Bands vs. Venues: Who promotes? Who makes money? Can everyone “win”?


Rick from the Fallout Shelter brought up a great discussion topic on Facebook, and it inspired me to blog about it.

That’s a private group on Facebook, so here’s what was said in case you’re not a member:

Rick D'Agostino Looking for some feedback from the music community out there. Do you think that the $5 cover charge keeps you or your friends from attending shows at the Fallout Shelter that they might otherwise attend to check out new bands? In other words, are folks only willing to pay a $5 cover to see bands that they already know? And as a band member, would you rather play to a larger crowd with a tip bucket or to just a few people and make some gas money? I am thinking of making some changes. you can reply here or message me if you want. thanks!

Rick D’Agostino is looking for some feedback from the music community out there..

Dig?  So now, you have the gist of it.  My blog may go on its own little tangent, you never really know with these things.  It’s certainly worth talking about.

First, it’s clear that I’ve never been in a band where making money is the ultimate goal.  I’m amazed over & over that venue owners let me come in, set up, and play in front of people.  Sometimes we get money from the door, sometimes we get money from tickets sold, sometimes we give it all to the touring band, sometimes it’s a charity gig, sometimes no one shows up to pay anyone, sometimes we get some gas money or a couple of bucks to dump back into merch or something.

This is how it’s worked nearly everywhere and every time I have played:  Most of the time, the cover is $3 to $5, unless we’re opening for a national act & it’s through a booker where we’re asked to sell tickets.  Some call the latter “pay to play“, and rail wholly against it.  Some people have no problem selling tickets.  Some bands like mine do, but we try anyway.  At bar gigs, the cover charge is usually $5.  Sometimes it all goes to the bands, especially if it’s a bar & if you provide your own door person.  Sometimes it pays for a sound guy (if there is one) & a cut goes to the bar, then the bands get paid.  Sometimes locals defer and let the out-of-town bands take the cash (if there is one).  Sometimes you can play for free at open stages, sometimes you pay to get in at open stages.  Sometimes no one comes out to see you, and no one gets paid.  Sometimes the band gets free or discounted drinks.  It’s generally a no pay or break even situation.  You hope to sell merchandise and/or CD‘s if you have them, and the bar hopes to sell drinks & food.  The bands should promote and the venues should promote.  Some venues think the bands should do it all, some bands think the venue should do it all.  Generally 3 or sometimes 4 bands are all on the same gig.  Sometimes, it all works out, sometimes… it doesn’t.  This is how bands who largely play their own music are forced to operate.

That’s only 1 way.  There are many other “scenes” here overlapping in the ‘Burgh.

Cover bands… or human jukebox bands, can generally charge a fee for playing a certain style, genre, or “songs that people know”.  This is to provide entertainment to drunken Yinzer patrons who want to yell out requests.  You probably usually play 3 sets, maybe 4… and you’re the only entertainment all night.  You’re probably playing pop country, classic rock, or a little mix of everything.  Professional singers/songwriters operate pretty much the same way as described above, but can get away with putting in more of their own material.

High-class…  I know a band that plays funk, and can get $5000 a gig at the least.  They put their twist on a bunch of songs, dress up, bring lights, and put on one hell of a show.  I’m pretty sure I could never command that much cash for what I do… but how is one less relevant or entertaining?  They do weddings, corporate parties, and “events”.

I’m sure there’s other stuff out there that I’m not even aware of.  I can’t really speak for any other parts of the scene than the one I’m in.

I’ve heard the argument that charging only $5 is devaluing our craft.  Bands should demand more to be heard live.  It worked for Yuengling.  They raised the price on their beer in the late 90s/early 00s and they took off ahead of the other “microbrews”.  Should we then put a higher value on ourselves & our art?  If we raise the price do we raise our expectations?  Do we raise our worth?  Do we raise the value of our music & entertainment?

I also see that a cover charge can make or break a show.  Times are changing.  People aren’t spending money on entertainment.  Music is seen like it’s all supposed to be free.  Why would someone pay for a live show?  To me, if you don’t have $5 on you for a show, maybe you shouldn’t be going to a bar in the 1st place.  $5 might get you 2 beers if you’re a butthole & don’t tip the bartender.  Then again, we hardly ever walk away with any money anyway (the Fallout Shelter is an exception here, we get paid well there, regardless of turnout), so why not let people in for free?

The tip bucket.  I’d play for one.  I have no doubt that we’re entertaining.  Why not, right?  Do all bands split the tip bucket?  Or go per performance?  That if the 1st band up gets all the cash & the “cleanup” band gets nothing simply because the patrons ran out of cash?  Are we nothing more than indoor buskers if we play for a tip jar?  Is it a better measurement of our entertainment value to work for tips?  Does it devalue our art to basically beg for donations to support the rock n’ roll cause?

I certainly don’t want to see my favorite venues close because they can’t afford to operate.  I like to play them, I like to see other bands in them… I want them to do well.  I want them to continue to host my band & other bands.  I even want them to make a buck so it’s all worth their while, and so they can do it to make a living.

I just want to play.  I don’t care where, or for how much.  I have fun doing it.  I think this is an important discussion to have, though.  What is the value of live rock n’ roll?

So…

  • Would you play for less of a cover charge?
  • Should we charge more for shows?
  • Should bands play for tips?
  • How should the tips be split?
  • How does the venue make money?
  • Who pays the sound guy?

Leave your opinions in the comments below!

Related Articles

Obey the Zone. (Rock Concert Etiquette)


So, I’ve been to many types of shows at many types of venues.  From stadiums to bars and from backyards to amphitheaters.  I’ve seen rock shows, rap shows, country shows, and even Weird Al.  Most of the shows I’ve attended fall in the punk or metal categories.  The crowds can get rowdy.  It’s expected, perhaps even demanded.  I’ve pogoed in a circle when commanded to by Joey Ramone, sat nearly motionless in a sea of silver hair at a Willie Nelson show, and lost my shoe once in a pit at a Misfits show (only monetarily, and it was the first & last pair of Airwalks I’ve ever owned).  I’ve been rubbed up against the sweaty shirtless guy, been flogged by the windmill hardcore kid, and burned buy the a-hole with a lit cigarette in the pit.  I chalk it all up to part of the experience.  Hell, I even had my nose broken in a stage diving incident.  I’m no stranger to the pit.

A man crowdsurfing in a moshpit, uploaded from...

The people are revolting, pushing the sweaty shirtless smelly guy out of the group.

I’m not saying that it doesn’t have it’s place.  I’m just tired of the people who don’t “get” it.  It always devolves into 2 or 3 probably drunken buttholes flailing around like fish out of water trying to start some kind of fight or prove their manliness.  Generally people have good manners.  Most people in the pit are just out to have fun bouncing around to the music, until it gets ruined by the few flailers.

It’s a weird topic to discuss.  Saying the word “mosh” makes it an instantly corny conversation.  I hate to say the word out loud because I’m old and it’s a young man’s (or brave young woman’s) game.  It’s just getting out of control.  I don’t want to see it stop, I just want to see it not be ruined by the few, the proud, the imbeciles.  This was all sparked by our recent adventures at the Flogging Molly show(Which musically, is a rather tame band… but crowd-excitement is off of the charts with them.)

We all know the “unwritten rules”, right?  The only one that I’ve ever seen obeyed consistently is: If someone falls down, pick them up.  This proves to me that we’re mostly all just out to have a good time & not hurt anyone.  As for the rest, I guess I’m going to have to write them for you.

The biggest one and my spark for writing this blog?

STAGE | PIT | CROWD

Fig. A

Obey the Zone.  This is the biggest rule that you need to adhere to.  You can see in figure A that there is a clearly defined acceptable zone for pogoing / slam-dancing / moshing activity.  It’s in yellow and black… for caution.  It can get a little bigger or even smaller depending on the ferocity of the act on stage.  The blue area is the crowd in general.  Generally, there’s a row or two of people up front really into the band or show and unwilling to move no matter how many goofballs are bouncing off of their backs. This spills out & around to people that are just trying to watch the band.  Is this that difficult?  Am I wrong here?

Please see my additional figures B & C to help drive my point home…

No means no.

Fig. B

Meathead Zone

Fig. C

In figure B we see the big red symbol recognized as “No”.  This is where you’re not supposed to flail, push, agitate, or try to cajole others into moshing.  The other night when we were safely in this zone, a chubby young ginger-headed frat boy was doing exactly that, and looking at all of us like we were crazy for not wanting to hardcore dance with him 1-on-1 when it was happening with willing participants mere feet away.  Was this kid afraid of the real pit?  I say put on your big boy pants & get in there, Skippy.  Or better yet, move into the Idoit Zone as illustrated by figure C.

NO HARDCORE DANCING

This unwritten rule is written for you.

The idiot zone is formed when the people who do know how to act at a show force out the people who don’t.  This is where the “too metal for you”, “hardcore windmillers”, and “guy with Greek letters on his hoodie & daddy issues” go to play.  They’re convinced that no one can have a good time unless you go home with bruises.  They feel that they are integral to your having the correct concert experience by placing an elbow repeatedly in your ribs or fist in your eye.  They’re irate when you don’t want to participate.  They go to the idiot zone to act like a wind-up toy and get out their frustration.  They just paid $30-60 for a ticket, $9+ per beer, and $10-$20 for parking to ignore the band on stage.

No moshing sign, Bumbershoot 2010

Weenies.

You have to understand that the whole floor has the potential turn into that zone, and accept your risk of taking a wild hit or someone landing on you if you’re going to get down there anywhere close to the action.  You most likely dropped some serious cash to see this show, and you’re there to see and hopefully enjoy the band… not to get distracted or assaulted by some self-appointed chairman of the mosh commission.

Well, that’s the big rule.  What’s your take on concert etiquette?  I’ll list some others, you give me more in the comments.

  • No lit cigarettes (or other burning substances) in the pit.  Most venues in Pittsburgh don’t allow you to smoke in the first place.  Besides billowing toxic crap into my air, burning someone while thrashing around like a toolbag is not cool.  If you need to get high, go do it in a dark corner.
  • Don’t scream off-key into your neighbor’s ear.  I paid lots of money for the people on stage to scream into my ear, not you.  Shut up unless it’s a sing-along rock anthem.
  • If you’re on the edge of the circle, keep it from spilling over.  Push the lugheads back into the fold.  Protect the people around you who don’t want in it, and watch out for that kid that’s way too young to be there.  Might be good to not trample him to death before he can drive.
  • You are not a windmill.  No one thinks this is cool.  No one likes getting punched in the head.  No one is more entertained by you dancing like Frankenstein than by the band on stage.
  • We’re there to see the band, not you.  You are not that guy on the runway, a traffic cop, or a cheer-leading coach.  Stop gesturing wildly at people trying to get them to go in a circle, spin you around, run into you, or do the safety dance.

Now it’s your turn.  While you think/type, please enjoy the following…

Vodpod videos no longer available.
Windmill

This is not a dance.

(Also, feel free to post other songs about moshing, slam-dancing, circle pits, pogoing, or any related ridiculousness.)

Also… to the people who drink in the parking lot through the opening acts, then come in during the headliner barely knowing where you are or that you’re alive.  Just stay home & get drunk.  It’s cheaper and safer, and you don’t have the potential to puke on my shoes.

Ernie and the Berts, The Steel City Slingers, & Look Out Loretta! – Friday the 13th at Howler’s!


I stole this post from Ernie and the Berts.  One week from tonight!

FRIDAY THE 13th AT HOWLER’S!

We’ll be rocking with the shockingly scandalous Steel City Slingers and whoever’s brave enough to step up to the plate!  Here are the details so far, with an incredible flyer by the Slingers’ own Zach.

FRIDAY THE 13TH!

Here are the details so far…

The Bands:

The Place:

The Details:

Boston Market ups the pressure… (a.k.a. What now, Panera Bread?)


Insanity.

http://twitter.com/#!/W_a_L_D/status/136910586947715072

That’s right.  Boston Market not only reached out via my contact form thanks to Facebook, but also had the cojones to do this…

Boston Market RT!

Boston Market RT!

I still haven’t received a reply to my email to Mr. Wakabayashi, but what now Panera Bread? What now?  Clearly, this will pan out to be a bigger rivalry than Neil Young vs. Skynrd, or East Coast Rap vs. West Coast Rap.  Maybe even bigger than me vs. the people that think I’m McDonald’s (At Least Mr. Wakabayashi used my contact form correctly!)

http://twitter.com/#!/W_a_L_D/status/137169033266077696

http://twitter.com/#!/bostonmarket/status/137212008138424321

If you have no idea what’s going on, or if you work for Panera Bread.  You can catch up here…

In other news, did you know that they both cater?  I wish someone would have told me.

Panera Bread (Scott Twp. Greentree Road) on UrbanspoonI actually stopped at the local Panera the other night because the wife was sick and wanted some of that cheese-broccoli soup.  I went in to get some to go, and got myself a half of a turkey sandwich and a cup of the chicken noodle.

The employee (a young girl, of course) at the counter was quite friendly, asked if I wanted lettuce tomato or onion on the sandwich, and even asked if I wanted mustard and/or mayo.  Clearly, someone went over new procedures.  Sadly, I asked for lettuce & tomato… and got neither, but I did get mustard and mayo.  I applaud the effort, and shame on me for not checking before I left the store.

I have to say, after my initial complaint, they have totally stepped it up service-wise.  I still call shenanigans on the new soup.  They ought to let sales do the talking… OFFER BOTH.  It’s certainly a popular item.  Let the consumers decide if they want a great-tasting soup… or the crappy flat-noodled healthy soup.  Clearly, as a leader in the Fast Casual industry, you can afford to test the proverbial waters?  I think more changes have been made, but it’s still not the old soup.  Shenanigans.

Also, I counted 3 signs within  a span of about 8 feet on the counter where you wait for your order advertising the catering… and the pop machine still does it too.  I think the receipt may have even said something about it.

I spend far too much time contemplating fast food & fast casual dining.  If only I could save time buy purchasing already prepared meals.  Does anyone out there do that?

Boston Market is ready to battle.


Boston Market cup

In this corner...

Look out Panera Bread, Boston Market has your number!  I was out of town this weekend, and didn’t check email much.  I didn’t have the time & energy to properly respond to this until we came home.  I find this to be incredibly awesome.  Dennis “The New Guy” Wakabayashi from Boston Market is ready to put his company’s catering services to the test.  The line between my lunacy in email writing and reality is ever increasingly blurred.  Perhaps my preposterous idea will turn into a real happening.

Insanity.

Sparked by some snarky postings of various blog post url’s on Facebook

From: Dennis Wakabayashi <engage@bostonmarket.com>
To: <Me>
Sent: Friday, November 11, 2011
Subject: W(aL)D Feedback
Name: Dennis Wakabayashi
Email: engage@bostonmarket.com
Website: http://www.bostonmarket.com

Message / Comment:

Hi, I’m the new guy here at Boston Market, just brought on, to engage with awesomeness like yours. I loved your article and definitely interested in the catering battle royal at your place…count me in! Not only that my friend your band has some T-shirt coming your way!

Send me a list of sizes, and a couple videos of your music, so we can be sure you’re rocking the family friendly vibe that we know and love….

If you want to reach out to me directly DO IT. dwakabayashi@bost.com (Senior Manager of Digital Marketing)

How’d you find my blog?:
You posted on our Facebook page!

Time: Friday November 11, 2011 at 6:23 pm
IP Address: 000.000.000.000
Contact Form URL: https://aixelsyd13.wordpress.com/contact/

Sent by an unverified visitor to your site.

So, of course, I wrote back…

From: Waldo Lunar <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Nov 14, 2011
Subject: Re: W(aL)D Feedback
To: engage@bostonmarket.com
Cc: dwakabayashi@bost.com

Shalom Dennis!

I see that more companies are hiring people in your position to figure out the best ways to use social media to their advantage.  What a great thing!  I have had some excellent interaction with Nate Riggs of Bob Evans.  I have even had great dealings in the past with Lori Smelt at Boston Market.

I have a goofy email sending online persona, now named Waldo Lunar… that keeps clashing with the real me.  It’s ever more impossible to separate the real from the absurd.  Ha ha.

I have asked for the T-shirt sized of the other dudes in my band, but I’m not sure if their ideals would support such blatant corporate sponsorship.  We are, after all, a punk rock band at heart.  Then again, what’s more punk rock than doing the exact opposite of what a good punk rock band should do?  Also, I’m just a Bert, so I must clear things with Ernie.

I’m not sure that the band, Ernie and the Berts, is family friendly.  Despite this perhaps somewhat misleading name… we’re prone to spew forth occasional potty humor, sexual innuendo, and movie-Tourette’s-like bouts of profanity.  Also, don’t ever eat Ernie’s soup.  This has not stopped the interest of other yet-to-be-named possible corporate sponsors.

For your review and entertainment, I do however submit the following videos:

I trust that you’ll laugh, cry, and share with friends.

I’m glad that they have someone with some wit and intelligence monitoring Facebook for Boston Market.  In 2011 (soon to be 2012), I feel that it’s extremely important for a company to use social media for important feedback regarding the perception of their brand & service.

I’m quite glad that you’re interested in the catering battle-royale!  Unfortunately, I haven’t had any takers from the Panera Bread camp.  In fact, I believe their policy is to ignore my emails from now on, or that I have been perhaps stifled by their in-house spam filtering system.  I haven’t received so much as a “thanks for your interest” or even a “please stop emailing us.”  They haven’t used Facebook to the advantage that you now have.  Although, they did reply (uninterestingly) to a tweet.  Do you perhaps have any professional colleagues at Panera that you could cajole into action?  Since Batman Movie night has come & gone, my wife & I have discussed the possibility of a Back to the Future or Indiana Jones movie night.

(I assume that your interest is in a catering battle, and not the literal scuffle for a single dollar?)

Perhaps, with the lack of interest from Panera Bread, we could involve Bob Evans?  Surely, your meal offerings are more in line with them, rather than some paltry soup and sandwiches?  How would you feel about your chances against them?  Maybe Panera needs to lie low in the media, in light of recent events that happened nearby.

You can send a goodwill token of appreciation for my new adventurous advertising ideas, if you end up using any of them.  A commission check would be nice also.  I excel in the ridiculous, but am unsure how to make a profit from such ridiculousness.  Following the model put forth by advertising within the walls of where one is currently doing business, I figured it would be OK to ask in this email.

How do you feel personally about unabashed advertising for catering service while you’re currently in the place, already spending your hard-earned dollar?  Let’s face it, at the brisket meal hovering around $10, I can go to a local diner for less and not be slapped with advertising while I sup.  I go to Boston Market for the tasty meals, (perceived) speed of service, and glittering hope of consistency.

Imagine picking up a bottle of Coca~Cola at a convenience store, and on the label, it tells you to go buy a 24 pack of cans, 2-liter, and/or six-pack of bottles.  At the moment, you’re interested in quenching your thirst… not stocking your ‘fridge or obtaining a caffeine high.  Not a perfectly parallel predicament, but food for thought nonetheless.

I would like to thank you for your interest and the response to my insanity.  I can’t wait to see how this plays out.  Can you think of any other catering battle participants?  Perhaps we can put together a rock n’ roll show rather than just a small movie night…

I’ll let you process all of this, and get back to me on your own time with your thoughts.

Excelsior!
-ERiC AiXeLsyD (a.k.a. Waldo Lunar)

Bread Soda

In this corner...

Now, how to get Panera Bread to bite?  This isn’t rhetorical.  I’m actually looking for your advice.

If you’re confused here, you may want to check these out:

Sat.08/27 @ GOOSKI’S! – The Dirty Charms / Ernie and the Berts / What Else? – 21+/$5/10:00pm (via Ernie and the Berts)


I love Gooski’s. It’s a relaxing hole in the wall with a killer jukebox and ridiculously awesome honey BBQ wings. It’s always cool to play a place you’re so comfortable in, so please come out to this one, hang out, & have a fun time with Ernie and the Berts as we rock out with the Dirty Charms & What Else?.

Sat.08/27 @ GOOSKI'S! - The Dirty Charms / Ernie and the Berts / What Else? - 21+/$5/10:00pm GOOSKI’S.  That’s all I need to say.  Come early, stay late.  Rock out with some cheap beers, tasty wings & pierogies.  We all need a night of debauchery in Polish Hill every once in a while.  That’s what your favorite local rock n’ roll bands are for!  What Else? channels some glam, Ernie and the Berts will make you feel scuzzy & fuzzy, and the Dirty Charms just may make you need to take a shower… Read More

via Ernie and the Berts