How accommodating should a venue be to the band?


Gold Member
Had our gig cancelled Saturday a mere 4 1/2 hours before we were to play. Several of our guys already packed their cars. It was an outdoor gig and proclaimed to be weather permitting. Cancelled due to cold weather. The thing that bothered me was the weather was exactly what the forecast was saying for two days. Why wait until 4 1/2 hours before the gig to cancel? We need a cancellation policy we and the venue agree on!


Gold Member
To put it in perspective, a loitering 4-piece band is a potential $6000 liability in NYC, King County, Atlantic City, and Philadelphia. The solution we've always implemented is to construct a physical barrier (3' wall) between the bar and dining area, and obtaining two licenses. Some clubs take the "VIP Area" route. Some have green rooms where real-estate is cheap. Others do nothing and go out of business in a year.
I play in NYC all the time and I've never seen/or heard of this.

I play all over the Northeastern US, and frequently travel all over the country and to other countries, and it seems that playing in bars and clubs is pretty standard across the board.

- Most cities now, even in Europe, don't allow smoking in the bar, so people have to go out front, or to a patio area, to smoke. I've never had a bar tell me that I couldn't stand out front. It's not loitering if you are either a paying customer, an employee, or a contractor/vendor.

- Many bars don't like contractors/vendors sitting at the bar, as the seating is limited. While they don't want their plumbers drinking while working, musicians usually get to drink. Many places in Boston and New York actually offer free drinks to musicians as a benefit. Some places will throw you a free round if they are really happy with the show and/or turnout. That being said, the bar needs to make it clear to the band that they don't want them hanging around the bar, especially where they are being asked to wait around until a sporting event is over.

- Bars hire a band to play music for an agreed upon price (it could be fixed, collected at the door, tips only, et cetera), but they cannot change the pay because they were not ready for the band to play. If the band showed up an hour late, then dock the pay, but the band was there ready to go. If you hire painters for 8-4, and they are there and ready to go before 8, but you decide to make them wait until 12 to start, you are still on the hook for paying them.

I play 4-5 times a week at various places, so I see all sorts of dive bars, coffee houses, clubs, hotels, country clubs, political offices, Radio Stations,, Schools, libraries, et cetera... It is very common to allow musicians to drink when playing at a venue or event where alcohol is served.

I recently played a private party for Harvard University and some of their higher end donors, and they set strict rules about not drinking in front of the guests, not communicating with guests (unless spoken to first), and a litany of other rules. Even at this function, when they took us back to the service area for our meals, they gave us a 2 bottles of wine. The point is, that they made it clear what their expectations are before we got there.

There is no defending the bar manager in the OP situation, he was rude and unprofessional.


Platinum Member
Someone has to explain to me how a band who is hired to play a bar is "loitering" by being there. Complete utter stupidity. I put up with a lot of shit coming up in the bar scene but that is over-the-top, egregious nonsense.

My old band back in the day walked out for a lot less than what's described in the original post. If there was any ambiguity about the pay we walked.

Life is too short to be disrespected like that.


Gold Member
I've toured clubs over a large part of this country. I don't drink but no one else was ever denied alcohol. It was usually provided.

Keep in mind, if the venue is busy,the staff don't want the bands or crew taking up room at the bar or their tables.Unless you are drinking and tipping, it's taking money out of their pockets.


Platinum Member
I had a gig last Saturday and the way the venue treated us kind of annoyed me. I realize that we are being hired by the venue, and we work for them for the evening. I think there has to be some sort of mutual respect between the band's time and the bar's business of making money.
We arrived early to set up and there were still tables set up in the area where the band sets up. The manger said we had to wait until the hockey game on the tv was over before they would ask the patrons to move and we could set up. Ok, whatever, we're still getting paid. I went over to the bar and ordered a drink and sat down. The bartender told me I had to move, the band couldn't sit at the bar, or take up a table, they were for paying customers. Ok, kind of annoying but whatever. I stood in the corner and finished my drink and then went outside where the band was hanging around out front waiting to set up. The same bartender came up and said we couldn't loiter outside. I asked him where he wanted us to wait. He said we couldn't wait out there and he went back inside.
This was about 8:30. We were supposed to start at 9:30 The game didn't end until about 9:15. At that point we had been standing around the bar for about and hour and a half. They finally moved the tables and we brought our gear in and started setting up. The manager then came over to discuss how much he was going to dock our pay since we were going to start late. A somewhat heated discussion ensued and much to the annoyance of the manager we refused to take a pay cut since it wasn't our fault we were starting late.
I guess my question for you guys is where do you draw the line between the band being flexible to give the venue what they want, and the venue being inconsiderate to the needs of the band?
That's what unions used to be for.

Back in the day if a club owner was a dick and pulled crap like this ,the union would blackball the club and no union bands would play there ,effectively shutting them down.

Unions do have their place as much as they are maligned.

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
Gigs can be so many things.

I've been to gigs where the band got the cheapest food to share and we were still hungry and had to share a room.


Getting whatever we wanted to eat and drink at any time and choose what type of room you want and even getting a great lunch to bring in the trip back.

It's not really about money, it's about attitude towards the musicians and wanting to create a general good time or not. The nice places is also where there's usually one or two in the audience treating the band to a round of beer as well.

The single venues in the countryside where people have to drive a bit are usually packed, have all age groups and just tend to be friendlier. In cities it's either a true concert in a music club or it will mostly just plain suck.

Tone Laborer

Senior Member
If you play enough bars eventually you'll run into some unpleasant situation or another, goes with the territory. You must summon the heart of stone.

I've never heard of a fine to the club for band members drinking, though--that does sound like complete nonsense. Exceeding dB levels, and a host of other issues, yes.

If your band has a legit draw, your leverage goes way up. Until then--beggars can't be choosers, but you can choose to not play there. The bar band business model leaves a lot to be desired.

At least your equipment truck didn't get robbed!


Gold Member
That's what unions used to be for.

Back in the day if a club owner was a dick and pulled crap like this ,the union would blackball the club and no union bands would play there ,effectively shutting them down.

Unions do have their place as much as they are maligned.
The problem is that many bands aren't union anymore... Even if the players are union, they'll take dark (non-union) gigs.

I go back and forth on the effectiveness of unions, but situations like this it would have helped to have some leverage...


Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
The problem is that many bands aren't union anymore... Even if the players are union, they'll take dark (non-union) gigs.
It's not about the players, it's whether the venue is a 'union house'. There are almost none of those on the bar/club/restaurant scene anymore - I don't know of any in L.A. Unions control industry work (TV & theatre) and orchestral, and that's about it these days.

Union scale is really not that great, fees are deducted from that. Most players would sooner take what they get in cash and net more money in the process.