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Why are so many clubs only booking one-nighters?


n9ne

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Okay, maybe it's just the area I'm in..... but it seems like all the clubs that feature live music have gone to a "one-nighter" approach: booking one band on Friday night, and a different band on Saturday night.

 

Based on my own experience, I've always felt it was in a club's best interest to book a band for both Friday & Saturday; that way, anybody who saw the band on Friday and liked them could come back on Saturday and maybe even bring some friends. And back when I was playing for a living (10-15 years ago), virtually every club we played was at least a two-nighter. (In fact, there were more clubs booking week-long engagements than clubs doing multiple one-nighters.)

 

But from what I'm seeing now, that's no longer the case. We've been fortunate enough to get some two-nighters when we were already booked for one night, and got extended when the band for the other night cancelled....but as far as places actively booking Friday/Saturday gigs, they're just not out there. (Which sucks, because it's the same amount of loading, set-up, and tear-down whether you're doing one night or two.)

 

Now in fairness, we're mainly playing local bars and nightclubs...and while everyone knows they offer live music, there aren't any places that I would consider a "venue"; they're basically just bars with live music.

 

However, I've also gone to a number of clubs in the Gulf coast region over the past year or two, and it seems like even the bigger venue-type clubs are going to the one-nighter format.

 

Is this just the direction of live music these days? Have crowds become so ADD that they can't stand to see the same band two nights in a row, forcing clubs to change their approach? Or is there some hidden benefit for the clubs that I'm just not seeing?

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In the last 15 years I've been gigging I've never seen or experienced nightclubs booking a band for an entire weekend. We've averaged 6-7 nightclubs gig per month and that means we're playing 6-7 different nightclubs on 4-8 week rotation. On average we play about 11-12 different bars on some sort of rotation. The only exception has been: Casinos will pull a band for an entire weekend. Also out of state venues where bands are driving 3-4 hours... they will book a band for a Fri & Sat. Otherwise, bands are trying to fill a calendar with as many good venues as possible.

 

That being said, many clubs have pulled back bands on Friday nights. We're still getting bookings but most bars are doing DJ on Friday and a band on Sat.

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I'm 28... I've been playing in bars since before I was old enough to be in them, and I've been playing for a living for 5 years or so. The ONLY times I ever remember playing a double-header were at low paying clubs that were kinda stuck in a time warp... so I guess I've always viewed that as being something that's already run it's course.

 

I have seen that some of the bigger nightclubs (OC, OBX, Florida keys, etc) will book bands for two nights to a week, but I figured that was just to cut down on the travel expenses they're paying bands.

 

 

The simple truth of it is this. I live in an area where we have probably 70 bands that play out.. 20-30 "pro level" cover bands, about half of which play 3-6 times a week. If I were to be off both Friday and Saturday night, and was going to go see a live band both nights.. there is NO WAY I would go see the same band both nights. That would be a waste of time, really... unless I knew the band was doing two completely different shows. In this area.. there are clubs that when they book you, don't want you to be playing nearby on the day before or day after, because they want you to be something completely different than whatever was there yesterday, and whatever is there tomorrow. This makes plenty of sense to me.

 

 

I don't think it's a matter of people not being able to stand seeing the same band.. there's just SOOOOO many more entertainment options now than there were 30, 20, or even 10 years ago. People put higher expectations into what they expect to get for not just their entertainment dollar, but they time they spend as well... and seeing the same band do the same songs two nights in a row isn't high on many people's list. Among my favorite bands and acts of all time are Big & Rich, Keith Urban, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Garth Brooks, John Mayer, Tommy James and the Shondells, and Matchbox Twenty.. but if gave me the exact same seat to both a Friday and Saturday night show featuring any one of those artists.. I'm pretty sure I'd only go Saturday. Sure, I might miss them doing one or two different songs.. but it's a time/investment/enjoyment thing.

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Here in Minneapolis/St. Paul, one-nighters have been prevalent (IME) for the last 10 - 15 years or so. Only one of the clubs on our regular circuit books us for Friday/Saturday. And that club is a little more than an hour NW of the Twin Cities. Far enough out to be considered out in "the boonies".

 

I can remember a day when the majority of my bookings were for two nights at the same club. It's not fun setting up and tearing down for one gig, but all in all, I like one-nighters more. Like James Brown said, "Hit it and quit it!"

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As I often say, we're a bit behind the times out here in North Dakota. My band is in rotation in two bars that do Fri/Sat gigs, one in Grand Forks, another in Devils Lake. I like the two-nighters, because you can leave your equipment up for two days instead of tearing it down that same night. I do understand the idea behind one-nighter only places, though. Plus, you can usually charge more for a one-night gig as opposed to a two-nighter. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

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Only in the last year have I been doing more 1-nighters than Fri-Sat. I think that it is partly driven by the economy. People in our area don't seem to be out as much on Friday, as a rule-of-thumb. So, either there's karaoke, an acoustic solo/duo act, or a DJ. (Which I don't understand, because a DJ sometimes makes as much as an entire band, depending on the jockey, venue, etc.) Or nothing. Maybe a dart or cornhole tournament.

 

Also, it's sad-but-true: Many bands don't have enough material in their catalogs to offer diverse shows for the two nights. And folks don't seem to want to go see the same exact set two nights in a row.

 

We have been fortunate in the fact that we have played together long enough to be able to change out songs in the event of a 2-nighter.

 

Seems to be a moot point at the moment, though.

 

It is what it is, I suppose.

 

Jamie

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There is one place in town that offers four-nights a week bands (W-Sa). Most bands play pretty much the same songs every night, although one band claimed to have enough songs to play four completely different nights (16 different sets total). Pretty hard to believe, but it can be done. My goal is to get to the point where we have enough material where we can do at least 2.5 nights without repeating one song, unless requested. I agree that it is probably why attendance has been lower in recent years for bands that do weekend gigs. Who wants to hear the same stuff each night?

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from my experience, in the last 15 years or so, most 2-nighters would end up having one good night and one soft night.

 

 

Most of the places we played are two night gigs but it would be like that, one good night and one soft night.

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It's happening more because more clubs are expecting the band to provide them with a crowd. Most band will not draw their fan base out two nights in a row, especially not at the same club, regardless of how good they are. Once again, it comes down to the old argument: whose crowd is it, the club's or the band's? Expecting the band to bring the crowd is a short sighted strategy and the reason a lot of clubs can't make it anymore. it's sad that these guys get into a financial bind and then count on bands to bring them their clientele, and then fall into a rut- they won't hire new bands because the band doesn't have a following, so they end up with the same 5 or 6 bands playing every weekend. But pretty soon,the crowds stop coming, especially if those bands play elsewhere in town. No band is going to get their fan base to come out 3 weekends a month every month to see them play.

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This I agree with....

 

It's happening more because more clubs are expecting the band to provide them with a crowd. Most band will not draw their fan base out two nights in a row, especially not at the same club, regardless of how good they are.

.

 

 

 

No band is going to get their fan base to come out 3 weekends a month every month to see them play.

 

 

EDIT: True in Idaho... in other parts of the country playing, different locations it's absolutely achievable. We have a following in every room we play... people who will come out and see us once a month everytime we're booked. And we have people that will come out to every single show, every single weekend and follow us to in every room we play in. Then there are people who come out and don't even care about us, the music or the band... they just come out because they know other people will be there. That's creating a 'scene'... and successful bands on the east coast have a 'scene' that follows them.

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It's happening more because more clubs are expecting the band to provide them with a crowd. Most band will not draw their fan base out two nights in a row, especially not at the same club, regardless of how good they are. Once again, it comes down to the old argument: whose crowd is it, the club's or the band's? Expecting the band to bring the crowd is a short sighted strategy and the reason a lot of clubs can't make it anymore. it's sad that these guys get into a financial bind and then count on bands to bring them their clientele, and then fall into a rut- they won't hire new bands because the band doesn't have a following, so they end up with the same 5 or 6 bands playing every weekend. But pretty soon,the crowds stop coming, especially if those bands play elsewhere in town. No band is going to get their fan base to come out 3 weekends a month every month to see them play.

 

 

Yeah, pretty sure this is the real reason. 2 nighters are few and far between out here and have been for a long time. Change seemed to be around the same time clubs began the "how many people can you draw" model.

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EDIT: True in Idaho... in other parts of the country playing, different locations it's absolutely achievable. We have a following in every room we play... people who will come out and see us once a month everytime we're booked. And we have people that will come out to every single show, every single weekend and follow us to in every room we play in. Then there are people who come out and don't even care about us, the music or the band... they just come out because they know other people will be there. That's creating a 'scene'... and successful bands on the east coast have a 'scene' that follows them.

 

 

I would wager that it is your area that is the exception and not the norm. I'm in contact with musicians from all lover the country, even in other countries, and they report pretty much the same thing I'm saying. Most of them play once or twice a month at most in their own home town because they can't get folks out to see them every weekend. Lots of guys here are playing out of town, like Portland and Seattle, just to play. Maybe your band is in the right place at the right time with the right product. If you think you could take your band to Austin or LA or Jacksonville and have your following come out en masse 3 weekends a month every month, I'd like to see it. Not saying it's impossible, I just don't know anyone doing it out of all the musicians I know. I know when Austin Cowbell was here he said he had a hard time getting people out every weekend, and his band was unique and very entertaining.

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I would wager that it is your area that is the exception and not the norm.

 

 

Well there is some truth in that... the local geography is a little isolated with not much in terms of night time entertainment. We've taken full advantage of it. There's not much else to do around here except go to a bar and see a band. This area... towns are 5-10 miles apart, and each town has atleast one bar or club that books entertainment (be it acoustic, DJ or full band). People have to drive from bar to bar to find the right band. And if the choices are limited people will stick with what is consistent. So we've marketed the band as the destination and not the club.

 

Regionally the area is challenged as bars are cutting back on bands... but there are some big bands in this region that all earn top pay and have a following or 'scene' that follows them. 10-15 bands that all compete in the top clubs. There are 5-6 agencies that control bookings in New England, NJ Cover Circuit and Md/DE/VA area and the top bands in those agencies all have very healthy followings. They are not booked solely for providing entertainment.... they future bookings are dependent on their draw.

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I didn't mean that last comment to take away from your band.You obviously have it going on! I would love to play with a pro outfit like yours. I just think it might be a case of right product/right place/right time. And maybe you could do it everywhere. Wouldn't surprise me. But not everybody can. I just know after touring the northwest for three years playing nothing but small towns for the most part, every club had their own clientele. Road bands couldn't bring a crowd. Oh, we could after playing a place a few times (Bend Oregon we played 12 times in 3 years, Whitefish Montana and Bozeman about ten each) but usually it was once or twice in a town before the clubs would close or change hands or whatever. The point is, we showed up to a built in crowd everywhere we went and our job was to keep them there. Clubs did TV and newspaper ads, radio spots, etc. Now, it's different. The place I played two weeks ago didn't even bother to put the gig on their own facebook page. We had a full house, but I promoted the crap out of it. I have free days since I'm laid off and recovering from surgery, so it isn't hard to do, but if I was back working 50 hours a week and having to deliver posters, FB and email it, etc etc it would be a hassle. Plus, if the service is bad, staff is light, food/drinks are sub par, bathrooms are filthy and parking lot is unsafe, we still get blamed for not having a good crowd.

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I didn't mean that last comment to take away from your band.

 

Nope... didn't take that way at all. I completely respect the challenges you have out there. In some ways I'm intrigued a bit and wonder whether our model would hit in your location (some of our biggest success is playing in small rural towns where we're the big event for a small venue). Then after I think about it there are certainly some undeniable differences about my location vs yours. For one... economics. This is an expensive area to live (small homes ave $250K, taxes crazy) and because of that it actually plays into our advantage. People can't afford that second home, that boat or RV on the weekends. So there are alot of 'stay-cations' with nothing to do.. except work and pay bills and hit the bars on the weekends. There's a thriving singles scene that we play into as well. And there isn't alot opf competition in terms of local bands that do things at our level. I mean we're producing weekly video... not many bands are doing that period. That's not to say there aren't some great bands around here (this is a decent scene for music), it's that not alot of bands will put in the extra effort.

 

 

You obviously have it going on! I would love to play with a pro outfit like yours. I just think it might be a case of right product/right place/right time.

 

You are absolutely right about that... 10-12 years ago (when gas was much cheaper) it would have been impossible to get this band to the level it's at right now. Even 9/11 helped us a little. We're very close to NYC and having that sorta event hit this area very hard. People lost loved ones. The whole bar scene was in a bit of mouring while we were in our infancy. Then people started coming out of their shells... they stopped staying home... in fact they started going out alot! Friday, Sat even Sundays. We had a big housing boom here until 08. Even now people are still moving up here from NYC... which has citified the area a bit more. This area is certainly on the rise. It wasn't any plan on our part, but we've played right into that change.

 

When we put this band together we looked at what worked in other markets... NOLA, South Jersey, Long Island... etc. Since no other bands we're playing that style/format we were fresh, new and different. And we work hard at it. It's never set and forget.

 

And maybe you could do it everywhere.

 

I know we could do it alot of places... because in most markets with similar demographics/conditions I can pick out 1-2 bands just like us... a strong following, rep, getting consistent bookings and top pay. And feedback I get from forumites showing their own progression tells me what is possible. Everywhere, well I can't say that... my guess is for every market like this one... there's another market that is broken like this was 12-15 years ago. I can imagine we would not be as successful in your neck of the woods.

 

By the same token Pat... even though, straight up blues and rock are not en vogue here in this region, I imagine you would be more successful here than in your current locale. Blues bands are certainly not playing for big money around here, but I think bar owners are a bit more respectful towards the entertainment. There are a few rooms in the area that book blues exclusively and feedback I get is they are great places to play with regular crowds. There's one, just 10 minutes from me down a country road... nearest town, 7 miles in each direction that regularly books local blues in addition to Poppa Chubby, Murali Coryell, and believe it or not J.Giles himself. If I took a picture of this place you would think I was kidding. Barely holds 100 people, dirt parking lot, wood paneled walls. They charged $25 at the door and sold the place out. There are some select quiet bars and resturants that all book quality entertainment. Your pay may not increase much ($400-600) but you could easily find plenty of work every single weekend withing a 45 minute drive... and at $400 no bar owner would complain that 'you didn't bring anybody'. . ;)

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People can't afford that second home, that boat or RV on the weekends. So there are alot of 'stay-cations' with nothing to do.. except work and pay bills and hit the bars on the weekends.

Ah yes. We have to compete with this in the summer...

 

lake_cda.jpg

 

and This in the winter....

 

silver-mountain-ski-resort.jpg

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back when I started playing out about 10 years ago bands usually did Fri-Sat at the same place and left your stuff.

 

Today thats basically unheard of.

I dont think Ive seen a single venue or band doing that.

 

 

Now back when my band started, long before me, some places would have you play the entire week.

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Ah yes. We have to compete with this in the summer...




and This in the winter....

 

 

I believe it and I'm certain that has an effect on nightlife potential.

 

Funny... two summertime destinations in upstate NY are Lake George and Saratoga Springs. In the summer there are a hundred mom and pop hotels filled to capacity and a ton of packed bars and clubs that support live music. And the pay is {censored}. We would be lucky to get $900 and it takes 3 hours just to drive there. Yet we've played half full venues in Glens Falls, NY (smack in the middle of both destinations) in the dead of winter for $1700. Go figure. The bars in the tourist destinations doesn't need us as much as we need them. Also because their business is seasonal they won't spend big on entertainment.

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In the golden age of early to mid-80s here (when MTV was hot), all bars were at least Fri-Sat. Many places had the same band anywhere from 3 to 6 nights a week. I remember in December of '85, my band had only about 3 days off the entire month.

 

Now, people just aren't into live music that much around here. They would rather watch any of the 50 TV sets blasting sports in the bars. I'm surprised bands can play AT ALL here. If I was a bar owner I would get a DJ and play club music which is about all the younger generation listens to here.

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