I am bothered, at times, that some bands will play for free at a venue that normally will be a paying gig. It lowers, or even eliminates the motivation of the club to pay good, working bands. It often cuts down on the quality of the entertainment and musicianship presented at the venue. It makes it difficult at times, for a working player who depends on music as a living or money needed to suppliment a day job, pay the bills, etc.


I understand that, sometimes, it is necessary to play a few hours for free in order to prove a band to a club that offers steady work. it has happened to all of us, but there are basnds, and I know of some, that play for free more than not, at paying venues.


Any comments...

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Yes, you are correct...!

Scott, Here are the highest paid entertainers of 2010.   Although they have listed just ten of these highest,  you think you should place up here as well?  What is the going rate for a musician? 

Here in So. Calif, we get anywhere from $50-$100 per man a night, depending on the venue and size of band. There are lots and lots of bands, blues, rock and country, all seriously competing for the paying venues. I know, in other parts of the country and in Canada, the pay is a bit better. The size of the band community here, in OC & LA counties, does pull the rate down in comparison, so any band that plays a "paying" gig for free or drink & food is impeding those groups that work for money, that is needed as living income or part of.   -Bob Lesher
What determines a musician's value?
A very philosophical question, and an interesting one, but not where I was going with the intial statement I made regarding musicians who play paying venues for free on a consistant basis. Do you? I am curious. - Bob Lesher

No, I don't.  I frankly feel strongly against venue owners who do try to take advantage of musicians

When I tried earlier this week to determined whether $100 for a 45 minute set was fair, I  found opposing camps on this matter.  While most people would be delighted  to receive $100 for a three-quarter hour,  many of the musicians thought I was out of my mind. This $100 was but one part of a package of inducements I was prepared to offer (see thread elsewhere on this site.) This $100 was a guaranteed minimum (PIA)

I did get strong support  from venue owners/promoters who thought I was more than fair. 


Most of these musicians who responded to my offer were not of the same calibre as those listed in this top ten of 2010 highest paid musicians. 


I am still trying to determine what is fair.    How do YOU determine value? 

Understood. $100 for a 45-minute set. For me, it would be acceptable if there was a broader scope attached to this set, like if was an audition of sorts for venue or something of that nature. No, I don't think it to unreasonable in that regard. At the end of May, I am working a very similiar situation, opening for another band. My duo, Crosstown 2, is taking on a bass player just for that gig, doing a 45-minute set for $135. We are traveling in one car to conserve gas. The venue provides the sound system. It will work for us. 

BTW; Most club owners/managers I deal with are very nice folks and fair with pay. We try to work together on the pay rate, in many cases, so that both of us get our due.  -Bob Lesher

Regarding other club owners/managers, I understand.  But have you been approached to play a Benefit concert (non-pay), Battle of the Bands (non-pay), door share, merch sales (as the only payment for a gig), open mic, jam session, tip jar, exposure, etc. ?   I have heard many musicians talk of being approached to play for FREE


But what is the going rate for a three quarter hour gig?    How many other lines of work pay $135 hour? 


In light of that, is it understandable that venue owners instead opt for karaoke? 

This $100 was for a four piece band.  Although, if you are a Jack White, I can see paying this for a duet.

Seeing Springsteen on that list of highest paid, reminded me of how he got his start in Asbury Park. Back in those days there was a really big circuit along the Jersey coast during the Summer. Bands made mad money once they hit the 'A' clubs which held between 3-5000 people. But it took time to get into them. Springsteen found a club in Asbury Park that had some live music. He offered to play there for just a head count fee (which in that club at the time was less than 50 people). Eventually they filled the club (2-300 people) and were offered a better/bigger club and the rest is history.


It is impossible to rate the worth of anyone in the arts. It's basically whatever they can get and whatever someone is willing to pay them. As an example. Going back to Asbury Park. Sringsteens good friend Southside Johnny was a far better bar band and more popular than Springsteen. But Springsteen wrote better songs and is a better concert performer. The Stone Pony was the 'B' bar in Asbury Park and the "Wonder Bar' was the 'A' club and that's where Johnny played.

Good story, Sue.  The problem with this music, is I have seen very few bands in the Blues fill a venue, even of the smallest size.  I don't know whether that is because of the bands or the way the event was promoted.  Normally there are very few people in attendance, and once they have finished dinner, etc., they are gone.  This applies as much to the bigger names as the smaller, lesser known bands.  I suppose one reason why most Blues bands insist in playing juke joints rather than  arenas is because they know that they would have trouble filling an arena.


I am suppose to attend a benefit this afternoon featuring several bands.  I will let you know, maybe tomorrow what the turn out is.


As a promoter one of the problems I have paying more than a minimum is that I am largely paying for an unknown commodity.  One of the reasons I would hold a band responsible for selling a set number of tickets is because I am challenging them.  Can they sell tickets, even the smallest number?  I am not asking them to do my job.  When you have a venue with a seating capacity of 300 people, 20 tickets is a very small number.  I will normally have to fill the house to get a return on my money.   And to that end I would have to promote my ass off to make the show a success. 


A musician can ask what they may for their time, but it is up to the market to determine what they are worth.  And it's a promoter's decision to pay what a band asks. 

Yes, blues bands do face that issue. Arenas, etc. are not their true forte. My best gigs have been clubs with an, almost jazz ambience. And, hey, if you are a promoter, I would certainly do a set for you for minimum or less with the hope that we would impress you enough to get us real work. Hence, a free gig with some hope at the end of the tunnel is o'k.


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