Very true and an interesting read. NJ venues (not so much clubs anymore) are the same way. It's a vicious cycle for bands just starting out especially for younger musicians. I remember being in high school and after getting a good band together starting to play out. We'd have to bring 25 people at $10 a ticket in just to play at a crappy VFW hall in the middle of nowhere and play with a "sound guy" (a.k.a. dude who turns on the PA and stands in the corner AWAY from the board and ignores you when you ask for more vocals or guitar in the monitor [yes, SINGLE monitor]). We bring out 30 people to our first show there, mostly friends and family, while none of the other 6 or 7 bands set to play for the next 4 god damn hours bring nearly as many. Needless to say, they love us. They book us back again the next month. We bring 25 people again. We get booked again and only bring 12. Needless to say we near get cursed out and threatened to be taken off the bill.

I can understand the crappy PA and sound guy because, hey, it's a VFW hall what do you expect. But what I can't understand is how renting out a VFW hall on a Sunday afternoon when it's closed anyway and between the 7 bands there who either sold or provided with their own money the "ticket revenue" (required $250 a band, best case scenario if the band pays that amount regardless that's $1750) doesn't allow the "company" (and I use that term loosely) to get a decent PA or a sound guy who isn't going to be texting on his ****ing phone the whole show.

So basically you get an overbooked show with mostly new bands expected to promote and draw people to their first show just to fill the pockets of some deadbeat prick too lazy to get a real job. These bands don't see their fan base really growing despite all the promoting and practicing they're doing. These VFW shows used to be organized by local bands and charge $2 or $5 to see a few local bands (but they still had a more popular act that at least drew). You weren't expecting a full house but at least everyone was having fun and no one was required to pay out the ass just for the "privilege" of playing in a ****ing gymnasium. So, it's not just clubs but also the greedy and lazy booking agents that prey on new bands just trying to get their start. You're better off playing in your ****ing living room and getting you friends to come over. At least then you might actually have some fun.
This article basically states that the musicians expect someone else to do all of their promotion and leg work for them, then pay them on top of it. The article is one sided showing both parties not having a clue about business.

Both parties have to promote and sell the product like any other business arrangement. I promote my brand (the act and the musicians are a brand) both on the wholesale (the venues and booking agents) and retail (the audience) markets but only sell wholesale. Would a detergent manufacturer solely rely on the local grocery store to market their product for sales or would the local store stock and promote that they sell the product that the world already knows the brand name of?

Quote by Linked Article
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.

If it was the producer of the wine, not the bar that sells it, they would probably be there with bells on as well as including the event information in their overall marketing. In fact we have done this with a regional winery where their rep set up a table at a local artist's unveiling and reception at an art gallery. We provided music and sound and we also managed to get proceeds of the evening donated to a charity. We made sure we had a guest list of double the capacity of the venue two weeks prior to the event knowing that if half the list showed, it would be a miracle. We hit about 80% capacity with extra guests showing up.

The art gallery, the winery, the charity, and us all promoted the event. The winery listed every distributer where their product could be found, the art gallery sold the artist's work and got to show their other products, the charity made a few thousand off of donations and some volunteers got to attend a good party and network with others they might not normally meet, and we had 200 people listen to our music and we handed out swag with a list of venues we could be seen at in the next couple months as well as coupons to download our music. That is called marketing.

As a bonus since we supplied the sound system everyone used, the charity gave us a tax receipt for a fair market rental value of the equipment because we "donated" it.

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

The venue promotes the band name (the brand), puts who is playing on their website, has it written on the wall for two weeks previous, does the social media thing, etc. Saturday night shows up and even the regulars have found a more entertaining option.

That means your band has no selling power, decent venues would never leave it up to anyone else to market their product nor would they hire entertainment that has no following to maintain their current customer base and hopefully bring in some new. If the band drives away current customers and doesn't attract new, why would anyone hire them ever again. The band has to bring people in and if five old guys playing 70s covers in business suits packs them in with their own branding and marketing, the venue will most likely hire them again.

Quote by Linked Article
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 ofthe 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.

This is wrong on so many levels. Chances are a "bad band" isn't going to fill your venue, even if it does, maybe some of those band's followers go, "well they had the guys I follow in last week, they aren't playing this week, maybe I will pop in and see if they have something comparable tonight?"

My Thoughts

The only thing that this article has correct is most bar and club owners and management really have no clue about what they are doing. When I see a club with a new name and the "Under New Management" sign up in the exact same location where three previous owners failed in the last ten years I just shake my head. What makes the new owners think they are going to do differently then the last three no matter what the format change.

The other great failure, a bar with seven thousand televisions of varying quality and vintage playing sports and news 24/7 suddenly has a "Live Music Night", who the hell is going to show up? The argument will be used they are trying to attract a new crowd, however what happens?

Well, no regulars will show up and if they do (usually on the first attempt of this) they just stare at the televisions in the standard alcohol induced coma that they perfected in the last 8 years and three bar owners. It isn't a Jazz Club or a music club. Not going to play there, you have to choose your venues, my crowd will avoid a bar like that like the plague.

Popular clubs are generally very genre and demographic centric. Be careful where you book. My act is not going work at a twenty something demographic looking for driving beat dance music so they can strut and attract the opposite sex for well ..... you know ..... sex.

Jazz club, receptions, lounges and private parties. You better be really good and read a crowd. You also better have a saleable name and brand. You don't get hired unless you sell out (meaning the venue to capacity), that is how it works. No one will hire you for a private function or reception unless they know and like your show. This is the world of everything you do is to promote your band and this sounds like where the author of this article wants to be but he feels entitled to a free ride into that world and is not doing his homework on potential venues. You don't take a gig because you need a gig, if it doesn't fit your plan and has no point, it is useless to you or worse, will hurt you.

I also happened to go to the article's author's website to check his marketing (well first I google'd it and found out several David Goldberg musicians who have died so I typed in the published link that got forwarded to a completely different site which he is part of). Generic site created by some unknown media company playing music obnoxiously loud. An unflattering stock band photo at some festival with someone else's advertising visible on banners in the background, great branding. It would have been better if they had a "band standing in front of a brick wall" photo. His "Upcoming Performances" list has everything since 2006 listed on it, hardly "upcoming". This was a big "huh?" for me, I don't care what you did a half a decade ago. Go figure.

TL/DR Version

Playing to an empty venue then blaming the operator means a lot of failure happened along the way.

The operator doesn't understand that a band showing up will not automatically be profitable and if they are hiring off Craig's List, face it, serious business management failure. You can't make money off an unknown. If the room is empty then either the band has no local branding or draw, or no one knows the show is on. The venue may also be widely known for hiring crappy acts as well, doesn't matter how good you are, if you are unknown in a bad reputation venue, dead at the gate. Fairly freaking obvious.

The "Professional Musician" isn't very professional if they don't have a guaranteed following in their market (either genre or regional). Why would someone hire me if my brand won't bring in business. They sell beer, wine and spirits based on the manufacturer's marketing and branding (look at the walls of a bar or club, alcohol based swag with logos in every corner as well as a standard sports shirt signed by some celebrity), why not the entertainment. If they can attract more customer's by playing canned music, why bring in your band? You don't show up, set up, grab complimentary drinks and try and scam a free dinner then expect the venue provided you with an audience, sorry, you are wrong.

Fact is, not every gig you are offered should be played, you may do better to pass a show you know will fail then to take everything offered and expect it all to work. Worst case is to take the gig and rely that everyone else will sell it out and make you famous, not going to happen.

Dammit, even the TL/DR got too long.
Last edited by Quintex at Jan 21, 2012,
^ Ownage

Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.