Are Venue Owners Shortsighted?
A professional musician argues that demanding that the band provide the customers just guarantees you'll get a mediocre band.
Not really a propos of the last post, but sort of vaguely related to it, a professional musician argues with club owners who want to pay musicians next-to-nothing, and demand that they bring 25 or 50 people with them to watch the show. As he points out, the only people who can do this are amateurs who don't have a lot of time to practice:
What if I told the wine bar owner that I have a great band and we are going to play at my house. I need someone to provide and pour wine while we play. I can’t pay much, just $75 and you must bring at least 25 people who are willing to pay a $10 cover charge at the door. Now wouldn’t they look at you like you are crazy?
"Why would I do that" they would ask.
Well because it’s great exposure for you and your wine bar. The people there would see how well you pour wine and see how good your wine is. Then they would come out to your wine bar sometime.
"But I brought all the people myself, I already know them," they would say. Well maybe you could make up some professional looking flyers, pass them out, and get people you don’t know to come on out.
"But you are only paying me $75, How can I afford to make up flyers?"
You see how absurd this sounds, but musicians do this all the time. If they didn’t, then the club owners wouldn’t even think of asking us to do it. So this sounds like a great deal for the club owners doesn’t it? They get a band and customers for that night, and have to pay very little if anything. But what they don’trealize is that this is NOT in their best interest. . . the music is another product for thevenue to offer, no different from food or beverages.
. . . Eddie Mechanic who has slaved all week fixing car sat the local dealership also plays guitar. Not very well,but he’s been practicing once a week with Doctor Drummer, Banker Bass Player, and Salesman Singer. Usually they just drink beer between rehearsing a few tunes in Eddie’s garage, but this week they answer a craigslist ad and line up a big gig. Well they don’t sound that good, but they sure all work with a lot of people everyday. All these people can be given aflyer on Monday and after being asked "are youcoming to my gig?" every day all week, and will most likelyshow up on Saturday night.
So mission accomplished, the club owner has packed his venue for one night. But here’s where the club owner doesn’t get it. The crowd is following the band, not the venue. The next night you will have to start all over again. And the people that were starting to follow your venue, are now turned off because you just made them listen to a bad band. The goal should be to build a fan base of the venue. To get people that will trust that you will have good music in there every night.
This is more than a bit self-serving, of course, and I suspect that it's actually really hard to build up a following for a venue, which is why venues try to find bands that can bring the customers themselves. But as he points out, the professionals are not going to be able to bring their friends and families every night--and if they're a jazz band, unlikely that they'll bring 1,000 fans, either. The effect on the quality of live music seems unlikely to be good.