Top 3 Ways to Tell You're Getting Ripped Off by a Club or Booker

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Running a music venue is hard work. Let’s get that little truth out of the way upfront. Long hours. Liquor licenses. Sound system maintenance. Booking. Oh, and, umm…dealing with musicians! (Face it: we can be a bunch of immature divas sometimes, especially when alcohol is involved.) But that doesn’t justify skimming off the top or inflating projected costs in order to earn a few extra bucks at our expense.

So, here are a few things to be on the lookout for when it comes time to collect payment at the end of the night:

1. The Catering Budget – Did the club keep $250 from the door to cover “catering,” and then leave you with two cases of Budweiser and a snack platter? Yeah, they’re probably pocketing the rest for themselves.

 2. Promotional Cost – Did they print unique posters for your show and distribute them all around town? Did they run an individual print or radio ad for your show? Or did they print posters for their venue that list all the shows over the next week or two, and run an ad in the local weekly for all the shows that month? If you’re not getting special promotional attention from the venue, then your contribution to their promotional costs shouldn’t be that high. If they are, chances are the club is making every band kick in money and then giving the promotional “group-treatment” in order to earn some extra dough.

3. The “We Had to Let Some People in for Free” Excuse – Ever played a club that seemed pretty full, and then at the end of the night the door person hands you a wad of bills that seems a bit…thin? Then they tell you, “Well, it was pretty slow for a while so we decided to just let people in for free.” Yeah, that shouldn’t happen without your prior approval. Otherwise, they could be charging folks and feeding you that line so they can hang on to the cash.

Most clubs are innocent of these crimes, so I’m not saying you have to approach every gig with caution. Club owners, bartenders, bookers, door people, sound engineers, and musicians are usually all on the same team with the same goal: get people in the door, give them a good time, and make some money. But I have seen each of these 3 things happen multiple times. If you happen to be the victim, stay calm. Talk to the person in charge and tell them (with a cool head) that you don’t think their policy is quite fair given the circumstances. If they’re jerks, don’t play at their club again. If they make things right, sweet! Maybe it’ll curb such behavior in the future.

What are some other ways clubs can rip off artists? Got any horror stories of your own to share? Feel free to leave your comments below.

-Chris R. at CD Baby

P.S. In the comments section below, Roy Linford Adams added a few more warning signs that I thought were worth noting. He writes:

4. WE ONLY PAY FOR THE PEOPLE WHO CAME TO SEE YOU. I’ve dealt with this a few times. The fact is even IF they are asking the people what band they are there to see, it forces the person to have to choose. Maybe they are there to see ALL the bands.

5. THE EVENT IS HAVING YOU PAY JUST TO PLAY. So let’s get this right, you pay them hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars that between you and all the other bands, more than pays for the venue, promotion, and headliners. And they get to walk away with all the ticket sales? 90% of the time the turnouts for these events are terrible because the promoter already has his money. Sure he’ll tell you there’s going to be some massive turnout, that there’s going to be record label scouts, that this will “Make you carreer.” but the fact is he doesn’t have to deliver on a single one of those promises and afterwards, there’s nothing you can do about it.

6. YOU NEED TO SELL TICKETS IN ORDER TO PLAY. Let’s face it, if you can sell the 25, 50, or even 100+ tickets, you don’t need them. Rent the venue for the night, book some friend bands and sell those tickets. Typical club venues want $100-$300 for a night and the avergae ticket cost is $10, so if you’re selling 50 tickets, there’s at least $200 you’re not seeing. Why should YOU do all the work to sell tickets that you know are going to pay for the venue and more… only to let some greeseball walk away with that hard earned cash just for making half an hour’s worth of phone calls to you, the other bands, and the club????

Once you’ve written some great songs, let CD Baby help you sell them on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and more!

In this article

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  • Guest

    So, I got to the venue, played the gig. My agent had a “contract” for that show. The talent buyer didn’t show up, and no cover was charged… the staff split once the show was over. No pay.

    • Chuckhughes2

      Get 50% with the return of the contract, and the other 50% upon arrival at the club, before load in.

  • Indiefolker

    Sometimes the bookers and club owners don’t even bother to take you seriously though. Something like in this web comic:

  • Wow. They weren't even subtle about it.

  • Haha. That reminds me of this article we wrote on how to properly advance a show:

  • That's why, when I book a show, I send a separate email with all of the details…. load in, pay, set time, etc. Now if there's a way to get bands to actually read that email – I'd love to hear it. 🙂

    • Lolasmyname

      I am the leader of Amethyst Heart – and I actually agree with you. Every gig, festival, event we play at, we get all the info up front from the sponsor, club, etc., and I read every single word. And then, we are true to every request – we are always early, ready to set up, stick to the time limit, usually running a little under (I’d much rather be asked to play another song than be booted off the stage – my motto – leave them wanting more) and we respect the effort a venue puts out just so we can share our music. I hate that we get a bad rap from irresponsible musicians!

    • Doctor K

      Tell them up front that you require a “SIGNED” (even if it’s an electronic signature) performance contract, and that it protects them just as much as it protects you. That way neither party can complain about fees for services rendered etc. That is an easy way to show a band that your are a professional. If they don’t want to sign a basic contract it’s their loss.

  • If you are doing a contracted night, especially if your a promoter working with the venue, its good to go over all invoices, as I have experienced them being tampered with to the sum of hundreds of pounds, if possible place your own 'trusted' door rep on the show, who will be much more accurate with, the cash, guest list etc. I'ts a wise move to keep tabs on the whole deal, will you be getting a cut of the bar? will you be getting a cut of the gross profit or the net profit? Are you getting a guarantee? Sometimes promoters do a shocking job with a great band and you end up playing to 10 people. Sometimes other external factors like really bad weather are at fault for a poor turn out, so do some research before playing (in order to be fair, promoting can be very tough) or get that guarantee. Check all cash cheques there and then and bring any receipts for travel or agreed expenses, you will find it hard to get petrol money etc back the next day, the run around occurs pretty regularly in promotions.

    Basically just be sure of the facts & Figures and don't be afraid to question things until you get an honest answer, a good venue or promoter will be honest with you from the start, a bad one won't.

    • Yes. Best to remember those facts and figures! You might need ammo to keep someone honest.

    • Howdog

      If you do have someone counting at the door, make certain that they stay there the entire night and that they’re familiar with the club’s entry, re-entry and guest list policy. I had an argument once about the count and the club said they had a different number. I was adamant that my count was right. Apparently the error was in my favor and I was arguing that they were wrong. The manager politely said “we can use your count or ours. Our count gives you $750 more.” it was one of the more humbling experiences of my life.

  • One band I knew ironically put “The Bad Boyz of Rock and Roll” on their poster (they were essentially folk music) and the club owner deducted $200 for “security fees,” to cover the bartender’s out of shape brother-in-law sitting around in a black T shirt. The same club charged my band $150 for custom promotion which included…putting our name on the calendar…in the venue.

    This club’s true shortsightedness was that we were not only musicians, we were potential customers too! I would not be caught in their bathroom, much less spending $30 a ticket plus food and beverage.

    Expenses are best estimated well in advance, or you should avoid the venue altogether.

  • exctly

    i talked to a club owner years ago and he told me exactly the tricks: charge every band for promotion but do a group ad/poster; tell them the club limit is 400 but allow in 600…. etc etc. exactly like in your article.

    this guy owned lots of property and fancy cars, but drove a clunker to work so that his staff wouldn't ask for more pay… that kinda thing.

    get your own guy on the door or at the venue counting people. bruce springsteen did it, and would always catch the promoter undercounting a few thousand seats… (they'd show him an out of date blueprint for the venue.) he also watched for things like "entertainment tax of 3%" and other fictional add-ons… like the venue charging for bottled water (which they'd buy and mark up) etc.

    there must be some sort of "club promoter 101" course they teach.

  • And then of course there is the usual "sell x tickets you have to buy from us first" scam.

    • Sounds like a few gigs I played when I was 19.

      • Jon Patton

        Sounds like the 8×10 in Baltimore, too. And yet they still manage to convince professionals to play there.

        • Heroes And Cons

          There’s a club here in South Florida that does that. The trick is the pros or large touring bands get normal treatment (no pay-to-play, get a deposit or cut of the door) and the local acts have to buy tickets to sell. They stiff the little guy here, probably the same at that club.

    • Aristadoe

      That should of been the first one on the list.

    • Hoodgoodgoodie

      wow my head is straight spinning right now…It’s all becoming very clear to me now. I better strap up and get ready for a long ride~

  • My band played a small bar earlier this year and we counted heads. 150 people in the door @ $5. We got $300. I found out later the owner let in a wedding party for zilch, and the door guy let all the pretty girls in for free. We haven’t been back since.

    • haven’t been BACK? that’s your loss! $300 is a great payday in this situation. what do you think they should have paid you?

      • Curt Brewer

        Teenage Heart,

        In regards to your comment: You need to recalculate the amount that was lost in this situation. Especially if it was agreed upon that the per-person cover charge was $5. Otherwise Teenage Heart, you will lose money (and respect from the people you do business with!)

        I can appreciate letting a few “pretty girls” in the door for free, ……BUT, as a professional in the entertainment industry, I would NEVER play that venue again. If you are the venue and you tell me that you are going to charge $5.00 per person, then you damn well better charge every person that comes in the door.

        Experience teaches you to have your own person collecting the money/tickets at the door (or at least accompany the venue’s door person.) This is the best way to keep an accurate tally.

        Bottom Line:
        1: Always have a signed contract (and deposit if possible) from the venue.
        2: Have a representative of the band at the main entrance(s) with the money/ticket takers.
        3: Do not play venues that do not live up to their legal/moral obligations.

      • Jon Patton

        I partly agree. I do think the band should have gotten something closer to $450 (60% of the door charge is fair), but $300 certainly isn’t awful.

      • The G Man

        $300 is a great payday? For a 5 piece band that had to travel nearly an hour, fill a 4-hour window of time, with at least 2 hours of setup/teardown time, and no tab, that equals about $10/hour each before paying fuel costs or paying for any drinks. As long as there are bands out there that think this is good money, clubs will continue to screw everyone. This recently happened to my band: we have a good sized crowd (with photos to prove it), but the door told us we only had so many paid admissions and they let a bunch of people in for free. We got shorted by a good $200 or $300 easily.

        Club owners get the benefit of the cover charge + all the drinks & food each person consumes. Even if 50 people were let in free, they still made $200 on top of the bar earnings. Let’s say each of those 100 people spent $10 (conservative, it’s maybe 2 drinks). The bar grosses at least $1500 while the band gets $300 — only 20% of the gross. It’s ridiculous. Try asking a club for a share of it’s bar revenue and they’ll laugh their ass off…and yet they have no problem taking a good sized chunk of the door — there should have been about $750 at the door and nobody really knows how many got in free. Looks to me like they took about 30% of the door and 100% of bar revenue.

        The answer is: get everything in writing; how much you’ll get paid (or at least an accurate % of the split), the “guest list”, minimum draw, cover charge, how long you are supposed to play, who pays the costs of production (including the tech), notice of cancellation. That way there are no surprises.

        • James D. Gilmore

          Just read the other reply & felt moved to point out that we (musicians) play gigs for FREE. We are working when we spend months in the studio writing, rehearsing, recording, & building a brand (websites, myspace, facebook, reverbnation…) to generate interest. That is what we’re really being paid for. And yes, we pay plenty of electric bills, rent, transportation, gear, etc.. in the many months to prepare for that 1 night show. The real “work” happens long before the show, & you don’t want to set down & crunch those real numbers to find out what bands really make per-hour. Trust me.

      • Sydhowell


      • About $750, unless you have some other arrangement.

      • Hellvis

        300 is good pay only for an all original band playing one set. Down here in Florida most original bands play for almost nothing. BUT to me 300 is the same amount we made 20 years ago. Bands never get a raise. Which is why I added covers and we now can play 3 1 hour sets in area bars, of course its not the cool bars but getting paid 4-500 for a 3 piece Rockabilly band is good. We still have originals, (last Cd is all originals) and only play the free shows if its high profile with lots of people. I always tell young bands never play for free ( cause it ruins it for workng musicians) and never play battle of the bands. But they never listen

    • Billy

      Good for you for standing up!!! That’s abuse. I wish more or all musicians/bands would do this. $300 is not a lot of $$ when you consider all the expenses for an entire band. I stopped playing for places like that, too.

    • Know your worth. Get a following and stop playing for the door!

  • Pretty girls are never bad for crowd attendance, but still, the door person should always ask you first before letting anyone in for free.

    • PayMe

      Cause thats what society needs is more females with entitlement issues, no integrity, no conscience being enabled and getting special treatment and free money from fools.

  • AFM member

    Join the American Federation of Musicians. Use an AFM Contract and file it with the Local before the gig with all the terms listed. If the venue strays from that contract one cent, it is then the AFM's job to go after them.

    If the buyer won't sign a contract, I won't trust them.

    • Do you find that your typical bar or small music venue is reluctant to work with AFM members?

      • AFM contracts are good because the union will go after them. BUT, union wages are WAY below market rate in many cases.

        • How does one FIND OUT what the local’s rates are. I have asked, as we would like to make sure we are paying the sidemen enough… I can’t get an answer about the rates….

      • Paulgaeta

        I’d like very much to know!

    • West

      The AFM has no teeth in thousands of non union venues across the US. Joining the union is another expense and work dues also fall into the equation.

      • Targetpool

        Same here- about 79, our new little lounge band got told we had to join the AFM to play the better lounges…(we even all pretended we lived at the bass players parents house way out in a suburb, cause it was 40% cheaper to join than in Seattle)
        – then we got stiffed on a gig, did all the reports to the union, they were all serious that they would help us, and we never heard from them again.

        • AFM Officer

          I am sorry to hear this story, however, as a Local Officer, I know that there are always two sides to every story. I go after all manor of individuals that have stiffed our members and/or their bands. Do I always get them their money? No. Sometimes there is nothing there to get, even when we have a court judgement in hand. Other times, bands decide it’s not worth the energy, because it may require their participation as well, but often, I am able, through a variety of means, to get them their money. Every circumstance is different and requires a unique approach.

          It is interesting that targetpool talks about misrepresenting themselves to the Union (location of membership), but are then upset when they believe the Union misrepresented their services. Hmmm!

          It’s always interesting to hear about how the Union has no teeth in various markets within our industry. The “teeth” are provided by our membership density within that industry segment and the musicians willingness to work together to hold the line, whatever that might be. The Union provides the infrastructure and training to make that happen. No one would say we don’t have teeth in the orchestral world. Why? Two reasons. Labor law favors us in that area because the musicians are employees (they are independent contractors in the clubs), but also, the musicians, almost universally members across the US and Canada, work together to maintain standards.

          The current Union is not your Daddy’s Union. We are not some monolith that can just demand whatever anyone might want. What it is, though, is the largest organization in the world working on behalf of musicians rights. Are we perfect and able to respond to everyones needs? Of course not, but that is our goal, and the greater the number of musicians that are involved, the better we are at getting it right. Does it cost some money to be a member? Of course, but I can guarantee you that no officer is in this for the big bucks. I work 60 to 80 hours a week, flying all over the US and Canada working on behalf of musicians, and there is no big pay day at the end. I spent twenty-five years as a club musician making a middle class living, and nothing makes me feel better than getting a piece of that for a deserving musician.

    • Funkmeistermike

      Good luck with that. There are so many bands and musicians looking for gigs, the ones that think a contract is necessary get laughed at. Have you booked a nightclub before?

    • AFM Officer

      We have a large number of our members playing in clubs. It’s not usually a matter of whether you are a member or not, it’s about contracts. Many clubs don’t use them and won’t sign them until you get above the bottom feeders. It’s the old catch 22. If all musicians required them, then no matter how many bands were out there, the clubs would have to sign them. That is the great challenge of the Union. Working to have musicians create and agree to basic minimum standards, and then hold to them.

  • Read our adventures in Miami regarding venues, promoters & bands-

  • BReal

    I remember starting out at this club for open mic. They took money from the audience and passed a jug. I played there years every month dreaming about when I would have my own show. I finely made the prime time and filled the place with my few friends and some family. My first show I made a wapping fifty bucks! I dreamed about the big rewards that would follow when I had standing room only. Years later I had a band and was a head-liner and touring quite a bit, I came back to the club where I started and packed the place out the doors. So I was really flabbergasted when the club owner layed fifty bucks in my hand.

    • The G Man

      Stop dreaming and start writing contracts. Then at least you’ll have a basis for making a claim on what they owe you. Any show I’ve done without a contract, I’ve gotten ripped off. So now, if a club or agent doesn’t want to use a written contract, I won’t play the show. Anyone who does not want the terms of an agreement spelled out and approved by both parties is looking to rip you off.

    • Jshortsimmons

      That is very sad but I had to laugh. How could they do that? I am a vocalist in DC and a lot of the gigs don’t have contracts but I have not had a problem with payment. I only did a gig twice where I “got the door plus” because you can’t trust people and you must have someone monitoring the process for you. That was several years ago. But I can honestly say, I have not had a problem although I know of a few people who say they have been burned by owners.

  • jes

    Top 3 way to tell your being ripped off by a club or booking agent?
    1) you are trying to get a show in a club
    2) you are in communication with someone who is the “booking agent” for a club or venue.
    3) you are playing a gig.

    you are always getting ripped off. in any situation in the music business, the artist is paid last.

    • Creektara

      that’s just not always true!!! when I had my venue, I paid the band 1% of the door FIRST, after I had already wined & dined them, etc…..after 1 1/2 years, we had to close cuz we were’nt making enuff $$$…but, the BANDS GOT PAID!!

    • RichDaigle

      Amen brother!

    • Jonathan, that is exactly what I was thinking. LOL. You are pretty much right. I have have club owners/bookers try to rip me off for every single venue. It’s sad that almost all of them treat bands like dirt, when it is the bands that bring in the crowds. I hate that.

  • Ty Gerhardt

    One way they try to rip you off is with door head count. Sometimes the door guy gets lazy or forgetful and either forgets to ask folks who they’re there to see or just doesn’t mark the person on their tally sheet. That’s why I always have our roadie take an independent head count. There was one show in particular that was packed and the door count was off by a little over 25 people. If the club pushes it we’ll bring individuals up who said they weren’t asked and make the door guy count them.

  • DJ43

    how about- you show up and play. That’s what usually happens in the Bay Area. Show up? You’re ripped off. For sure. Especially Atherton clubs.

    • DJ43

      I made a mistake. “Aptos” clubs. The Aptos Club in particular. This may not get printed I realize, but that one club essentially made me stop playing, ultimately. The people may have changed, but it was the worst night of our lives. Forcing us to use their gear, claiming it was later broken, etc. Please stay away from this place.

  • Great article, and thanks for posting, and for all the comments. I’ve reposted to “GIGS canada” on facebook, as the website is still being built.

  • Russell Jennings

    Anybody out there ever play a club who hired your band specifically for the music you play…lets say straight up rock and roll, and a very large party of people come in after a big Vegas style wedding and then the owner demands you play vegas style music (Sinatra etc..) to please this party because he wants to suck up .of coarse…and at the end of the night he shorts you some money because he got complaints from that same party about how the band didn’t know any songs they wanted to hear?
    Is it just me who’s ever experienced this?

  • Opnun

    After many years of playing gigs, one finds that almost all clubs are ripoffs for the artist. Also unfortunately, many in the popular entertainment meccas actually charge artists a fee to play there. Many will insist you guarantee a minimum to their venue and pay for their sound engineer for the right to perform there. My advice would be to find other ways to promote your career or music via live performance. I would much rather play a house concert or special event for free to promote my music and have an audience that really cares, than to put up with the club mentality replete with drunks, smoke, drugs, stds, and extraneous conversation and noise. These dates should be reserved for cover dance bands only.

    • Atdutchtreat

      Right on, Opnun. I’ve been playing folk music, blues and caribbean music for forty years now, and my best concerts were opening for larger acts, house concerts, and intimate settings at RV parks and campgrounds. My music gets drowned out at beer joints, so I don’t even go there. Upscale restaurants sometimes pay or treat me and my wife to two dinners and let me sell CDs. We always eat before the show… But with this economy, the first thing to go is eating out, and restaurants can’t afford entertainment anymore. The worst kind of scum sets up “songwriters night” at their restaurants. They offer “exposure” to the musicians and don’t have to pay a dime. Grrrrrrr…

    • Just as we used to do it in the punk rock scene 1979 – 1984.

      Kuddos to you my brother.

    • JCfreely

      The CD Baby comment threads are always stodgier than an Amish sewing circle. Yeah drinking, drugs, and sex shouldn’t have anything to do with music. Good point, Hezekiah.

  • BettyGot

    We were told recently that we would get 70% of our draw. We got about half the dollar amount we were expecting. When we asked about it we were told “Well its different when there is a touring band playing that night.” This was already known when he laid out the details of the night months in advance and told us TWICE via email what we would be getting. Anyone heard this before? If its worth anything, he did say he would throw us extra cash next time we play there.

    • Curt Brewer

      I’ve seen that one also.

      How many times do the venue owners make good on the promise of “I’ll throw you in some extra next time you play.”

      I say throw in a couple of bottles of Whiskey & Jager. That’ll help even the score.

  • Ada

    #3 can go either way. i used to run a club – full i tour full time, and i know that people will come in quicker if there are already people in the club (people are sheep). sometimes, i would let people in for free to get other people to come in. it’s all a game, it’s a business game. tricks you learn. BUT, at the same time, it should not dramatically affect the money you get. but if there are only 20 people there and you let in 10 and then no one else came in…well, do the math. it happens, but that does not mean the club is trying to rip you off. AND, on that note. you as a band should be helping to promote the show as well. if your fans do not know you are playing or if you do not have any fans…well, they don’t fall from the sky.

    it’s a two way street. not everyone out there is out to get you. i guess i took offense to this a bit, because I have been on both sides. but logic will help you not get ripped off, and in most of these cases the clubs are trying to stay afloat as much as the band. there’s only so much money out there and business is business. remember, you are ONE band…the club has hundreds of bands that come in every month they have to try and accommodate. it takes money to run a club, just like it takes money to tour.

    if you would rather have NO ONE watch your show…then it’s up to you to tell the club…”Don’t try and help me if no one shows up.” but in my opinion…that would not be a smart move.

    • Billy

      Yes, it takes $$ & I don’t think any band will dispute that. If the club makes $$, then we have a place to play. The complaints come from the shady dealings. Don’t make an agreement that you know you can’t keep with a band. And, don’t rely on only the band to promote your club. Yes, the band should always promote where they are playing, but the club owner should not just rely on the bands. I’ve seen clubs in biz for years & still looking for a band with a following. Why? What are YOU doing to promote your place? Would you hire a plumber & decide you can’t pay him or decide you want to pay him less? What about the light bill? Phone bill? Trust me. The musicians have put a LOT of hours in their skills & equipment. It’s not something anybody can do, if so, the club owner would do it. Plumbing is not something anybody can do, so you hire a plumber & pay him. Hire a musician & pay him, too.

  • I’ve been playing professionally for about 30 years now. I always use a contract that spells out everything (so no surprises). I get deposits up front and get paid before I go on (been burned before). I never play for the door (early in my career I did, but only if I had my own person handling the money). I never ask for a cut of the bar take (too easy for the manager to zero out the cash register and restart halfway through the night). I never pay for nor assume the club will promote me (I do it myself). I don’t carry liability insurance – your venue, your insurance (been asked many times). I’ve had problems with each of these and many other issues which is why I won’t waste my time if someone won’t do it my way. Otherwise, I’d rather stay home and practice, write, or record. Or find a venue I CAN work with.

    • After reading the majority of the other comments, I’d like to add my 2 cents – which are right in step with yours, Dan – good stuff by the way! In my experience: being prepared is the key to getting paid – nothing says “I’m a professional” like preparation and having a back up plan. It’s no different than practicing – you can tell when someone has put some extra time and preparation in. From a business perspective, having your own gear and knowing how to use it makes your band efficient. The less accodation your band requires, the more you get paid AND the more often you get paid.
      The essential maximum “get paid” ingredient (as always) comes down to good ole DIY:
      [1] SOUND/GEAR – My keyboardist and I are both sound engineers – he mostly records in studio, and I primarily do 24-channel live audio recording. So, when gigging, we handle our own PA and monitoring and make sure the other band members know the basics of setup and teardown. One good practice (for those with digital mixers and/or low latency DAWs) is recording a few songs while practicing ahead of time and saving the setup as a template/scene/preset for quick recall once on site – sound checks go much faster with only minor adjustments required! The keyboardist has the PA equipment (mixer, amps, house speakers, and monitors). Our vocalists each have THEIR OWN wireless mics. I bring the drum mics, snake, a huge box loaded with +100 foot cables (both audio/power) and and MAC PRO low latency daw mixer with Auto-Tune as backup (just in case). Sometimes we use them at the same time – 1 to record, 1 for efx, and sometimes both. The drummer makes click tracks to keep the tempo from dragging, and for larger venues, we bring a drum pad to add another dimension to the rhythm section. I’m considering bringing my board for pads and synth when I’m not playing sax during certain sections of songs in our set list.
      [2] PROMOTION – Our drummer, Jason Dozier, is our primary word-of-mouth. Known for being Isaiah Fogle’s first private drum instructor, his name pretty much keeps us busy – a good name really does go a long way! [*Look up Isaiah Fogle at: We also use our website, text messaging and email lists. Heck some of our following help us out with that. Having your own following means wherever you go, the bar/club/whatever is going to get paid, and gives your room to negotiate. The keyboardist and I share the media responsibility between video and live audio capture: I have four 1080HD hard disk camcorders and 24 track recording capability via 3 Presonus FP10’s connected to a MAC PRO. The keyboardist has recently purchased a 16 channel StudioLIve which makes for quicker setup time and includes more touchable knobs. It does the trick for what we need as a 6 piece live band. I do the video capture using four stationary cameras on tripods, then go back and edit them with panning etc in Vegas. The keyboardist adds the finishing touches: special effects, logos, etc in either iMovie or Final Cut. Once live audio is mixed down and mastered, it’s sync’d to the video. A promo packet (especially when it includes a DVD) has to look AND sound like money to attract money! We also post coming performance dates on our website and post vids online at YouTube and Facebook. We also shop CDs/DVDs around to larger venues, as many times they don’t have time to scout local talent. Showing initiative and preparedness makes us really stand out from the rest. We have also registered as a vendor in our city. If we aren’t already working sound, they usually call our band to open for larger venues. We were the house band for the city’s recent “Battle of the Bands”, a local comedy show featuring comics from BET’s “The View”, we’ve opened for Marvin Sapp, as well as Yarborough and Peoples – to name a few.
      [3] CONTRACTS – Once the drummer secures a referral, the Keyboardist negotiates the contracts and then updates the website (in that order). Most large venues require some sort of contract. We require a non-refundable security deposit for larger venues. After all, money up front makes it easier to focus on your playing when the time comes – no bad nerves! Sometimes we’ve played for free, but only once per venue. We’ve found the best results come from doing 1 free gig as opposed to playing a 1st gig super cheap and then trying to explain why we should get paid so much more the next time. Once they hear our overall sound live, they’ve gotta have us. It’s the psycology of music business. . . I didn’t get it at first, but it works! We NEVER EVER play for “the door”! *We have a following and our point of contact is always made well aware.
      Keep it business too. Don’t give your client any reason to dock your pay – don’t look or ask for free food or drinks. Paying your own way will earn your client’s respect. You’ve gotta train them to some extent to let the money say “thank you” – once the music is over, you don’t need to HEAR anything. . . $eeing is believing at that point. Keep in mind, you’ll be eating somewhere regardless, but if they are going to feed you, make sure it’s understood that is NOT a form of compensation and get it in writing (if you can). It is nice to play venues that offer such courtesy, but if you have to choose, don’t forget what you came for!
      IN SUMMARY. . .
      [1] Running your own PA saves time, eliminates the guess work for the D.J. (who isn’t a sound technician), ensures everything sounds good to EVERYBODY, and helps musicians play at their peak. [2] Do some sort of promotion. Anything is better than nothing and helps you command better pay. [3] Always handle the busine$$ first – no last minute anything, especially if you’ve prepared for your gig on that next level. Get your money up front (when you can) and get that out of the way so the musicians can relax and do what they do. No begging – you’re there to work. . . but, don’t forget to have fun doing it! [Well, I guess I’ve written enough.] – Right MIX

      • Eve

        Awesome addition 🙂

      • Hitman

        I agree with everything you’ve said, but I must add: during our last UK tour, we did two door gigs. I NEVER do door gigs, but this time I agreed because the first venue always draws a great crowd when we’ve played there (same this time). The second was on our way up to play at the Maryport Blues Festival, and as the agent put it “it’s probably better than sitting in your hotel room.” While the turnout wasn’t incredible, it ended up being VERY profitable thanks to merchandising and a crowd that wouldn’t leave.
        So, I guess the door can work – sometimes, but only under very strict circumstances. I wouldn’t do it here in the US unless the venue could guarantee at least 100 people.

      • @Dan: these are great suggestions, but I have to disagree with the contention that running your own PA saves time. Coming from a guy who runs sound (as a hobby, but regularly for my own band and others) nothing wears out a headliner like having to provide, set up, run and tear down their own rig… and THEN also put on a top notch show.

        Who runs the board while you’re on stage? Of course, if you have an engineer on staff/retainer, then the question is moot, but what if you don’t (which we don’t)?

        Running your own PA might save SOME money off the top (some bars charge bands a fee to use the HOUSE PA! What a crock!) since for-hire sound men do not work for free.

        And if you bring your own PA? How does that save time when you have to arrive several hours earlier to the club to set it up and then supervise the rig while the openers play… and THEN stay later to tear it down and pack it away?

        Promotions? There’s not one club in my A.O. (Hampton Roads, Virginia) which does any better promotion than hanging “Who’s Playing This Month” fliers in their own club. There is no radio promotion. There is no print promotion. A lot of them don’t even bother promoting on social networking sites. Pay? For promotion? Why should the clubs do it when the bands can do it for them and at their cost?

        Business first. Nothing sucks worse than making a guarantee to an opener and then having to eat your promise because the club didn’t “do as well as they thought” or “it wasn’t much of a drinking crowd”. If anything, ALWAYS cover your own promises even if you have to come out of pocket. That being said, if I had a nickel for every show I’d done where some clown shorted me at the end of the night because of some club-owner canard (like those mentioned above) I could probably cover my losses.

        The other shite part is having to wait until 2:30 AM to get paid and, if necessary, pay your openers, soundman, light tech, etc. But that’s when the till gets closed. It’s garbage, to be sure… but it is SOP in most club-type situations.

        • The Right Mix

          I did write about being efficient, and we have to be. We put a lot more into our show than a lot of other local acts with regard to practice, promotion, and certainly our equipment; but we feel it’s necessary when preparing for a show with resonable pay. We think that’s why we’ve been fortunate enough to play and get paid at venues that other locals haven’t. Our band is also blessed to have 2 sound engineers that not only do what they do well independantly, but also work well together! Moreso than that, we are blessed to have the band members we have. Everyone in the band understands an understated concept called “working together”.

          The following setup approach has consistently enabled us to be able to get the house, monitors, and setup for a minimum 6 piece band (including 9 drum mics) complete with compressors reverb, various other effects, and lighting up and ready in 1 hour:
          #1) CONNECT MIXER/DAW, MONITORS & HOUSE [5mins] – depending on the venue, the “mixer” is either the Presonus StudioLive or the Mac Pro using 3 FP10’s. (*Keep reading and you’ll see why.) We use powered JBLs for the house and monitors. Sure they’re a little more expensive, but consider the time saved compared to having to trace and/or label cables (too much excitement for me), setting more levels, forgetting external equipment/cables, etc… With powered speakers, all the volume is controlled from the StudioLive mixer or the MacPro DAW; which means less mess, less signal loss, and everything is basically direct and clean. These tools are just another part of our gig rig. Either way we go, we are using presets and templates; which means no guess work – quick and easy.

          #2) MIC & MIX THE DRUM SET (9 mics) [10-15mins] – the drums are the heart of your mix – they’ve gotta be right. Templates and presets help you get studio results quickly and yes “FASTER” than trying to get the same results from dated analog equipment. With everyone pitching in, and a dedicated drum snake with labeled cables, the drums take 10-15mins from setup to presets to ready to go!
          If you don’t have a digital mixer (or an equivalent daw), I’m sorry – you don’t know what you’re missing. If you do have them, but aren’t utilizing your templates or presets yet, there’s no better time to start.

          #3) CONNECT, EQ, GATE, ETC. EVERYTHING ELSE [10-15mins] – Everything
          after the drums takes 10-15mins total! This is where the 2 sound engineers come in handy – bear in mind, we just finished using 9mics on a live drum set. So setting a few vocal mics is simple – just copy/paste! The sax, bass, guitar(s), and keyboard all have their own presets!
          ***If you don’t have a digital mixer (or an equivalent daw), I’m sorry – you don’t know what you’re missing. If you do have them, but aren’t utilizing your templates or presets yet, there’s no better time to start.

          #4) SOUNDCHECK FOR THE ROOM/VENUE [5 mins] – We’ve got a template we setup in studio. So this part needs very little fine tuning and takes maybe 5mins. For now, since I primarily do live recording, I communicate what changes need to be made from the audience via wireless mic while jamming with the band. During the show, the keyboardist keeps the StudioLive right next to him for easy access. If not that, I have the MacPro right next to me, and everyone knows hand signs for any minor adjustments that might need to be made. The only thing that’s not wireless are the drums and bass – so it works great, but I just got a laptop this passed weekend to accompany my MacPro rig, and the keyboardist will be picking up an iPad2 soon for his StudioLive rig. So we’ll be using REMOTE DESKTOP in the very near future.

          #5) SETUP LIGHTING [10-15mins] – The trick here is finding a balance between making sure the band is both comfortable and well lit, without blinding anyone! We do this by not pointing lights at any one person. We try to find a spot from the audience’s perspective, where they can view the whole band and put a light there. We use a minimum of 3 and mainly do this part last to conserve the bulbs. Right now we use American DJ par cans, which do the trick, but they can get pretty hot. So we plan to upgrade to all LED’s in the future, but for now we’re pretty happy. They haven’t been a major issue for us yet.

          #6) When we capture video, we usually use 4 cameras, and come a little earlier to place tripods and additional lighting, but even then setup is maybe 2 hours total!

          Tear down takes even less time! It’s always easier to tear somthing up than it is to put something together! LOL

          (DISCLAIMER: Do not attempt this if you are still in the analog age. You may end up owing someone for lost time! These setup times only happen when utilizing a dedicated team of musicians, including 2 sound engineers, sound templates/presets and current (digital template/preset capable) equipment at your disposal.)

          – The Right MIX

    • what do I need to do to hav u send me a copy of the contract at

    • Madcap

      It may have been 4 months since you posted here – outlining the very clear (and rather empowering) contract of yours, and it certainly sounds like something I could really benefit from as a fellow artist. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with all of us, its much appreciated. Never nice to get burned when the “…Money? What money?” situation kicks in. Many have requested a copy of your contract, I’m not sure if they have had a successful response from you with an email of the contract, so I’m just going to go out on a whim and hope you can spare a moment of your time and send a copy to

      I know its a big favour and understand if the answer is a resounding “no”.

      Thanks again and good luck for the future!


  • HooManBN in SF

    I had a promoter who asked me to help him book a gig (in other words, I brought ALL the acts), threatened to cancel it 5 minutes before it started because we didn’t bring ‘enough people’ (he ‘promoted’ exactly NOBODY to come to the show), then walked off with ALL the door. And he still sends me emails asking him to help promote his nonsense…

    • DJ43

      that sounds like the san francisco I know. In case you think I was exaggerating….

  • nightwatch

    Finally, a realistic article. I’m all for club owners making money. But there needs to be some standard practices. For instance, if the club is not paying the band (which is the case in my hometown, the 3rd largest in the US), then they SHOULDN’T take a cut from the door money “to pay the soundman”.

    Clubs sell enough alcohol to pay their staff, and if they don’t then they need to read “Business For Dummies” and learn how to make money running a club without skimming from the bands.

    I do however disagree with the poster below about the club owner letting in some people for free, like “pretty girls and wedding parties”. Wedding parties will drink, and pretty girls will bring in more paying guys. That’s smart business for the club, and you will have a bigger audience. In those cases make up for it with merch sales, collecting emails or whatever. i’ll take a minor hit every now and then for a chance to make a gain in another way.

    My point, unless there is a contract that involves payment to the band in some form, through an agent, manager or the club owner, I believe that bands should get 100 percent of the door no matter what. And letting people in for free should be limited to certain specified conditions.

    Also, avoid those agencies that contact you through MySpace and Facebook at all costs – I don’t care what anyone says, those businesses were formed because musicians are to lazy to book their own gigs and they are set up to use you and the other acts to make money for themselves (wouldn’t you?).

    And ALWAYS have someone at the door.

    • Hellvis

      Never play battle of the bands, its just a move to make money off bands with out paying them. Let the teenagers play the battles.

  • Flamman

    One tip from Holland: very custom here to get paid UPFRONT. No money no show. If by bank: the money must be in the account on the day of the performance – do not accept a “proof of bank transfer” – anyone can forge that. The promoter makes money ADVERTISING your show – the show itself is just an obligation you must live up to. It shouldn’t matter whether there’s 10 people inside or 10.000 – because you can never prove a low turnout is because of the band reputation, bad promotion or bad planning – and then even the band reputation shouldn’t be a point of diuscussion, in our contracts we always state that the promoter is familiar with the band’s repution, performance and style… Money upfront is the best way, because then you are entitled not to go on stage without money in your pocket and even a shady promoter crying he has no cash will suddenly find your money (or a working ATM card) two minutes before you’re supposed to go on.

    Remember: you won’t get a bonus if a turnout is beyond expectations, so you should never accept a lower fee if ticket sales are disappointing.

    • Kevinearnestmusic

      I suddenly want to play Holland

    • Jessicavalientenyc

      Wow–I want to live in Holland!

    • Reptar.Bass

      So true. Could i also get a copy of that contract thanks


    Last November my band “MISSIN’LINK” played in the Battle of The Bands in a club in Valpariso, Indiana. The club wanted only out of state bands because people in the area were tried of local bands. The club owner offered $1000 to the winner and paying gigs to the next 3 runner ups. She had everyone sign a contract that stipulated the rules. Only 3 songs can be played and you only had 15 mins. Well she would not give us copies and on the show date she didn’t honor her contract. We played on the last day in the event and we rocked the jointed. The club owner decided to extend the contest for another 3months and not declare any winners. What a rip off.

  • This past Saturday August 20, 2011: youtube/divebomber/dig it or magic limo ride.

    For five months we were booked at the Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, Ca. We had contact with their marketing several times,sent photos, websites and CD’s which they approved and couldn’t wait. They kinda objected to our painted frontman, Nomad so we toned down the paint.

    We took three vehicles a PA and all the gear expecting to play at least an hour. After a song and a half the Toyota Speedway CEO drove up in his golf cart and shut the sound off. If they wanted twang or Miley Cyrus they should have said so, or at least tell the old fogie.
    Hundreds of dollars wasted in travel, lost bookings elsewhere, small claims for $7500.00 is in order. If any body else has these problems I’ll put your case together for `10% I expect they’ll settle.

  • Uncle Hershel Butts

    Anywhere around Music City USA, Nashville, Tennessee, the club owners are always getting musicians to play for tips. There are so many musicians out of work that it works. There is no way to keep these people from doing this. I blame the musicians as much as the club owners. If they didn’t play for nothing, they wouldn’t have to. Some of the best musicians in the world can be found down on Broadway in Nashville playing for nothing, just hoping to land a real job.
    Everybody here plays at least 7 instruments so all you have to do is see how much room you have on the bus and pick them by size. It’s not like somewhere in the USA where they play 3 chords on a guitar and get paid.

  • No 3 is the most used all over the world… The I let some of my friends who are helping in and they let some of their friends who let some of their friends…

  • Paul Sabu

    OK…Looks good on paper but completely useless…It’s the “Music Business”…The biz part has always sucked! You just have to decide if the perks outweigh the screwage…You think a contract from the AFM is going to make a difference…It’s not…They have stolen millions upon millions in unclaimed performance checks…The only adage that applies to them would be “It takes a thief to catch a thief”…
    1) Stop worrying about the door…You should be concentrating on the merchandising…
    2) If you want the door money…You need a road manager that’s big enough to stop 3 bullets to stay around the door area and keep a head count.
    3) Club, Venue, Agents, etc. have always been like this…They’re not going to change…
    4) Don’t look at it as a negative…more like a constant and work around it…


  • Yes, the worst one is when they make you “buy” tickets to your show, and make you sell them. That is a huge scam. Also when they say you have to have X number of people saying they are here to see your band, before they even start to pay you.

    Clubs make tons of money off of alcohol sales, let in tons of girls and friends for free, the place is packed, and they say you only had 5 people saying they were there to see your band,…….your best bet is to always have one of your people at the door counting the people who come in to see your band. The clubs will rip you off if you let them do it.

    Yes, clubs have tons of fees to pay (licenses, DJ, lighting, liquor stocking, staff), but it’s no excuse to rip off the main reason people are coming to their clubs… see the bands.

    • Portertheband

      That’s funny. The main reason people go to clubs is to get drunk and try to get laid, never let your ego tell you otherwise.

  • MAR

    A certain “PLACE” in a certain HAVEN in CT added previously unquoted charges at the end of the night, kept the rather thin looking wad of bills for what the crowd looked like and “called it even”. No, we won’t work with them anymore.

  • Matt Perkins

    Live music in bars and clubs is dying, at least where I live. Most venues will only book weeknight shows when we can’t get anyone out (most of our audience are people with 9 to 5 jobs or classes) and the pay is barely worth the effort, assuming they pay you at all. I’ve seen venues charge cover then pay us nothing because “we don’t charge cover to our regulars” (aka the alcoholics who spend every night planted firmly on a bar stool).

    • Ottc177

      I’ve often wondered why clubs won’t at you play earlier on a weeknight, say 8pm till 11 instead of 10pm till 1am.

  • The Man

    Here’s some more:

    4. WE ONLY PAY FOR THE PEOPLE WHO CAME TO SEE YOU. I’ve dealt with this a few times. The fact is even IF they are asking the people what band they are there to see, it forces the person to have to choose. Maybe they are there to see ALL the bands.

    5. THE EVENT IS HAVING YOU PAY JUST TO PLAY. So let’s get this right, you pay them hundreds(if not thousands) of dollars that between you and all the other bands, more than pays for the venue, promotion, and headliners. And they get to walk away with all the ticket sales? If this doesn’t ring a bell for you then don’t expect to ever get paid for your music. 90% of the time the turnouts for these events are terrible because the promoter already has his money. Sure he’ll tell you there’s going to be some massive turnout, that there’s going to be record label scouts, that this will “Make you carreer.” but the fact is he doesn’t have to deliver on a single one of those promises and afterwards, there’s nothing you can do about it.

    6. YOU NEED TO SELL TICKETS IN ORDER TO PLAY. Let’s face it, if you can sell the 25, 50, or even 100+ tickets, you don’t need them. Rent the venue for the night, book some friend bands and sell those tickets. Typical club venues want $100-$300 for a night and the avergae ticket cost is $10, so if you’re selling 50 tickets, there’s at least $200 you’re not seeing. Why should YOU do all the work to sell tickets that you know are going to pay for the venue and more… only to let some greeseball walk away with that hard earned cash just for making half an hour’s worth of phone calls to you, the other bands, and the club????

  • Meckdog

    I Play a place in Minneapolis that skimmed money off the top of the door to pay the sound guy. Caught him red-handed and he made it right. Our agreement was for 100% of the door, he took $40 off the top, or so he says. He often frequently lets people in for free because “they didn’t come to hear the music.” most of said people end up loving it and telling us so. Regardless, they’re going to hear the music! Still havent figured out how to make that one right short of bringing our own door person. Would rather not pay another person to work the door tho, the money is bad enough as it is.

    • Brian in Shortsville

      My response: They either pay, somebody pays for them, or they leave to make room for the people who are coming to hear the music.

  • Nic

    My band played a nice venue that regularly hosted great acts (Band of Horses, Of Montreal, Drive By Truckers, etc)…we’d played there regularly over a year and had a great following in the area as well as media support that came our way from fans. Our booking agent always worked with a very honest and organized booker at the venue..we never had issues with money, hotel, booze, or food. The last time we played at the venue we arrived and were greeted by the new owner. He’d fired the soundman, the booker, and most of the staff that we liked. We were told that he had contacted our Mgr and Booking agent regarding the change in mgmt. He had, 20mins before we arrived. We were told he’d honor our contract. We had a capacity crowd that night and were really looking forward to our $1000 VS door deal ($10/person with 450 people). At the end of the night the owner asked us to come back to his house to settle up…we did (bad move). After some beers and small talk he said he’d left the money at the bar. We asked about our hotel. He forgot, we could stay at his place. The next morning he was gone. We tracked him down through some friends and got him to meet us at the bar. He offered $400…apparently he was losing money and was broke after buying the bar. I should mention that this guy was a slime ball and annoyed me. Rather than beat him up, I took a Macbook from the soundbooth that was used to play music. I locked it in our van. I told the owner we’d take the money and the laptop as payment OR he could pay us outright. After some heated words we eventually got $1500. We never played there again.

  • Most important don’t discuss your problem with management in private with a few of his friends.

  • Jim Shelley

    Wait…bands are supposed to get paid?

  • Sounds like they were set in their ways.

  • Guest

    You guys got paid?

  • Haha.

    • Richdaigle

      I’ve been gigging since the 80’s …someone please explain why the typical dive bar gig in 1983 was $100 a man, and we are supposed to accept that that is decent money in 2011…the hell?
      Start charging ! Ya hear me? We’ve got nothing to lose but these chains! Ha

      • ketchfish

        This area is down around $200-300 per night now. For a 5 piece that’s often under $50 per man. We don’t play many clubs, particularly during tourist season. Community Events and Private Parties pay better. When we do, we’re there trying to book private parties.

      • Stonedrum9

        Yeah, playing for the same amount as 20 years ago!

      • I hear ya! I am a big supporter of an increase in pay for musicians! In the 80’s we all made $100 a night. These days, I really feel that one gets what one expects and asks for…if they don’t pay enough, don’t take the gig.

        My 12 yr old is gigging now. Not AFM, but she has her contracts and invoices, and pays her sidemen well. The LEAST they get paid is $100 when it’s a 30 min show; she bills out $250 a head for 4 sidemen and pays herself as well. She is now billing $1500-$1800 a show, and getting booked… Check her out on facebook I’m really proud of her. She’s working the business end of this well; certainly better than I did when I started out….

  • Well, a sad, ironic "Haha."

  • Do they apologize?

  • Emilysearching

    Yea! When they tell you the first 15people that come in they keep 100% of the cover and the people after that you get 50%. I see this a lot in NYC by some pseudo bookers.

  • James McBride


  • Sounds like you're running a pro operation.

  • Any good, honest, awesome venues in that area you recommend?

    • DJ43

      honestly…no. Well, maybe the places you more or less control everything. Edinburgh Castle in SF, for example, lets you (or did when I last played there) man the door, hence you collect everything. Otherwise, no, we haven’t been paid for the last 4 or 5 gigs we played. The Atherton place, I forget the name, literally gave us $90…came back 5 minutes later and said “sorry we want $50 of that back.” And proceeded to tell the club we were playing LATER in the week that we were difficult. I’ve quit gigging, honestly, I hate it. At least in San Francisco, sorry so negative but that’s the scene here.

    • DJ43

      I did live in cleveland previously and maybe it was just the era…but we used to at least get SOMETHING back then. Bay Area clubs and bookers think you should be SO gosh dang grateful that they allowed you to play their club…they don’t expect to pay. Our last 2 shows….no cover, granted, but we brought in 40 and 60 people. All who purchased SOMETHING. No payment. Also you tend to do your own ‘sound’…they simply provide a sound system that works about 2/3 of the time. Honestly, SF club scene is terrible for bands. I have truly quit.

  • Great! Thanks for sharing.

  • Suszinka

    a lot of clubs in NYC pay their staff out of the door money (the cover). like, the sound person, the lighting guy, even the door guy. make sure you address these costs at the time of confirming the show.

  • Did he ask you to do any parlor tricks, too?

  • House concerts are especially great for respectful, attentive audiences.

  • House concerts are especially great for respectful, attentive audiences.

  • House concerts are especially great for respectful, attentive audiences.

  • jennifer

    My sister plays at a particular venue about once a month. The first time she played the owner paid her but hasn’t since. There is a cover charge at the door so I know he’s making money. Is this normal or is she getting ripped off?

  • Hmmm. Kinda shady. Sounds like they wanted some wiggle room after the fact.

  • Guest

    Our band gets called on DAY OF GIG to play a pre-ballgame show for bar crowd. We negotiate $XXX. We show up within hours, do long set, get a check (wrong, right?) for amount from bar owner. We deposit check, it bounces. We contact owner, and gripe, moan, ask for cash. Still not yet paid.

    • I’ve had two experiences in my carpentry business that could be helpful to you here. One time I had a check that I couldn’t cash due to insufficient funds. In North Carolina, it turns out, you can call the bank and ask if there is enough money in the account at any time- as long as you’ve made one attempt to cash it. It only took me a couple of calls to find a moment when the dude had money in his account, and I cashed the check right then at a branch of his bank. Another time, someone wrote me a check and then closed the account. The amount was small enough to be considered in small claims court ($500. or less at that time). I called the local magistrate and followed his suggestion. I sent the woman a registered letter saying she could pay me in cash by the end of the following day or I would take her to court. If I won, which I almost certainly would, she would have to pay the $58. court fee plus my $200. and she’d have a criminal record. Once a check is issued, the issuer has promised you the money. Period. She wasn’t happy when she got the letter, but I had my cash within an hour.

  • I've certainly seen the logic in this move, and have been happy to let people in for free before if it was a slow night. But I appreciated being asked by the club beforehand. It's really annoying though, when the club is packed and you hear about a bunch of people being let in for free just because.

    • Cole Rua

      I actually setup a gig in a different city and got a local band with a “good following” to play among another band. The gig eneded up being for the other bands…that is until the local band tried to sneak people in through backstage (which meant they ha to walk onto the stage and off again….seriously) and then when we confronted them they said their friends should only have to pay part of the price as they were only there to see them, the people staye for the whole thing and when they left they only paid the part. Man I can’t stand musicians!!! 🙂

  • Oooo. Zeroing out the register! Nasty trick.

  • Standard practices would be great. I wish venue owners would draw up a kind of commonly accepted model that is fair to all, and then stick to it. Oh, sorry. I was daydreaming for a second there.

  • Openmindjazz

    Sometimes they sell advanced tickets and turn around and only give you a percentage of the door.

  • Do you find that clubs are usually resistant to anything union-related?

  • The Count

    do you think its fair for the band to have to pay the soundman and box office guy out of the door money? I work at a club that takes out 100 dollars for this and then the rest of the money gets divided to the bands that played based on people brought. the bar offers nothing from their own pocket, not even drink tickets and sometimes a security guy… thoughts?

  • Great perspective, and always very interesting to hear how things are done outside the United States.

  • Dsmetzger

    Contracts??? HA! That’s a good one! For years we did the hotel/club circuit and we didn’t go anywhere without one. Nowadays, down here in Florida the club owners don’t want to see a contract! So I send a letter outlining everything that He (the owner) and I have discussed regarding date, times rates, set up and tear down,, etc. At least I have something. It still didn’t prevent a double booking from happening to us (the owner “lost” his copy of the letter???!!!) But what really kills me is that we are a 5 piece cover/originals band and we are playing for the same amount we played for 30 years ago!!! We were making $350 a night for 5 piece in 1978~ and we’re still making $350 a night and listening to the owners gritch about how much we charge! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr……………. (and two of us and the gear have a 100 mile “commute” to meet up with the rest of the group, but that’s our choice and we don’t complain. Their comraderie on stage and off is worth it!)

  • A 3-month battle of the bands? Wow. That's a lot of competition.

  • Did they even listen to your music before booking you?

    • Yes they did. They loved the music. At least the rep did.

      • Weird. I wonder why they were so surprised then. Well, either way, sorry you had that experience.

    • Yes they did. They loved the music. At least the rep did.

      • Weird. I wonder why they were so surprised then. Well, either way, sorry you had that experience.

      • Weird. I wonder why they were so surprised then. Well, either way, sorry you had that experience.

    • Yes they did. They loved the music. At least the rep did.

  • Suddenly I feel quite melancholy.

  • Ah. A pragmatist. Can't say I blame you. These things certainly feel like constants.

  • Buying tickets to your own show is something every band should do once, and then learn form their mistake and never do it again.

  • I'm picking up the certain breadcrumb trail you've been leaving on this pond's lilly pads.

    • Seve

      If it IS in fact the Lilly Pad; I played a bill with Brett Dennen there a few years ago and they never paid me a dime that was in the agreement. I didn't fight it. What's the point? You decide not to go back, don't give yourself a heart attack, and live to play another day. There ARE venues that are worth it. Original music – expect no pay. Covers – going rate is still $100 per guy per night (inflation woes aside). Most places won't sign contracts. You have to weed places out by trial & error. I recommend that everyone here do the smart thing and find a way to get a real job in the health care industry or something along those lines. Being on this side of the gun is way too haphazard.

  • I’m picking up the certain breadcrumb trail you’ve been leaving on this pond’s lilly pads.

  • That's one way to get into shows for free.

  • Ah, so true. Thanks for adding these to the discussion. Your number 4 is really annoying when you spend time crafting a particular bill because you suspect a certain combination of bands will draw. All of a sudden, your fans have to choose one band to credit, and they'll probably just blurt out the headliner.

    • Hey Roy, I just added these three additions to the actual article. Thanks!

    • Hey Roy, I just added these three additions to the actual article. Thanks!

  • Ah, so true. Thanks for adding these to the discussion. Your number 4 is really annoying when you spend time crafting a particular bill because you suspect a certain combination of bands will draw. All of a sudden, your fans have to choose one band to credit, and they’ll probably just blurt out the headliner.

  • There is a comfort in a regular gig, for sure, even if it means you have to put up with a few inconveniences.

  • There is a comfort in a regular gig, for sure, even if it means you have to put up with a few inconveniences.

  • Nice move ransoming the laptop for your owed fee.

    • Cole Rua

      Until he calls the cops and has them arrested for taking it

  • Nice move ransoming the laptop for your owed fee.

  • In public, with a few of your friends?

  • In public, with a few of your friends?

  • Yes indeed. Always find out EVERYTHING that could potentially come out of the door money.

  • I guess it all depends on what their agreement is. If he says "Hey, come play for free once a month" then no, she isn't getting ripped off. But it seems like they should have a money conversation and see if payment is something they could build towards as the crowd size grows.

  • A promoter in Baltimore (who will remain nameless only because I don’t remember his name) once bragged he gave hip-hop legend Rakim a sob story about how slow things were and got him to accept $1,000 when he normally books at $5,000 for small clubs, but the promoter ended up selling over $10,000 in presale tickets and pocketed every dime of profit.

  • Shannon Clemans

    Most of the time it’s my own band that rips me off.

  • Guest9000

    Ah,something my band is all familiar with. The local club here that brings in large touring acts has a payment hierarchy for local bands who want to perform. Bands are always given 50 tickets to sell. Your payment is: $1 a ticket if you sell 28 tickets, $2 a ticket if you sell 38 tickets and $3 a ticket if you sell 50 tickets or more. No matter if the ticket price is $10 or $30, you ALWAYS have that hierarchy. If you don’t sell all 50 tickets, you most likely won’t be playing there again. On a decent show anyways. So if you bust your ass to sell 60 $30 tickets, you only get $180. The exposure is great to have large crowds of 400 – 600 people in front of you, but the payment is minimal. The owner sort of has a monopoly in the area because any clubs that allow local bands to open for touring acts are farther than 90 miles away. We make more on merchandise than from the club. It is what it is.

  • We are a nationally known Trad Jazz (ie. “Dixieland” to some) band and were hired to play for a Mardi Gras party at a restaruant/club in Palo Alto, CA a few years ago. About half way through the 3 hour job, the manager decided he didn’t like the music and told us to quit and then had the gall to tell us he was only going to pay 1/2 of what was contracted. He and his bouncer (each of which were 100lbs heavier and 6 inches taller) actually became physically threatening about it until I told them I was a website developer and they didn’t really want the bad publicity I could generate.
    The main point is that many or most club owners and managers treat musicians with very little respect and as dispensable hired help.

    • XnRock

      Geek: The new “muscle”…

  • Maybe you could show up at the bar unannounced and play a long set of the worst possible music you could imagine making, and tell him you want stop until your check clears the bank.

  • The band only got 1% of the door?

  • Sneaky devils.

  • DJ43

    I’ll start this as a separate topic because I feel it’s valid. Be wary of places that insist you use parts of their gear above and beyond the regular PA system (“oh, we need to save space so use this, etc”)- or at least be wary of an individual that does this. Miraculously….the item in question gets “broken” in their opinion, during your set.

  • It depends. That is a pretty standard practice, but it gets a bit upsetting when there is money for the sound engineer, money for the door person, money for the club, money for the promoter, until all that's left is $200 to split between 3 bands with 4 members each. But it seems like a bar that doesn't even do drink tickets or a tab is a bit overly frugal. I mean, you're SURROUNDED by beer and alcohol!

    • Targetpool

      remember, back in the 80s and 70s and before, almost all the clubs had no house sound, we schlepped our own PA and Lights to every gig — a possible thought- the clubs eventually put in their own systems– took a while to absorb the costs, but now another hidden profit stream?

  • Funny that you mention that scenario with that exact figure. I have friends who have played the same gig for 13 years at that rate without adjusting for inflation, standard of living costs, etc.

  • Ouch. Did you give them money back? Or is that why they badmouthed you to the next club?

    • DJ43

      I forget. Honestly it's water under the bridge now. I'm not playing clubs anymore. I have 2 children and no time for the games of promoters, clubs, soundmen etc. Sorry to add such a dour note to this message board but I feel it's important for the bright-eyed, eager young people out there to realize this is, at times, a truly heartless business.

      • Dave, sometimes a dour note can ring out as quite refreshing.

      • Dave, sometimes a dour note can ring out as quite refreshing.

      • Dave, sometimes a dour note can ring out as quite refreshing.

  • I'm speechless.

  • Instant karma.

  • padlockband

    My advise? Find other places to play! Clubs try to screw you and Tgere is a ton of competition.

    Our band is currently being paid a sizable sum plus dinner. A local church hired us to give lessons to the community!

    Talk to the local colleges and even the city about doing festivals!

    Be creative about your shows for maximum pay and minimum screwage!

  • People forget about the fact that the money gets split between multiple members, for the time they spent traveling, practicing, playing, waiting, etc.

  • That is a stupid promoter who brags openly about ripping off his acts. I wonder how business is for him now. Slow?

  • Hahaha.

  • Sounds like you're making do with the hand you're dealt, and doing good things with it.

    • Guest9000

      Yeah, even though we aren't paid $1000 – $5000 a show, we have to blow people away on stage to make it look like we are part of the tour and getting paid that much. Eventually we will get there.

  • 2 words: taser gun.

  • That point is so true that it’s often forgotten. Why would 2 parties, both intent on making a night successful, not put terms and expectations in writing?

  • That point is so true that it's often forgotten. Why would 2 parties, both intent on making a night successful, not put terms and expectations in writing?

  • Dividenofturfmobmusi

    Nice way to keep it optimistic. I feel the same way. If you focus on the negative then you will subsequently draw that situation to occur. You should focus on your performance only and allow your management team to focus on merchandise sales. The door should be handled through pre ticket sales prior to the event. Anything last minute is considered the venues normal income. Contracts are contracts so everyone must abide but; life is life so for heart attack sake "Relax".

  • "Maximum pay/Minimum screwage" sounds like a blog post waiting to be written!

  • Josh Doyle

    What you need to do to make money at your own gig is: ASSUME THE RISK YOURSELF! Rent the venue for the night – negotiate $150-250 for 100 cap on an offpeak night – isnt crazy including a sound guy and a door guy. Then you sell virtual tickets online for $5-10 through facebook etc (also guarantees these people will show up) – if you get 20 people to show up for $10 a head that covers the venue, everything on top of that is yours, PLUS merch…. so, you get 100 people at $10 a head, you walk with $750. Even if you got 20 @$10 or 40 @$5, you are making the bar money for having people in and you are paying for the hall, they may give you a break and you get all your merch too, on what wouldnt be the busiest night.
    Think about it – clubs are willing to do that especially on a slower night….

  • DJ43

    this club is now closed. what a surprise….

  • DJ43

    this club is now closed. what a surprise….

  • DJ43

    this club is now closed. what a surprise….

  • Guitarcat

    That's a great concept. Unfortunately, in my area, there are about 100 venues and 10,000 bands. It's called over saturation. No solution in the near future.

  • Guitarcat

    That’s a great concept. Unfortunately, in my area, there are about 100 venues and 10,000 bands. It’s called over saturation. No solution in the near future.

  • fevahdream

    Door and tickets are a lesson learned, and then some. We only play for guaranteed $$ and we have our own contracts to lock it in. Not too many complaints about it, but it’s 50/50 because you will lose some opportunities, especially original gigs. But, really, short of a massive venue, it’s not the band’s responsibility to fill the room. You take care of your business, and we’ll make more people want to come back again and again. That simple.

  • Faceless Technologie

    I owned a club and live venue for many years in miami, fl and have run many events and concerts nationwide for years. I have then assisted in band and label management for years, generating revenue and world tours. First things first.. a $300 payday for 150 people showing up isn't horrible. What is horrible is as a band, you think that is your only way to generate revenue. You have cd's (and signed cd's for a few dollars more maybe) you have merchandise like stickers, tshirts, to start..many other options are there. Remember, this is "work" and is not complained that there is set-up time and break down time.. that is part of your work. if you do not like what you do, then there are plenty of 9-5 jobs out there. Hopefully you didn't have to pay the staff at the venue, or the electric bills, or the marketing, or the cleaning crew afterwards, or the sound engineer or..(should i really continue?) or be forced to "buy" tickets to play the venue and must sell them to profit..It just sounds like you want a piece of the pie that isn't your to begin with. You are 1 part of the entire evening's "experience", and hopefully you do what you are being hired to do; "Entertain the crowd"

    Also, what we did as a venue (and requested venues did for us when we were getting paid by the door) is the venue has the security staff checking for ID's but ALL cash transactions are handled by the band's representative. If you choose to let the hot girls in for free, then that is your choice. You set the rules.

    There are many other options. Want more advice? Want to create more revenue? Contact

    • Curt Brewer

      Faceless Technology,

      I have been on both sides of the coin also. If the band agreed upon making $300, then that’s one thing. ……But, if the band had agreed upon $5 per person that enters the door, then the venue CHEATED that band out of their rightful money.

      What’s right is right.

  • Henryfam5578

    One gimmick is to sell or worse yet have the artist sell tickets for a set amount then try paying the artist something like 10%. They need to be paying at least 50% and that's being generous on your part since you put the butts in the seats.

  • Buick_49

    One we ran into big time a a couple of clubs, esp if you're working for the door where you are filling the clubs. BRING YOUR OWN DOOR MAN! we pay ours 50$ or 5% of the door which ever is greater, that way the more they collect the better and they have the power to negotiate. For example it's getting late, they'll take 3 bucks instead of 5 just to get some money for us instead of walking out. Make sure they are from out of town so their buddies don't get in free. I expect a little loss when locals are running our door. I wouldn't charge my good friends either but that's why I'm not at the door. We had a club (Lock Stock and Barrel in Decatur, IL) Skimming hundreds of dollars for years before we finally figured out what we should be making. The door guys skimmed (2 doors) the management skimmed, and probably kickbacked the bar staff. They freaked when we brought our own guys. We said they could run the door but we wanted to check a tally for ourselves so if they ran the door our guy would have a counter. Stopped the skimming, we made a LOT more per show and then moved on to another club in that town. If your making nothing but the door they shouldn't have a right to tell you you can't bring your own staff.

  • Bubz6354

    This happened at a gig once with a bar owner. there was a pub crawl going on and the owner invited about 20 people down on a night we were working sucessfully for the door. I explained him letting them in free is 100 bucks to the band and we don't want to pay it, he got pissed and I replied, lets just fix it this way then, charge them to come in and you give them free drinks. he wasn't cool about that either so we hit him up on break for the 100 bucks, We got paid. and Never came back. The club across the street now gets our crowd.

  • radio jesus

    1% of the door is a joke. I used to DJ a club and got 10% of the bar ring. I also worked as an in house performer at another club and got 100% of the door. 1%? Please.

    • muzikkmann

      He had to mean 10%. Had to!!!

  • Singrshell7

    Down here in Miam, Florida clubs do not generally sign contracts as a rule. The band market is so over-saturated down here that clubs have the upper hand. I do feel pretty good about the fact that we have been able to pull in no less than $500/night and sometimes 600 or 700 for our performances. Of course, this is all covers – even though I have have my own CD out and on iTunes – doesn’t matter – they just want covers and there is no venue who cares about all original artists unless they are already known. Some clubs will try the ripoff of bands and we learn and hear from others about them and don’t even bother to play there. Make friends with other bands and don’t talk about other bands and you can all help each other.

    • Defpro

      I ran a Concert series in California for a few months. Played a variety of acts and worked with some great musicians. Most had contracts. Most got paid. Two things we struggled with were bands having large guarantees that cost several hundred dollars in simple accommodations before they even get paid and 80% of the door. What happened was I spend a couple hundred on the contract specifics and lose hundreds of dollars every event. The bands were absolutely pampered by my staff and we went out of our way to accommodate any whim. The end result? Even with contracts, the house lost money every single time. I personally lost money out of my own pocket to pay bands. It’s a tough game. I’ve been on both sides.

  • Singrshell7

    Down here in Miam, Florida clubs do not generally sign contracts as a rule. The band market is so over-saturated down here that clubs have the upper hand. I do feel pretty good about the fact that we have been able to pull in no less than $500/night and sometimes 600 or 700 for our performances. Of course, this is all covers – even though I have have my own CD out and on iTunes – doesn't matter – they just want covers and there is no venue who cares about all original artists unless they are already known. Some clubs will try the ripoff of bands and we learn and hear from others about them and don't even bother to play there. Make friends with other bands and don't talk about other bands and you can all help each other.

  • Funkmeistermike

    Good luck with that. There are so many bands and musicians looking for gigs, the ones that think a contract is necessary get laughed at. Have you booked a nightclub before?

  • Curt Brewer

    Faceless Technology,

    I have been on both sides of the coin also. If the band agreed upon making $300, then that's one thing. ……But, if the band had agreed upon $5 per person that enters the door, then the venue CHEATED that band out of their rightful money.

    What's right is right.

    • Faceless Technologies

      Curt, I agree with you. The questions that need to be asked though (since the band is complaining publicly) are: why didn’t it occur to them that the club could be a bit dishonest? are they childhood friends/married to/related to the owner? why didn’t they treat their music playing like a business, like a “job” and do it well. That means all aspects of it, including a proper sound check and ensuring they Cover their as*es by having one of their own people at the door with a $10 clicker counting people..securing the deal they had with the club. and lastly, why is this the only way they feel they can generate income from a gig? Why couldn’t they use this to have other promoters see their performance? or crowd? or sell cd’s or stickers, or tee shirts or any merchandise and maybe take photos of them performing, maybe plug a laptop into the board and record a “live” set…i just feel they are yet another group of entitled musicians who want to act like rock stars acted a LOOOOOONNNNGGG time ago.

      just my two cents.,

      1,000 full color double sided business cards for $40 !
      1,000 full color dbl sided postcards for $70!


  • vermontropy

    excellent article.. thanks

  • vermontropy

    excellent article.. thanks

  • Pesky open mics!

    • Adrian Archuleta

      Open Mics are great for artists starting to get out but can’t get a show at a larger venue. Every venue has it’s “level” or ranks for artists.

  • Bummer.

  • Sounds right. Absorbing those costs probably just became habit.

  • Targetpool

    About '91, I had a Duo that was booked through a decent agent at a small lounge / hotel across the ferry from Seattle — it was when playing to midi tracks was the new thing- (and hated by many of course)

    the 1st night of the 5 night gig, Tues, a small crowd from a wedding next door came in and had a great time — at the end of the night the owner called us into the office, and very nicely and with apologies , let us go…..what??!

    he explained that he thought we were just fine and professional, but he wanted musicians that "played their own instruments–nothing personal, I'm sorry, I'm just old fashioned" —

    we were so dumbstruck it took a minute to sink in —
    he thought we were completely faking it to the midi tracks,
    (I played 'real' rhythm and lead, the other guy 'really' sang and played rhythm)

    I wished I had the presence of mind to tell him that all the tracks were manually done by me etc etc, but realized over the weeks that
    nothing I said would have mattered …

    we got paid for the one night

  • I'm a musician AND an agent and this article is 100% on the money. I can't tell you how many of those scenarios I've seen or even been subjected to in 40 years of playing professionally. I'm recommending that every one of the bands I handle or know read this article, especially the younger guys who are still falling prey to this kind of baloney.

  • Coates Rd

    Here's a scam I used to encounter recently as a solo artist, one man show: "We can only pay you $25.00 or $50.00 bucks but we get real good crowds here and you'll get a lot of tips and our audience always buys a lot of CDs from the artists. Then, show up and find out there has been no promotion at all, 25 people show up and you get $5.00 or $10.00 in tips and sell 1 or 2 CDs.

    • I guess that all depends on what your definition of "a lot" is.

    • Cole Rua

      I’ve traveled from Ireland and toured around the states twice. The second I had this happen all the time! I payed a booking agent who got me those!!

  • Zmanpga

    This is the way it should be everywhere. I like this attitude. Would you be willing to share what your contract lays out?

    • Yep I’ll send you my contract if you post your email. Or you can find me on Facebook and send me a private message there. Look for the profile photo of the guy playing sax.

      • Cole Rua

        Could I get a copy too please? My email is thanks! Rua

      • T Weexcel if you can send an extra copy of your contraact, that would be greatly appreciated.. Thanks

      • CMB

        I would like a copy of your contract

      • Focus

        oh lala, just saw this it. pls send me your contract too:
        thank you so much in advance

      • Jrealsongs

        Great info! I would love a copy of the contract as well if you don’t mind.

  • ketchfish

    When you can get them to do it. If you go for the risk and get stiffed, call the venue owner in the morning and tell them they must pay or you will file – small claims court in most states and will spread the word to other acts, your fan base and the general populace that they are not trustworthy enough to do business with. If they still balk, follow through. Send an email to your list explaining the situation (make sure it's 100% accurate to ensure you can't be counter-sued for slander. Call every musician you know. Call any media or news contacts you have. Then call the list of lawyers you can get from your state's bar association and see if you can cut a 'barter' deal to play a party for them in return for making a few phone calls and sending a registered 'demand for payment'.

    The added benefit is that lawyers love to have live entertainment at house parties. One band I played parties for lawyers at least once a month for almost two years after consulting one in one of these situations.

  • HeroesAndCons

    I think the most my band has earned from a single show was $75 (not each, we're a 5 piece, so $15 each). And that was after 3 bands left before being paid, so we received their cut as well. Living in Miami sucks for live shows.

  • Stonedrum9

    Also watch the other musicians they will rip you off too

  • Rickyspirals

    Boycott Hollywood pay to play clubs. If everyone does it, they will listen. They book 6 or 7 bands who play half an hour for crazy expensive tickets

  • Stovepipe

    Don’t play for the door , ever…

    Also, skip the battle of the band stuff too


  • Sean Sarto

    Another way to know: Is the venue located in LA?

  • Play weddings, and colleges. Best money you’ll make, mostly honest people you’ll meet.

  • JustDoTheDangThing

    What is your goal for playing those/this gig? This is the FIRST question you need to ask yourself! I mean, what is the purpose? If you are an up and coming band, group or single artist, then use the venues to build your buzz. If you have been doing this for a while (over three years) and still having issues then you need to rethink your future. Maybe this should just be a hobby for you. You have to have a plan and work it. Problem is most indie artist dont have a REAL business and marketing plan.

    Today we have a guzzillion indie artist fighting for the same venues. Everyone wants to be heard. You have to stand out, do something different to make money in this game. Im only talking to the artist that is giving his ALL. Not the comfortably employed that can do without performing for a month and still make ends meet. I mean those that are ALL IN!!! You can make it, you will make it, if you plan, plan and plan some more and then work your plan!!. When I first started out I got a job for one purpose: to invest 100% of my check in my art. From payola (yeah I said it) to pay to play. But I had a plan and it worked!!!

    You have to market yourself. And by all means, stop talking about how bad it is and how the music business is a rip off. The only people that think that way are people that arent making money and rightfully so!!!!

    Until you run a REAL record label (when I say real, I mean you have either invested your own hard earned/saved money, mortgaged your home – or you have investors that carry AK’s and 47 lawyers you have to answer to) or you have owned a club that you have invested your life savings into, you have NO IDEA how risky this business is. I have been an artist and now I am a investor in entertainment and I understand both sides. So shut-up, plan up, set some goals, be realistic and always be in ready set position so you can go when then gun fires. You can make it. Failure must not be an option. You may not sell a million records the first time, but over time you can if you are good.

    Being good? thats another topic all together ……………………………….

    • Hoodgoodgoodie

      see I feel you on this …that’s kinda the way I look at this now that I am really trying to book my own gigs. I said to myself f*** it I’m gonna get me a lil jobby job and invest all my money ~even if I have to pay to play. I figure it will not last forever- build a buzz & a some loyal following individuals, and all that door percentage stuff aint going to matter. Thank you for sharing …lets’ me know I’m not completely off track nor crazy with how I am planning to do this.

  • eM

    I’m now more of a studio musician as I spent years singing for pretty much nothing. I would pack out the venue with my dj and at the end of the night I would be lucky to see $50. Sometimes we played for free drinks, which doesn’t really work with me singing. Had good times though. As I’m about to launch my next album I will be getting out in the gig circuit again, this time I’m using a mate as my booking agent and I will be insisting on payment. The amount of hours of practice that goes into a gig is justification enough for payment

  • TopCat

    The way to tell if you’re being ripped off by a club–Are you playing at a club? If yes, then yes. And if you are standing outside the manager’s office while they’re counting the money from the door, and you hear someone say, “Hey, where’s my gram?” (true story)–then they come out and give you 30% of what you should have gotten–well, welcome to show business. Until you’ve got the wherewithal to threaten them with serious legal action, you’re at their mercy.

  • Dannyecho

    Amen, ya I have encountered all of these scenarios in Vancouver. I have learned to not book with certain so called “promoters”, There is one promoter in Vancouver who I trust evne though they do ask at the door who you are here to see, I feel it actually gets better bands the better gigs, bands need to work hard too!
    But I agree making an “web: poster does not qualify as “promotion” aint that right Joe and your apartment?
    as the picture shows, pennies and pints is all we get most of the time!

    Im going to Japan

  • Cjackzen

    … a New style Reggae …

    Yeah it’s hard to get people out to shows! In LA, I hear it all the time. Really, who wants to drive across town after a long day of work or class. People go out local, if at all.

    I think it takes really exciting act to get people out .. it’s not the 70′ or 80’s .. everybody has a computer with all the entertainment at their fingertips.

    So it’s up to us to make it as exciting as possible, and then renting out our own space sounds like the best way to go. Although playing top name clubs, gives you legitimacy and the opportunity for new people to see you.


  • Jeremiah

    All pretty good. I’ve ran into many of these problems before, or at least known people who have run into these problems. My only confusion is the wording on tip #5. The author specifically says, “If this DOESN’T ring a bell for you then DON’T expect to ever get paid for your music.”

    The way the thing is worded makes it sound like the author is telling the musician to book this sort of gig even if it doesn’t pay because, eventually, it will lead to a higher paying gig. However, in context of the statement and the subject matter, I don’t believe this is exactly what the author intended to say. Could I get some clarification on what exactly the author meant? Possibly “if this RINGS a bell for you, don’t expect to ever get paid for your music”?

  • Hill24730

    Boy! If THIS isn’t a relevant article, I don’t know what is!

  • AmadArtist

    4 5 and 6 is what i been telling other bands for years and no one will listen to me. we stuck to free shows the past 2 years now and just sell merch and we pack the place and everyone comes out happy. these ticket sale shows are bullshit in so many ways all bands really need to come together and just not do a show unless we get paid right, how come were out there performing and we get nothing out of it why do bands have to pay to play? you dont go to work at a steel factory and pay your boss do you? thats how fucking retarded all this is. thats why bands dont last more then one show or a year, almost all bands are gone the only ones who last are the people who already have money or kids in highschool because they know that many people they see everyday. after i get done selling tickets with the cost of gas i lose almost 100$ per show. my advice is if u want to do a show with someone famous then sell the ticket minimum and then dont bother selling anything after that its more of a headache then its worth. earth entertainment in ohio is one example of a bad booking company, they pack the show with as many new artists as possible and say a record label rep is coming, but if they are there you never see them. they tell everyone you can have a sit down with the guy before the show then they book like 30 bands which is impossible for that many people to talk to him. then they keep saying hes in the house but you never see him anywhere. i actually told my friends to turn around and go back home and id give them the money out of my own pocket for there tickets because when i did the show they told us over 1000 people bought tickets but when we got there only 1 of 3 rooms was filled a tiny bit and it didnt pick up, i didnt even perform i just left after waiting 4 hours. even though i had people coming it wasnt enough to pack the room for that show because i just did a show prior to that a week before. even if people dont buy tickets from us every free show we did proves that we bring a crowd and people STAY to watch us. which means people are buying beer more. ive never advantaged out of any shows i did all i ever done was lose money, well actually i break even from selling merch. these clubs are running themselves into the ground not paying people. and then when my friends organise a show i finally think its going to be done right and they get hit by the greedy stick and go home with 2 grand and leave the artists with nothing, ive even not been paid by friends and they duck me everytime i come to talk to them.

    in my opinion the only way to profit from a show is do your own and book everyone yourself. either rent the venue, or sometimes the venue like the phantasy in lakewood ohio will let u use there club and work out a deal with you they get to keep the bar money you get to keep the door money, and pay for security and sound guy. if you rip the artists off like every club does anyways youll go home with 2 grand sometimes and at the least 750$. it is a headache though contacting artists, some people rather just sell the few tickets and get ripped off its easier

    also clubs want you to hand out flyers for the show, but the show flyers dont have your name on it, nor do they put your name in the paper. dont bother doing it. your performing you have every right to be on that flyer as much as they do. just because someone is more famous then you doesnt mean shit, if it wasnt for the opening bands NO ONE WOULD KNOW ABOUT THE SHOW!!! it doesnt matter how famous someone is the economy is so broke theres no one rushing online to see tour dates no one cares, the only way people know is if the opening act says so! i usually end up dishing out the extra money to make my own personal flyer with me and the headliner on it. then friends bitch why arent there names on it well they didnt chip in for it so f them. no other artist is really your friend when it comes to shows.

    and another thing how are you suppose to sell tickets when theres 30 other bands who know all the same fans you have. and then you have people who just wanna get into the show for free so they sell tickets also and there not even a band and there selling to everyone you know!

    i could really go on and on all day about this. i actually started to develope a webpage that is similar to this article that i been working on that says basically the same stuff but more in detail and other stuff they rip us off on.

  • Ccarter74

    Not everyone is out to screw over the artist…some of us try hard to provide a place fro artist to do their thing but the venue needs help from the artist to get people out too. If the venue is only show casing one artist then it would be pretty easy to just keep building up that one bands following but week in and week out new artist require tapping into new people. Now a venue, if its luck and if it has its own charm in attracting patrons without the artist, then you will have your regulars. However, having regulars is not enough to sustain a venue or an artist career. Both the artist and the venue have a stake in treating each other well and in promoting one another. I am an artist myself and it never ceases to amaze me that some artist somehow think they do not have an obligation to promote themselves, plus feel like the venue should not get a piece of the revenue from providing the place. Now if you are simply talking about a place that has nothing in it in the way of a developed decor, sound system, and overall reputation then I can see where it would make sense to just go out and rent a plain old room and sell tickets yourself. On the other hand, if bands are as busy as I am and as I know most of us are then going to an established venue with good food, decor, a love for the music, a good sound system, a respectful and attentive staff and reputation are worth it. I know we all have stories of crappy owners treating us with less than fair terms and respect and we should certainly not accept that, in fact we should stand up and fight it. However, I urge my fellow artist to carefully evaluate who you are dealing with and use your better judgment. Generally speaking if someone has a problem answering your probing questions then I would say its a red flag and they are probably not being on the up and up. Most businesses are about people and the relationships you build. Try not to see a club a simply a club, particularly if the owner and management are trying to establish a good relationship with you. All I can say is take these on a case by case and see where it goes. The other solution which I actually did was to find my own spot where there was no music and asked the venue if I could start providing the entertainment for them. This allows you to put a lot of people to work and gives you the ability to treat other musicians the way you would want to be treated. It will also give you another perspective on the reality of associated cost to running a spot, even if all you are running it cost associated with booking, sound, lighting, and promotions. Its more than a notion. I hope this perspective is food for thought and helpful for someone. Best of luck to all my fellow musicians / artists out there! Peace! C. Carter

  • voodooloons

    So how about posting a good contract template?

  • Bleeding the Artist;
    The Exposure Carrot Exposed
    July 2002 –

    After too many years to count, it’s time to expose the dark industry secret that is anything but. Anywhere an artist performs, with few exceptions, choices about artist selection are being made based on how many resources can be extracted from the artist without paying for them.

    Before I elaborate, I insert a disclaimer. I understand that monetary issues are the primary concerns to anyone who creates art or owns a venue.

    That said…How many times have you performed at a venue under the concept that you’d be getting “exposure?” Second question. How did that work for you? I’m not talking about honest opportunities for exposure. To be clear, it’s venues that fill their pockets while you do their advertising and possibly sell their alcohol, that I have a problem with.

    The history of P2P
    In California, specifically LA, during the 1980’s, the concept of “Pay-to-Play” became a major issue, especially in respect to bands / musical artists. This was / is a practice of charging bands fees to play, which made it nearly impossible to make money on a gig, and relieved the venues of their event responsibilities and risk. On the East Coast artists balked and tried to fight the scourge from surfacing in the East, and proliferating in the West. Unfortunately the regional nightmare scenario is everywhere.
    Click here for an informative “Pay to Play” article from the UK

    Many have said and will say, “What’s the big deal?” The big deal is this. If I was discussing venues that are on the financial edge and required this operating model to function, it would be no “…big deal.” What I am talking about is venue management that have created a primary operating model of exploiting artists to do the work that should be done by the venue. This maximizes their profit and leaves the artist with “exposure.”

    Some might be unaware, but the dirty industry secret is many venues DO NOT PROMOTE the independent / small artists, which means most of you. They promote larger artists because the artist’s management demands it and they must promote to cover the performance guarantee. For others, they just figure that you’ll do the promoting.

    That means; YOU trying to get flyers everywhere (that you are allowed to because of event rivalry that hurts everyone involved…but I digress), put up posters, and sell tix. On the other hand, the venue might add your name (in a font size 60% of the “headliners”) to the weekly ad they have in the local art paper.

    Promotions should be done by the artists and the venue. Optimally this introduces the artists to a new audience and the artist’s audience to a new venue. This wishful symbiotic relationship is, for all intents and purposes, dysfunctional. Currently and for the foreseeable future, the artist is left in a helpless, codependent relationship, kissing the various asses of industry…if the artist wants to perform in front of people.

    It’s important to remember why you create art, what your objectives are and to also comprehend the industry that enables / allows you to present your work to others.

    DIY (Do it Yourself) shows enable you to present the exact art you want, but it requires you to take on more responsibilities than artistic creation. Not all people can do this. But everyone should and must have control or at least a deep understanding of the business of their art.

    To rap it up, it’s really important to assess what shows are really in your best interest to play. Some people believe that all art should be free or else it’s “corporate.” This foolishness is fine if you live at home and don’t mind that someone else is making money off of your sweat, labor, talents and time.

    Remember the facts – ART ISN’T FREE;
    – You have to learn your craft (time is money)
    – You have to buy instruments (singers excluded)
    – You have to pay for rehearsal time (even if that means you pay rent to live where you can rehearse)
    – You have to pay extra on your electric bill
    – You have to create your art (time is money)
    – You have to transport your gear to your gig (laptop artist & singers kind of don’t apply here…but even without equipment transport, cabs, gas and tolls are expensive…you have to get there somehow)
    – And…you must promote the hell out of yourself, which costs you money to go to places, usually events, where you can meet prospective audience members.

    When you buy food or clothes, the costs of every step during its creation and distribution is included to make a profit. If you go to the movies, the same applies. So why should your art be any different?

    If you devalue your art, others will do the same.

    • Jezebel Jones

      Seeing as my band earned $7 for a gig in Minneapolis this week, I really needed to hear this.

  • That would be amazing! I've often wished the standard bill was 2 bands, 8:30-11pm. Perfection.

  • Speaking of, I still need to pay some of the opening acts from a few shows last month! Thanks for the reminder.

  • It's a weird world when the next wrung up the ladder from Hollywood pay-to-play clubs is LA play-for-free clubs. Baby steps!

  • Hahahahahahahahahahhahahahahhahahahhahahahahhahahahahahahahahha.

  • Sinem, do you play original music or covers at colleges and weddings? I know it's pretty typical for colleges to hire musicians that play their own music, but less so for weddings. (Though a few of my friends bands do get hired to play their stuff occasionally at weddings, it isn't really regular money they could count on.)

  • ha. Hope so.

  • Another commenter in this thread had some pretty good advice about getting to know a few lawyers and offering to trade your services (play a house party) for help in drafting a nice, official sounding "get me my money NOW" kinda letter.

  • You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

  • Agreed.

  • True. People have so many more entertainment alternatives now. In order to get them excited about going to a club for music, it's really got to be a great show.

  • It's impressive to hear about a group of professionals who have got their process for booking, press, promotion, sound, and everything else as streamlined as can be. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Yeah. That is a bit confusing. I think what Roy was trying to say is "open your eyes to these kinds of situations and you'll be more likely to protect yourself in the future, and thus, get paid." I think I'll take that sentence out of the article, though. Just to avoid excess pondering.

  • Is that page live yet? I'd love to see it.

  • Hey C, I hope this article didn't come across as saying all bookers and club owners were out to screw musicians. Most of the time, in my experience, everyone wants the same thing and wants to help each other reach that goal.

  • One of the commenters in the thread offered to share his if you contact him directly.

  • That is a good dose of reality. Thanks for sharing.

  • Tabitha

    We play for free because we're told, as young musicians just starting out, that's the only way our music will get heard in the beginning. We're led to believe that this is the way everyone does it, and that we're just "paying our dues," and that we don't yet have enough experience to get paid what we really deserve. And for us, playing for cheap is better than not playing at all.

    • I think I'm done paying my dues. I think from now on I'm going to collect my dues.

    • Graeme

      So, is not getting paid for the first 12 months in a new ‘day job’ because you don’t have any experience acceptable? Me thinks not!

  • Barstowoakland

    #4,5 & 6 hit too close to home I go thru that bullshit all the time.

    • Hopefully you didn't experience any flashbacks from this article.

  • killer words: LADIES IN FREE BEFORE 11
    We told the club management our demograph is almost exclusively female, and that was a horrible promotion for our band’s night. They didn’t flinch. Tuesday nite, the manager said this is the most bodies they’d had all summer (We promoted the heck out of the nite ourselves) but we only made $260 to split. They want us back because we packed the place, but our leverage is increased, and nobody will get in free since we split the door. This article is damn-near of biblical importance for performing artists! Thanks!

  • JCfreely

    …Wait… I'm not done here yet. "Cover dance bands?" What about original dance bands? Or rock bands? Or anything that works better in a bar/club than in a vegan bakery/coffee shop where it's boring enough and quiet enough to hear your unaccompanied vintage Ovation? And by special event do you mean playing on an outdoor stage at 10:00 AM for free in order to "promote" your music to some guy who might as well watch you while his kid finishes his ice cream? There's a fan-base that'll create some buzz. I'm hereby done reading comments on CD-Baby. The artists are either too old, too out of touch, or too bitter. Often they are all three. STDs? How the holy hell can you tell who has an STD by looking at them?!

    • The Outback Larrikin

      Played recently at a "Country Music Club" I'm 63 and I couldn't believe how many people were there that were my age and were obviously dead from the ankles up. I played all originals which I've been playing around the beer joints for a few years. her was actually some life returned to the house. I recently played in the US and was received well playing slide and or harmonica. Tho only for tips in coffee houses. These lead to bigger venues so I suppose there is a place for everything and everyone in this world of music. I look forward to going back to Tx if I don't die first!

  • Can you send me a copy of your contract so i can use it as well!! PRETTY PLEASE!!!!!

    • The Outback Larrikin

      Sorry about the quality. The original is a PDF. A line is missing at the bottom for the signature of the venue operator.

    • Sodacon

      also send it to thank you 🙂

    • I like to include a bowl of all green M&Ms in my rider/contract. If a venue/promoter can get you a bowl of all green M&Ms, you know they did everything else right too! And, ya know, they should pay you and all that. Ha!

  • Contact

    So basically: check and see if you live in/are playing in Los Angeles. Then you'll know you're getting ripped off. 😉

  • All great articles. Gavin always has something funny to say about tours.

  • Well done!

  • Info

    Here in Finland we used to play normally with 1000e + PA (roughly 850e+ 23% VAT) and our salesman got a 20% cut of the selling price, so we were left with 800e for car rental and gasoline and the rest was divided for the 3 of us… so roughly 200e per head for a gig. Sometimes it was better, more often a bit less also though. There was usually a food catering in a restaurant, and a lot of beer and cider, vodka, energy drinks, sandwiches, fruits etc at the backstage. These did not affect our pay ever, as someone said would be the case sometimes in the US. Accomodation was always also included, and usually in a hotel (the bigger the city, the bigger the hotel). These were always written on the contract too. Needless to mention the free alcohol became boring pretty fast during the first year of gigging.

    Like for all bands, we had our bad venues and good venues, ranging from a couple of people to 5000-7000 people arena live TV shows. We had several top5 singles here and spent almost a year on the official club charts with the biggest hit. We did over a 100 shows within a couple of years along making and releasing our album. Now it has been exactly 1 year and 1 week since our last show, and that venue still hasn't paid our booker. The thing is in court. But I don't care for the money, I've been working 3,5 years in a plastic factory packing plastic. I would only love to get to have a lot of shows again and make new music. But the morning/evening/night shifts at work eat all my creative strength and time. Although, the work has funded me all the tools I need for the next records. 😉

  • I've been performing for about 35 years…one of the most memorable nightmares was a gig in Vail, Colo. in 1980 with a well known local Denver area artist. We finished the gig which was not promoted by them at all. The club owner in a full mink coat ( I kid you not) told the band leader if he wanted to be paid in cocaine. We weren't druggies so we just got the h$#% out of there and never went back. Two weeks later the owner was in the newspaper for being arrested for dealing coke out of the club…

  • I loved reading this. I recently did a blog post on the same topic, entitled: Pay to Play is the Boogeyman of Music. lol — and you know it is true.

  • tunsable

    Yes the money up front thing is insurance. In the states we call that a guarantee. This way the percentage of the door or the guarantee whichever is larger is what the artist gets. I played a gig with a seasoned musician and I was doing the “bite your nails, count the people and hope you sell some cd’s so you can get back home thing that I was in the habit of doing as a professional amateur. We had 7 people due to weather conditions (another damn thing you have to be careful of). At the end of the night,I expected to get 0. I was doing this as a guest on this man’s show but I as we all are at times was willing to accept that since he made no money I wouldn’t and chock it up to well we are colleageues I understand. I got in my car asfter we packed up and he said…um where are you going?…don’t you want to get paid?…I said huh? He then gave me 150 dollars!!!!! I said how did you. You never do a gig without a guarantee were the famous words. Oldy but goody. If you don’t make some demands guys these steps and ways to cheat you will be listed in the next century. Get what is rightfully yours….some money for bringing your skill to people to enjoy.

  • Lg

    These things should be thought about in advance and written in to a letter of agreement. Dealing after the fact has you in a position of weakness.

  • when I was a touring musician our driver MOOSE packed a 9MM Glock everywhere we went.

    Moose was a big man

  • Moose certainly sounds like a big man.

  • Ha.

  • Maybe they should have allowed 1/3rd of their body in the venue.

  • Wow! SO many comments. Here in Portland there is a Fair Trade Music initiative set up to recognize venues that don’t engage in these shady practices and make a commitment to supporting musicians in a real, tangible and professional way. Enough musicians got fed up with being stiffed, disrespected and decided to get collectively organized and do something about it. It is an effort of the local AFM to make the scene here viable for musicians to make some modicum of a living playing in the local bars and clubs. The idea has taken off and other locales have taken up the fight. There seems to be a few groups of people from the same regions in these comments. I would suggest contacting each other and organizing a Fair Trade Music initiative in your region. If you are in the Bay Area there is already an initiative underway. If you live in LA or NY contact the AFM local there and let them know you would like to see it. As good as it may feel, complaining on the internet isn’t going to change things. You have to get out and engage your community and work together. Change happens easiest when you work as a team.

    CDBaby we would love to meet and see how we can work together to effect this LARGE social change. We have contacted your offices a few times, but apparently not the right person.

  • Mattaniah

    i'd love a copy also! thanks!

    • Jennneal1313

      I would also be very grateful. thanks so much! jennneal 1313 at gmail dot com

  • Thanks for the info. Send an email to and address it to the marketing department. Or, since we're right in town, feel free to stop by any time 9-5 M-F!

  • Jessicavalientenyc

    I have seen all this and more. First, regarding “promotion” costs, many of the clubs we play do neither the author’s A nor B choice, but they do no promotion whatsoever. We work very hard at promotion on our end, but a club should also cultivate it’s own following. They should not be surprised if the house is light, if they did nothing to attract a crowd other than being there.

    Also, it is very customary here for some clubs to book several bands a night. Something I have seen is, with a crowded room, they will hand over very little money and tell the bandleader, “most of those people were here for the band after you,” and then tell the following band, after also giving them very little money, “most of those people were here for the band AFTER you,” and pocket a large sum for themselves. I witnessed this once when I was not playing, but had gone to see friends actually in two separate bands following each other in the same club. I alerted both bandleaders to what I saw so you can imagine what went down. I think the solution is to have a friend come and stay close to the door, and keep a tally of how many people came and paid to see your band.

    The things that Roy Linford Adams describes above is becoming more and more common in NYC–the “pay to play” idea, and many clubs don’t even try to justify it with catering, promotion, etc., they just say you have to pay it, take it or leave it. So, they get the food and drink receipts (guaranteed, with a stiff minimum at the tables, besides the music cover), they take a percentage of the door (hihger all the time these days), and they get the first X number of door charges outright (one famous jazz venue who shall be nameless is taking our first 8 covers, and I think 30% at the door, with a 2-drink minimum at the tables–after all that money, very few fans will buy cds, but many venues are now taking a percentage of that, too).

    This kind of outrageous behavior is becoming so commonplace that I actually know of one NON-PROFIT, cultural and educational institution who is a 501c-3 grant-supported organization who is doing the same thing! I don’t know what to say in response to all this.

  • AFM Officer

    AFM scales (wages) vary from Local to Local, as each Local sets the rates for their region, and they are just minimums. You can always charge as much as you can get. We just work to create a floor.

  • Coming from a punk/DIY background, I say, set up your own gigs before begging your friendly neighborhood watering hole to give you a fair shake. The logistics can be maddening, and you're still taking all the risk, but at least you call your own shots — and you get to divide your own spoils…what a concept! 🙂

    For example: I lived in a small town that had an alternative coffeehouse/bookstore space. We hosted an art show of my wife's work there. For the opening night, we made the gig free, to take the edge off "that $4 cover is just way too much" excuse — plus, we had food, and a couple different music acts (including yours truly).

    Our money came from the art sales, plus we also passed a tip jar around at the end of the night — as I recall, we walked away with about $120-150 from the experience, which proved sufficiently positive to repeat on the closing night, with a similar format (and result). And that's from selling art! Now, imagine what you could with CDs and merchandise in this scenario. You get the idea.

    In short, think of alternative settings where you can present your music to better advantage — I've recently played in front of an organic food store (as part of a summer series), and a resale shop run by the local emergency shelter, and those were two of the most satisfying experiences I've had. The connections you make will probably provide more satisfying results.

    At the end of the day, you're only as good as the company you keep — and if you're surrounded by greaseballs and goombahs with clipped cigars sticking out of their mouths, giving you the classic line ("What else ya got, kid?"), guess what? You're going to get stiffed, every time. No surprises there.

    The Portland initiative sounds like a good idea, because it encourages musicians to think of the big picture — what's good for everybody, versus "me, me, me and only me," which is another problem that I've witnessed in many places. That's no surprise, in a nation that puts such a premium on the "lone ranger"…but a little bit of creativity and collective action goes a long way… in my experience, at least.

    • Nice going with the artshow opening and closing. Sounds fun. And thanks for sharing.

    • bloodyrich

      recently my bands have done better passing tip jar… very strange that even jst getting $1 from people we get more than we did from the door!

  • Thanks for sharing this and for your work on behalf of musicians!

  • They don't want this be cause its harder to ripp you off

  • Baltimore's not my hometown, so I'm uncertain. Unfortunately, too many of us artists have the "it'll be different for me" mentality when passed advice from another artist.

  • Greggmanraupp

    Yes i would like a copy…

  • Herman

    Hey could I also get a copy too please? thanks my friend, my email is

  • Musicians.

    I am a hardcore advocate of paying musicians to play. If the music is quality, they will pay for it. In the best possible way you can, itemize what you are paying for to provide quality music for the bar. List prices of strings, microphones, pa systems, gas, practice studio fees, etc. Treat it like a job, show up early, help put away stools and chairs at the end of the night, clean up after yourself, etc. Present yourself as a business person and not a 'musician'. You'll get better shows and venues that way. And no one ever works better in an alternative state of mind. You're only lowering your own perception of what's good.

  • Anonymous

    There is a club that is guilty of most of these things on a regular basis. The sad part is, it's a club that is known to be a music venue, and you'd think they wouldn't want to be ripping off the bands that play there. They also like to hold up the bands from playing until everyone is done eating at the tables they have on the stage. Again, you're a music venue. Why do you have tables on the stage when you know a band is coming in to play?? They make you pay the sound guy. They make you sell tickets. They also charge at the door for those who don't have tickets, and you should get that door money, but you will see them just letting pretty much anyone walk right in without charging them. What is this horrible venue, you ask? Maybe you've heard of it… it's called The Hard Cafe.

  • hello, I just got this email. If someone would please send me a copy of a good contract I would be so humble with blessings and and thank you's for your help. Been burned many times in many ways. Blessings and wishing you enough, my email is Wa-do'/thak you in Cherokee, TerryLee

  • Cterry2011

    Young bands bring out huge crowds. When my band was in high school, we'd get a load of high school kids out and set up our own shows by renting venue space.

    I see a lot of young high school and college bands do the battle of the bands, or pay for almost nothing for exposure when they're bringing loads of people out and would make so much more money putting on their own shows.

  • Cterry2011

    So to make it as a musician, you just have to assume that club owners and clubs are dishonest.

    That's huge coming from someone who used to run a club. I grew up in Ohio, and in cities like Columbus, if you want to play at one of the better clubs and aren't well known, the club actually does expect you to pay their sound engineer with ticket sales.

    I know plenty of touring and up and coming acts who I rarely see play shows in Columbus or Ohio because all of the clubs are after bands hard earned work.

    And I have to disagree $300 for four hours of entertainment and 150 people paying at the door is NOT a fair deal. A single DJ would charge that kind of money without even having a cover charge.

  • You shouldn't HAVE to assume someone is going to be dishonest… that's the issue to me. Too many people have no integrity and are completely selfish.

  • No. We have a full sound system that we prefer to use because we're used to it, familiar with it, and have a great sound guy to run it. But we make sure to add the cost of paying an engineer into what we charge. The band's job is to provide music. It's like any other service. You do a service, and you get paid. It's up to whoever is booking to pay for the service, whether it's paying their own people or yours.

  • A legit venue should never balk at a contract. It protects BOTH parties. It clearly states that YOU will be providing a service, and THEY will be providing compensation. You have to sign a contract for any service, but for some reason people don't think entertainers need to. Not true. If anything, it should be more important, because once you do your part, you can't un-play if they don't pay you. If you take your car to a mechanic and don't pay, you don't get your car, it's simple. Music is a business, not a community service.

  • Had that happen… we played a show that we wanted to use our PA, the clubs "sound guy", who was nothing more than a janitor that could turn the volume up and down, said it was too much of a hassle, and insisted we use their system. We specifically said we didn't want to because we didn't want them to try and blame us if anything was broken, but to no avail. Sure enough, after everything was torn down, the wood (pressed board junk) box of the drum monitor had a crack about 3 inches in it, which they tried blaming on us, saying it was from people standing on the monitor… and claiming that he saw it being done. The monitor was next to the drums on a side he couldn't get to, with a bass rig right infront of it (6 foot tall stack) and the lead guitar on the other side, completely boxed in, with the rear stage curtain right behind it. You couldn't even GET to it on stage to try and stand on it… The drummer said he noticed it during set up, but the club denied it. Good reason to look over any equipment that is not yours closely, and document any pre-existing damage, and make sure the owner sees it too.

  • Yeah, there's definitely a difference between legitimate reasons for an event not bringing in the money expected, and a crooked business owner trying to stiff the band. I haven't owned a venue, but I have been involved in booking/promoting events, so I've got a bit of experience from both sides of the scope. I know we played a show once, not realizing that the night we were booked to play, there was a huge youth event that night in the same town, the grand opening of a rave club, and a town 40 minutes away had a huge 20 band festival going on… they usually pulled in 300-400 people a night. Aside from the staff, our crew, and friends of the venue that they let in, I think there were 5 people that were actual customers. Yet, he still paid us what he promised, taking the loss. That's integrity. We went back and played there for free, just taking what we made in merch. On the other side, we helped book for a show, and one of the bands that we booked decided to show what big "rock stars" they were by sneaking in people, beer and weed in through the back door, and kicking holes in the green room walls. Not only did we have to pay for the damage (which came from that bands cut), none of the bands that played are ever welcome at that venue again, even though only 1 band had to be jerks. If everyone realized that showing respect benefits everyone, the "biz" would be more enjoyable and profitable all around.

  • Tubeguru

    It's about the same in our area. The key to making those gigs worthwhile is shameless self promotion and having merchandise. By self promotion I mean promoting you website and letting the crowd know that you're available for parties etc. If you can get a private function for $1K+ for a 5 piece band then your $200 gig is worth while.
    If you can sell 5 t-shirts and 5 CDs at $15 a pop then you're closer to worthwhile.
    We play at a restaurant locally. It's a 7 -9:30 show.The owner gives us a $200 guarantee plus food and drinks and allows us to sell merch and pass a tip jar. Although merch sales are historically spotty there we typically take in $100 – $200 in tips and have gotten several private functions out of the deal. We don't have to deal with drunks and we're home by 11…..

  • Johnsmith00042

    Could you send this contract to me?

  • Been reading some 60 comments or something.. A lot of guys complaining about lousy pay.. shady contracts and stuff. This is the thing. If you’re a small band trying to get somewhere.. Pretty much have to settle for next to nothing. You wont get paid good enough until you actually get people screaming for you to get live. By that time you can start demanding and setting terms and so on. If your music is good (better than most bands in you’re state or country) you will get good terms. If you’re not happy with what the gigs are paying you.. Your music and marketing of it ain’t good enough or… You’re just not smart enough! Which is it?? If you’ve been doing 200$ gigs for years you’re probably not worth more.
    Instead of keeping focus on the 100$ you might get ripped for.. Start improving in other ways.

  • Yes, I suddenly want to move to Holland. I wish the USA was like that….but we are millenniums away from that….

  • Bonifacio Dominguez

    After 40 years in the clubs, honky tonks, and now a member of the several associations, and other such groups I have heard them all and a few others like “playing for the exposure” or helping the organization. The other good one is the award shows that cost you a bunch of money for the rooms, shows, dinners, etc, so that you can be recognized with a statue for winner of a certain category or luring you in because you have been chosen as the top ten in a category.
    I guess we all have to make a buck somehow. It’s all business, thanks for the articles, keep up the good work.

  • Awesome. Thanks for all this info.

  • Awesome. Thanks for all this info.

  • Gary82588

    my band got ripped off at the birdsnet, deptford, london, i clarifyed we would have two 45mins sets and one other band, on the night!!!!, 3 bands and only 30 mins each, took most of the band membrs 2 hours to get to the venue, promoters name is “kev”, DO NOT deal with him, i tried to contact him, doesnt even have the decentcy to notifiy me of the changes, WARNING, do not deal with promoter “KEV”, bad venue, i highly advise band to to play there, if you do, at your perril!!!!, my final comment, i hope kev likes hospital food!!!!!

  • Sara Tiemogo

    I think the majority of artists and bands that are taken advantage of by venues are people that are just starting out, or don’t have a huge fan base. As the article stated, if you can sell 100+ tickets, chances are you don’t really need that venue. I’ve had venues that asked their bands to PAY if they didn’t reach a minimum of people that said they came to see you at the door. That’s right. Pay to play. I’m surprised that wasn’t mentioned.

  • Madfilmz

    I promote shows and work with promoters all the time taking pictures. I totally disagree with Roys idea that an artist shouldn't sell tickets for a show. The purpose of being an artist is to attract people to a show to make money. As, a promoter I want to put people on my show that will bring their fans. I will share some of the ticket price with the artist. I also hope that once the fans see the show that they not only stay fans of the artist or group that sold them the ticket. I hope that they also become fans of the other groups and artists.

  • don’t whine about u wanna go to holland!!!!! ….just stomp around thu US and say hell NO I’m rollin holland style BEEoTcH!!!!!!!!

  • don’t whine about u wanna go to holland!!!!! ….just stomp around thu US and say hell NO I’m rollin holland style BEEoTcH!!!!!!!!

  • Xaviticoso

    The venues as a whole are ripping off the musicians. What other business model says, “Hey, you bring my private company 100 paying customers and then I will give you a fraction of what they pay me to ‘cover my costs’ – I will not pay you for your labor. I will pay you nothing of the revenue from bar sales and the staff I provide will not be held accountable. Oh, and you might want to tip the sound guy just to make sure he doesn’t screw you up.”

    The Doug Fir Lounge in Portland is one of my least favorite. I have performed there on my own and with other bands to see this exact scenario play out again and again.

    The problem is that the musicians don’t know better and/or are scared to stand up for themselves.

    Think about it:

    How many hours does it take you to prepare a show?

    How many hours to promote the show?

    To draw over 100 people without having radio exposure requires grass roots marketing. How much time and money does that cost you?

    How many bandmates do you split the money with?

    And when the clubs say, “Our overhead is…” Stop them. Why don’t they get people into their place of business just like every other company? This is why call centers exist, why salesman travel the map, etc: To find customers.

    And sales pays better than most professions. So why are musicians willing to take such little pay for being the sales force for these clubs? They should pay you every cent of the door. I’d argue bar sales, too.

    They don’t even try to get people into their venue – the leave it up to the musicians. And they say things like, “If you don’t draw you’ll never play here again.” Generally I find their tactics to mirror that of an abusive husband who tells his wife, “You’ll never find better.”

    The Doug Fir Lounge is a profitable company. How many bands who play there are making a living on music?

    It’s not right.

  • Thanks for sharing. Good points.

  • Cassius Khan

    This is why I refuse to play in clubs, only concert venues. And yes, have a contract and make sure you get an 80% deposit up front and then 20% before setting foot on the stage. Works for me:)

  • Brian in Shortsville

    Helpful tip depending on your jurisdiction and the laws therein:

    How many bands have been paid with a check made out to (Your Band's Name Here) that they couldn't cash (and possibly the bar owner was COUNTING on the band not being able to cash -YAY HIM! FREE ENTERTAINMENT!) because the band only existed as any sort of entity on the poster.

    I spend the $35 at my county courthouse to get a d/b/a (Doing Business As) with the band's name on it. This works a bunch of ways, but not the least of which is that if I'm handed a check made out to the band I can go to a branch of his bank, present a copy of the d/b/a, and cash his check because I have a legal document stating that I, the person, am 'doing business as' the band. I effectively AM the band, at least for the purpose of getting my hands on my rightful legal tender.

    Also useful when the band breaks up, and one of the opposing faction wants to continue on using the name I OWN.

    Second tip: Small claims court has been, in my limited experience in having to haul "critter clubs" in there following a late cancellation/double booking, a VERY friendly place for musicians who've been screwed. I am undefeated, representing my band myself (and I'm a nurse, not a lawyer) in getting JUDGEMENTS. I am winless in actually getting PAID. The judge doesn't hand you the money, just a piece of paper saying you're legally entitled to the money. Collecting is still a whole separate issue. That's where the drummer's brother being a lawyer comes in handy.

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  • Flamman

    I actually learnt this from my dear friend Matt E Silver from NYC. We did a show in Baja, Mexico somewhere in 1992 with Joey Beltram, Guru Josh, Altern-8 a.o. and we were actually the only ones who got paid (because Matt E insisted on money upfront) of course we completely turned over our camper before crossing the border back into the USA just to make sure we weren't used as drug runners… A wise lesson from Matt E which I never said goodbye to!

  • Cityneversleepsct

    Ive been playing in a band for 7 years, I am now 21, and Ive seen this done many times!!!! So true!!! If you’re doing all the work and selling tickets, the venue should also be doing their part in promoting the show other than posting your bands name in small letters on the windows

  • Truthmusicrecords

    If you are able, please send a copy to as well. Thank you!!

  • Sid Helmer

    The best way to make sure you get paid for a gig is have a friend who is a " ringer " and carries a LOADED firearm!. Believe it or not I have experienced this.
    Sidney Duane Helmer

    • Wow! You'd be the worst person for a promoter to scam.

  • Troutsteakrevival

    Could you send a copy of your contract to please? Thanks for all your help!

  • Mark

    if possible I would like to get a copy of that contract – thank you

  • E.D.

    they only got $300 after bring ing 150 people. thats $2 per person. Nobody should be playing for that kind of payout.

  • I've seen that, "let people in for free" stuff happen a lot. One way I've found to help with proper end of night counts is to have a friend or super fan be your door counter with a tally hand counter clicking everyone that pays throughout the night until at least 1/2 hour before close, not just for the first set or two. You'll see a marked difference in your favor at settlement time.

  • Evils

    Thank you for this article! Pretty much everything in here I have seen and heard in my local area. This area in my opinion is terrible for original acts because more than half of the venues will not let you play unless you do covers. The places that do support local original music is a circle jerk fest. So if your not in with the cool kids do not expect to be booked even if your music is a thousand times better than the bands currently playing. You may have to network to get in and sometimes that is not enough either. My favorite is when a local venue asks you to play and they expect you to do it for free all the time! When I say free they give you nothing in return not even a cup of water you have to buy it! I was told by one individual since we know you are local can you be the call in band when bands do not show up… I asked to sit down and discuss payment, terms and conditions and I was never contacted… If you are the venue then why keep booking bands who do not show? Makes no sense to me. Then the best part of all is when you bring up conditions, terms, and intelligence some of the venues do not not respond well. The best thing to remember in all situations which I know it can be hard to do stay calm, be firm, and polite. Certain venues act like you are so desperate to play that you will do anything to get on their stage. They are doing you the favor allowing you to play. If I am going to play for free I will go and do open mic nights in the area which is a great way to promote your original music, take pictures, video footage, and network with other musicians who can help you get shows 😉

  • MXKE

    As a promoter I like the idea of tickets and requiring a certain number of people if for no other reason than i know that the band is promoting the show. with things like facebook and twitter where i can follow or befriend the acts that i book its super disappointing to be busting my ass to get every single person i know at a gig and notice the bands doing no work…thats maybe the only thing i disagree with on this article, otherwise your right the rest is b.s. and its to bad there are people pulling that stunt.

    it makes it harder on those of us that can not afford contracts although ive always meet my obligations, a man is only a good as his word, but ive also been blessed with working with acts that understand 6 people showed up theres 26 inches of snow on the ground and work the deal with me so im not out a few hundred.

    truth be told were all in this fight together to put on and play a show and entertain people, if you have a bad experience tell everyone you work with about it and when you run in to the good ones share their info.

  • Johnnymixxxx

    I don't understand why artists don't get that when a promoter sets up a show, that promoter has an overhead to cover, and when an artists doesn't sell tickets or bring in a crowd, the promoter still has to pay the overhead. I'd love to give you a great example and a break down of just how much it costs putting together a show.

    Let's say were going to do a show at Phantasy. 1. Phantasy charges $150 for rental, plus $100 to pay back your door cash drawer, and the house gets to keep all the underage $3 per person fee. 2. Security costs $50 per person, usually you have 3 = $150 3. A REAL GOOD DJ ranges from $75 to $200 depending on who you have. 4. A REAL GOOD HOST ranges from $75 to $125 depending on who you have. 5. Door person can make $40 to $50 6. The promoter has website fees to promote shows that the artist is on, $10/month 7. The promoter has to get a flyer designed, ranges from $10 to $40. 8. The promoter has to purchase tickets $55 for 1,0000 9. The promoter has to get tickets printed $20 for b/w and $40 for color 10. The promoter has to pay postage to mail tickets, ranges from $10 to $30 11. The promoter puts in numerous man hours with everything listed above including being the first to a show and the last to leave. 12. A REAL GOOD HEADLINER ranges $1,000 to $3,000 and even higher. So the next time you complain to pay or have to sell tickets you can stfu. You show up with 3 people, come late and leave after you perform. And when you backout or dont show up with lame excuses, THE PROMOTER still has to cover these fees. NOW, an artist is free to rent and use any venue that they want, but you never see them throwing their own shows cause they cant afford to even invest in themselves. Quit whining or find a new line of work. If you were that good your career wouldnt be where it was on this exact date last year which is nowhere. The ones who invest get noticed cause they actually get up off their ass and do something, not complain…-just sayin

  • Well, not sure if it’s legal or not. But it’s definitely crappy. Did you speak with the promoter or talent buyer? What was their rationale? Double-booking has happened to me a few times too. Mostly it’s due to flakiness, bad communication, or someone getting fired and not giving the new person access to the calendar.