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Saturday night gig story (cover charge related)


jeff42

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Figured I would share this. not sure where I stand on it. I can see both sides I guess... kinda.

 

Got a call Thursday from a small entertainment agency for my trio Ostrich Hat to fill in at a gig on Saturday. The band that was supposed to play decided to break up that week and would not do the gig. No biggie we had nothing on Saturday and for the $$$ it was good, we agreed.

 

The gig was at a small Irish pub about 45 minutes from where we usually play, so yeah we knew the turn out would most likely be poor and it was. We did get paid and the management understood and they were all nice and blah blah blah.

 

What I didn't get was this. They were charging a cover charge. Not sure if it was $3 or $5.

 

Right before we started playing (to about 7 people in the whole place) 5 girls came to the door, refused to pay a cover and walked out.

 

On break after our 1st set (11pm) I counted 10 more people walking away because of the cover (the bar had maybe 5 people in it at that time)

 

and then by the time we were into our last set (playing to maybe 10 people) we saw 6-8 more people walking away because of the cover.

 

So by charging to enter what was pretty much an empty bar they caused around 20 people to go somewhere else. I know I wouldn't want to pay a cover to sit in an empty bar... even if the band was, like one of the lucky 10 at the end of the night put it... SO SO SO AWESOME!!! - yeah he was drunk... :lol:

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That's crazy. Even the "high end" dance club that ALWAYS has a cover waves it on slow weekends around here. It just makes sense. To turn people away because they won't pay cover, when the cover is all but the amount of 1 drink is ridiculous...

 

However, it's also possible that they came to the door, heard the band and decided.... :poke:

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Management seems to sometimes forget they have total control over that cover charge. Let them in for free till 10 maybe? then pull the plug. Or later, or never. An empty house and a cover don't mix. Switch on the cover when you know people will be happy to pay it. If you've got 50 people in a bar drinking and hooting and a band playing... who isn't going to pay 5 bucks at the door?

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Management seems to sometimes forget they have total control over that cover charge. Let them in for free till 10 maybe? then pull the plug. Or later' date=' or never. An empty house and a cover don't mix. Switch on the cover when you know people will be happy to pay it. If you've got 50 people in a bar drinking and hooting and a band playing... who isn't going to pay 5 bucks at the door?[/QUOTE']

 

The couple that dont want to spend 10 bucks to get in the door. Say you have a group of 5 couples. Thats 50 bucks that could go to buying rounds at another venue without a cover. We find that people tend to hunker down financially as you get deeper into the holiday season.

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This isn't so much a club problem as it is a public education problem. I'll say up front, the guy was a dumbass for not waiving the cover. But the larger issue is people not wanting to pay cover at all and expecting live music to be free. The same people who think nothing of plunking down 10 bucks on a mediocre movie and spending a small fortune on a quarter's worth of popcorn will shriek like a vampire in the sun when asked to pay 5 bucks for live music. They don't expect any other entertainment to be free; people even pay for cable TV channels that are loaded with commercials, for God's sake. But somehow, live music should be free. Of course, it's what the market dictates. Larger crowded clubs don't need a cover, so they don't have one, so smaller clubs wanting bands have to suck it up and drop it as well if they want a crowd. But this is probably the biggest reason pay is stagnant and even dropping for musicians where I live. "Back in the day," cover charges were a way of life. Everyone understood that the cover charge paid for the band. Now, people look at you like you have caterpillars crawling out of your ears when you ask for one.

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The couple that dont want to spend 10 bucks to get in the door. Say you have a group of 5 couples. Thats 50 bucks that could go to buying rounds at another venue without a cover.

 

 

But say you've got 100 people in a room who all spent 5 bucks to get in. That would more than offset the 50 bucks that group of 5 couples would have spent on another round. And a $5 cover doesn't have the overhead that even a ridiculously watered-down $5 cocktail has. It can work both ways towards the bottom line.

 

I think the trick to the cover is: $5 isn't anything these days. Few people care about paying $5 bucks to get into a joint they plan on hanging out in for an hour or two. The problem is that nobody wants to pay $5 to get into a place only to find out the band sucks, nobody is having fun and they are going to want and turn around and leave as soon as they get in. Make sure you've got quality entertainment and a good environment for the clientele and asking a cover isn't that big deal.

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The problem is that nobody wants to pay $5 to get into a place only to find out the band sucks, nobody is having fun and they are going to want and turn around and leave as soon as they get in.

 

 

In 40 years of playing live, I've never seen a venue that wouldn't let you stand inside or right outside the door for a few songs and see if you wanted to come in or not.

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In 40 years of playing live, I've never seen a venue that wouldn't let you stand inside or right outside the door for a few songs and see if you wanted to come in or not.

 

 

While I've certainly played many places that charged no cover, I don't recall ever playing somewhere where I thought their cover charge was a detriment.

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But say you've got 100 people in a room who all spent 5 bucks to get in. That would more than offset the 50 bucks that group of 5 couples would have spent on another round. And a $5 cover doesn't have the overhead that even a ridiculously watered-down $5 cocktail has. It can work both ways towards the bottom line.


I think the trick to the cover is: $5 isn't anything these days. Few people care about paying $5 bucks to get into a joint they plan on hanging out in for an hour or two. The problem is that nobody wants to pay $5 to get into a place only to find out the band sucks, nobody is having fun and they are going to want and turn around and leave as soon as they get in. Make sure you've got quality entertainment and a good environment for the clientele and asking a cover isn't that big deal.

 

 

I know where I am we have tons of live venues in a 3 mile entertainment district. Cover charges dont fly down here. Even the nightclub that is a full on party/dance cant get away with a cover. They have a house band that can run with any party band in the country... still no cover. Not every place is like your region of the country. Hell in the off season you can get a hotel room here for 25 bucks in a decent chain hotel thats not on the water. Some of the spring break places do charge big covers during spring break , but they also have out of town big name DJs and rappers. They do that because half of the kids are too young to drink and most pre load in their condos and hotels. Most of that happens one week out of the year. Then they go back to no covers.

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I'm probably going to get flamed for saying this, but I won't pay a cover for an acoustic act unless I'm going there SPECIFICALLY to see them. I'm not a fan of paying cover charges for a DJ, either. Especially if I can pay a cover somewhere else and have a rocking good time with large crowd partying with a full band.

 

That being said, I wouldn't pay a cover to see my band, either.

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I'm probably going to get flamed for saying this, but I won't pay a cover for an acoustic act unless I'm going there SPECIFICALLY to see them. I'm not a fan of paying cover charges for a DJ, either. Especially if I can pay a cover somewhere else and have a rocking good time with large crowd partying with a full band.


That being said, I wouldn't pay a cover to see my band, either.

I would be much more apt to pay a cover for a solo/acoustic gig at a quaint little music cafe than I would for a full band at a slop-bar.

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Maybe if bars charged $1.00 or $2.00 cover, instead of $5.00, it would help educate people that they should pay for live music, would bring in some money, and very few would complain because it is such a small amount.

 

But the flip side is that people would think that a good band is only worth a dollar, although a good song on iTunes is 99 cents.

 

Just thinking out loud.

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$5 was nothing to pay to see a live band 25 years ago, but now it's "the kiss of death" (to use your term)? But none of that is the bands' fault? Sorry, I disagree. We have to take responsibility for our end of the deal.

I'm just saying the band could be totally killer, do great promo, along with the club/bar and it would still be a hard sell these days. These are the days when the mentality is that music should be free, since it is on the internet. Plus there are so many more things to do for entertainment these days. And around here $25 years ago you could see the top regional mega bands anywhere for $5. I don't recall any bars/clubs charging more than $2 for cover in the 70s-80s unless it was one of the aforementioned types. We had some good ones around here! Yanni's early prog-rock band, Dez Dickerson's wild Hendrix-like group, etc.

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I dunno. Around here there are still good places that are somewhat destination venues because they keep a high level of entertainment acts on stage and they charge a cover even for the more standard cover bands they book.

 

 

Yes, there are lots of areas like that, which is baffling to me. The willingness of people to pay cover seems to be a regional thing. When I played Portland or Bellingham or places like that 6 years ago, a 7 dollar cover charge was the norm, and people had no problem paying it. Put a 3 dollar cover charge anywhere here and people have a cow.

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$5 was nothing to pay to see a live band 25 years ago, but now it's "the kiss of death" (to use your term)? But none of that is the bands' fault? Sorry, I disagree. We have to take responsibility for our end of the deal.

 

 

Sorry but you're way off here. There is a 10 piece show band here that can't get a cover charge. There is a 8 piece funk band with a 4 piece horn section that can't. It isn't the band, it's the area and what people will do or won't do. It's cultural. It might be great band, but if there's a good band playing a few blocks away with no cover, that's where they go. People are opposed to cover charges here on the principle alone. I hear it all the time: 3 dollars just to get in? I'm not paying that!" Even the Knitting Factory shows here are free to the public when local bands are playing. They give out 1000 tickets each for the bands to give away and the bands get a dollar for every ticket that comes back through the door with their name on it.

 

It's just like undercutting: once a club starts dropping the cover, they get a bigger crowd. Others have to follow suit or watch the public go somewhere else.

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Where I live some bars charge some don't. My country band plays 2 bars that have a cover charge one has a $3.00 cover the other $5.00. We played the $5.00 one last Saturday and they made over a grand at the door. The rockband I play with makes nowhere near the money and plays places with no cover. Maybe it is the different audiences.

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Sorry but you're way off here.

 

 

I dunno. I definately think it's a piece of the puzzle. Some of it is the venues' fault in that they don't work to be destination, music-oriented venues as much as they used to. Yeah, it's hard to charge a cover when you're Billy Bob's Pizza Barn pushing aside a couple of tables so the band can set up in the corner as long as they don't set up so early or so noisily that they disturb the dinner crowd.

 

And sure some it is regional. But I think bands/musicians have their responsibility as well. Give 'em something worth paying for and maybe more people would. But we've steadily degraded our own product over the decades to where DJ's are a more-preferable form of entertainment for many clubgoers. Sure...there's undercutting. Sure..there's examples of regions where the biggest-baddest-kickass bands struggle. But there's also been decades of bands who do little more than shoegaze while serving up a "here's one of my favorite tunes, I hope you enjoy it as well" menu with lackluster perfomances and {censored}ty sound systems and then wonder why people would rather put their money in a jukebox.

 

Why is it that so many people don't think live music is worth $3 but will stand in line for hours and spend $12 to get into a hot DJ nightclub? You really don't think the relative quality of live entertainment over the last 20 years has ANYTHING to do with this?

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