Advice needed from gigging/signed musicians.

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I like Bull's attitude too. In addition, there's nothing wrong with trying to get all you can either. You must ask to receive. I don't know that anyone would fault another's ambition. I think it will gain you more respect than sheepishly accepting what they tell you. Can't win if you don't play. Might not change anything but you will feel better about yourself.

A guy in my new band, he's a hoot, they call him "America's Guest"...he got his car towed at the only gig I've done with them so far. $475.00 charge. He talked the Philadelphia Parking Authority down to $160.00 and a CD lol. He's one of these guys you instantly like. I don't know what he said, but he got them to like him. Gift of gab man. I wasn't there, but it illustrates my point. Sometimes you really should go for it.
 

choki

Senior Member
The reason that so many venues don't pay is because so many bands are willing to pay for free. At some point you are actually hurting yourself by taking an "exposure" gig. The question you have to ask is, "Is somebody making money off of this gig?". If the answer is yes, you are being taken advantage of. I don't care if you are playing a festival or a church, if everybody else is getting paid, so should you. I'm sure the guy cleaning the bathrooms is getting paid, the promotor is getting paid, the guy selling tickets is getting paid, so should the bands. I may make an exception if the gig is a benefit for something I really care about, but other than that, I'd rather just spend my day at home.
 

dale w miller

Silver Member
My feeling exactly: the "exposure" you'll get from being the band on just before Metallica is one thing. Being the opening act in the Skronk FM Undiscovered Tent on the first morning before any one else has actually shown up is another.

Play, don't play - seems to me it will do little to further your career in the long run because your band is viewed by such "promoters" as the same as any other act without a decent booking agent - i.e disposable. I suggest you try your best to get on the books of a proper booking agency. These are the people the promoters and festival managers go to in order to do real business.

I think the F-word gets people excited too easily because it conjures up images of Woodstock and the Isle of Wight etc. The reality for most bands - especially as there are so many bands these days - is more like what you've experienced. I knew a UK act that got booked to play the SXSW festival in Texas. All very exciting on paper, but then you find out that this "festival" is really a couple of weeks of loads of venues having separate gigs all over Austin - much like the Edinburgh "festival" of comedy. Yes there will be thousands of people in town at that time, but if you're still playing in a club that holds 40 people at 2 o'clock in the morning then how does that help make you a rock star?
SXSW is one of those festivals you have to play to keep your band on the people's minds and I've done so many times. If you are in a position as you described, it may not be so thrilling. At the very least they pay a minimal fee or your choice of passes. The idea is to play often, including the day shows which usually provide free food and beverages for even the guest.

The reason that so many venues don't pay is because so many bands are willing to pay for free. At some point you are actually hurting yourself by taking an "exposure" gig. The question you have to ask is, "Is somebody making money off of this gig?". If the answer is yes, you are being taken advantage of. I don't care if you are playing a festival or a church, if everybody else is getting paid, so should you. I'm sure the guy cleaning the bathrooms is getting paid, the promotor is getting paid, the guy selling tickets is getting paid, so should the bands. I may make an exception if the gig is a benefit for something I really care about, but other than that, I'd rather just spend my day at home.
Let's us face it, unless you're in a wedding band, it is not about entertaining people. Your role as a band is to draw people to drink the clubs overpriced liquor. They honestly do not care how good you are. If you have more friends that will go to their club, they will rather have you than the greatest sounding band. Because of this, these clubs no longer have reputations that no matter who is playing, people are going to see good music. There is no longer a house following. Without a guarantee of income for the club, they cannot guarantee the band a decent wage.

This leads to the idea that these younger bands will play for anything. They just want to get their foot in the door somewhere. They will play for next to nothing simply for the experience. What makes it worse, the pay to play is even on the larger levels. I was told by people who've played it that the top 3 acts of the Oz Fest are the only ones paid. Most of the other acts actually pay Sharon and her cohorts to be apart of the festival.
 

Bull

Gold Member
If a club doesn't pay you,it's because you don't draw. It's as simple as that. It might take a freebie or two, at the bottom of the bill, to prove yourself. If you fill the place up,they will want you back and they will pay you.

Playing a free support slot is no different than any business owner spending money on advertising. You come out of pocket in hopes of increased future business.It usually works.You have to get in front of NEW people to survive.It's continually preaching to the saved that will kill you. Every week there will be a few less people and no one to take their place.
 

choki

Senior Member
People seem to forget that the club owner has the responsibility of promoting their club. If it's solely on the band to get people in the door, then the club owner should pay the band a promotion fee. The club owners that understand that are usually the ones that are making more money. The fact is that a LOT of club owners are very bad/lazy when it comes to doing their jobs, and the people that get screwed are the very people they rely on to bring people in the door.

Obviously a new band just getting started isn't going to make a lot, but I draw the line at playing for free. If at the end of the night the money you spend on promotion, gas, and parking is less than what you get for the gig, you're doing it wrong. Your live shows are not a "business expense", they are what you do for revenue. Recording/promotion/producing merch/management fees/transportation costs are all business expenses. These expenses are paid with money earned from performances. If you want to give a free sample of your product, setup a free download of a song online, don't give away a whole performance. Get paid for your hard work.

If the club stops hiring bands and replaced them with a DJ/Karaoke/trivia contests/etc., do you think think those guys will work for free?

Musicians have a constant fear of being replaced by machines, so they put themselves in a position to be taken advantage of.
 

Bull

Gold Member
No one is saying to constantly work for free but if you don't occasionally get yourself in front of NEW people,your only draw will be flies. I strongly suggest not relying on anyone else to do anything for you. Most national acts don't need you on the bill.That's why a local original band plays a national show for free.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
This debate has no resolution. Both sides have equally valid points. Until there is any kind of unity among musicians, this is the way it will be, save for the ultra charismatic ones who can talk anyone into anything.
Unity among musicians....I can't even get support to change something trivial like depth x diameter, I can't see musicians banding together and refusing the status quo. There will always be someone who will ruin the effort, for what seems to be valid, if not short sighted, reasons.
 

Drum Mum

Member
What makes it worse, the pay to play is even on the larger levels. I was told by people who've played it that the top 3 acts of the Oz Fest are the only ones paid. Most of the other acts actually pay Sharon and her cohorts to be apart of the festival.[/QUOTE]


This is eye-opening, to me anyway! I knew it was the norm at the "bar level", but this takes my breath away. Greed knows no bounds. I'm an amateur, so for my former band, getting a bar gig was a "big deal." While I have a need to play for people, the need to save my money and not have my music become an overly-expensive hobby is much stronger. It's one of the reasons I got disillusioned with it all, and am taking a break from the "band thing."

I really liked the comments that encouraged signing on with professional management, and advised looking into the circumstances under which this band would be performing. No sense playing to four people before anyone arrives. I wish you luck!
 

Drum Mum

Member
If the club stops hiring bands and replaced them with a DJ/Karaoke/trivia contests/etc., do you think think those guys will work for free?

Musicians have a constant fear of being replaced by machines, so they put themselves in a position to be taken advantage of.[/QUOTE]

Choki-really good question, and even with my limited experience, I know that the answer is "no." The DJs won't work for free. In an email communication with one, I was given two pieces of advice: if you're good, the work will come and you will get paid, and said DJ was getting $200 a night doing his thing.
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
At the end of the day, support acts PAY TO PLAY.
I was saddend to learn this fact many decades ago.

I think I remember reading that it cost George Thorogood $80K to open for the Stones in 1980?


Bottom line: It's a tough business. If you want to play, you suck it up until you get some leverage.
 
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