’t hire me if you can’t afford it buddy.

    • Marc S.

      Have fun at home not playing NoPayNoPlay. When you cop the attitude “I don’t come out unless I’m getting $XX”, then you show that you think it’s about you when it’s not. People get hot for the real deal, not some cover band dudes at a local watering hole.

  162. Stephen

    Great post! This is very true for most bar owners in my experience.

  163. PJ - folkie

    I hate playing in bars. People don’t listen. I prefer a listening room…which is another way of saying that the bar owner is (mostly) right. They’d rather not have me, and I’d rather not play there.

  164. Marc S.

    I am amazed at many of the comments here, the ones you can tell are from disgruntled musicians.

    If you are complaining about where you are playing, or what you are getting paid, then you have forgotten Tenet #1 of playing in a bar band.

    #1. You are worth what the venue is paying you. No more.

    If you want $500 a night and the bar will pay you $300, you can either take the gig at $300 or sit at home. Bring 100 people in and maybe next time you can negotiate your price up.

    Your stacks of Marshalls don’t mean squat. Your collectible Les Paul doesn’t either. Neither does your practice time.

    When in the Venue, it’s the Venue’s rule and expectations. If the owner thinks you should be a beer salesman, then be a beer salesman.

    If you think the owner is having you play because it’s the goodness of his heart to provide a place for you to play your mediocre version of “Gimme Three Steps” then you need a lesson in humility.

    Pack the place, you get paid. And you get return gigs. Pull that “I’ll play Red Barchetta all night long to the three dudes at the bar cause it’s what I wanna play” then you’ll be spending more nights at home, by yourself, playing with yourself.

    Signed

    A real, gigging, working bar band musician.

    • PJ - folkie

      right on. I find it disappointing to find friends agreeing to “pay” the soundman (they don’t even like) just to play for a teenie cover charge.

  165. TieDye

    Time is money. My time to haul equipment and practice is on me. My time to play on stage is on the bar. If the bar has a lot of customer always, the bar manager should be looking for cheap bands that don’t stink the place up. It’s his job to find them and he should be up front about what he’s looking for when booking This guy is in it for the money pure and simple, i would expect him to take advantage of poor business men / good musicians. i bet he’s not up front about the “in it for the money” thing to his customers or the bands as he books (money first guys are usually good salesmen). Not being up front about this is what leads to bad feelings and it is bad business when looking at the long term picture. Bands talk to each other about which are shitty bars to work for (good business practice, no?). The good bands will stop calling you and that may be why you have trouble keeping good bands in your rotation. This leads to always trying new bands and in this case you’re going to get some clunkers. IF money is why you’re in a band then all of his advice is appropriate. For me, there are better ways to make money, i do this for fun, but, if you’re using my fun to make money i expect to be paid. I have a problem with him suggesting that bands solicit drinks when he then has a problem with drunk band members. IF that’s you, stay true to the money and cheat your customers: send fake drinks up to the band while charging the customers full price and split the money with the band. The extra money pays for the band’s conscience and their efforts to act drunk.

  166. Al B

    Vocalist for 30+ years. Originals and Cover. Bar owner is right. If your bands song selection is mostly jamming/look at me guitar solo’s = ZZZZZ.
    It ain’t about you, it’s connecting with the audience and making them have a good time. Hint: if you bullshit the owner with the usual spiel ” We’ll pack your bar” etc he’s gonna know you’re lying. nothing worse than angry band dudes.

  167. Pingback: Canadian Musician Blog » Blog Archive » Bands That Wanna Play Bars: Read This

  168. Rick

    I have played piano with big bands as a teenager, played guitar and vibes with bands while in the service, and played ‘boards” with bands over the last few years. While I really miss grovving with a band,I dont have the stomach and the fortitude to put up with rehearsals and all the penny ante BS that goes along with whoe gest to do what and when. SOLO is the WAY TO GO…

  169. Rick

    I am not a fast piano player and I am not a slow piano player. What I am is a half fast piano player !!!

  170. Rick

    BANDS are really great once they MAKE IT BIG. My ahts off to those that do…. but getting therr is not fun… it is ALL UNDERPAID WURK !!!! Agree 100% with the WOLFF-man about volume control… you have to know the place and the crown and set you levels accordingly. I have as a piano player where I can barely hear myself over the conversations that it is really neat to hit a couple a really horrendous notes and see how many peopel actually turn and look at you. Some will… then you know they are listening.. some wont but you kepp on playing at the same level. Your do not increase volumet to get the atention o the non-listeners… they will just talk louder. FUN AINT IT !!!!

  171. Geo.Wolff

    The hallmark of an amateur is a musician or band who doesn’t know that the right volume is not the highest volume. Here, among Tampa Bay’s beach bars people like to chat, make friends and sometimes enjoy music as the background (not the center) of the scene. If you are doing Jimmy Buffett songs with the volume turned up to 11, you are not a star, you are ruining my evening and I will certainly leave you and the offending bar far behind.

  172. Hi John Kneeland,thank you for responding to my comment,My comment was from an experiential standpoint,yes ,my musicians were all very qualified,however my response was to a young musician who seems to have dificulty with being note perfect and not getting premium dollar for his time.I totally agree with musician ship being a top Priority.I do know what your shows paid but mine ,rooms meals and approx. $ 2,8000-$35000 awk gig. festivals 5,000 per show.I think the point have been well spoken,If f bar owner hires you ,you should be as professional as you can beand do what you can to get the crowd wanting to spend money ultimately if your charging the owner a fee to have you entertain then you better be willing to do what is needed ,you took the money.
    waylon was not neccesarily a cynic,he was a realist,Nashville is nothing but $$$$ bean counting.I do agree in general with you.who knows we probably crossed paths years ago .

    • Yes, Nashville is a big money town, and it has not always respected its past greats, but it is also a great hangout to go hear top-notch musicians play all kinds of music. As I’m sure you also know, at least on lower Broadway, they play for tips (very good tips, in some cases). Though I have seen some good house bands in other parts of the city. It’s funny to watch all kinds of talent trying to rise to the top, and then think about Everytown Canada, where jobbers want to know how much they’re getting paid, don’t want to rehearse, and then wonder why they’re caught in the same cycle of low-paying gigs. And you are right, I have also watched bands who weren’t turning on the audience get nasty because no one is dancing to their art rock. But the best bands are great entertainers, and have their ways to communicate, whether it be Pink Floyd, Wilson Pickett, or Devo. Did I just get off topic?

  173. Rudi S

    I have been on both sides of this as a musician and as a bar owner and he is correct if the band does not sell beer then they are a waste of time. Any musician who does not agree shouldn’t play in bars. Stick to concerts , theatre shows or playing on the street corner then you can joyfully play anything your heart desires and develop your craft in the direction you want…..or just not work.
    Running a bar is a numbers game you take the total x by ( $25 Blues , $20 Rock , $15 Country , $5 Dance ) deduct 1/3 for cost of sale and thats whats left over to cover operations. These are rough numbers based on where I am from and with some people drinking double that and others drinking water. Getting free beer from the bar now has to be earned not expected. This is not the seventies when bars ran 6 nights a week and were full most nights.
    Running a bar is a shit gig which in todays economy makes no money and is a ton of headaches. When guys like the one who started this thread spills his guts instead of attaching listen and learn as it will only make you a better over all player.

  174. VIC

    A wise person once told me that you are only worth what you negotiate. If you don’t like what the bar owner is willing to pay… don’t play! Also, it is hoped that the club owner is hiring the right music for their venue. If you are a cover band then play the music that the club’s patrons want to hear. Wagon Wheel, Brown Eyed Girl, Sweet Caroline… who cares! Play it! If these songs allow the club goer to have a good time and to enjoy the venue, that’s great! If they are enjoying themselves they will stick around, spend a few dollars and hopefully come back. Try working with the club owner to make the club patrons experience enjoyable and entertaining. In your arrangement with the club owner try negotiating some sort of profit/bonus agreement. If the club owner can’t agree to this, walk! It’s not rocket science… if you play a major role in providing the club owner a profitable venue then I hope the club owner is smart enough that they will reward your efforts. Remember that when you negotiate it is about knowing what you want, going after it, and respecting the other person in the process. Give it a try!

    • Robert S

      One lunchtime bar gig, a request came for Muskrat Love. I kept a straight face and played that song as if it were my favorite song in the world. The patron tossed me a $20 tip and walked out. To this day I don’t know if that was a test or a genuine request for a cheeseball song out of left field, but the lesson learned was to not judge the customer and do my best to entertain no matter what.

  175. I currently work at a bar, and I’m close friends with the owner, so I hear this perspective all the time. I am also a musician that plays the local scenes frequently and in different formats. This response may not be a direct response to the main article, but this is my take on the situation. One thing I will say about bar owners is that they are stingy at times, but we musicians must consider a few things. In Toronto, Hamilton, St. Catherines and their suburbs (i can only speak for these cities) it is common practice for the bar owners to pay a lump sum to the band, which is later divided amongst the group members. Thats fine. My problem comes here: How many band members does one group have? How many vehicles are being used? For example, I was in this wedding/function/cover band up until a year ago. It seemed like a good idea. Problem was there were six players in the band, and we all lived in different areas. I quit after the band leader booked regular gigs at this bar. He accepted a $300 lump sum for each gig, offered by the owner. Thats 50$ per person.The fact that this sucked was not the fault of the bar owner, thats just what he was willing to pay. Driving from Oakville to Hamilton to get to the gigs and rehearsals was just not worth my time. Because we had so many planned gigs at this venue and the bar owner was not willing to negotiate on various occasions, I left the group. The band leader had no balls. It clearly wasn’t worth the bar owner’s time to pay a six piece band more, and my band leader seemed to have no self respect. That is the most important thing in professionalism. You have to convince someone that you’re worth the money. The truth is some dumbass DJ who is just starting out may get payed $300 for a friday night at my bar, even though fridays get packed without him. It all about selling that image. That what people wanna do these days. Get drunk, get laid. Maybe sneak a joint in there. Thats it. My friend gets payed to play a conga drum beside the DJ. You can’t hear him, but the promoters hired him, because it gives the bar and DJ a “look”.

    When bar owners speak of acting professionally, sometimes they fail to realize what being a professional musician entails. If you want a professional band, provide them with what they need. Especially if the venue is not appropriately rigged with a stage, sufficient PA and lighting, the band will have to outsource these themselves. There is definitely a correlation between a high quality band with a professional attitude, sound and look and the bars success, if the bar is willing to be an appropriate venue. I’ve met and spoken to many bar owners to get my groups some gigs. Less than half had an adequate venue. Don’t advertise live music if the band has to figure out where to move tables and chairs to have a performance area. To me, bars like this use live music as a last ditch effort to get people in the bar. Why? Because they they are not prepared. Seems unprofessional to me.

    The same cover group I mentioned earlier played regular gigs at this place called My Place in Fonthill, Ontario. It was a big place. I didn’t book the gigs, our band leader did. On their website it advertised a need for live music, preferably covers. Thats how we got the gig. Everything was discussed over the phone. When we showed up, there was no performance area, no PA, no lighting. They crammed us into a corner after moving furniture. Our amps were randomly situated because thats the way they’d fit, there were cables along walkways in the restaurant, we had to go back to Hamilton to pick up our own rehearsal PA, etc…I’m sorry, but I hardly call that professional on the bar owner’s part. However, he did pay well. I walked away with $100 for two sets. For an 18 year old, thats pretty good. I’m 23 now. We played 3 more gigs there. The place was always lively. The bar was always occupied, drinks were being sold (we got bonus pay if the till was poppin’). One night the bar owner refused to pay us. For no good reason at all. We played the same covers as the last 2 gigs and he loved it then. The band stayed in the restaurant until after it was closed demanding that we get payed for the sets we played, or what was agreed upon. He gave in eventually, but it made both sides look unprofessional and childish. Sometimes, things like this cannot be predicted.

    If a group of willing professional musicians is not treated like they work hard, then there is absolutely no incentive to play the gig. Bar owners don’t seem to understand that they have legal obligations such a SOCAN license if cover bands are performing regularly. Bars can be fined for not paying into SOCAN. Karaoke bars or companies have to, and most probably do. The bar is making money off someone’s music for which they don’t have publishing or performance rights. In Toronto, musician’s union rates at their lowest for a 3 set night are around $150 per person. If the members of the group the bar hires are union members, it is the bar’s legal responsibility to pay the union fees. That’s professional.

    One thing I despise about Toronto bars, especially the trendy ones, Is drinks are damn expensive. At my bar, a pint of domestic starts at $7.00. Thats not unusual here. Its ridiculous. Truth is, the band may attract drinkers, but if its a casual night, a customer averages about two drinks, even if they do come for the music. So selling alcohol may not be the band’s problem. The bar still has to uphold good service.

    Two regulars used to come in at my bar, to watch my band play (I play for free because I work there, and it’s across the street from my house). They liked my band. One time a bartender was rude to them apparently and they never came back. I know this because thats what one gentleman told me while I was out front having a smoke. He proceeded to give me his phone number so I could let him know when my band was playing a different bar in the area. Sometimes its not always the musicians at fault. This side of the business is a partnership. A bad band makes a bar look bad. A bar with poor service makes a band look bad by association. I understand its about money. But most bar owners have the attitude that money comes instantly. If the band is good, and people are digging the performance, keep them for a couple more gigs. Let them develop their act. It may be better for the future of both parties.

  176. Rick M

    I am a keyboard player. I play two differnt kinds of music. backgraound/dinner/mushy stuff for restaurants and tailored a bit to the theme of the restaurant.. Italianm French, Latin etc.. Mu fave crowd is when I get to let loose on my double keyboard rig and do 50s and 602 rock and country. I just moved to Florida and have benn keeping myself fairly busy doingboth types of music. I am not the BEST player around but i am a damn site better then a lot of the amateurs of my age and younger. I do not charge an arm and a leg. I try work with the owners to see what they think they can reasonably. afford I do not paly in any place that is going to put a cover charge on someone who wants to hear me. I love doing the 50w and 60s stuff… the best reviews I get are when the blue hairs get off the buttsw and dance. Of course they can alway buy me a beer or a gin and tonice (which ti usually pre–arranged with the bartender to maki it club soda with limes..

    Now as far a venues go… other people here are close but they are some places that do not lkend themselves to any kind of music ,…. live or recored. They are ECHO ECHo ECho Echo echo chambers where it is impossible for any sound to come out right. I will not play those joints.

    DRESS IS ALL IMPORTANT in seeking out, interviewing and wrking the gig.. If ya can’t make yourself look god the look scarce… casue your are not going to get any bookings.

    ADVERTISING. Use your own web site. Ad vertise thru your friends. Develop a mailing list.. use Facebook.. Twitter.. Small establishments will not have the budget to do advertising for every TOm, DIck and Harry musicians who knoks on their front door.

    I could go on for hourw but enuf is enuf .. fer now…..

    Keep on playing… let the LIVE music LIVE !!!! Support live music wherever you go from NEw Orleans to Kalmazoo and beyond the stars……

  177. leo

    This guy is 100% bang on. Too many weekend rock stars out there. Ball cap and sandals?? Cheeseburger in Paradise…

  178. Precisely….which is why smart bar owners hire DJs and tell aspiring bands to do charity functions LOL

  179. Pingback: Open Letter From a Bar Owner to Musicians | LeDrew’s Muse « Heidi BC Jury

  180. I know, I’ve been monopolizing this thread with my lengthy rants, but I had one more thought: to say musicians are there to sell booze is simplistic; it is no more the responsibility of the band to sell booze than it is the responsibility of the printing shop to sell booze. If a bar owner contracts a printing shop to print posters, flyers, etc. the shop’s job is to print. Period. The bar owner may hope to USE this product to sell booze, but that does not make it the job of the shop. The bar owner has an opportunity to specify what should be on the posters – content, fonts, colours – and what grade/colour of paper to use, and the printer has the right to decide what the order is worth. The printer may even provide a sample for approval. If the bar owner doesn’t like the product being offered, or feels the price is too steep, he/she has the right to go elsewhere for the bar’s printing needs. At no time does it become the responsibility of the printer to sell booze. Furthermore, if the bar owner decides he/she wants the printed product but doesn’t want to pay the price the printer is asking, he’s not going to get it; the printer will tell the bar owner to take their business elsewhere.

    The same holds true for virtually any other business contracted by the bar, be they the electricians, plumbers, carpenters, or painters who built the space, the glassware, furniture, PA, or lighting suppliers, the phone/cable companies, or the musicians who perform in the bar. It is an investment/expense (however you want to look at it) in the form of a product/service that the bar must purchase. If they don’t want to pay for the quality of product they desire, they aren’t entitled to it; they’ll get the cheaper product, often with comparably poorer quality, and they’ll have to accept the fallout from that decision. Whether or not the product can, in fact, be used to sell booze is only tangentially relevant, and whether or not any slump in sales can be directly tied to the product remains questionable (although it is admittedly a little easier to tell in the case of a live performance than a poster, a beer stein, or a bar stool).

    If, in fact, the bar owner feels it is the responsibility of the band to sell booze, then their contract with the band should involve paying them a hefty percentage of all bar sales. This would ensure that the bands work hard to promote the booze sales and get fairly compensated for their efforts. Otherwise, the musicians’ job remains to make music. If they are the right musicians for the job, they will be entertaining. If they aren’t, they won’t. Choose wisely.

  181. Alex O

    I applaud this bar owner’s honesty.

    The lesson here is

    STOP PLAYING BARS

    Promote your own shows.

    Book a hall

    Run it your shows during concert business hours not bar hours. (Hint, no one is coming to your Wednesday midnight show)

    Be entrepreneurial

    Bars are a dead end, now more than ever.

    Create a product the customer wants not the bartender.

    • Joe C.

      Good point. Unless I overlooked it I think you’re the first one on here to suggest creating one’s own show. However, I think some folks on here are just trying to make the point that, while some bars are great for live music, there are too many bars that just aren’t cut out for it…and it’s simply unfair to put all the blame on the bands when it goes down the shitter.

  182. This was very interesting indeed..I am a full time Musician and thus my life depends on my Venues .We dress the part,wear the smiles ,converse with the audience and have quite the repertoire. of Music..We want our Audience and Employer to Like what they see and hear..we are always up to the challenge of request and if unable to do it that night Promise on our return to have it ..this brings that guest back. and proves we are in the Zone of each and every one as an individual. It is tough today with the DJ’s rates to get the required gigs as we call them . Bar owners are quite happy to tap out $300 for a DJ but not $400 to a Duo…Personally we are Booked and Humble to say sometimes as far as a year in advance and we are nobody’s from nowhere who simply LOVE what we do.. I wish you would take the time to check out my Webpage…maybe invite Us to Your world (for I have managed Bars and it’s becomes your world ) as there are alot of Unknowns out there who really deserve a Break…Enjoyed your piece it was Real….Margie

  183. the guy should be out of the business soon!!! He sounds so ignorant!! Bro Clothes!!??? baseball cap??!!! that is disturbingly off track!!! i dress neat for gigs, but i’ve seen some slobs make great music..Real music lovers don’t care what you look like!!! Make the customers buy you PREMIUM booze??? whatta DICK!!!!!!!! Play only POP music in my bar!!!??? whatta moron!!!

  184. Mavis

    Bands who work a LOT know this guy is right on. I know it’s distasteful for musicians to think of themselves as alcohol salesmen (and women) but if you’re in a bar, most of the time, that’s what you are. The band is judged, rightly or wrongly, by how much cash is in the till at the end of the night. I hate to generalize, but most of the people who disagree with this guy probably aren’t working very much, and just don’t get it.

    • Joe C.

      I don’t know about that. I think most of the people who disagree with this guy have dealt with his type and have moved on to greener pastures. This guy needs a juke box in his bar…not a live band.

  185. chris

    First off i wanna say that its much harder for an “original material” band than coverbands. Original bands have have to feed from other bands to build a fanbase ,not just hop on stage and play somone elses music that everybody knows. Second and most important… IT IS NOT THE BANDS RESPONSIBILITY TO SELL YOUR BOOZE!! It’s our job as musicians to provide adequate respectable entertainment nothing more.

  186. much as I am a musician and has cringed at some compromises we’ve made during our time in the circuit here in Manila, what this guy says is true. the hard truth is that you gotta bring in cash or you’ve no business in the bar, at all.

  187. Drew4Mayor

    @Greg Marks

    You’re input, opinion, and ideas are all great.

    However – “The pay for pro’s and you’ll get pro’s” mentality – sounds a little juvenile. Despite your argument being well written and well supported; my debate on your stance is from a starving musician’s point of view.

    The hierarchy of power (for lack of better term) is real.

    Act like a pro, dress like a pro, play like a pro, promote like a pro, sell like a pro – you’ll be (or become) a pro.

    Act like an amateur, dress like an amateur, play like an amateur, sell like an amateur; complain like an amateur, you’ll be an amateur.

    It’s really a pretty simple formula.

    Do I disagree that venues that support live entertainment successfully pay their live talent well, not at all. However, that live entertainment was once at the amateur level, and complained.

    Then, they got it.

    • Thanks for the comment. You’ve made my point, far more succinctly that I did (as brevity and I are clearly not acquainted).

      To be clear: I didn’t just say pay us like pros, I said TREAT us like pros. It’s a business. If I do a gig in the corporate world, I always get treated like a corporation – business communications, contracts, invoices, registered business numbers, etc. I can get four figures for an hour of work. They’re not focused on the profit they’ll make in the short term from my presence; they’re investing in their image, buying precious stock with their employees, business partners, customers, etc. By comparison, when I do a bar gig, I don’t expect quite the same level of business acumen, but I do expect to be treated better than a squeegee kid. Admittedly, some venues are straight up, and treat me like a business man; they talk to me face-to-face, they share what their goal is (be it to maintain a certain profit margin, crack a certain beer sales goal, or sell X number of tickets), and they express any concerns in a mature manner. These are the rare exception. Most treat me like a starry eyed American Idol wannabe, and think they can sell me on the “it’ll be good exposure” or “we can’t pay much, but we’ll give you a free meal” routines.

      I’ve been in the biz for 20 years; I’m not playing bars for exposure (as if their handful of slot junkies and overtired barmaid will really put my career over the top), or a single meal (as I can’t do 21 gigs a week – one for every meal); I’m working so I can keep my business solvent, and maybe live a little better, just as he/she is. I show up in a suit, don’t drink on the job, don’t cuss on the stage, and put on a solid show. I work hard, and I demand the respect from my employers that I’ve earned. I’m not looking for a win-lose deal, but I’m not willing to take a lose-win either. I aim for win-win or no deal, just as every decent businessperson should. It’s not simply about what we get paid (although that does tend to sink a deal for many pros, particularly if the bar owner is otherwise going to treat them like dirt). If a venue takes their business seriously, they’re not going to pay under the table, they’re not going to work without a contract to protect the interests of both parties, they’re not going to expect the band to do their job for them (i.e. all the promotion, pitching the booze, etc.), and they’re certainly not going to try and change the deal after the fact.

      The vast majority of bars I’ve encountered have no idea what a band will do for them. They want one because the club down the street has one – a classic case of “the grass is greener” – but they don’t have much space, or a stage, or a PA; their venue holds 50 people, and they won’t charge a cover, but they want to make 4-5 figures of profit in a night; they’re located in a rough & tumble neighbourhood, with a facade that looks like a crack house, but want to attract a classier crowd; their beer is already as cheap as they can legally sell it – a razor-thin profit margin – but they think somehow if they sell enough of it they’ll get rich. I even know a couple of places that spent thousands of dollars on artwork for their walls (that nobody can see when the lights go down), and premium prices for custom furniture (with fabric that visibly stains when it comes in contact with beer or sweat), but won’t spring for more than $150 for the live entertainment that draws their audience in. After two decades of this, the idea that a bar owner would try to tell the musicians their business when so many don’t even know their own is laughable to me.

      Again, maybe this bar owner isn’t one of “those owners” who pays poorly, but his nickel & dime mentality and occasional lack of respect for the artists leads me to think otherwise. Why is it acceptable for the bar owner to get the band to promote/request the liquor nobody wants to drink (but he wants to sell), but unacceptable for the band to play anything other than what he thinks the audience wants to hear? Isn’t that a bit hypocritical? If this were truly a two-way street (aka partnership), shouldn’t the bar owner be requesting the new songs the band wants to play – if they do originals, maybe they can get a cheque from SOCAN to supplement their income – regardless of whether the audience wants to dance to them or not? Shouldn’t he be hawking their CDs for them, offering his patrons an incentive to buy them? Isn’t this the same thing? The point is, the bar owner is fixated on his own business, so much so that he doesn’t recognize that the artists are in business, too, and yet complains that the bands are fixated on their own product. Mr. Pot would presume to call Mr. Kettle “black.” He would presume to tell us how to run our bands, to assume what the audience wants, when he is obviously out of touch with what the audience wants, himself – why else would he even stock the “top shelf” stuff nobody wants to drink?

      In a nutshell: we reap what we sow. No matter what your business, if you expect professionalism from your employees, you have to demonstrate professionalism as an employer and business owner. The onus falls on the bar owner to behave professionally as well. If you want reputable bands, you need to have a reputable bar. If you want a premium product, you have to pay the premium price. If you want bands that will play for next to nothing (or willingly shill for you from the stage to sell the high-priced crap nobody wants to drink), expect them to be rank amateurs who probably don’t know how to behave professionally. And if all you care about is making money selling booze, then open a liquor store or start a brewery. Otherwise, when any band finally “gets it” and pulls their act together, they’ll move on to play for a venue owner who gets it, too.

      Before I close this rant, let me say this: thank you to all the venue owners who do respect their artists. Thank you for willingly negotiating win-win deals. Thank you for working with us to create a better experience for our (band and venue combined) audiences. Thank you for recognizing that we all deserve to profit from this endeavour. Thank you for signing contracts that state precisely what each party’s expectations are up front so there is no confusion or animosity later. Thank you for taking the time to promote your venue, and allowing us to promote our art. Thank you for recognizing that it’s not just about selling booze. And thank you for hiring us to do what we do, not what others would have us do. May success be your constant companion.

      • Bart Tarenskeen

        Well said.

      • Re: Money from SOCAN for performing your own songs – NOT if you are playing in a bar. It has to be a venue where tickets are sold and a performance list has to be submitted. SOCAN then go after the owners/proprietors of the venue for the fees. You may see the money next year ….
        Most bars/restaurants don’t really like muso’s selling their CD’s in house, as it lessens the amount that they could be making in tips.

      • Gerry: please do your research. I got my info directly from a SOCAN rep less than two years ago, but just in case I was mistaken, I went out to their website to verify my understanding. Taken from the SOCAN “Notification Of Live Performance” form (http://www.socan.ca/files/pdf/NLMP_ENG_2012.pdf):

        “Notification of performances in clubs, bars, and similar establishments will only be accepted for performance credits when the official ticket/cover charge is $6.00 or more and notification is accompanied by the relevant evidence.”

        To wit, advance tickets aren’t necessary, as long as there is an adequate cover, and it doesn’t really matter if it’s in a bar or a concert hall, as long as you submit proof you were there (e.g. a poster) and a set list.

        As for SOCAN fees: any business that has music (be it live or prerecorded) used to encourage sales (concert hall, bar, mall, etc.) must obtain a license (http://www.socan.ca/licensees/music-use) and has an obligation to pay SOCAN fees. I suspect bars generally opt for an annual live music license (TARIFF 3A) if they’re featuring live music regularly, and pay 3% of their total annual live music expenditure (which, sadly, encourages them to pay the bands less in order to lower their SOCAN fees, too). Annual minimum fee is $83.65+ tax for each room where music is played. I can see no reason why SOCAN would need to “go after” the venue, assuming it is already licensed, nor would they be pursuing a venue for a single event license if an annual license is in their best interest.

        You are correct about sales in bars by musicians; bar owners don’t like their patrons putting money into anything but the bar (and who can blame them, really).

  188. Reeve Downes

    This arrogant,misinformed ass needs to stop having bands and stop confusing a music venue with a bar. If selling drinks is all you are about than don’t bother with booking bands, it is a totally different business.

    • I obviously must comment on this last commenter,I have run coffee houses, run festivals and played every type of revenue generating music venue.In order to put on a venue you must ,have money for renting space,equipment(sound ,lighting). The above comment is incorrect in saying business’s are different : both take enormous amounts of capital ,a band must advertise and market their product.Most long time pros , worked bars with live music.terminology for you, may be important to define what is purely for music and it’s artist meaning.I applaud your altruistic value however music venues do not survive without a means to generate revenue to pay for the cost putting on a show unless you get gov. money or corporate sponsoring , then most of those corporate functions serve a small av ante Gard pop.that drink their share of spirits and those drinks are usually 7 – 8 dollars a pop,all sold to make an extra $$$ for the next event. business is business profit and loss dictate whether or not a music venue or bar stay a float . So do define what you mean by music venue .

    • John

      HI Reeve. I have a question for you. If you play in a cover band your getting hired by the bar to hopefully bring people into the venue to eat and drink. Selling drinks is what its all about. Your not an original band trying to sell your cd’s and shirts etc, its not a big concert venue where people are specifically coming to see your act. The purpose of having live entertainment is for people to drink, relax, talk etc. If you take the selling drinks factor out of this what would people go to the bar for?

      I think a lot of people don’t like this bar owners attitude cause he is telling it like it is. There are a lot of bands that are mostly weekend warriors who don’t want to put any extra effort in bringing people out to the venues they play at. I am a full time musician and have been for the past 20 years. I play a few times a week because i do what i need to so the bars we play in have the best chance of keeping patrons coming out to see us. Its a business and most bands and players have no idea how to run their business which makes it even tougher for guys like me who do care. I have found out that the people that make this business horrible are the musicians and booking agents. Its a pretty simple formula. The band gets booked to play songs that people want to hear to have a good time. The trouble starts with bands not wanting to play popular songs cause they don’t like them and they think they can play what they want and people are going to have to like it. They don’t! If you play in a cover band and you think it sucks cause your not appreciated, then you should write your own tunes and play original venues. Its just that simple.

      • Bart Tarenskeen

        I don’t dislike the bar owner for telling it “like it is”. I don’t like him for his obvious lack of respect for the bands he hires.
        You say the band gets booked to play songs that people want to hear. You’re right when you say if one (as a musician) doesn’t want to do that, he should write his own tunes and play original venues. But the bar owner in question doesn’t care about the tunes you play or how you play them, he wants you to sell booze.

      • Reeve wasn’t suggesting that a bar shouldn’t be focused on selling drinks. He was suggesting that a bar isn’t, by definition, necessarily a live music venue. If all that is important is selling drinks, there are other ways to do that than having live bands (many of them cheaper and less stressful). There are plenty of bars out there that have never had a band.

        This bar owner has chosen to run a live music venue, and needs to recognize that his CUSTOMERS do not see drinks as his only/exclusive product; they see entertainment as his product. The fact that he has booze is not what brings them in the door or encourages them to stay. They can get booze elsewhere (most likely cheaper). If he plans on running a live music venue, the quality of that product needs to be his focus, regardless of what pays the bills. Absolutely, he must sell SOMETHING to pay for the music (be it liquor, food, tickets, merch, etc.), but chances are it’s still the quality of the entertainment that draws his audience in (or drives them away), not his drinks.

  189. ben

    When you have been in bands that have been carelessly double-booked or treated like crap and actually not been paid what is promised, (and don’t tell me to take the bar owner to court for the contract–not worth it) it’s hard not to have a negative vibe from lots of bars. Have seen many bars that had a music venue vibe die because they had to cut the “expense” in tough times. Also, lots of bars have crap for house gear, if any.

  190. christopher brent

    On the drinks issue, most commenters missed two points:
    1 – he wasn’t saying you had to ask for drinks, but rather that if you do ask for drinks, ask the patrons and not the bar owner. Remember the scene from the Blues Brothers movie where at the end of the gig they owed the bar money for all the booze they drank?
    2 – “ask for top shelf “, does not necessarily mean the most expensive drink. the idea is to ask for a code-named drink. the bartender will add it to your list of drinks (think of it as a ‘reverse tab’) and at the end of the night you split the amount collected for glasses of ‘moon wine’ that patrons bought you and you both make money… patrons are often glad to buy a performer a drink as a ‘tip’ for the performance, but you really don’t want all those drinks, you want the money.

    • Christopher, I agree with your first point; the original writer didn’t state that musicians should necessarily ask for drinks from the audience. He suggested what to request if people offer drinks. He doesn’t care who drinks it as long as it is paid for by somebody other than him. That said, at no point did he suggest profit-sharing the top-notch booze income with the band, as you suggested in the second point. He apparently just wants to sell the expensive stuff to make more money for himself and his business. It may help finance the band, but there is no direct incentive here. Your profit sharing model is a novel idea, worthy of consideration, it just doesn’t seem to be his intent.

  191. John

    This guy is right on target. Where i live at we had a great scene at one time where bar owners and bands both cared and did their jobs. The new trend and attitudes among most bands are 1-Music is a hobby to them and 2-they will play for beer and food and have 100 of their family and friends show up so they can be a rock star for one night. What this does is lead a club owner to believe that he can find more bands like this. He just made almost 100% profit for the night. The down side of this is if the bands are real bad but putting asses in seats and selling booze, regular patrons and new patrons that just stroll into a bar one night to hear and see an abortion of a band on stage are not going back to that persons bar. They think that the band on stage that sucks is what all the bands he gets sound like.

    In defense of the bands most club owners now depend entirely on the band for business and have no base crowd for the band to work with. Most owners won’t advertise and put the burden of having a great night on the band. If they have a bad night the owner will then ask to see the leader of the band and ask if he and the band can help him out cause of the slow night. I think owners today get the impression that its acceptable to cut the bands money cause they only do this for fun and don’t really need the money. Once again it comes back to bands that play for free. This is a big reason why bands are getting screwed.

    I think the owner in the above article sounds like a straight and fair business person. He is basically stating that if he and the band do their homework and know the reason why they are there you would see the bar selling product and the band having a good night and doing their job. Most bands today no nothing about the music business and thats a big problem. Just go and see how some bands conduct themselves in a club. Its like this owner mentioned. They look and sound like shit, their gear is beat up and they play bad songs. In order for a band to be successful in todays market they need to be able to play a little bit of everything and switch gears on the spot if the tunes they picked for their set(s) are not working. The owner is right when he says that the bands that do well for him keep everything on the simple side, know how to go from one song into the other and just plow on until everyone is up dancing, drinking and have a great time. His other point: Girls like to dance and guys go where the girls go. Its not that hard to figure out. There are a good amount of musicians who hate todays music and decide that they are going to play what they want and change the circuit they are in. Its not going to happen. Other guys in bands i know are into the thing of we don’t want to play what everyone else does. What i mentioned in the last paragraph are the perfect ingredients for failure. Bands and band leaders need to stop and think about the venue they will be playing and know ahead of time what the crowd likes and make sure the band plays the right material. I have found out over the years that this sounds simple but most musicians and bands make this so difficult for themselves and i don’t know why. Common sense and knowing how to act in public goes a long way. Its just a matter of thinking ahead!

    • Bart Tarenskeen

      A lot of this makes sense. However, “this guy” does NOT do his homework (“I’m not going to visit your website or listen to your demo”). Also, if every musician would think like you seem to want them to, there would never be new music. For me they are not musicians, but entertainers who use music to entertain a crowd. Nothing wrong with that, one isn’t better than the other because of what they do. Might be better because of how well they do it.

  192. AYG

    It’s a fine balance; as a bar owner you’re not running a charity, it’s IS a business after all, you’re in it to make money. Conscientious bands and musicians get that, it’s not rocket science.

    At the same time as a band, you’ve got to be conscious of your audience and the nature of the gig. If it’s the local cover band joint, people are there to shake their asses, drink and hopefully go home with someone; musical education isn’t at the the top of their list. You can’t expect to be the next Radiohead in that environment, you need to find a venue that’s prepared to work with you on that level.

    Those venues are out there who are all about artistic expression, but it’s generally a labour of love for bar owners who approach the bar business this way, and they are eligible for sainthood. You as the musician better be prepared to hustle to get people down to that gig.

    It WOULD be amazing if every band were the next up and coming Black Keys or whoever, but the reality is that great bands who are out for pure artistic expression AND can draw a good crowd the venue is happy with are few and far between. That’s what makes them special, and likely to go on to succeed.

  193. Interresting read. Linked to it on my blog. Hope you have a great day.

  194. Pingback: allthingsmetamusic: Open Letter From a Bar Owner to Musicians « metamusicftlom

  195. Mick

    A very interesting read. I love the enthusiasm! Too all the bars that support this concept, I applaud your flawless conception of band/bar relations.

    Sadly however, I have seen another way. A way that works for both bands and the venue. This idea of being adversarial towards your business method is hilarious. Good luck with that!

    I have been a musician for many years, playing many establishments. It’s not hard to recognize managers/ owners or talent coordinators that share these views. Thankfully these places can be avoided. They should be and in many cases, they are.

    Whether you agree with one way or the other it doesn’t really matter. People will always decide an option that works best for themselves. Measuring success by the ounce might work for these places. But like I said earlier, there is another way. Believe it or not there are venues that understand what is involved in bringing people through the door. These are places that are defined and don’t need to depend on some kids band called “elevator pitch” to bring people in. The people are already going to be there.

    “Apparently the highest compliment our culture grants artists nowadays is to be in an ad—ideally naked and purring on the hood of a new car. I have adamantly and repeatedly refused this dubious honor,.. While the court can’t make me active in radio, i am asking it to make me radioactive to advertisers.”
    Tom waits

    Good luck to everyone in this forum. Whether I agree with you or absolutely disagree.

    M

  196. If you own/run a venue, and you’re trying to book bands that are bland and palatable enough to entertain people who are there to drink and don’t give a shit about music, you’re doing it fucking wrong.

    Instead of treating musicians like some sort of cross between a consumer good and a mercenary, try treating them like what they are: artists. Book bands who have existing draw because they make good music and promote themselves well. People who like that band will come to your establishment to actually watch bands, and they’ll buy some drinks along the way. What’s more, they find all the clientele for you, because they’re a real band with real fans!

    Otherwise, just pack it in. Hire a Macbook DJ who will play for cheap/free. Stop wasting the time of actual musicians, and stop wasting your money hiring them to play shit that you could just get out of a jukebox.

  197. schmooger

    as a musician, and as most other musicians have stated so far, there is an incredible lack of professionalism in the indie music world. however, this guy is just a windbag. it’s the bartender’s job to sell drinks! and one way to avoid booking shitty bands is to LISTEN TO THEIR DEMOS, not audition them based on what clothes they’re wearing when they drop off their business cards! these are the kinds of things a booking agent/promoter is useful for. if you want commercial music in your venue, go the tried-and-true route that ANY OTHER SUCCESSFUL BAR featuring live music chooses, and hire a cover band!

  198. On blogs like that, as soon as you see a paragraph that starts with “As a musician I feel…” or “I’ve been playing music professionally for 5,000 years…” you can surmise that the rest of the paragraph is going to be a bunch of self-indulgent pretentious bullshit. We all know that no kid ever came up with a slick riff and thought “I’m gonna sell so much booze with this song.” Of course not. But they also don’t think “Some bar owner is going to care about how I artistically project my feelings one day” either. They think about hit records and fans…

    Bar owners book entertainment… so a band on stage should be entertaining.

    Studio engineers & producers book artists… so art is made in the studio.

    And the two are similar sounding, but not the same.

    AND… not everyone can do both.

    • Joe C.

      Yes. Bar owners book entertainment. And if they don’t do their homework to make sure that said entertainment is not only qualified but the right fit for the room, then they are just as much to blame of the night sucks.

    • Wayne

      Anld I would flat out refuse to play for a club owner who actually thought like this,,,,, this is probably a club owner who pays very little for talent, and ,most likely doesnt even feed the band….and most likely even makes them buy their own drinks…. bet his club is in a big metropolis..not a small town. Really pisses me off to read that people actually think like this…i dress comfortably…yes sneakers. If I want to..but I also sing and play my ass of for almost three hours….sometimes more…..without a break..so people don’t leave mind you…. And I always take requests…I or we…usually will put out a tip jar and ask for money for requests… Unless we are each paid at least $100 each man for the job.. Any less than that…we need the extra tips… And I am not a big drinker..if offered a drink I will get a simple beer..nothing expensive…order top shelf just for the sake of making the bar money…. That is some real stripper moves right there! .i have played in large cities..Miami for instance…..and you learn to play for the crowd…. A typical gig means loading hundreds if not thousands of dollars into my car…driving there to arrive early… Taking the time to set up and in most cases providing a PA system..couple grand right there….most clubs have not even moved the buffet table or TV, or pool table even though they know you are going to show up at a certain time… Waiting for band members to show up on time…trying to sound check without disturbing customers…playing for three sometimes four hours..then comes the fun part…getting the drunks to stay out of the way and not help move my very expensive gear out of the venue safely…then getting home safely…. If I had a dollar for every time some drunk asshole. Spilled his beer all over my shit…well you get the picture..so for that hundred bucks I put in close to an eight hour day in most cases… Not too mention learning my craft….singing my ass off and trying to give the best possible performance every time…in the eighties I could get $100 per band member for a three, four, or even a five piece band all the time…. Now it is not that easy..and we often settle for much less…nut the hours are still the same..i have been treated like shit by certain club owners and refuse to put one dime into their pockets ever again….others I simply tolerate….I do this because I love it and while I still have the ability I will do so as long as possible. Wen I think I start to suck I will hang it up for good. As a musician we all know certain people with bad habits, or folks who are past their prime but still try to compete… That is what is ruining the market for me…… if I had forty people following my band around like I was Phish..I would simply rent out the VFW buy two kegs of pabst and charge $10 per person and keep the money! Most of my friends are home with their wife and kids not getting shitfaced in a bar….advice to club owners….treat musicians with respect..know your place. Or you run the risk of getting a good old fashioned ass whopping….. Save yourself the trouble and just hire a DJ!

  199. ranjam

    Tell you what, Mr. Bar Owner. Call up the plumber’s union, tell them you need four guys to come to your establishment from 10PM until 2AM, bringing all of THEIR friends to drink and watch these plumbers work. Whatever the plumbers say they’ll charge you, my band will do it for half.
    Just because this ‘business owner’ speaks eloquently doesn’t make him less of a jackass.

  200. Some truth here for sure…but I could write an equally powerful “Open letter to Bar Owners from a Musician” outlining the unprofessional and disrespectful way most bars treat bands – ex. paying them a fraction of what they pay other employees, not paying for, or maintaining, professional p.a. gear, expecting the band to do ALL the promotion, often treating them like crap, hiring a loud rock band and then telling them to play quietly (I love that one) and finally blaming the band for a dead night when the problem is often the bar itself.

  201. Don Taylor

    It;s a pretty simple concept – the bar and the band are in a short partnership and that is to maximize customer experience and encourage them to come back. If the band is relating to the crowd and vice versa, then everyone is a winner and people spend money on booze and even food.

    A band needs to be conscious of what is happening around them and encourage the audience to “get into it”, even by playing drinking songs and numbers that pull the customers onto the dance floor.

    If a band performs and the bar makes money they will be invited back. Otherwise, no matter how well you can play a guitar and sing you will not be able to get gigs.

    I certainly agree with a previous comment that asking the crowd for expensive shooters is not classy or called for. If the band has a jug of beer and openly drinks beer after songs, they will get some bought for them making themselves and the bar winners.

  202. Chuckles

    I play in numerous bands, but have a cover band attempting to get better pay and more visits in a local bar. It is one of the only successful cover rooms in our town, packed almost every Fri/Sat. We have been told we are in the top 3 bands now out of around 20+ trying to play there. Many of the bands are mediocre, 2 or 3 are amazing and have been doing it for a long time. However, we still can’t get much more than about 100 raise for the entire band for a 2 nighter total, after all our hard work rehearsing, playing songs VERY much in the same keys and with the same sounds and effects and quality gear the originals have. And note for note. Not just casual renditions. We choose tough songs, (Back in Black, Streets have no Name, Rock & Roll, and do the songs justice, many people say we sound as good as the real bands.)

    But still, us up against the weekend warriors, and we can only get a 100 differential for being so much better. If the room is packed, why can’t the owner pay a little better? I swear, they don’t often notice the differences enough between bands, except what the ringout is that night. It is not always directly related, how big a party is going on and the booze sales. New drinking and driving laws etc. I am making what a musician made in the 60’s or 70’s to do this job for the bar. We have good gear, look good, and present ourselves professionally and with gusto. Some of the bands have a bigger repotoire but have been around longer, and have many mediocre songs. We choose Quality over Quantity. We also constantly add songs. Not whole sets, but a few here and there. It takes hours to nail a difficult song, first doing your homework, then showing up to rehearsal with your band to perfect it and figure out how it fits into the night. Then finally the public hears it after about 20 man hours of a 4 piece band. At 125/night, I still feel underpaid as by now, decent pay in the 2013 and beyond would be more like 200+/night. We are skilled and spend a great deal of time making sure we are good. Yet In A Typical Night The Little 18 Year Old Unskilled Waitress Slinging The Drinks To Maybe A Fifth Of The Patrons In The Bar Makes More Than I Do Entertaining The Entire Room.
    Yet we are up against the digital age and DJ’s and electronica/club music that the younger folk love. We do add to the night for sure and create a fun atmosphere. You have to take that seriously. But I feel that the value of musicians is much lower to society than it used to be. Y’all think we are bums who just want free stuff. So wrong indeed. The better musicians have pride and work ethic, without attitude.

    My point? As a bar owner, don’t hire the bad bands or the ones not ready, take a listen to them first, and compare what effect on sales live music has on your business, with nights of no live music, and then pay those hard working ones A SKILLED WAGE if you decide live music is making you money and not losing you money………

    • I understand your Frustration chuckles,I have no Idea how long you’ve been in this biz.I learned a long time ago, from Waylon Jennings and a few others ,Less is more! People dont give a shit when their drink about how good you are or how well you did that riff,they want sound and the guy or girl who can rock their world for the nite. When I toured in the 80’s $2,800 a week gigs, 5 piece southern rock. before that I spent yrs. straving until I proved myself as a good entertainer,rehearsal time is on you and gear is on you , $50,000 for gear , trans promo another out of pocket expense ,this a biz. In this day and age you’ll be lucky to make 50 a nite. unless your on a a tour with a headliner totally different show demands.Realize what you want out of this biz and make decisions based on others who are making a living at it. It is a Business nothing more nothing less.Musicians have a dificult time being bizness orientated. You must if you want to survive

      • This is partly a response to your post, but also a general response to various things that have been said here by others. I’m sure that when you had a Southern rock band, you hired guitarists that knew how to play the riffs. A good band is what rocks people. Shitty bands make them go somewhere else. People aren’t all drunks and hustlers. Waylon Jennings got cynical. But he had a name. He knew that people would come to see him who probably didn’t even like country because he was famous.

        Check out the Wortley Roadhouse in London. Always a good band. Always a good crowd. And they promote the music on their website. But any bar should already be drawing people because it’s a place with other attractions, like good food and good service, as well as nice decor. The bands are an enhancement that makes people stay longer. But bands shouldn’t be cadging drinks off people. That turns them right off. It’s a relic of the past. They also shouldn’t be trying to sell drinks for the bar. That’s the job of the bar staff.

        As a musician, I try to make the band sound as good as possible by playing as well as possible. Who says no one wants to hear good playing? Probably some guitar player who can’t play. I see thousands of people in Albert Hall there to listen to Eric Clapton play. So he’s famous. But they were coming to hear him play when he wasn’t famous. Same with Jeff Healey. And there’s many good tunes that people will stick around to listen to or dance to.You don’t have to play the latest Maroon Five hit.

        I think many bar owners tried to cheap out with amateur bands who would supposedly save them money. Then they couldn’t understand why they were losing business. You get what you pay for. And the band are not “employees.” They are independent contractors.

        And let’s correct this lowest-common-denominator truism that’s been repeated several times in this forum. The band is not there to “sell beer.” The bar is there to sell beer, food, and paraphanelia – and to be a community social hangout. And the band is there to entertain.

    • Jesse Bennett

      Correct

  203. This article contains some very valid points that seem more real every gig I do…my beef is with the clubowners that try to cater to too many different things at once….turn off the ultimate fighting on the tvs…in fact turn the tvs off and let the band do their job…not compete with sports and other events..too many times the band is an afterthought that the clubowner is using to make up for the fact that the sports events don’t bring in enough revenue…shoved in a corner on the floor where they fight acoustic hassles all night….the energy supplied by live music can generate income if it’s an event…the musicians are employees..yes but they should also work as a team with management

    • Brian brings up a very valid point. Sports bars ARE NOT… Music Venues. Simple Mathematics will give you a cost analysis of what a bar owner needs to consider when hiring bands (I.E. Entertainment). 1.What is the propose for hiring a band? 2.do you have enough physical space to warrant having a band? 3. what is the added cost to adding entertainment( stage, lighting, extra or separate power to stage.) 4.additional costs; associated with Pros(Socan , Ascap and BMI fees approx. $200-$400 per yr. depending on size and amount of nights live music is being PERFORMED that is copy written or Cover material). I recently saw a band on their last night of a house gig over 2 yrs. get canceled due to no profit for the owner. Running a music venue is much more costly then most musicians think. I have Ran and booked entertainment in clubs and the cost is huge , I did advertise my bands , I also didn’t do Demos , I did auditions live on Wednesdays; reason , As A musician I can make a demo cd almost perfect ,that does not show me what your stage show produces. I have played in bars where the owner were trying to generate something to increase sales, Here is the average body count per room @$20 a head needed in order to pay for 5 piece band for 1 night (5 set of 40 on 15 off) at a good fair $ amount per man. Average cost for 5 piece should be min. $75 per man per show +non alcoholic beverages until last set then one round on house and or meal.
      75 X5= $375 =25 comp drink($5.00 cst +agent fee 20%=$ to agent $64 + 150 if band provides PA and Lights.) that is an est. cost .average total cost for a 5 pice band for 2hrs.=approx. 650+/_.club most seat 75 people who spend$10.00 per person just to cover the band. This does not cover, payroll( Bartender, wait staff, taxes fica, utilities or basically any overhead. It cost the owner to have entertainment per night at the club I ran approx.$1500 to break even per night. using that formula. All other costs advertising venue = $700 ad in local rag mag with event calendar. So Musician Don’t kid yourselves thinking owners are “cheaping” you until you know what the costs are to have you play! Most of the bands I worked with enjoyed playing at my club because I was one of them yet they also found out I demanded professional rate of performance for what I paid them. I had answer to a boss myself. I had to show at the end of the day or week a profit. to put on any type of professional gig costs 65% of your gross take your fixed payout s are band expenses, utilities, supply (booze+ mix)-rent, payroll. It doesn’t take long to see why owner say what they say in articles about what they need from bands.
      For Owners : before you go on a whim and decide to go hiring bands do some cost analysis on providing entertainment on whether it will be profitable with out screwing those of us who depend on music as our livelihood.

  204. sandra

    I have played the Bar scene for many years,off and on. I understand why this owner thinks musicians are there to sell booze, however, you cannot have musicians accepting rounds all night and then complain they are playing drunk. I am a non drinker and cannot count how may times over the years, i have had to be on the stage with staggering musicians, copping bad attitude and being rude and obnoxious to customers. This is a JOB. and I can think no other Job where you are encouraged to get drunk(as in band drinks, rounds from customers etc,) It is NOT the job of the musician to promote alcohol! I will remind customers how hard their servers and bartenders are working for them, but I will NOT promote drinks for the band. I want to know that the folks I am working with are coherent LOL

  205. Bic

    I have lived on both sides of this at the same time (a gigging musician AND a bar manager) for years and there’s no winner on either side of this debate, SOME musicians (not all) are arseholes and SOME bar owners/managers (not all) are aresholes!!

    Long story short…. don’t act like an arsehole and don’t work (or perform) for an arsehole!! LOL!!

    • Jason Melissinos

      Right on Bic!!! I have been playing for 26 years, and managed a venue that one of my bands used to play at as well. Too many bar owners, and musicians, walk around with an attitude like the other “owes them something.” The only way to have it work for both sides is for both sides to do the work!!!

      The bar does have a responsibility to help promote. It’s your bar, why would you NOT promote what’s going on in there? Yes, the bands do promote themselves (the good ones, anyway), but it’s not just up to them. Some of the bar regulars may have never heard of the band, but if the bar mentions them and if they’re good, then their customers will stay and drink.

      Second, don’t try to short change and then complain about the quality. $100 per man is a pretty standard price (although at times it does seem a bit low), so for a four piece, expect to pay $400. When you decide to hire a band for $200, and then they start chasing people out because of how bad they are, the owner has to find fault in himself as well. After all, the owner is the one that hired the band in the first place!! If you pay low prices, expect low quality!!

      Now on the band side, there does have to be a sense of pride, or something that catches peoples’ eyes. From how they appear, to the quality of music (not to mention the type of songs as well), the quality of their playing and sound, and the ability to get people to have fun. That’s what it’s all about!!! If the crowd has fun, the band will be successful, and so will the bar.

      No one should walk around with a chip on their shoulder, or that they’re God’s gift to the world. Believe me, as good as you might be, there are 100 guys in your area 100X better than you. Both musicians and owners need to understand that having an attitude will just cause your respective business to fail.

      Now some will probably say I don’t know what I’m talking about. Well, I would not have been able to keep playing for 26 years (and constantly asked to join other groups, or do sit-ins) if I didn’t know what I was talking about. From Colorado to Florida, I have always been in one of the more successful bands in my area. At the present time, the band I am currently in has even had problems with some venues booking us because of our name; it is a bit risque. But when they have booked us, more often than not, they make money, and keep asking us back. Reason why? As much as I love what I do, it is still a business. You are paid for a service; it’s a job. Treat it like one. Getting drunk and obnoxious (musician or bartender/owner) never helps; it only hurts everyone in the long run.

      When the two sides can come together and realize it takes a combined effort, then they have the blueprint to make it successful. So good luck to you all, and make it the best you can!!!

  206. Chris

    ha .. brings back memories of my full-time club playing days.. one guitar/singer friend would always be having people buy drinks for the band… he’d salute the patron, best wishes.. cheers….down the shot… well…ha… looked like he did… quickly over the shoulder to the floor ….no one ever saw.. so funny!

  207. Steve

    As a Bar owner I totally agree with the person who wrote this letter. Is hard in this world we live in now to keep a business open. We truly do live day to day and count the ounces daily.. Dont get me wrong I love the bar business but its not an easy life and I have meet many bands and DJs who think they are the greatest thing. You pay them big money and draw no one to the bar, instead they spend their time building their fan base with my regulars. they all forget they are employees..

    • Bart Tarenskeen

      Big money? Don’t make me laugh.

    • David

      I don’t know how to break it to you Steve (and the Tampa bar owner for that matter), but the bands you hire aren’t “employees,” and the attitude that you reflect toward the real professional musicians in referring to us like that is probably what a lot of the problem is. We would be described much better as mutually beneficial “independent contractors.” Don’t forget that it’s not just you “helping out the lowly musician.” It is actually at least as much us “helping out the struggling bar owner” as well. As you put it: “Is hard in this world we live in now to keep a business open.” We, as musicians, may come to you for the gig, but believe me when I say that you need us more than we need you (the worthwhile bands anyway). If that wasn’t true, then you would merely stop being a “music venue” right now, and go back to selling your regulars booze at the VLTs all night to pay for the power bill…

      For our part, of course professionalism and attentive musicianship is paramount for performers who truly call themselves “professional.” With that, should come a little respect and partnership instead of believing yourself to be better than your “employees” who are one “write up” away from their walking papers. If that’s your view, good luck finding real professionals who can actually get the job done of increasing your bottom line. Maybe the problem that you have with bad “talent” is the bad attitude you come in with. Treat the musicians as “lowly employees” and that is what you will get: pimple faced amateurs who know little to almost nothing about both musicianship, and business.

      It’s a vicious cycle that YOU as the BAR OWNER create when you treat your bands with anything like the level of respect you seem to in your post. Professionals don’t want to be treated like children. We won’t work like that. All you are left with once that reputation becomes known is children that you will have to treat like children… and it spirals down, again and again… Start with some respect from your end and you might find you have a better breed of musician to work WITH (note that I said “with” not “for”). Maybe you might find that you gain a reputation amongst professional musicians who are actually worth paying, that you are the spot to be at. Believe me, musicians have a network, and we know or are easily able to find out where we should want to play, who will treat us fairly, and who will treat us like garbage or, as you put it, “employees.”

      Maybe a paradigm shift in your thinking is what you will need in getting bands who will come through on your investment. You may need to hang a “under new management” sign up though, in order to attempt to repair your bad reputation amomgst the local bands who matter. Also, consider choosing your bands more carefully. If you have a bad experience with an unprofessional band, just remember who hired them, and whos cash is being squandered by that decision…

      • Wayne

        Right on well said man!

      • Mik

        Not to mention that if this is the way he treats people, he should be expected to be treated the same way- I’ll show up, do my job, and take his money, but if he’s going to act flat-out like I’m disposable? Well, If the bar across the street offers me $0.10 above what he’s paying, I will walk right off stage and tell his customers to follow me over there.

        This event I played a couple months ago? Aside from the fact that they paid decently (not lavishly, but a hair over competitively), they gave us anything we needed, treated us professionally, and thanked us for being there- and we BUSTED ASS to do our jobs to the best of our ability, make money for the venue, and be good guests. I’d go back any day of the week for half of what they paid, and work just as hard, because they’re GOOD PEOPLE TO WORK WITH- And as it turns out, everybody comes out ahead.

        This guy’s article says nothing new about the industry. All it says is that he’s a shitty boss.

    • Kimberly

      I and the musicians I employ are not the bar’s employees. When a bar owner decides to use the services of my Corporation, they sign MY contract. I run a professional organization, and work with the bar owner in the same way as the bar owner’s liquor supplier or jobber. The liquor wholesaler is not the bar’s employee – the bar is the wholesaler’s customer. You pay for the services that my corporation provides. I vet the bar before making a proposal, to make sure that the bar’s patrons and my fans/followers are of the same demographic.

      I act professionally, and do my homework. I expect the bar owner to do the same. Any bar owner who says he doesn’t have time to scan my publicity materials or give a moment’s listen to my work is not serious about the role that entertainment plays in the operation of his/her bar. It is the equivalent of buying liquor for the bar sight unseen, and hoping that the customers will like it. The bar owner should know who their clientele are, and what demographic patronizes their establishment.

      I fully agree with the bar owner’s points about professionalism, but I expect professionalism from the bar owner before I even present the contract. If a bar owner can’t tell me the types of customers that they get on any given night, nor the demographics for any given night, nor their taste in music, I don’t even offer the chance for the bar owner to sign my contract. I bring over 40 years of professional experience and use nearly $50,000 worth of equipment to ply my trade. I’m serious about my work – and the bar owner should be as well.

  208. eric

    i thank the author for the insight…he mentioned things i had never considered…but now will !!

  209. I do have one question that keeps bugging me: if, as a bar owner, all one cares about is selling booze, why not open a liquor store instead and eliminate all of the expenses associated with running a venue?

    • Jesse Bennett

      Once again Greg….’right on the ‘money’.

    • you can get 16 drinks (1.5 ounce of alcohol) out of a bottle, standard clubs (at least in my neck of the woods, are 5 bucks for well, 7-9 for a regular drink, and 12 for premium. So, you get 80 bucks out of a well bottle you purchase for 8 through the distributor, which would sell for 13 at a liquor store.

    • Mik

      A cheap 1l bottle of tequilla that goes for $10, yeilds 22 shots.

      Bar cost per pour= $0.45
      Price of drink= $4
      Markup= 890%

      • Rick

        Interesting question and I’ve wondered that too.
        The thing is many bar owners are in the bar business for the wrong reasons, the same as many musicians are playing in bands for the wrong reasons. Many have egos the size of Manhattan and those egos need to be fed…owning a bar or playing as a band is one way to feed the ego.

        I’ve known and dealt with way to many bar owners over the years who didn’t have a clue about basic business skills. They were either alcoholics who used the bar as an excuse to feed their addiction, social animals who wanted the bar as their own place to hang out in, ran the bar as a hobby (personally I’d rather play golf or fish) or ran it in hopes of attracting and having their pick of female clientelle. I’ve also seen some great local music venues/bars close because the owners put all their profits up their nose.

        To be fair, I won’t paint all bar owners as being how I described above. I’ve played for venues where the owners had their shit together and ran a great place. These were also the places that treated bands well, paid decently and didn’t blame the bands if their alchohol sales weren’t on par for the night.

  210. uncle ward

    Finally!!! I LOVE this bar owner!! he understands why he hires musicians in the first place!!! it’s so much easier to sell what I do to someone who understands why he’s purchasing it in the first place!!!

  211. Dominic Merlo

    For many years I was a working musician in the Vancouver bar scene starting back in the late ’80’s. We did it all and went over seas to perform as well. By 2001 I had built my own live Venue, so I’ve been on both sides of this topic.

    Bottom line it comes down to incentive. If live music is important to a bar owner he will do his due diligence in ensuring the quality of the entertainment in his establishment and provide adequate space, sound system, lighting etc…. Doesn’t matter how good a steak dinner is if it’s presented on a garbage can lid.

    Now this attitude applies to the entertainment as well and I concur with this bar owner with regards to, stage presence, dress and over all talent. I can only speak for Vancouver because I’ve not owned and operated a Venue outside of this city but here is why live music doesn’t work anymore.

    The base cost of alcohol for a bar owner is rediculous, not to mention; staffing, licensing, mortgage/rent, repairs and improvements, security, etc….. the list goes on and on and on.

    When the demographic changed in Vancouver due to immigration so did the audience who prefers live music. The attitude of “build it and they will come” no longer exists. The government along with law enforcement created a “no fun zone” and the struggle to keep your head above water is 10 harder than it ever was before.

    When dj’s are packing stadiums, tell me where the incentive is to pay for live music in your venue? Nobody gives a shit, they just wanna dance and perhaps get laid at the end of the night. Technology has changed the playing field. People listen with their eyes and it’s next to impossible as a band to compete with video and all the tricks that go into recorded music nowadays.

    I sure as hell am glad I no longer play music to earn a living and I’m also glad I sold my Club three years ago after owning and operating for over a decade. It’s a double edged sword with no quick fix.

    • Ron Kidd

      I think you’ve summed it up quite well here. At least for Vancouver and BC the days are over for playing in bars as far as”for a living” is concerned. I did some “A” and “B” circuit playing in Alberta and Sask. years ago – the money’s not great as a sideman in a cover band anyways. And when our sets of country and redneck rock were on break the DJs would pump up the latest Dance music and the floor would fill up with mostly girls dancing with themselves – and the guys would watch them. Nobody cares much about the bands as long as they play the right top-40 country rock reasonably well – they are almost interchangable. Nowaday I think a musicians time is better spent working on original music and self-promotion on social media than running around playing taverns and cabarets.

    • Wesley

      Very well said! I run a little rock and roll spot in Oregon and it’s really hard to get by. My wife and I do it because we love it and the touring underground bands we bring. Bands don’t make a ton of money but the one’s we get do it for the love of the art also.When we do good, they do good. We’re all in this boat together if we’re talking about original music. Obviously, this a completely different facet of the conversation than say a party/cover band and owner relationship. The artists we have are our family and we treat them as such. Hey sleep in the bar/my house…. you guys hungry we got breakfast, dinner etc. I truly appreciate people who do the best they can from either side of the coin. Both jobs are hard and don’t pay that well. I’m just happy there are still people fighting the good fight and keeping live music, just that, alive.

      • Zane...

        You my friend, are a saint…

      • Eric

        Really appreciate this, Wesley. I wish an attitude like that existed here in Los Angeles… land of “Pay to Play”.

        But here, we have amazing bands playing to packed rooms getting paid nothing, because if you don’t want to play for free (or event pay and have your friend’s pay a cover)? There are another 100 bands in line behind you ready to take your place.

        There is little to no respect here anymore. Music is a necessity in LA for these bars and clubs… even the smallest crapholes without anything close to a stage has performers of some sort, be it open mic or PtP bands. So it no longer matters if you have good tunes, tons of talent, or even if you play crowd pleasing covers.

        You don’t matter anymore. They don’t know your name. They forget your band the moment you leave the door. Arrangments are made which change when you so up to play and if you don’t like it? Leave. Another band will show up last minute to take your slot and you’ll never play in the company who owns that bar’s chain of places again… cause it seems now in Los Angeles, the bars are owned by companies who buy out the independents and make all their franchised locations basically the same. They might as well be McDonald’s with booze for all the differences, even if they have different names and themes for the locations.

        Get a few miles out of Hollywood, and you start to see things improve a little… bit not much.

        -E

    • Mike

      Come to Ottawa … the live music scene SUCKS BAD when compared to many other areas within an 2 or 3 hours drive.

      My band finds themselves forces to travel to areas like Montreal, Kingston, Brockville, etc, etc ..

      The crappy part is, as a business, we HAVE to charge more to cover our costs. I do NOT play music to feed my family, and if I gig is good enough and the exposure will pay out huge, we are even happy breaking even with travel expensise .. but we will NOT go into the red.

      When it becomes no longer fun, I will bow out !!

      As for this article, some great points I agree with, some I don’t, and some I dont like but they are still REALITY. I think if you make the bar owner understand your view and your business, and you take to time to let he/she know you understand their business, it leads to a great working realtionship and BOTH sides can be happy

      Just my two cents

      http://www.sterlingrocks.ca

  212. polyorchnid octopunch

    Hm. I would never play any song more than once in one night, unless perhaps it was something like a wedding or birthday party and was requested by the bride or birthday boy. That said… I largely play in cover bands, and yes my job is to sell beer, and material is picked accordingly. I want the audience on the dance floor, because they’re having fun, they’ll drink more beer, and I’ll get more work. That said, that doesn’t mean I (and the bands I play with) can’t aspire to be both great and entertaining.

  213. For the most part I think Bar owners/Restaurant owners don’t get it. They would have a good regular crowd if they had good bands consistantly with some advertizing to start it off. All they have to do is have one cheap gagage band that brings all their friends and his Patrons will leave permantly. They truly live for the now and don’t think ahead. He might have one good cash night but now relys on bands to bring the crowd

  214. signjay

    Lots of good points in the article. Some bars abuse free music, some don’t. Some bands think they invented fire itself just because they have learned three chords and have stood before the mirror imagining they are the next Elvis or Clapton. Those bands don’t deserve to be paid the way a truly professional band gets paid. I don’t quite agree with the Wagon Wheel comment, but I’ve certainly played a night’s worth of music that wasn’t my strong suit simply to please the drinking crowd. The art of it all is presenting what you play in a classy manner. Too many of us came up through the folk scene, when we imagined every little brain fart we had was worthy of the audience’s attention. It took me a while to get out of that mindset, and I’m glad I did.

  215. Patrick Dwyer

    Oh, and play Wagon Wheel 2-3 times in one night. Forget the attitude “I hate the song, I’m not playing that song because every other musician in the city does”. Suck it up buttercup. The bar is packed. People will dance and dig it. Even if you do a mediocre job of it. Trust me.

  216. Patrick Dwyer

    The proper sales pitch? We play music that your customers are familiar with and on top of that, we will bring in lots of people who will drink all night. Otherwise, bar owners will not care. At least the ones who pay good. If you only have one of those factors (ie: we play music that your customers are familiar with but will not bring in lots of people who will drink all night), your chances are lower unfortunately. At least at places like Tol’s and Club One. And they are most likely sick and tired of getting sales pitches from crappy bands. Which sucks because if you have a great band on the go who are really tight, and play really great music, but are just not known, you’re gonna have a hard time. Lets face it, bar owners find it really hard to give even the good musicians the time of day if they are booked solid.

  217. I’m 56 years old. I’ve been playing music all my life. I’ve invested thousands of hours into perfecting my craft. I spent approximately $15,000 on my last cd. I’m blessed to be a full time musician – not because I play bars. For our next show we are working up a while series of new tunes for that pub. That means that in the two weeks we will rehearse probably 10-12 hours. At my regular rate of pay as a music teacher that would mean $5-600. I’ll actually make $100 for the show. I play pubs, and other venues that have the means to put on excellent productions for people who want to enjoy excellent music, not copies of songs they heard on the radio 45 minutes earlier. I also teach guitar and bass, so I too am a business man. How about a little respect!

    In those years I’ve invested thousands of dollars in equipment. My current rig and guitars value around $7,000. Chords, cables, pedals and other accessories are not cheap. But now, someone can go online Itunes to buy one of my songs and pay 99 cents for it, the same price that one would pay for a single back in the 60’s.

    In BC, Canada where I reside, drunk driving laws are so rigid that if you are pulled over after have two beers you could get your drivers licence taken away for a year and your car impounded. All bars and pubs are struggling to survive because of these new laws. So I will NOT push booze for anyone. How much a person chooses to drink is their responsibility, not mine. Many establishments that sell alcohol are struggling for survival, and as a result so are many musicians. But the struggle for survival musicians and the artists is as old as the hills. And it really is true that there are hackers out there who don’t practice and are perfectly satisfied with mediocrity. They give true musicians a bad rap. SO it could be helpful if bar owners who want live music to do a little homework, listen to some music, and drop the arrogant, high minded, self righteous attitude exhibited in this diatribe.

    Some lovers of music and the arts and getting creative in exploring how to help one another make a living, or at least get paid more than peanuts. Perhaps it’s time for some bar owners to discover ways to diversify. I’ve had to deal with guys like you in the past. I don’t know where you are, but I’m glad I don’t play in your establishment.

  218. Tony Dee

    I’ve played bars for about 30 years starting around 1980 and I have seen the changes. I would say that I agree with 85% of what this bar owner says and respect him as a business amn becaus it is in fact the bottom line that determines his success.

    I also agree with his statement that a meiocre band can do more to bring in and keep customers than a top notch band. How you relate to the customers and staff and how you engage them is the key. It’s always the little things likegiving recognition to the customers as they walk in the door, or when on your break going to visit tables and thanking the customer for his patronage and even allowing the odd one to come up and do a tune with the band.

    Having said all that, I do believe that the owner too should do his part. I mean I have worked in clubs that you just have to take a look at the outside of the place and it jut looked like trouble. you seen them I’m sure. Not enough lighting inthe front or in the parking area, dismal looking facade etc. You can oly blame so much on the band. Efforts to make the bar a success is the responsibility of the bar owner, his employees and the band of course. For myself and I believe I speak for others who like myself played the clubs, we can understand how the changes have affected the live music scene and we have accepted it as such. That’s the way the old cookie crumbles I suppose!

  219. As a professional musician, I agree whole-heartedly with the majority of his points. He’s right on the money too. Most bands don’t care what they look like, play too much for themselves in terms of their set list, are messy and too loud during soundcheck, don’t read the room properly ( just because you’ve been on stage for an hour and everyone wants to groove and dance, doesn’t mean you should take a break…keep playing) take requests, don’t be an elitist pig guitar player ( nobody cares about your chops) they just wanna get chicks, dance, and drink.
    Any band worth their salt should be able to deliver, if you can’t…then don’t cry the blues when you’re replaced by a mediocre band ( musically) but has the where with all when it comes to the business of selling booze and hosting a great time.
    Cheers.

  220. J

    As a musician first, I have to agree with a good portion of this. Professionalism is missing in a majority of bar circuit players which is what I think this club owner is mainly expressing. The big thing I disagree with is it’s the musicians job to sell drinks. The musicians job is to perform music or entertain.

    If what you think will sell drinks is butts on the dance floor, you need to hire bands that can get butts on the dance floor. And if you think your club is appropriate for this type of ambiance, you need to hire the appropriate band. Quit hiring acoustic guitar duos with bongos to fill your dance floor.

    Right band + Wrong club = Failure
    Wrong Band + Right Club = Failure

  221. anita

    all bar personel, do your job, sell the booze and the high price stuff. bands do your job, respect yourself, your gig and your audience, and give them what they want. bottom line, customers will order what and how much they want to drink and they will listen to what they like and appriciate

    • jlreyna

      no…not a thing….i will not contribute to the routine programming of the audience…comedy or music should and will be used to snap them out of the controlled state…open thier heads…i dont depend on a bar to pay me…i get my own money…so i can do what i want at all times…thats why the outlaw rules….lie to the bar owner about a friendly cover infested set list….and when the lights go down …do what thou wilt!

      • I realize that your comment is actly why many bar owner s treat bands like children and push rules of conduct.I aplaude yourwanting to be orginal however until you become a seasoned PRO ( a musician who performs for money providing a consumate musical performance that pleases both the customer and the employer to the the highest level possiable).try to consider this : every time a band that carries your attitude deals with a club owner and the club owner does recieve a positive response from their patrons the owner , manager begin to assume all young musicians have little regard for a win win profitable event.I always realize you seem to be unconcerned with those of us who are professionals working to make a living doing what we were born to do.I know your a PuP so I will let your arrogance and god mentality be .I can rest assured my peers feel similarly.

    • Mike

      WORST COMMENT EVER

      The REBEL attitude is fun for about 15 seconds, then like it or not, you are made to simply GO AWAY

    • RW Stoufus

      RIGHT ON ANITA!!

  222. lisawilton

    This guy’s bar sounds a bit douchey, to be honest.

  223. Ramsay Midwood

    Krusty Krab

  224. Gerry Jarvis

    All fair comment, balanced and well-presented. This bar owner has done musicians everywhere a great service… let’s hope more listen!

    Especially the little pencil-necked geek who opened for us in Calgary this past April… had a Fender Jaguar and a kick drum. The little puke slammed into one indistinguishable tune after another with a sour tuning and far too much attitude for his, or anyone else’s, good. People packed up and left because of his sonic mugging, particularly after a session of futile twiddling with his tuners. It didn’t improve matters, and when he snarled into the microphone “I have tuning issues. Deal with it”, the rest of us were looking behind the curtains for the shepherd’s crook from the old Warner Brothers cartoons. One quick whisk, a slide-whistle sound effect and that kid would’ve been history. We did a double bandstand with friends that night, but there’s no doubt that callous kid chased off a couple of tables’ worth of early-evening customers. The bar manager liked both bands and was enthusiastic about having both back, but it shouldn’t have been an uphill climb because of a kid who clearly wasn’t ready for prime time.

    Kid, put in more time in the basement, jam with people (the honest ones will straighten you out and give you a sense of the etiquette involved), and get some life experience under your belt before your next public appearance. Holding your audience in obvious contempt is not the way to win friends and influence people. I wish you well, and hope that in twenty years’ time you look back on your night at the Blind Beggar with a grimace and a face-palm as the night you found out just how much you had to learn.

    • 10 yrs Giggn.

      Haha, I was going to agree with this to a point, until you mentioned Blind Beggar, the epitomy of a bar that has no idea how to be professional. They book 6-8 bands a night, with no idea if they are similar genres, or would click with any other performing bands fans. There bottom line is literally to have each band bring in everyone they know, but only make independent profit off of presale tickets, with potential door earnings, under the guise of promoting “original” music showcases. Wouldn’t be surprised if that geeky kid had a handful of friends who thought your bands sucked and left 10 mins in.

      • Maad

        6 – 8 bands a night? You were confused by a jam night. 3 is the max they ever book. And yes, the BB is a business as well. See letter at top of page.

  225. Bart Tarenskeen

    As a small business man (which musicians are) I can see the oint the bar owner is trying to make, and I agree with some of the things he says.
    However, as a musician I am offended by most of the letter. While musicians should do their job right, which is making music, it is not up to them to sell booze. The bar does that. The bar has live music (or not) to enhance the atmosphere that sells booze. The bar hires the band. If the bar hires the wrong band it’s not the bands fault. If the bar owner did HIS job he’d check the website/youtube channel or whatever to make sure it is the right band for his bar.
    Taking an offered drink from a customer is fine, but asking for the most expensive drink, (and to make it even worse, even if I won’t drink it)? That show a total disrespect for the customer, and to the musician for expecting me to do that.
    The bottom line I get. It IS his bar, his risk. But don’t expect to get good bands that love their music. If you (and this is for the bar owner that wrote the letter) don’t care, so be it, but don’t say in the same letter that you respect them because you clearly don’t.

    • As the entertainment in a bar, where you are playing covers, 90% of your job is to sell booze. You are, for a short while, a member of the bars staff. The only reason to have a live entertainment is to bring more people in.
      You’re not there to get signed.
      Your’e not there for your own purposes.
      You’re there to do a job – that of selling alcohol.

      If you live in the southern states, check out a band called U.S. They have been at this longer than you’ve probably played your instrument. They know and understand this concept. They make a fulltime living doing this and get paid big bucks because of it. They’ve also bought two full functioning studios (Nashville and LA) own a tour coach company, Pro Sound & Lighting Company and work whenever they want.
      Their lead singer is possibly the best frontman you’ll ever see. He sells more booth than Captain Morgan and the Dos Equis guy combined. He’s a great singer and frontman because he’s worked so much, becuase he gets this concept.
      IF you want to be an artist, toil in a rehearsal hall. IF you want to play clubs, you need to learn the rules.

      • I left this comment on a Facebook thread pertaining to this open letter, but shall reproduce it here:

        I can’t help but be reminded of the axiom, “the customer is always right.” The trick is knowing when the customer is (or could/should be) your customer.

        When a venue hires a band, they don’t just want to satisfy their customers – if they couldn’t already do that, they wouldn’t BE their customers, would they? They want to borrow the band’s customers (or possibly secure them perpetually as their own customers). If a band has more customers (aka “following”) than the venue, the venue doesn’t have to care about their regulars; they can afford to jump demographics and still profit from the endeavour. This is why “big name” acts can play wherever they want; they’ll pack the venue to capacity and beyond. If the band has fewer customers than the venue, then said venue requires the band to do whatever it can to satisfy the regulars and draw in a few new faces (assuming they’ll consider hiring them at all). No new faces, no point in having a band at all (as the regulars would be there regardless). No matter the circumstance, the venue is always dedicated solely to the success of the venue. If they could make more money burning it down, it would be ashes by now.

        Both artists and venues need to understand their respective demographics better, and make the choice: are you committed to your product, regardless of its popularity, or are you committed to making a profit without consideration to what the product means to you? Chances are you have some commitment to your product, or you’d be in another line of work. What is that commitment worth to you?

        As a musician, I always have to consider whether a venue serves my target demographic. If they don’t, I have a choice: I can pander to their customers, or take a chance on having an empty venue (and earning a bad rep from the owner as a result), or find a more suitable venue. If a venue wants me to pander, they’ve got to pay a premium for the privilege. If they want me to play MY music, they’ll get a better rate, and I’ll even help out by promoting the gig, but only if I feel I can benefit, too.

        Always remember: the customer IS always right, but they aren’t always YOUR customer. You shouldn’t order tacos at a Japanese restaurant unless you want to be served octopus. Nor should a jazz act expect to thrive in a country bar (or vice versa). I’ll play the dutiful sideman/mercenary for the cover bands playing the bars, but I’ll save my own material for a venue that values it, thank you very much. If nobody dances, so be it.

      • Bart Tarenskeen

        First of all, don’t jump to conclusions: I’ve been playing musical instruments for 42 years. I don’t play music to get signed, I play music because I love it. When I play it’s not to sell alcohol, it’s not even to sell music, it’s to share my passion with other people.
        Read my post, I didn’t say bar owners don’t have the right to do what they do. I just expressed my doubts on whether they’re doing a good job. If you buy something without checking the product don’t go whining if you get burned. If someone takes the time to come to you give him the respect she/he deserves and take time to find out what she/he is doing. If you like it and think it’s good for the club, hire the band. If not, don’t.
        The same thing does apply to the band: check if it’s the right club for you.

      • I have read the face book letter .The bar owner is absolutly correct all the way down the line.I have been in the music business since I was a pup with dreams of Stardom,!!!!!My first gig was at 15 for $50,I was escorted on and off the stage and during breaks sat outside in the back.
        I have worked C B A bars and AAA Vegas type venues. I hate to break it to those musicians that still believe they are Gods gift to the music biz.Performing and working to make a living are two different ideas.
        I know why I play and perform because It is who I am. I work in a bar because I’m being paid to provide a sales tool for the owner to make a profit. The bar owner also knows I’m a pro and a business man like himself I need to make a profit,how I do that isby giving the owner more then he asks for.None of my band members Drank while working,I always know the bottom line= bring women in to a bar the men will follow w/ $$$$.In hopes to get …….. .Many Owners do not know how to promote their venue.Some owners need to be taught this. I agree with the article on Professionalism,quite frankly,havent seen a good professional looking or acting band in many yrs. the Casual dress and tennis shoes and vulgar language makes me want to vomit.I will give you a true example of the importance of Image , In the 80’s I toured Sask. Canada,my band was “silver buckle band” I was lead voalist and fronted the show, I wore 70’s ruffle tux paisly vestand black short tux jacket with a black stetson Hat,my Stage name was the “California kidd”.I did band gigs and also solo,when I could. then , a crooked manager and the Dark side of the biz, caused me to retire and rehab.20 yrs. later in CA. I was doing a gig , And was approached on a break by a person said “I’d know that get up any where, hi Cali,it was a steel player I had worked in the 80’s. My point is you work for a rep. and if you understand this is a BUSINESS on both sides.Stop thinking in terms of Stardom and Fame and prove yourself worthy of getting paid well by giving the owner more ,I did my owner advance advertising in news papers 3 weeks in advance and also got DJ’s to do pr0mos,To all Musicians before you go dising owners ,you need to promote a win win arraingement with owners by proving to them you are able to draw in a crowd that pays his bills.If you can then you’ll make money
        = BOTTOM LINE!!!

      • John

        Leadhead. I have to tell you that your statement is brilliant and right on point. All these guys on here are going on and on about this bar owner cause he is telling it like it is and no one likes it. What you said is exactly the truth. This guy is hiring a band for the purpose of attracting people to sell drinks. Thats it. Its not about the band and i think this is a problem with most bands cause they think they are rock stars. Your providing a service. Its a business. I think a lot of bands are under the impression that because their job takes place in a bar that there are no rules.
        I don’t understand why bands have a tough time with this concept. Thanks for the great post.

    • Right on man. I am going to say it. This guy is a typical sleezy bar owner whom I would never deal with. Besides you can tell by his attitude and approach that he is running a low end room anyway and probably pays his bands crap. Stick with the high end rooms that can afford you. Any club owners who has to keep switching out themes etc, are tail chasers and too uptight to work for anyway. Tip: If you work rooms that also sells food (I.e., the higher end rooms), trust you usually don’t have to deal with this.

  226. great article – and it applies to comedy hosts as well

    -Paul Ash
    http://www.paulashcomedy.com

  227. While I agree with the sentiments expressed above, as a musician I find far too many bars want to be in the live music business but can’t really afford to be live music venues. Some don’t have the right size/type of space, some depend too much on gamblers and/or regulars who won’t pay cover charges, and some just don’t get the finer points of economics. Many don’t feel any obligation to invest adequately in entertainment (and it really must be seen as an investment, not an expense). Regardless of why, many are simply not prepared for the realities of running a live music venue as a business.

    If the bar owner who wrote this decided that he couldn’t afford to pay for alcohol, he wouldn’t suddenly have offers of free booze from suppliers; he’d have no choice but to stop serving alcohol. If he decided he couldn’t afford to pay a bartender or wait staff, they wouldn’t start showing up for free; he’d be left to run the entire establishment by himself. If he couldn’t pay rent or property taxes, he’s wind up without a venue at all. These realities are obviously very clear to the writer, as they are to most bar owners. So why do so many bar owners expect the entertainment to make up for their lack of financial planning? Why can’t they recognize that we have the same basic requirements that they have?

    Now, to be fair, I’m not trying to say anything negative about this particular bar owner; for all I know, he may be the very model of a proper business man, and may treat his entertainment like royalty. What I am saying is that this would be the exception, not the rule. Most bar owners see music as an expense: they consider it a cost that they will do almost anything to avoid, short of not having live entertainment. The feel obligated to have live music because “everybody else does” but never stop to consider whether “everybody else” is thriving or suffering as a result. The result of so many owners bulling ahead with live music is that the musicians often wind up being the ones who suffer.

    Everybody’s costs are up, across the board. It costs more to pay for heat and rent, so minimum wage has risen, and the bar staff have to be paid more. It costs more for alcohol. It costs more for food. It costs more for cable/satellite. It costs more for water. It costs more for everything. As a result, people are more cautious of how they spend their hard-earned cash (be they customers or business owners). As musicians, we really do understand that bar owners are running businesses. Somehow the bar owners seem to be unclear of the fact that we are running businesses, too. Our costs are up as well, so why would anybody expect us to work for the same amount or less than in the past? We have to pay for gas, professional insurance, promotional materials… all the same basic business expenses as the venues. We can’t afford to make up for the venues’ losses.

    I agree that musicians need to be more professional. We need to act and dress professionally, show up on time, and yes, we need to give the audiences what they want. If we are expected to do all of these things, why should we not also expect to be treated professionally? Musicians wages are now at roughly the levels they were at in the early 1960’s. The clubs are more inclined to bring in hobbyists – the “weekend warriors” who will work for a cut of the door (with no guarantee), or for a beer or a meal, if only because they don’t need music income to survive, having day jobs and enough disposable income to live comfortably without it – but they expect them to behave like full time pros. Newsflash: full time pros don’t work for beer. If a full time musician accepts a meal in exchange for a night of work, he/she still has to worry about how to pay for the other 20 meals that week. Full time pros can’t take a chance on playing for a cut of the door alone, particularly when the venue doesn’t put up posters, take out ads, or post events to social media, and even more so when the band is from out of town (and won’t have a chance to put up posters of their own in advance). If you want professional musicians, you need to treat us like professionals. We want signed union contracts. We want guaranteed minimum scale wages or a percentage of the door, whichever is higher (a system which encourages both the musicians and the venue to advertise and work harder to make a profit). We want venues to take some responsibility for advertising their business, and we want them to share the risk with us, instead of expecting us to shoulder all of the expense. In short, we want what the venue owners want: to provide entertainment, to drive the economy, and to make a fair buck in the process. Whether you treat us like employees or like partners, we are in business together, and we expect to profit from that business, just as you do.

    I encourage all bar owners to give serious consideration to whether or not they can afford to run live music venues. If you can’t at least treat the musicians as well as you treat your bar staff – guaranteed minimum wages, tips, notices of cancellation, proper paperwork for tax purposes, etc. – without losing money, then you don’t have what it takes to be a contender and should get out of the live music biz while you still have a business at all. Save yourselves and the artists who would work for you a lot of headaches and stick with a karaoke machine, a jukebox, or a TV.

    • PJ

      Yea…let’s see how your arrangement works out in Fantasyland.

      The fact of the matter is your “expense vs. investment” thing is just marketing doublespeak, likely from a person that’s never owned a business in their life (otherwise you wouldn’t have printed such a thing).

      If a band brings in a great crowd that happily pays the door, and hits the bar hard, the owner will rebook and pay well.

      But if you’re unknown, and there is demand from musicians for places to play out, I’m not exactly sure where the justification for all your other mumbo jumbo comes from. Union contracts? Scale pay? Advertising your gig? Again, it’s the bottom line. If any one of these things paid off vs. the cost (and that’s opportunity & time cost as well) they’d do it.

      • Actually, I do own a business, and in fact I spent 3 years running a live music venue. Stick another foot in there, and you won’t have a leg to stand on.

      • As for venues for up & coming acts: absolutely. We call them dives. There will always be venues for the amateurs who don’t care about being paid. Why do you think karaoke and “idol” contests are so popular? The venues shouldn’t expect these entertainers to behave like professionals; they should expect them to behave like amateurs, or even like drunks, prima donnas, etc.

        Nor should the venue ever expect to get a reputation for great music; they’re going to have to pan through a lot of mud to find the occasional gem, and their reputation may not withstand the search. The place to be – the one that draws crowds no matter what – will always be either the local meat market or the place with the best bands (or both). The “best bands” may not be the highest paid bands, but I guarantee they aren’t working for free. It takes time to build a reputation like that, and it requires an investment in real quality, not giving the gig to the lowest tendered offer.

        In short: if a bar owner isn’t willing to pay for the real product, he/she can’t complain about getting stuck with the cheap knock-offs. Treat musicians like pros and they’ll behave like pros.

      • If you were successful at running a live music venue, you’d likely still be doing that. I’m pretty sure I’m standing on both legs here.

      • Success is a relative thing. I didn’t start the venue, but was the first (and last) to turn a profit with it, such as it was. I wasn’t interested in spending my life running a venue – I wanted to get out and make music. I went on with my life.

    • SP

      Spot on. If someone wants to run a music venue, they will take it upon themselves to seek out quality acts and put actual effort into building their business. Not by waiting for acts to approach them. However, if one takes the time to drop off a promo, it would be a matter of due diligence to give it the proper attention.

    • Joe C.

      Amen brother!

    • You have just described the Fair Trade Music movement that is developing in this country. Check it out and get involved. We would love to have you.

      • I know the people in Portland Oregon who started the Fair Trade Music movement. Last I checked, it was still trying to get a foothold in the club world, but I hold a lot of hope for its success if the musicians stand together and engage the greater community. I believe its time has come!

    • RW Stoufus

      BRAVO GAYLE!!

  228. jammers5

    Chris, I certainly understand the sentiment behind this letter from the bar owner, it makes a lot of sense. On the flip side, there are many bars that take advantage of bands by telling them they have to “take the door” then post their own employee on the door to collect cover charge. In these occasions it seems that the money coming in on the door is often less than anticipated from the size of the crowd.

    I don’t drink when I play, as I have to drive home after a gig. That is why I never accept a drink from a patron of the bar. That will change, not saying I’m gonna drink it, but I’ll take a sip or two. I will also help with sales at the bar with the suggestions above. If that helps get our band back, so be it!

    • You always have the option of not taking a gig if you don’t trust the doorperson. ‘Back in the day’ when I was booking bands The Horseshoe Tavern, one of the best venues in Toronto was also regarded by many as their ‘local’ and it was those people that the bands were trying to impress.

      Only a staff person would have known who they all were. Those people don’t give a rats ass about the band and would not go in if they had to pay…but their presence can also beef up a lackluster attendance on the part of a unknown band.

      It is worth noting that they never had any issue with my adding my own doorperson to theirs and I never had any issue with too many non-paying patrons. When the band was building their audience there were lots…when they had the ability to pack the room, there were not.

      It’s as simple as that. I was happy to have the bodies in the room when the band was building and many of the same people happily paid when the band draw exceeded the room limit.

      • fredzilla

        Sorry, I realize this is a bit of a non-sequitor, but I have to say, one of the factors that makes the horseshoe work so well economically is they have a separate front bar area where regulars can drink if they choose not to pay a cover and go into the band area in back. Very smart. There have been many nights where I would have never hung out because I don’t care for the “act du jour” but stayed for a few beers in front becuase its free and I can have a conversation. Similarly, there have been nights where I was there to drink and a band I’ve never heard of is actually good enough to coax the 5-10 bucks for the cover out of my ever so shrewd pocket.

        also, @dragon: You are not a rock star. You are an employee. Get over yourself. Respect your employer… and good luck.

        (I’ve made a VERY good living for 30+ years as a musician, promoter. engineer, and bar-patron)

    • RW Stoufus

      Jammer5

      Do your OWN thing Baby!

      I have a ZERO tolerance on my Band with drinking because I DO TREAT IT LIKE A BUSINESS. I have seen way too many Bands make an ass out of themselves by partying instead of entertaining.

      The music scene is bullshit these days…
      In most places the Band is just another decoration..another distraction along with the 10 Big Screen TVS…half naked waitresses.

      Why don’t Bar owners consider the Hours of Rehearsals, thousands of $$$ on equipment..hour + load in-set up-sound check & load out time and all the other things it takes to deliver PRO ENTERTAINMENT when they throw a pittance at Bands?

      Last thought…
      Any Bar owner who is depending on a Band to bring a crowd OR Sell booze needs to get out of the business. If I wanted to sell booze I would open a Goddamned Bar myself!

      BW

      • CjGuitarist82

        “Why don’t Bar owners consider the Hours of Rehearsals, thousands of $$$ on equipment..hour + load in-set up-sound check & load out time and all the other things it takes to deliver PRO ENTERTAINMENT when they throw a pittance at Bands?”

        Yes. This.

      • I have a solution, for when bar owners dont consider your time. Become a promoter. Run a night, make a deal for either a % of the bar or the cover fee. Then, if the night fails or succeeds, and you see how much you do or do not make, you have no one to blame but yourself.

      • Why don’t bands consider the hundreds of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars a bar owner has invested building his business? How about the regulatory issues (state liquor licensing, fire code, small business, taxes, etc)?

        If you want to be paid more, move more units. Get more people in the door who pay a cover charge and get those people to drink.

        Like it or not, the band’s job is moving units. Music is just the means.

      • AC50

        It has absolutely nothing to do with how many people you bring in, UNLESS there’s nobody there. Then the musician become the whippin’ boy, even if it’s not his fault. The club owner needs a scapegoat, and the realities of the business are hard to face. It’s easier to blame the musician, even though nothing gets fixed. I’ve seen too many instances where a band has packed the house and the club owner still won’t budge over $300. These guys want to make ALL the money. It can’t work that way.

  229. TGM

    I’ve just met the Simon Cowell of bar owners. I’m lucky enough to know bars willing to experiment with different styles of music, and they cram the place regardless (they have no issue with bringing in a profit either).

    Ultimately, if you have a good enough bar to begin with, you’d be able to diversify.

    • hardwork

      This guy you disrespecfully call “Simon Cowell” is your BOSS! He took time to articulate to you, how his business runs, which you probably won’t be a part of…Lose the Rock Star attitude

      • chugg

        The “boss” has a more “rock star” attitude than an actual rock star.

      • So is his experience invalid?

      • DS

        HA HAHA HHAHAHAHA
        Stop going to bars to listen to music. Then he ceases to become “the boss.” End of story. Fire your boss.

      • HCR

        How is it you know that this bar owner is TGM’s boss? Considering they’re giving an open statement (second sentence, I’m not going to touch the first one). There is nothing in there about TGM being in a band, they could simply be a patron at the bars they are describing, and if that’s the case, isn’t the bar owner in the original post working to please the patrons, i.e. TGM?

      • vin

        He’s not your BOSS – I can’t stand how many people immediately expect one to become totally subservient to the person paying you money.

        The relationship is more similar to that one has with a CLIENT. If the client doesn’t like your work, he won’t hire you again.

      • beer-selling bassist

        Is he dissing that bar owner? Yeah, Cowell is over the top in acting the ass for TV but his observations and business accumen are spot-on. High standards are high standards regardless of whether they are heralded by trumpets or brayed by an ass.

    • “I’ve just met the Simon Cowell of bar owners.” Seriously? I try to avoid characterizing someone I have not met, but such a comment based on this thoughtful letter inspires me to regard you as a fool…and that’s the most generous term I could think of.

      I have managed bands that were thankfully quite professional and completely understood their relationship to the success of the joint business venture they were engaged in. I’ve also been driven out of bars by inept and thoughtless musicians that had no sense of how to manage their sound.

      A bar is a business and so is a band. If you don’t agree with that, then you are simply one of those that will never be able to spend your life inhaling your passion.

      • Lol4U

        “Seriously? I try to avoid characterizing someone I have not met.”

        “…then you are simply one of those that will never be able to spend your life inhaling your passion.”

        You are a hypocrite.

    • Dragon

      I don’t know about “Simon Cowell”, but the bar owner is off base here. Your bartenders job is to SELL YOUR BOOZE! The bands job is to ENTERTAIN YOUR CLIENTELE ONLY! Get this fact STRAIGHT BAR OWNERS! Yes, good bands have followers, and yes they will come, and yes we will drink..if your prices are fair, I have been to way to many bars that jack up their prices when they have live entertainment. As for a cover…get real..these are local musicians playing not International Name Acts. As a PR man, I WILL NOT PAY a cover, because I can go see that same band on another night for free. Also a good venue will be prepared to pay a good band a reasonable rate(usually $100/band member on average) and or if unable to do this they will at least go a decent rate with a small bar tab included for the band. Musicians appreciate this! Bar Owners-if a band gives you a demo….listen to it…don’t just hire joe blow’s band…because they can sling a few drinks for you, if that’s what your after hire them as bartenders. Those of us who follow and SUPPORT local bands/musicians are a tight nit family….we take care of each other and will quickly BOYCOT a bar that treats are family poorly……so be ware you actions and ignorance on what a entertainers JOB is may cause you to loose your business!

      • interesting post. one thing, you say you SUPPORT local bands musicians. and then (these are your caps) I WILL NOT PAY A COVER. I’m sorry but those two statements are directly contradictory. And no we aren’t International name acts, that’s why it’s 5 or 10 bucks and not $125. Just sayin, but right on and continue to support local music in whatever way you can.

        Thanks

      • Keith

        DRAGON the bartenders job is to PREPARE the drink you ordered, The Band is hired to entice the crowd to stay & have a few. IF THEY SUCK they will have NO ONE catch that slackjawed new song they can’t play correctly. As for the tight knit family the real “friends and followers” have no problems paying the cover charge, these friends and family know that money may mean they get to eat a good meal tomorrow. So MR PR MAN take your attitude and realize that boycotting will only get you back to the 9-5 grind faster since no one heard your tune, and now no one really cares. Which makes you one of the many “I didn’t even get to be a one-hit wonder.
        And so you know I have worked in the industry for over 30+ years.

      • Conquistador

        As a bartender and a musician who played the local circuit as well as toured, I can tell you you’re dead wrong buddy.

      • thep

        Based on your post, I suspect you have no clue as to the operation and management of a bar and not an inkling as to what the daily operational costs and risks are. The restaurant and bar business is one of the riskiest and most difficult enterprises to attempt. So, I’ll address your post a bit at a time.

        >>”Your bartenders job is to SELL YOUR BOOZE! The bands job is to ENTERTAIN YOUR CLIENTELE ONLY! ”

        Any and all persons in the employ of the club are there to move product… period. The bars business is to sell drinks and/or food. That is where 99.5% of cashflow stems from to make payroll, rent, insurance, inventory purchases, repairs, ASCAP/BMI, employer payroll income taxes, social security taxes, unemployment taxes, state income taxes, state sales taxes, licensing, inspections, internet/phone, television, electricity, gas, CO2 and NO/CO2 gas, linen/laundry, alarm monitoring, trash removal, advertising, credit card processing fees, walkouts, office supplies, pos systems, draft tap cleaning and outright theft.

        For the owner/operator it is a zero sum game. Failure rates have been estimated to be as high as 60-70% within the first two years of operation.

        You, as a musician or band, are hired to increase sales. Optimally the cost of having you is offset by an increase in sales. Those sales must be above and beyond what the bar would have sold without you there.

        >>”I have been to way to many bars that jack up their prices when they have live entertainment. As for a cover…get real..these are local musicians playing not International Name Acts.”

        We charge $2.50 per beer. Cost is currently $0.77 for a bottle of Bud Light. I am going to ignore operational costs of having a band in this calculation (extra staff, extra clean up time, extra repair costs from damage, extra electrical consumption, extra gas consumption ect). Based strictly on a gross margin of $1.73 per bottle of beer and a band price of $600 for an evening an additional 347 bottles of beer must be sold to cover the cost of the band. And, again, I’ve completely ignored the operational costs.

        >>”Bar Owners-if a band gives you a demo….listen to it…don’t just hire joe blow’s band…because they can sling a few drinks for you, if that’s what your after hire them as bartenders.”

        I work 80-90 hours per week. I worked 92 consecutive days in a row without a night off. I sleep, on average, 4 or less hours per day. I am approached in some form (in person, email, phone call ect) by a band on average about 3 times a day. Much as I would like to listen to every cellphone recorded Demo CD that comes my way the time simply does not exist as I carry a continually growing priority list that is operationaly fundamental to be addressed first.

        Your entire post smacks of dumbfounded arrogance and ignorance of the economic and stress forces at play in the industry.

      • P west

        Wow… You sir are an idiot… I have played professionally for 15 years travelling this wonderful country meeting great people… get your head out of your ass!!! Want to be a rock star, go to L.A. (or, Seattle, Atlanta, Minneapolis… whatever the “Hot Spot” is, live in your car, pay your freaking dues…) It is not up to the bar owner to support YOU… Bottom line actually is…you are there to make that event successful and make money for who ever is hiring you. By the way, Mr. all knowing PR man… what use is a demo? Really? This does not necessarily represent what the band sounds like live… ever watch any late night T.V. ? Thought so… PR man sounds like a frustrated musician to me!

      • Gary Guitar

        P West, you’ve been playing professionally for 15 years? That’s pretty impressive. When you’ve got close to 50 years under your belt, you’ll probably realize what utter bullshit the entire “business” is. If I knew in 1965 what I know now, I’d have RUN in the opposite direction. Carry on! ;-)

      • As someone who has managed a bar (in Tampa at that!), you are completely WRONG. The main reason ANYONE THAT IS WORKING IN THE BUILDING is to SELL BOOZE. Anything else is secondary. The ONLY reason the band/DJ is there is to entertain people WHILE THEY ARE BUYING DRINKS. It isn’t about “supporting local music”, it is about one thing, and one thing only, putting money in the register. The bands/DJs that realize this are the people that get gigs. Plain and simple. Same thing goes for Bartenders, Doormen, Bath room valets, etc…Of course there has to be give and take, but the best bands are the ones that bring in people that want to drink and have a good time. You may fill the room, but if everyone you bring in is drinking water, you probably won’t be back. If the lead is getting people to buy shots, rounds, food, and tip the bartenders, if you only have half the room full but they are spending, you are going to get an invite back (we can always help you with promoting yourself). And, managers don’t have TIME to listen to every press kit they get. Same thing with HIRING bartenders. When I’ve run a hiring, several 100 people show up for a handful of jobs. You have to get my attention in 3 minutes, I don’t have the time for your life story when there are 200 people after you to interview. Impress me quickly, or you aren’t that impressive. Kudos to this bar owner! He tells it like it is, you don’t have to like it, but it isn’t like he is bullshitting you on what he is looking for. He is basically giving you a blue print on how you keep a full time, paying gig. You may not like or agree with it, but he is the one DOING THE HIRING, so, IF YOU WANT TO GET HIRED, you MIGHT WANT TO PAY ATTENTION. I wish I knew his name, because I’m probably already a friend of his!

      • Gary Guitar

        And you club owners wonder why you’re dying? And don’t tell me it’s not so, I see bar after bar start up and die within a year. And then someone else tries to start one in the same location, they fail, and they wonder why? You guys don’t just get it. You weren’t in business back when the music scene rocked all over the country, Back then, any successful club owner bought RADIO TIME and ADVERTIZED their venue and events. And the places were ALL packed, You don’t do that. Tell me what club owner you know who does that. Where’s your advertizing?? Half the time, the club owner can’t even be bothered to put the band’s name up on the sign out front. Are you kidding me??? You shoot yourself in the foot, time after time,

        On top of that, you hire the cheapest bunch of rank amateurs you can find. You think a $300 band is gonna sound good and be pro?? Dream on. You get what you pay for. You want to pay peanuts, you’ll get monkeys. Meanwhile the audiences wonder why all the bands/musicians suck anymore. They’re gonna risk a DUI driving across town to see a shit band? I don’t think so. Go on, cry poverty. After a while, even an idiot figures it out.

        You act like you’re doing us a favor to play some stinky little shit hole in the wall. Some of the places I’ve played haven’t even been CLEANED, let alone maintained, for past 30 years. It’s a freakin’ BAR. And it’s either a good bar, or it’s not. Have YOU got a following or not? Because bands who have the kind of fan base you dream of are generally playing the kind of venues that sell tickets on the strength of the name. And they’re there for the music first, the booze is an after thought. Half you guys don’t even have a stage, let alone one with lighting and adequate electrical service.

        Sell booze? You know, the more I think about it, some of you guys are about a half-step above a common drug dealer.

        You’ll never figure it out, and you won’t stay in business. But the ones who do are the ones who are smart enough to realize that a GOOD club has their own following, EVERY night they have entertainment. I could tell you how and why, but it just ain’t my job. You want the band to fix your failing business because you don’t know what you’re doing. It AIN’T THE BAND’S JOB.

      • Melinda Houston

        Spot on “Dragon”!

      • Norval

        Your own final words were “….so be ware you actions and ignorance on what a entertainers JOB is may cause you to loose your business!”

        You include: “be ware” and not beware, “you actions” not your actions; “actions and ignorance on” instead of actions and ignorance toward; “a entertainer” not an entertainer; “entertainers JOB” instead of entertainer’s job and “loose your business!” might better be written as – lose your business.

        A am confident that anything that might have been of value before was lost with your closing statement. And you dare to suggest that someone else is ignorant.

    • Barry

      Bars are not charities. Its not their job to give your band a venue to play in. Being a bar owner that brings in bands does not obligate them to “diversify,” just so your band will have a place to play.

      I thought the point was pretty clear. If you want to play, bring good business. If you don’t want to bring good business, then don’t cry that bar owners aren’t just giving you a place to do whatever you feel like.

      A few adendums should be added to this article including bands that complain that no one will support them, yet they won’t support other bands (including those who hook them up with gigs) and one about bandmates who don’t do any work for the band beyond showing up and playing, but then complain about not getting good shows or not getting paid enough.

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