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Advice on Coffee-Housing


Brother Jefe

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I've played keys and guitars in bands for awhile but am now considering taking the lead in a side project with a friend doing small acoustic gigs. This will require that I be more in charge and at the center than I've previously been. Someone in prior bands always took care of the business end, the PA systems, etc. Is there any advice you can offer me as I take on this new project?

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take it from one who knows.. DON'T play coffeehouses.

 

Play dinners at restaurants, weeknight acoustic nights at bars.. anything that can at least guarantee a minimum pay. Most coffee houses will "LET" you sell cd's if you are an original artist, but that's about it. Very few, if any, will actually pay you.

 

I've played in some that charge YOU to play.

 

You will find there's a lot of competition also, which is part of why it's hard to get paid. You won't need much PA, just the basics and a monitor- most places you will be turned down to a minimum anyways. Your best bet is to find some other local acoustic acts and see what they are doing, and where they are playing. Might even want to introduce yourself after a gig and ask for advice from someone in your direct market.

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Agreed, stay away from Coffee houses as a rule, there may be exeptions!

 

I play in a acoustic duo for a long time now and the pro's are many, easy to schedule, better pay (divided by two) and most gigs are weeknights so you have weekends off or free to do other projects.

 

Gear wise I am currently using two powered EV ZA1 speakers on sticks, a Allen & Heath Zed10FX, and the associated stands, mics, cables. It all fits in the trunk of a car, light weight, easy to set-up and more than enough for most bars, etc. Also very easy to work songs with two guys (you tube is your friend!). Win win!

 

Rod

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^^^^what they said.

 

From my experience, there is no 'business end' to coffeehouse gigs.

 

 

The most I think I ever got paid in a coffeehouse was $75 for a solo on a Saturday night. That was a place that sold beer and wine, as well, and both locations still went out of business. It's just not that profitable to have 25 people or less sitting around all night spending $3-$15 per person on coffee and cakes, music or not. At the couple of coffee houses I played which did not have beer also, the pay was more like $25 plus $0-20 in tips. (3 sets)

 

 

 

 

I remember there was a big stink a few years ago when one particular Starbucks store posted this ad on Craigslist:

 

(From 6String's thread about it a couple years ago.)

 

Date: 2008-01-30, 1:09PM PST


Beaverton Town Square Starbucks is reaching out to musicians and bands alike to come play for us. Gigs would be Fridays and Saturdays at 9pm, sorry but we can't offer reinbursment of any kind, but you can sell cd's and put out a tip jar. We don't provide equipment, and we don't comp drinks.
(email address removed)


Thank you and we hope to hear from you.

 

 

If Starbucks wants you for free, who really will be paying much?

 

IMO, coffee houses in general are a good place for songwriters to showcase their material, newer players to 'polish' acoustic covers, and to gain experience playing in front of people, and maybe sell a few very rough CD's if you're a decent songwriter. :idk:

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I remember there was a big stink a few years ago when one particular Starbucks store posted this ad on Craigslist:


(From 6String's thread about it a couple years ago.)

 

 

They don't even comp you a drink? That's mega-cheap.

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I think it's common knowledge that coffee houses just don't pay.... Shots of espresso just don't have that wallet (and clothing) loosening effect that shots of tequila have.

When it comes to doing low dough gigs, the question becomes "what's in it for me?". Money aside, a coffeehouse gig WILL let someone work on 'being in charge and at the center' with hopefully little consequence for anything that goes awry. So it may well be a good place to learn how to work the PA and the business side of things - if that's the objective.

Also there are folks that simply don't go to bars. A few years ago, we did a (rather weird) coffeehouse gig as a favor to the owners and ended up getting a good paying casual gig from a pastor at a nearby church.

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Ha-ha! I should have used a different title to this thread. I guess I mean small gigs. I never play anywhere in which beer is not involved. A LOT of beer! So, that issue aside. What is your advice on small gigs by someone who's mostly taken back seat in bigger band gigs?

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Be polite and get a song list goign with the crowd and make sure to learn them! We played the same venue in South Jersey every Wednesday night for two years, same people, same staff. What made it fun is that we were always learning new material as people would request, sure some songs were imppossible but we would work up a passable version, play it for them, and they would love it! We did songs that i would never think of being a two man acoustic band like Four Non Blonds, Iron Maiden, etc keeps it fun and people come back to see you again.

 

Also do whatever you can to accomodate the operator (true to any band size). We had many requestes by the owner to fill in for full bands on Fridays, etc so we always had a drummer/bass player around in case it poped up! Oh and the ealier start times are great two! Usualy playing for a full happy hour crowd (good tippers) instead of the 9:00 to 12:00 gig with a lot of drubk kids, works for me!

 

Rod

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1) Figure out the needs of your clientele you wish to perform for. A restaurant gig will be vastly different than a tavern gig, and the setlists will be, too. Most restaurants don't want high energy stuff, and most taverns do.

 

2) Have a portable PA, the smaller the better, and keep your setup time down to about 10 minutes if possible. One restaurant gig I do has a house PA- two 8" speakers/horns mounted t the wall and a 6 ch powered mixer. And it's more than enough for that venue. My own restaurant /small gig rig is an 8 ch biamped powered mixer w/ two 10s/horns on sticks. It's always been more than enough. The smaller the footprint you can have, the better, because most of the places I play aren't set up for live music and just put me in a corner somewhere.

 

3) try to negotiate for earlier times in restaurants. One venue I used to play hired a former bar manager to run the restaurant, and he wanted me to play 9 to midnight. He thought a dinner music guy like me would keep the crowd longer. Wrong. People don't go to restaurants to listen to music, as a rule, they go for food, and the peak dinner crowd is 7-9 on weekends. That venue failed with live music, and the tips were miserable. I got one venue I play a lot to switch from 8-12 on weekends to 7-11. I make a lot more in tips and I'm not playing that last hour to a completely empty room.

 

4) Don't be afraid to tap the weeknight market. I can make around a 100 bucks or more for a 2-3 hour weeknight gig and be home by 10 pm.

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Don't know the size of your town but do you have an arts council? I'm a board member of ours and we do a monthly "acoustic cafe" however we pay our performers. (not much but it helps) this gets a lot of unknown talent out in public. Nice thing about these settings is PA needs are pretty minimal. Small powered speakers, 8 channel board, couple of good mics---you're in

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Ok, several of you have mentioned small PA. Would our 2 amps not suffice? Mine is a 4-channel Traynor K-4 ( http://www.traynoramps.com/products.asp?type=1&cat=57&id=340 ), and his has 2 channels. I would think this would cover our 2 acoustic guitars, 1 dobro, 2 mics, right? Or am I missing something? And would a monitor even be necessary?

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Ok, several of you have mentioned small PA. Would our 2 amps not suffice? Mine is a 4-channel Traynor K-4 (
), and his has 2 channels. I would think this would cover our 2 acoustic guitars, 1 dobro, 2 mics, right? Or am I missing something? And would a monitor even be necessary?

 

 

If you mean using the Traynor as your PA, unless you can elevate them, I would recomend against it but better people than me will chime in here. Speakers at eye level seem better than floor level...in any case others will chime in.

Whenever I need monitors (noisy room) I use a pair of TC Helicom powered monitors, they are great, small, and sound fantastic for the task at hand!

 

Rod

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If buying further PA equipment is out of the budget, you could use your amps for vocals, but I doubt the results would please you. As BlueStrat stated, different tool/ different job. IF your venues are relatively quiet, you could get away with Vocals-Only micing. I think for less than a grand you could get a very decent PA that would easily carry your vocals and instruments if need be. (again, small venue)

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If buying further PA equipment is out of the budget, you could use your amps for vocals, but I doubt the results would please you. As BlueStrat stated, different tool/ different job. IF your venues are relatively quiet, you could get away with Vocals-Only micing. I think for less than a grand you could get a very decent PA that would easily carry your vocals and instruments if need be. (again, small venue)

 

Yes, and you can get stuff at a pawn shop for really cheap. I've found powered mixers for 20 dollars, and I got the PA cabs I use for 75 bucks for the pair.

 

634268916775765296.jpg

 

 

I bought new speakers and horns for them and still have less than $250 into them.

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Alex Fisenko has been helping companies and individuals to develop successful espresso concepts for the last 30 years. He provided initial "espresso expertise and inspiration" to some of the biggest players in the field. Besides having opened and operated 16 espresso bars for himself, he travels all over the world helping clients to open successful espresso bars, including South Korea, Thailand, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and many US states. He was also an "Espresso Business Seminar" Presenter for the Coffee Fest Organization in Seattle. He will be happy to speak on any espresso related matters during your Industry Convention, or to contribute articles, free of charge, to your coffee related publication.

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