From Between Dartboards and Pool Tables to actual stages!
Hope all of my readers are doing well! Finally have a bit of time here, so wanted to post to let everyone know the latest happenings with the band and our schedule for the thaw! not to mention drop a little knowledge on ya:
So I believe when I last left off, after chatting about the albums and my celebration of my first year of sobriety in March (which by the way THANK YOU for all of the kind words and support) the band and I finally started polishing up the set and started playing some gigs for 2019. As I’ve said in the past many times, I never like to start booking till at least March since I never like dragging around gear and traveling in these parts in the freezing temperatures, only to have gigs cancelled and/or have low attendance at shows. We have enough problems dragging people out these days!
Now our first gig back was a place I’ve actually been close to, but never went to and that was The Loft in Poughkeepsie back in March. I was contacted by a band about playing the gig after inquiring on one of those gig booking sites, so I jumped at the chance to play there! I went to see my pals Blue Alien Mystic perform there the month prior and was impressed by the sound/layout of the place. Not to mention that they have signed national acts play there, as well as locals.
If you are familiar with places like the Webster Theatre in Hartford, they do the same thing where “the big Webster” is the main venue, but The Webster Underground is the smaller place next to it. Seems lots of major venues have been doing this forever you play the smaller joint and if you do well? Then you get a chance to move to the larger one another night down the line. To be honest? I think it’s pretty genius business model and fair.
Now to give people a little “inside baseball” on how these venues work is that in order to play places like this that are not your traditional watering hole (bar) you have to agree to sell a certain amount of tickets prior to the show in order to be even considered. if the band/artist agrees to such you are provided tickets to sell ahead of time to peddle to your fans and you are responsible for those tickets.
What that means is like in case of this gig at the loft, if they give you 15 tickets to sell at $10 a pop that’s $150 total the band is responsible for….regardless.
If you only sell say 5 of them? you still owe the venue $150 which means you are out that $100. not to mention that you get zero of that $$ unless you sell over that agreed “nut”.
now for yeaaaaars, even decades i personally was against this and was always vocal and bitter about this type of model. in a perfect world, venues who are booking shows would select bands they like (and actually listened to ahead of time), pay them a guarantee of $50-$100 to play, open their doors and hope for the best. if they have a national act or a band that has a proven draw on that night they can stack the bill with these other local acts that maybe don’t draw well, are new and need that “exposure” of playing in front of the larger crowd so they can gain a few fans in the process.
sounds great right? seems like “back in the day” when I was in product of society in the 90’s we played every major venue opening for a ton of national acts doing this! sure, I never saw a dime in my pocket but come on, I’ve shared stages with public enemy, the mighty mighty bosstones, type-o negative and countless others playing to hundreds if not thousands of people a show and to my knowledge not one venue asked us “well how many tickets can you sell?” the venue or promoter, sometimes even the national act themselves liked us, so we got on the bill. they knew their headliner was gonna get it done, so why not throw a bone to one of their friend’s bands they enjoy to see if they can build a following?
however….when you really think about it (and believe me i have over and over) here’s the harsh reality these days:
1) these major venues don’t give a flying fuck about you, your art or your feelings - i can’t tell you how many times especially now that i am doing this “on my own” the past few years i’ve been offered gigs, shown up and have had the venue either be shocked by the material/volume of the band, or i get the fat dude with the big ass beard look at me over his clipboard and say “what’s the name of your band?” bitch, my name is on the ticket you printed?! not to mention you are booked with some bands that you have zero in common with sound wise or in the case of smaller non-traditional venues they yell at you from the back to turn it down. I’m sorry, you heard the music before you booked us right? maybe our song “peg” might of clued you in? nope….because….
2) these major venues only care about paying their enormous rent/insurance - sure we all want these venues to be a flag waver and support live music that’s why they are around right? bottom line is they are also running a business. they have their own monthly nut to pay rent wise that’s waaaay bigger than your $150 worth of ticket sales. not to mention the enormous insurance bills they have to pay, staff, booze/liquor licenses all of that.
if they book a bunch of local acts and they only bring 20 people in the door total, with the rest of the audience being the actual artists crying about set times and looking for payment/drink tickets? trust me, in my glory days of alcoholism i could spend $50-$60 myself at the bar without blinking an eye but you better hope everyone is doing the same every show if you want to keep those doors open.
so like I said for as long as i can remember i used to bitch and moan and scream to whomever would listen about how unfair this business model was and I would shame these venues for practicing it. but, i am here to tell you folks that believe it or not, i’ve changed my tune a bit about it.
why you ask?
because i’ve tried being on the other side a few times recently booking shows and i’m here to tell you, it sucks.
I saw it myself doing the album release party at common ground in september and most recently looking at barry’s face when he did the katona show we played in april and he was running around like a loon all day. sure, thankfully both gigs were a great success in the end vibe wise and we all had a blast, but to the person who is responsible for pulling it off? it can be super rewarding, but also super stressful.
but…as an artist i think there are some ways to look at it and i truly feel these days if you want to be a “serious” musician/artist/band who gets the chance to play…..well the chance you have to be smart about it and look at it through different glasses. here’s how i look at it and maybe you will think twice about it too.
Look at this, free knowledge so let’s drop it!
a) be supportive to other artists, but depend on nobody especially the venue/promoter- I know it sounds harsh, but what i’ve seen through my own experience is as much as bands/artists have the best of intentions up front (myself included), in the end if you are in charge you can’t count 100% on anyone to come through.
whenever I have a chance to bring a band i truly enjoy both their music and their company to play with us, i’ll always do it without hesitation. there’s nothing worse than spending an evening playing a gig with a bunch of douchebags you don’t get along with that are playing music you personally can’t stand. I’d rather surround myself with people I truly enjoy spending time with. but, if you do that unless you go by this model above expect to take a hit if they don’t draw and don’t be pissed at the band if you do. they are your guests!
That also goes for the venue. If they are booking you, they are expecting you to promote for them. in a perfect world, they would help but in the end just having them put your band on the bill to them is “promotion” from them.
to be honest, just having my name associated with playing places like the Loft and The Chance recently I know got me the calls from The Webster Underground, Dingbatz in NJ and Toad’s Place recently to play because it shows them we’ve played some respectable places now! Yeah these shows I’ll admit we had to reach into our own pockets recently for one of these initially and again, not naming names, some band members weren’t happy at first to do so, but it’s called investing in yourself. You don’t want to invest yourself? Get someone to do so for you and trust me, it’s not easy unless they are going to see $$ too.
When I booked the venue for the album release party in september, when i got the bill for the rental and crunched the numbers to see if it made sense, i looked at it as i personally had to draw 40+ people in ticket sales to cover just the rental of the space. not the other three bands I asked to play the show…just me. i boosted the facebook ads, i fronted the money out of my own pocket for the rental, paid for the booze for the bar (even though i am sober and don’t drink anymore), i set up the online ticket site and yes i paid/hired the sound for every act on the bill.
Now luckily in the end i was able to squeak out enough ticket sales at the door to cover almost all the costs, but looking back even though these bands were my friends i could of said “hey each band is responsible to sell 10 tickets each regardless at $10 a pop” that would of taken the stress out of it for me, covered the majority of the costs before the doors opened and honestly, would of given the artists on the bill the incentive to sell and get a crowd there.
I would of loved to have paid each band for the night, but when the money was counted at the end and everyone I hired got paid? there wasn’t a dollar to spare but mayyyybe if the bands sold tickets themselves and were responsible for it? Maybe they would of had some gas money in the end. I’m sure some would of been pissed to do so and/or would of refused to play, but it certainly would of eased my mind.
it sounds shitty, I’m sorry if it offends anyone and i won’t call out any names, but I’ve seen in the past and even at some of the most recent gigs where the band gets the gig, does zero promotion online, shows up, plays their set, drink the free drinks, bring nobody and leave right after their set and are complaining about the attendance or crowd response saying the scene is dead?! you reap what you sew pal.
b) create your own personal revenue stream to cover expenses - i learned this a long time ago speaking to touring and signed acts decades ago and believe it or not it holds up today more than ever.
when the band i was in was playing shows across the tri-state area with life of agony (humble brag) we became close with sal and joey from the band who were real old school, brooklyn salt of the earth dudes. i remember speaking to joey one night about how things were going on the tour and he revealed to me “man, we make nothing from these shows any money we make goes right back into the tour itself. merchandise is keeping this band afloat” that was back in like 1994!
Record companies were spending more than giving back then on recording so album sales even back then were nill revenue wise and touring gigs are never going to be money makers unless you are huge it was covering costs to get there, feed you and lodge you. So how did you end up putting some extra bucks in your pocket? Swag!
Although pressing a bunch of shirts in bulk can be a cost up front, markup on them if you get a good deal can be pretty lucrative and same goes for little things like stickers, pins, etc.
now there are some venues that have the balls to charge the band or even take a cut from their merch sales just to sell at your shows, and THAT is horsheshit, but most venues have a spot and don’t care if you wanna peddle your stuff.
Only thing I would recommend is have someone there to cover the booth while on stage and even better? Have someone from the band mind the store for the night.
Two experiences I had recently was when we played the show at The Chance in April. after seeing one of the bands, when I went to grab a shirt and nobody was there to help me cause they just played so guess what? No sale from me cause I moved on. 9x out of 10 you have to strike when the iron is hot,
Second was at shows where the coolest thing was after seeing the opener I really liked, when I went to the merch booth some of the band members were actually there! I got the chance to meet and take pics with great smaller but cool bands like An Horse at a Alkaline Trio show or Fucked Up at The Descendents shows only because they were at the booth and approachable!
c) pepper in the pay gigs: If you don’t want to take the risk and throw your own party without asking supporting bands to pony up? I get it. however, there are some great smaller “non-traditional” venues you can play where you can make some bucks for yourself and not worry about the overhead. There’s a few places we played where there’s no ticket commitment, you play the show and the bar/restaurant actually (gasp!) pays you a little something something at the end! sure it’s never a huge payday, but it’s $20 in your pocket and sometimes free or reduced food/drink for the band. i’ve felt good honestly taking $150 for the night, giving the opening act $50 of that and then splitting the rest up with my band.
for every large venue where you might have to spend $20-30 a band member in pre-sale tickets, there’s always these other places where you are pocketing $20-30 to make up for it.
The only reason i’m blabbing about all of this in a lengthy blog post is to hammer in a point to other bands and hopefully fans of these bands.
because we have instilled this practice recently of “taking it on the chin” at the loft in march recently, the next thing I knew this year we are finally starting to get into bigger venues.
Once we did this at the loft, next thing you know we got invited to play the chance (thanks to our pal Vern!) and now end of may not only are we playing toad’s place on the main stage, but I have other outside booking agents contacting me back offering other nice venues in jersey in the summer and webster in hartford because why? we all decided to “suck it up”, play the game and now our resume looks good.
Just like in “the glory days” of pos, once we had a resume of “we played this place and that place with this band and that band”, the rest of the offers started coming in and the same seems to be happening now.
after hanging up with toad’s place i truly got that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach where you feel like “wait a minute, things are starting to happen” and i hope it does.
Even though when I got the info for the event, Toad’s put the name under my old band The Dalliance 😝
they fixed it, but like I said..read above