Going rate for bar gigs?

retoxtony

Senior Member
Just wondering what the going rate is for a full band to play a bar? I got into a pretty heated discussion earlier today with our singer about going rates for a bar. We were asked to play in our local bar in a few weeks and they asked what we would like to charge. I've never played a bar gig with this band, but in the past with other bands we've always charged between $5-800 depending on the night, and how long we play. I've always been told this is actually on the high side of things so i've never complained. Our singer seems to think we should be charging far more than that.

So whats the going rate where your at? Am i wrong to think that $5-600 is pretty fair for a starting out cover band to play in a small town bar for a few hours?
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Only other bands or musicians that live in your area can give you that answer, unfortunately. Each market has different going rates and different expectations of live musical acts, and probably some differing numbers of acts competing for these spaces to play.

I've gigged up and down the West Coast, and I've been told everything from $200 a band member (the band walked away with $1K at that gig, but it was a very upscale winery selling $75 bottles) to "you're doing it for two free drinks and the exposure". Your mileage will most certainly vary.

Having said that, let the vocalist make his high bid. Where's the harm in it? If they pay it, so much the better; if they barter you down, you probably will end up on your typical going rate anyway.
 

Morrisman

Platinum Member
Definitely varies a lot.
It boils down to how many people will be buying drinks for how many hours. Hundreds of audience for 4 hours means 100's per band member. Dozens of audience for two hours means a lot less.

Our 50's band plays four hour gigs for $500 - 800 (Australian $)
Our typical audience ranges from 50 - 150.
 

spides666

Senior Member
AS was said really depends where you live

In the UK I was getting $120 Aussie equivalent and I wouldn't put my kick drum in my car for that here in Aus

Now low end is $200 and up to $400 for some shows, each
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Am i wrong to think that $5-600 is pretty fair for a starting out cover band to play in a small town bar for a few hours?
Assuming around 2 hours of playing, I'd say that's more than fair. Takes quite a few drinks sales, & the additional staff cost to serve in a timely manner, to cover that cost. Ask yourself this - will this band generate an additional $1,200 - $1,500 in drinks sales?
 

Woolwich

Silver Member
There's no way to give a definitive answer because there are so many differences between bands, pubs, the night of the week the gig is held on, the town or city, the county and on this multi national board the Country! I will echo what alparrot said though, if your singer is happy to ask for a higher figure then as long as he's polite about it then worst case scenario is that you'll end up getting what you usually ask for.
Examples from my time in pubs.
I was once in a band that had a good following and when we played one particular pub in our home town it was always rammed all night. At one gig the lad who booked the band's came over to us and said "Thank heavens for you lads" (except it wasn't the word "heavens" he used). "We had 'Well Known Local Tribute Band' here last Saturday and it was terrible. I've always been a huge fan of [the band they were a tribute to] & I hardly recognised any of the stuff they played. And they played the stuff I did know terribly. There was hardly anyone in and most of them left in the interval. It cost us £350 and until tonight we were on to make a loss this month".
We were on £200 and thought that it was the 'going rate'. To our minds £350 was too much to ask but we raised our fee for subsequent gigs there. As an aside, the band he paid so much for had a massive reputation built mainly on a local music forum and when the lad we spoke to then rang other pubs it turned out that all of their gigs were similarly bad and poorly attended. Within a few months that band folded and many people who'd never got round to seeing them shared their sorrow online. The power of the Internet eh?
I'm now in a new band getting it off the ground and learned that another local band (albeit a 6 piece who've built up a good following over the years) are asking almost double what we intended to ask. We don't have a track record but all 4 of us are well known from our previous bands and will be 'leveraging' that when we play so our intention is to ask for more than we did in the past. We've already taken bookings for next year at a higher rate than I've ever been promised before and we haven't even set foot onstage yet!
 

tcspears

Gold Member
I play all over the northeastern US, and have dabbled in the UK and Europe...

It's going to vary depending on your local area and the circumstances of the gig... is it just a regular Friday night, or is it a special occasion...

I'm in a high competition area, with 5 music schools just in my city, and tons of clubs looking for gigs, so the price tends to get driven down a bit here. For a normal 2 hour bar gig, I would expect no less than $100 per player, usually drinks and/or food are thrown in as well as parking (parking can be $40-$50 here for a few hours).

If I'm outside of Boston or NY, I'd expect more around $150-$200 for a gig.


It's all going to depend on how many bands are in your area, how many part-timers/hobbyists, how many students, the bar-patron ratio, and the cost of living in that area.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Important to note the OP's locale - Canada - and the prevailing exchange rate with the US. When he said "$5-800" I thought, 'wow, that pretty good money for a bar gig!' Although in $USD, it's more like $4-600... which is still pretty good, even for a 5-pc band.

While it always depends on the place, the night, the city, and how well the band draws, a band in L.A. can expect to make $250-1000 for 4 sets. Typically it's on the lower end of that scale, and when it is, bands are invited to sell CDs or tees, and encourage tipping (one band of mine always claims it needs "gas money" back to Torrance... and we get it!)

Bermuda
 

retoxtony

Senior Member
Thanks guys. I was more wondering just to make sure i'm in the ballpark. Our singer has never really done any bar gigs with any bands. While i'm no pro, i've done my fair share over the years. We had a pretty interesting exchange about this. He kept saying that if we each only make $100 for the night, were actually losing money when all things are taken into account. My response was "welcome to playing in a band".
 

mmulcahy1

Platinum Member
Oh, I see. He's in it for the money! Ha ha!!

Better set your singer straight. We don't do this for the money, we do it for the girls! - Don't tell my wife - she too, thinks it's for the money. ;-)
 

The Modernist

Senior Member
Liverpool/Manchester you're looking at £250-£300 for 2 x 45 minutes sets.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
Even in the same country it's not an easy answer.

You're worth what the venue expects to make on you being there.

Definetly call some of the regular bands and ask.

You might want to go down a bit on a new place, but still know what you're worth and if it works out well, charge a bit more next time.

Unless you are a NAME, these types of gigs are probably the worst paid in the beginning and if it's a bad night they'll try to haggle. With corperate gigs, state tours, funerals, weddings or whatever you can just name a price, sometimes for very little actual work, but offcourse the pay is to show up.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
Thanks guys. I was more wondering just to make sure i'm in the ballpark. Our singer has never really done any bar gigs with any bands. While i'm no pro, i've done my fair share over the years. We had a pretty interesting exchange about this. He kept saying that if we each only make $100 for the night, were actually losing money when all things are taken into account. My response was "welcome to playing in a band".

Sounds like you already know what's what.

He is delusional if he thinks playing bars is very lucrative, even if you're the best-case scenario of in-demand covers played well with a draw of locals from the area.

In the bay area where living cost is astronomical, on average you're lucky to pull about $300 for an evening playing originals at a bar. Maybe a few hundred more if you can pack the joint or play stuff that is a big draw.

Bars these days just don't really do the "give the band a reasonable amount regardless how many customers come through" thing anymore.
 

pgm554

Platinum Member
Sounds like you already know what's what.

He is delusional if he thinks playing bars is very lucrative, even if you're the best-case scenario of in-demand covers played well with a draw of locals from the area.

In the bay area where living cost is astronomical, on average you're lucky to pull about $300 for an evening playing originals at a bar. Maybe a few hundred more if you can pack the joint or play stuff that is a big draw.

Bars these days just don't really do the "give the band a reasonable amount regardless how many customers come through" thing anymore.

Did a sub in Newport Beach with a very famous sax player back in the 80's and the gig payed $35 bucks a man.
Played a combo dance polka gig in the 70's and made $100 bucks per man.

varies quite widely depending upon location.
 

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
Ain't that the truth. I played a few jobs back in the 80's that paid $50.00 a night.
I was just offered a gig that paid $50.00 so I'm hoping to use the same rate remaining the same after 30 years when I look for a 2016 automobile at the dealership.
I don't know how much luck I'll have though...
 
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father timer

Junior Member
Here in Orange County CA, and surrounding cities, Bar bands can expect to get $500 for the band per night if you're lucky (pay hasn't gone up since the 80's), and that's for four sets. Weddings, corporate gigs etc always pay much more. Unless you're in a three piece band, you'll be lucky to come home with $100 a man playing a bar gig. Stick with the corporate and wedding gigs!
 

moxman

Silver Member
The big joke is that bar pay hasn't increased since like the 1970's! Depends on the venue..
For a small bar assuming you pack the place, you can get a 4 piece band for $100 each... usually no cover + % of bar sales + flat rate = the total.. so you have to deliver or you don't get asked back. Best sale tool I've come across is try to sync up with a bar owner and an event .. like a reunion or party.. guaranteed audience! I don't know why bar owners don't do more of that.. if you want to have a birthday.. bring your party here and we supply the band..always works out for everyone!

Bigger clubs with cover/ticket person/sound guy you can make anywhere from 200-350 each (for a 7 piece band) assuming you pack the place..

Weddings and events are usually around 3-400 (again for a seven piece band).

It all depends on how you position and market your band.. and a lot of factors play into that.. personnel, stage show, hustle etc etc. I've seen great bands that go nowhere and lousy bands that tour all over North America because their leader is on the phone all the time hustling gigs..
 
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Morrisman

Platinum Member
A teacher friend of mine used to play in bands in the 70's. His teacher's pay as a new graduate was $200 per week. He was making $400 per week playing gigs back then.

40 years later he's a school principal - now earning $100 a week from music. Significant more than that as a principal...
 

STXBob

Gold Member
If I'm outside of Boston or NY, I'd expect more around $150-$200 for a gig.

Good luck with that around here. $100 per player is what we charge. If we'd take less, we'd play out more. But I for one won't load my gear for less than $100. That's PA's third-largest metro area outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Other areas, the going rate is less.

Dunno what the rate is around Philly. Maybe Larry will chime in and let us know.

This could be an interesting data set, if we get a sufficiently large sample slice and can keep it up to date.
 

FreDrummer

Silver Member
Colorado: we're consistently paid $500-600 per gig plus food/drink. I say "consistently" because our bandleader refuses to book for less. We do get paid more for special events like Halloween and New Years, but that's about it.

As one who recently starting gigging for the first time since the 70's and 80's, it does amaze me this is the same going rate as 30+ years ago...
 
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