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I heard an honest bar owner last night


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Last night we played a small(dinky!) bar in Lee Summit called Tavern On Green(it's located on Green Street). It is so small that 50 people is standing room only. We had about 30, maybe 35.

 

As we were packing up at the end of the night, I overheard the bar owner talking to someone. The one guy said he thought we were a great band. Nice thing to hear, right?

 

The owners response was, "I wouldn't care if they sucked, as long as they pack the place."

 

So true...

Always remember that you�re unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

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True, but so sad.

 

Not if you understand it and treat the band as a business whose intent is to bring people in the door. He's running a business. Bottom line, if he can't make money hiring a band, then it doesn't make sense.

 

Likewise, you could be the greatest band in the world, but if you're playing to an empty room, what's the point - you may as well just play at home.

 

The whole point is to get people out - for the bar so they can make money, for you so they can hear you play.

 

What IS sad, is that there are bands who suck who can still bring in a crowd. If a band is GOOD and can't bring in a crowd, then they probably are not promoting themselves properly or have other problems with their show, song selection, etc. But all things being equal, the better band should draw the bigger crowd.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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a simple lesson: why does a bar hire a band? to sell drinks. If the bar owner likes or dislikes the band is immaterial. If the band thinks that they make 'art' or are a big get-over is immaterial. The point is to drag butts through the door and keep them in the club, drinking as long as possible. Bands that understand the point of view of the club and understand the symbiotic relationship will do well. Those who think that there is some other reason that they were asked to play usually don't do as well.

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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True, but so sad.

What IS sad, is that there are bands who suck who can still bring in a crowd. If a band is GOOD and can't bring in a crowd, then they probably are not promoting themselves properly or have other problems with their show, song selection, etc. But all things being equal, the better band should draw the bigger crowd.

 

That is what I meant.

Lydian mode? The only mode I know has the words "pie ala" in front of it.

http://www.myspace.com/theeldoradosband

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Welcome to the Music BUSINESS. This is one area where I think more and more of us need to educate ourselves. Promotion and marketing are the things that get people in the door. It's a first step. You've got to sell yourself in order to get people to take an interest in the music you're playing.

 

Ultimately, though, we do have to be good musicians. Because while promo work will get people in the door, it's talent, groove and some showmanship that will keep people in the clubs. And it's that which will generate the repeat business. So while the bar owner's comments may be cynical at best, that initial drawing power is just part of the big picture.

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"My concern is, and I have to, uh, check with my accountant, that this might bump me into a higher, uh, tax..."

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Nick +1

 

There should be a forum, or a sticky thread, or something to help fledgling bands get their act together. Instruction on how to get a band together, self-promote, when to use (and NOT use) a manager, how not to get hosed by a venue owner, how to present the band in a professional manner, contract content, blah, blah, blah.

 

The jazz band was nice because the members were all connected in one way or another with the local wineries, coffee shops and country clubs. Projects B and A are all gigging musicians from other bands that newtork with other musicians, all scrabbling to get the same diminishing venues.

 

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

 

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Yep, bring 'em in; that keeps the bar owner happy. The trick is retaining 'em. After a while the same old classic rock warhorses can get tiresome, so you expand your song selections and grow. If you get big enough, no problem, but retention is still the key. Audiences will gravitate to what they want to hear, and the sad part of that is what corporate music WANTS them to hear is not necessarily the most playable at the local bar level.

 

Case in point: My band now does a "rock-a-roke" night, where it is basically live band karaoke. It looks to get big. Many folks who would not do karaoke on account of thinking it cheesy will willingly try what we are doing, because singing with a band has a different kind of cachet. Of course, we have had to try adapting a lot more female-sung material, since keeping the chicks involved invariably brings in the dudes who will spend the money on them. So now, three 40-something white guys are pulling off stuff by the Cranberries, No Doubt, and *gasp* Lady Gaga (we're a guitar trio; that one actually brings down the house when a hottie does the vox). This gig pays some dividends elsewhere, thanks to the expansion of our repetoire, and that means that we are likely to be able to retain more audiences in more places, and get more gigs as a result.

Founder of the G&L JB-2 Legion
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Case in point: My band now does a "rock-a-roke" night, where it is basically live band karaoke.

 

Funny, just before reading this, I JUST posted on another thread about a friend who does "Rockstar Karaoke". He also does "Build-a-Band", which is essentially the same idea except that musicians can come up and sit in (or entire bands).

 

 

A word on retention: I've seen several popular bands around here come and go because once they are successful, they think they can just ride it out. They get this attitude that "We're _______, we don't need to do that". Next thing you know, they aren't bringing them in the door any more and bars are wondering why they're paying them so much. We've been around for 6 years now and have a very solid following (one of the top drawing around hear if not THE top). One thing we've tried to do differently is continue promoting as if we're a new band. I'm constantly pushing the email list, facebook, etc. But that's not enough - we also learn new songs, try to keep our show new and interesting, and have regular "special events". This year for instance, we've kicked in some additional money for lighting and have a guy bringing out movers and other intelligent lighting to all our shows. I also bought a video sampler and we'll be running video synced up with our shows as well. We'll be creating some pretty cool video intros as we walk on stage for each set. Between that and changing up the songs, someone who's seen us a hundred times over the last several years will feel like they're seeing something new.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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True, but so sad.

 

Not if you understand it and treat the band as a business whose intent is to bring people in the door.

In today's market, yes. However, I am told that in days gone by the venues used to handle the marketing, have a solid base of regulars and the band's job was simply to entertain.

 

Nowadays many bars would drool over having a ladies knitting club in their bar on a Saturday night ... just to fill chairs and sell a few drinks. Who needs a band if you have access to a large local group's email list?

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Case in point: My band now does a "rock-a-roke" night, where it is basically live band karaoke. It looks to get big. Many folks who would not do karaoke on account of thinking it cheesy will willingly try what we are doing, because singing with a band has a different kind of cachet.

 

I'm guessing that a lot of people get tripped up when they don't have the bouncing ball to cue them when to sing... :laugh:

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In today's market, yes. However, I am told that in days gone by the venues used to handle the marketing, have a solid base of regulars and the band's job was simply to entertain.

 

I don't know when that would have been, and I started playing gigs in the early 1960s. There have always been certain clubs or locations that had a full house no matter what due to the particular situation of that space; and those places may always be full and those owners may never care. But as long as I've been playing for money, it has been our responsibility to fill the room with people.

 

Not only that, but it has been my job to cultivate the staff, and try my best to have a friendly working relationship with the owner or manager. It took me years to understand this part. You not only have to sell the band to an audience, but it is equally important that those club employees like you. You would be surprised at how much extra work that can bring, and besides, it is much more pleasant to walk into a room full of people who are happy to see you load in.

 

To do this, mostly you need to be a nice person, but you also have to try to understand the needs of the club, and be sensitive to things like volume levels, or even just not crushing the stuff in the club with your cases.

 

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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So much good advice between my last post and this one. A lot of it is stuff that I had already learned, but to those who might benefit fropm reading it and learning it, I shall commend those who posted it.

 

Yes, without the bouncing ball, the guest vocalists can train-wreck more easily, even a so-called professional singer did that the other night. She wanted to do "Don't Stop Believin'" and did well, but had to be told to wait for the guitar solo to get out of the way. It has gotten to the point to where I have a simple READ THIS BEFORE SIGNING UP sheet:

 

1. Let the music breathe -there are guitar solos and instrumental breaks. If you don't know your song, then don't ask to sing it.

 

2. The mic is your friend -hold close when singing softly

 

3. Don't abuse your friend -pull mic away when you get loud, or we'll cut your channel and finish the song by ourselves.

 

4. Band reserves the right to go out of signup sheet order to maintain a better flow to the evening; makes for a happening dance floor, and better participation for everyone, not just performers. (This has a way of discouraging those who are known to sing badly too, I might add).

 

5. HAVE FUN

 

 

Founder of the G&L JB-2 Legion
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In today's market, yes. However, I am told that in days gone by the venues used to handle the marketing, have a solid base of regulars and the band's job was simply to entertain.

 

I don't know when that would have been, and I started playing gigs in the early 1960s. There have always been certain clubs or locations that had a full house no matter what due to the particular situation of that space; and those places may always be full and those owners may never care. But as long as I've been playing for money, it has been our responsibility to fill the room with people.

Well, that's kind of what I meant, Bill. Aren't there less of those kinds of places these days?

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Well, that's kind of what I meant, Bill. Aren't there less of those kinds of places these days?

 

My point is that there really never were many of those places to begin with. Hens teeth and chicken lips....

 

 

 

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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^^This^^

I've been playing for money since the late '70's and the clubs that would ever do more than the absolute minimum (i.e. put the band's name in their usual weekly newspaper listing)were very few and vvveeerryyyy far between. And even then, those that did only did so for bands that proved that they could consistantly draw well (and were decent to work with).

 

However, what I DO miss is "The Ladder" that used to exist in local music scenes (you old timers may remember what I'm referring to.)it certainly didn't make the music biz any warmer and fuzzier but at least a new band had a way of getting a foot into the scene and bands that had proven themselves and developed a following had a bit easier time negotiating with the clubs.

 

What I'm seeing, and hearing from other musicians I meet, now (and for the last several years) is a totally dog-eat-dog scene.

 

Sad.

Nothing is as it seems but everything is exactly what it is - B. Banzai

 

Life is what happens while you are busy playing in bands.

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I'd say even now, there are places that tend to usually have decent crowds regardless of who is there. But those are places who consistently book the top entertainment in the area, so you know there's going to be a good band there any given night of the week.

 

However, even at those places, there can be a pretty large variation depending on who's there due to the band's promotion/marketing. We pretty consistently have the highest draw at these places. I'd say the difference is that other bands can occasionally have an off night if for some reason people just don't show up. We almost never have an off night, which is why we can charge more money - the club is almost guaranteed to have a full house, so there's not much risk in paying a premium.

 

Many of these clubs DO promote quite heavily. We're in regular radio ads run by the clubs (as well as newspaper). In fact, many of them tried adding to the contracts that if we cancelled a show within 30 days we'd be responsible for up to $1500 advertising costs. Since they can cancel us in that time without paying, we refused, but that's another story (we've never cancelled, nor have they, so we've been going without contracts without problems).

 

Either way, the bars and bands that promote get the best crowds and have the most success - period.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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I've quoted this before, and I'll do it again. Country singer Mark Chesnutt: "This is the music bi'ness." It's not up to the bar owner to promote a band. His job is to sell beer. That's why he doesn't care if the band sucks as long as the joint is full.

 

it's up to the band to promote the band. If we can build a loyal fan base that will come hear us play and buy beers while they're doing it, a symbiotic relationship emerges. Lots of people come hear the band; they buy beers; bar owner is happy; bar owner books band again; band is happy. Kinda like the hippo and the dookie bird...

 

 

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