Open Letter to the Bar Owner Who Wrote the Open Letter to Musicians on Craigslist

Categories: Music Bidness

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Pay me better.
Let's get to the crux of it, shall we? When I started playing in the '80s as a teen, the going rate for a gig was $50-$150 per band member depending on the size of the gig, the venue, the patrons, etc. Care to take a guess at what it is today?

If you guess $50-$150 per band member, you would understand my pain. That was 30 years ago, and the pay has not changed. You expect miracles for pocket change. Don't be surprised when you get exactly what you pay for.

Failing better pay, don't try to stiff me at 3 a.m.
Years ago, I was doing a gig with a popular local band who absolutely packed the venue we were in. The deal was we either got paid $500 or 80 percent of the door, whichever was more. We easily brought in 200 people at $10 per person, which by my math is more than $500.

Yet, when our singer went to collect the money, the bar owner tried to tell us we didn't make more than $500 at the door. After a few verbal threats were exchanged and the cash register was yanked off the bar, the bar owner wisely paid us our money. Be smart and, more importantly, don't be a crook.

Bottom Line
Doing what we do is as much hard work as what you do. Some of us even do it for a living. We do everything we can to have a good time, make money for ourselves and the bar all while trying not to get stiffed on pay or get punched by some drunk asshole who thought we looked at his girlfriend funny.

This is in addition to the countless hours we spend rehearsing the same songs over and over just so people will be entertained and we will sound good. So, don't be a dismissive schmuck. Try to have some appreciation for the difficult job we have too, and maybe then you'll get our best effort and our respect.


My Voice Nation Help

i am not an owner i am a booking and promo for a club.  the additude about we need to promote your band is a thing of the past. you need to promote your band i pay bands to put asses in my seats. i pay up to 5k for those bands and the bands that "have a following" have one chance to show me what thay got.

most of them don't! understand that business is buisiness. i am in the restaurant/venue business. 

not promoting your band business, the promo that we do is for the month not the one band. 

get off your ass and show a lil pride in your band and get the word out if your good they will come. 

if your like 1000 other bands out there they wont. 

if i could fill our place with out a band i wouldn't need you. Remember that.


cash only up front if you decide to go back and if they agree, then you sir have a great band... 


I'm a musician.  I've never been unemployed for more than a month in my entire adult life.  I've paid for two kid's college and a mortgage on a modest house through no other job.  You're an ass and represent everything that is wrong with asshat musicians ruining the music business. Your "Bottom Line" paragraphs are f-ing JOKES.  Respect YOU?  Jesus. The stupid burns...

Buy your own goddam P.A.system so you have to pay when you f it up.  You know what you need better than a club you'll play once and then lose the account. Get one cheap from another asshole band when they fail from stupid attitudes like yours.

You're blowing it for the rest of us.  Please.  Get out of the business you think you are God's gift to.  You're not.


Just my own follow up to that original letter, which I saw posted on Facebook, posted as "The Ugly Truth About The Music Scene":

Ok, here's another ugly truth: this bar owner is a jerk. When my group (the Hitman Blues Band) plays in England, or Scotland, or Austria, or Holland, do you really think I bring people from home? Yet, the venue is packed. Why?


For example, I'm playing at the Eel Pie Club in London at the end of August. Warren and Gina are already promoting the hell out of it. It's one of the few places I'll play for the door, because I know they will get a huge crowd. If they want posters or whatever, I'll supply them. When I played the Rocking Horse in Nottingham, they made a huge damn sign to put over the stage. Was it a good crowd? Hell yeah.

We're not on the level of Shemekia Copeland or Derek Trucks. We play smaller venues (sometimes WAY smaller). We cannot guarantee a crowd. If we could, we'd open our own damn club.

We don't need your $100 a man, which is what we made in 1990. Thanks, but it won't cover our bills. What do WE want? More fans. We're trying to build a buzz, and are willing to work for what (in 2013) amounts to gas money to do it. But you have to do your part.

If you can't get your own people to come to your club, then we cant' help you. Your club is going to fail, because you don't have a following. People don't know that YOUR club is the place to go to hear great live music, get drinks at a reasonable price, and have a good time.

And that's your fault. We can't fix that. Unless the band is so lousy (or so loud) that they're actually driving people away, an empty club is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.

Oh, and by the way - do you really think you can get a band that brings in 100 people, or even 75 people, for $500? Any band that can absolutely guarantee that many clients is not going to play at your club, or at least not for that kind of money. The same as YOUR till, the math doesn't work for the band, either.

Adam Castaneda
Adam Castaneda

And now expect to pay us much less than they agreed to initially because they didnt do their research and they're unhappy with the product.

Adam Castaneda
Adam Castaneda

Beth, I'm not sure if you were agreeing with my point or making a counter-argument. If a bar chooses to hire a band for a show they should make sure it's appropriate. This benefits the bar, the band and the regulars. If a venue is set up for low volume singer songwriters, and the regulars and bartenders have adapted to that then the bar owners need to hire those acts. If one day a loud, raucous, inappropriately energetic band shows up and has to reinforce a weak or inadequate PA with additional speakers and amps it kills the vibe for everyone. Regulars tend to avoid the bar on those nights or leave early, the band will not want to play there again because it's not a comfortable place to play, and the fans of the band may not return because the venue isn't set up for their interests. I play around 70 to 100 gigs a year with groups of various sizes that all play original music with nominal levels of profanity, some in spanish. I've been booked in some strange locales -- from tea houses, VFW lodges, Catholic churches, weddings, breweries, taquerias, circus' to every music club imaginable. Every bar or restaurant is not necessarily a music venue. I've seen a lot of bar/venue/restaurant owners with dollar signs in their eyes when they book us only to be mad when our amps take up half the room and the regulars are running out the door.

Jason Ison
Jason Ison

But assumptions are the order of the day so, yeah the bar owners must be the 1% sticking it to us. Tell me again how much the HOB's sound system sucks.

Jason Ison
Jason Ison

Or the band members, parents let out of the cage, and the bar owner are just working class people trying to make ends meet and, make coming out to the live event as worthwhile as possible for the least expense.

Dave Huckabay
Dave Huckabay

Classic moron bar owner. Bands are hired to entertain not peddle your liquor.

Joshua Justice
Joshua Justice

Valid points on both sides. What it comes down to is the bar owner is likely from a suburban or other gentrified bar talking to crackpot creed cover bands performing to college dropouts and 27 year olds pining for the high school glory days and Mr. Balke is speaking for musicians who take themselves seriously and want to perform at music-centric bars.

Adam Castaneda
Adam Castaneda

Bars with inadequate equipment is one of my biggest peeves. If your bar only has 1 mic and no monitors why did you hire my 9 piece band with three singers and full horn section? The $200 PA-in-a-box has done some real damage to live music.

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