What are cover bands making per night playing bars in Your area?

Discussion in 'Band Wagon' started by Rockerfeller, Oct 22, 2019.

What does the average bar cover band make per night in your city?

  1. Pay to play

    3 vote(s)
    3.4%
  2. Under $200

    12 vote(s)
    13.6%
  3. $200-$400

    46 vote(s)
    52.3%
  4. $400-600

    23 vote(s)
    26.1%
  5. $600-$750

    4 vote(s)
    4.5%
  6. $750-$1000

    1 vote(s)
    1.1%
  7. $1000-$1500

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  8. $1500 and up

    1 vote(s)
    1.1%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Dennyf

    Dennyf Tele-Afflicted

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    Bars are the worst. Unfortunately, they're also the largest market if you're shopping gigs. A lot of folks will tell you (me included, on certain days) that you shouldn't play for less than you think you're worth. But when that rubs up against a thin wallet, and playing for crap vs. staying at home for nothing, that $100 looks pretty good.

    But it's not.

    In my experience, musicians are pretty close-mouthed about what they're making at given venues. I don't know if it's from habit, perceived ethics, or embarrassment, but I think it works against us rather than for us.
     
  2. memorex

    memorex Friend of Leo's

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    When my Dead tribute band (office co-workers) plays, which is only 3 or 4 times a year, we make about $100 a man. But usually, my wife wants to go, and then I have to buy dinner and drinks with that money, which usually ends up being $50-$60, so my net take home is peanuts. Fortunately, I don't care because I just do it for fun these days. But I'm ready to give it up permanently in a year or so, I can't stand moving the gear anymore.
     
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  3. Controller

    Controller Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    The last trip my Super Reverb took was to the music store to be sold! I feel your pain.
     
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  4. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

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    4 to 600 has been the norm , $600 being a bit more rare
     
  5. Dr Improbable

    Dr Improbable Tele-Meister

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    Anybody else here ever short themselves to give a talented bassist or drummer (or both) what they're worth?
     
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  6. teletail

    teletail Tele-Meister

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    Especially if you factor in inflation. In the 70's I used to make $250 to $350 a night for the band. Now we make $300 to $500 a night.
     
  7. teletail

    teletail Tele-Meister

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    Yup. My drummer won't play for less than $100 a night. In a couple of the cheap clubs the bass player and I wind up taking less so that he gets his $100.
     
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  8. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    Yes and no. It's not the bands' fault that unlike in the '70s, cover bands can now be easily replaced with the bartender's iPad running a Spotify playlist that never shows up late, plays too loud, doesn't know a song, gets drunk, etc. The market has changed and cover bands now have competition that lowers their value in the marketplace, in addition to the fact that music itself is now less valuable of a commodity than it used to be.

    Private parties are different than bar gigs- parties are about impressing people, and bands look more impressive than a DJ. I just had to book a karaoke DJ for a corporate event- I wouldn't know a good karaoke DJ if one bit me on the nose, so I booked the most expensive one. If nobody likes him, I don't want it to look like I cheaped out.
     
  9. NJ Deadhead

    NJ Deadhead Tele-Meister

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    I play in a duo for $300/night plus all the beer we can drink. 2 sets of 1 hour 15 mins and a 30 min set break.
     
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  10. Endless Mike

    Endless Mike Friend of Leo's

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    I should have specified that this was referring to night clubs. Even at big "A" rooms, the most anyone made pre-2000 was 200.00 a night. But when I was working in bands that did union jobs, it averaged at a minimum of 500.00 per job, often more. I assume those bands still make that kind of money, it's been a while since I've worked in those sorts of groups.

    Apparently some music scenes are healthier than others. Texas has long been known for its music scene and culture, but at least in D/FW, bands are taken for granted and paid more poorly than ever before.
     
  11. Rockerfeller

    Rockerfeller Tele-Meister

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    Wow! Beyer that is very interesting. If you had been in charge of booking a band for that event, something you know a lot about, would you still have gone with the most expensive band?

    It's very common for people to use price as a filter. Often, a bar band will quote themselves OUT of a corporate gig. Not because they quoted to high but the exact opposite: they went in too LOW. If you shared the thought process that led you to choose the most expensive DJ, it would help your fellow guitar player/booking agents a ton!

    Could you tell us more?
     
  12. Marc Morfei

    Marc Morfei Tele-Afflicted

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    $400 seems to be the going rate for bars around here. Might make $500 if you bring a crowd. Most places pay a flat rate. Some are flat+, and a couple are straight percentage of the bar. These are bottom-of-the-barrel places. I would guess the nicer joints pay more.

    But obviously playing for this little money is insane. It's a 4-hour gig, but counting set up and break down, it's really more like 8 hours from the time you leave your house to the time you get home. So it's like minimum wage. One of the guys in my band usually spends $40-50 on drinks during the night. But that's double crazy. I bring a flask with a few shots in it, and spread them out during the night. Sorry if that offends anybody, but I'm not giving my pittance of a wage right back to the bar.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2019
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  13. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    There was one more crucial factor in the decision- the expensive DJ replied promptly to my inquiry and acted professionally. The other guys I contacted seemed like hobbyists who didn't totally have their act together. They might be great DJs (however that is measured), but I need somebody who understands how to operate in a corporate environment. It's the same thing I go through in finding techs to work in corporate production- showing up to the CEO's webcast in a Metallica T-shirt and smelling like weed won't cut it, no matter how good you are at your job.

    If I was hiring a band I would have had more to go on since I know people in that end of the business.

    My best advice to guys booking bands is be professional. Basically, that means understanding your client's needs and demonstrating how you can fulfill them:

    -Be easy to work with.
    -Have one point of contact, not four guys all emailing the booker asking how many people they can put on the guest list or when soundcheck is.
    -Don't hound the booker with a billion questions- you're playing a gig, not invading Normandy.
    -Show up early (this is HUGE!!!! I can't emphasize this enough- THERE IS NO "ON TIME"- THERE IS ONLY "EARLY" AND "LATE"!!!).
    -Have good attitudes when you're in the venue, even offstage.
    -Do what the venue staff tell you to do (including "turn it down").
    -Don't get drunk or otherwise make spectacles of yourselves.
    -Dress appropriately for the gig- that doesn't necessarily mean suits, but don't look like a bunch of randos who walked in off the street. Look like a band. If you're playing originals, do whatever you want, but if you're a cover band, you're being hired as entertainers- look the part. I see a lot of function bands that get a lot of milage out of costumes from Party City- Elvis glasses, silly hats, wigs, '70s jumpsuits, vests, etc. If you're playing country covers at a biker bar you'll probably want to skip that and go with jeans and cowboy hats, though.

    This is all incredibly easy stuff, bu doing it will put you ahead of a LOT of other bands out there. You'll notice that I didn't write a single word about musical ability. There's a reason for that- beyond a certain level of basic competence, it's basically irrelevant. A band of mediocre players who get the crowd dancing and drinking are exponentially more valuable than a band who can play Steely Dan like the record to an empty bar.
     
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  14. radiocaster

    radiocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I know someone who made wads of money in a cover band, but it was before they switched to DJs.

    He played restaurants and weddings (mostly at restaurants too, I assume), not regular bars. But here's the catch: he didn't make that much from the owners, but in tips.
     
  15. Rockerfeller

    Rockerfeller Tele-Meister

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    Beyer, that is great advice. It's not often that we get to see what a corporate talent buyer is looking for when they're searching for entertainment. Do you mind sharing the top 3 most important qualities you look for when booking entertainment for your corporate parties? What should we focus on when we contact somebody in your position?
     
  16. David Barnett

    David Barnett Doctor of Teleocity

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    'Bout the same as it was 20-30 years ago.
     
  17. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    To clarify, booking talent is not usually part of my job- I'm generally on the technical side of things but sometimes I cross over into the Producers' world.

    That said, the number one thing we look for is a proven track record. It sucks, but it's true- like everything else in life you can't get experience without a job, and you can't get a job without experience. The best way to circumvent this is to sign on with a talent agency. They do the weeding out of pros vs weekend warriors so I don't have to. It costs me more than hiring a band directly, but if I'm doing a job out of town and don't know the market, it's worth it. On your end they'll get you work, but they take a cut. If you're a startup, this is probably the only way you're gonna get private parties and corporate work unless you have connections of your own.

    You have to understand, at least half of the decisions in corporate America are made with the singular goal of avoiding blame if something goes wrong. If the CEO hates the band you booked for his big party, "they were cheap," "my buddy at the guitar shop said they were good" and "they had a good website" are all bad reasons when you get asked why you booked Bumched Shrit and the Cargo Shortz. "Wow, thats' a shame. Everybody loved them at the Cancer Society benefit at the convention center last month" is much better.

    Second, and of equal importance to the first, is matching the band to the audience. Is this a younger crowd or an older one? Classic rock, top 40 or country? Or all of the above? This is where your song list is important- if I need a pop country band and your song list is mostly classic rock, I'm gonna move on. Or, if your list is a little too "little bit of everything" and I need something specialized. This isn't a bad thing, though- pick your niche and own it, don't worry about missing out on gigs that aren't in your wheelhouse. I wound up playing an alt-country music festival with a garage-y rock band once, it wasn't a good time for anybody. If you can really truly can play two different styles of music, market yourself as two separate bands.

    Lastly, the professionalism thing I talked about earlier. Send me an official quote for your services listing the event or client name, date, venue, times, services you're providing and cost- not an email with "sure, we'll play your party, $800, dude". Also send me a rider. A short one, listing stuff like power requirements, how much parking you need, an input list (if you're not providing your own PA), etc. No BS about M&Ms. Shorter is always better since you're just one of eight thousand things I have to deal with to get this pig off the ground. If you're with an agency though, they'll handle that- that's what their cut is for.
     
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  18. Junkyard Dog

    Junkyard Dog Tele-Afflicted

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    Some of the bars around here are experimenting with yoga nights. I kid you not...YOGA!
     
  19. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

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    when I was like 14 or 15. I raked leaves for $1 an hour. I would sometimes work for 2 hours and earn $2.

    Then I finally joined a band , we played our first gig, we got paid $5 each. We played for 2 hours. It didn't take long to work our way up to $20 each.

    There was only a handful of known bands around. Supply and demand.

    I never raked leaves again

    While we are playing for that $400 paycheck,playing our guitars, having fun, earning $100 each for 3 hours , the people working in the bar or lounge are making about $50 for that same 3 hours. Maybe...

    Gear and practice time don't count. That's the nature of the beast. We get paid for our "TIME ON THE JOB"

    Perspective required

    Today, people go to GC, buy a guitar and start a band the following week. Supply and Demand has drastically changed which alters the playing field. Its almost like there is now a band in every garage looking to book the exact same $400 gig.

    They also do not want to rake leaves.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2019
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