Now I feel even more miserable about missing your show the other night in Upton. I just hope that this won't stop you from coming back to this area at some point. I really wanted to be there but it's hard in the middle of the week as I had to work and so did my husband and I just couldn't make it down there in time. I try to get to as many shows as I can but times are tough right now so work sometimes gets in the way. This isn't an excuse but I just wanted to let you know that it's tough being a fan sometimes knowing that you just can't be there like you know you should be. Maybe next time you get to my area the show will be on the weekend and I'll be there for sure. Hope that you understand.
A little Naivete every once in awhile is much better than being dismissive about an audience...besides it doesnt sound naive at all...you gave your word and kept it and as you pointed out thats everything...and it impresses the audience...anyone can walk off and be a prima donna...a genuine artist with a good business mind sticks with it
Maybe this is a little off topic, but in regards to the guarantee, I live in Nashville. Here, most people are happy just to get a gig and play, so most do it for free. If someone comes off demanding a guarantee around here, it doesn't sit to well. In this type situation, is it still recommended to have the club owner have a little "skin" in the game too, or should I be happy to have a gig?
I believe that once you’ve committed to a performance, you should follow through on that commitment even if no one shows up. Moreover, you should do your show with the energy and enthusiasm as if the place was packed. This includes not exceeding the time for you breaks and being prompt. No doubt, this is not an easy task in an empty room, however; it displays your professionalism and reliability. Equally important, it’s by far your best bet at being asked to return.
Diane writes to apologize for not attending a show. Very gracious, and I certainly understand. As a solo performer, unless I am known in the area, I am always given week nights in clubs. That means that many of my patrons cannot come because they work the next day. It’s a price that both the patrons and I must pay. And it also addresses Andrew’s comment in an oblique way. I always get guarantees for the weekend dates because both the promoter and I know that there is a very good chance that we’ll get a crowd. To get a guarantee during the week is next to impossible unless you are well known in that area.
As to the guarantee itself, I want it to go a long way towards covering my expenses for the gig and I also need it to be enough to enroll the promoter in making the show a success, but modest enough so that he doesn’t get hurt if we have a small turnout.
There are many ways of factoring a guarantee. You could trade part of it for accommodations and meals (both dinner and breakfast the next day). You could take the first twenty paid patrons cover charge and then give the room the next ten and then split the remaining covercharges. You could take a percentage of the bar, though this would involve knowing what they would do on the same night with no entertainment, so you are at the mercy of the integrity of the bar owner.
All ways of negotiating terms that give both of you some guarantees. It needn’t be a flat rate or you don’t leave the house.
This is also a very challenging economic period. Thanks to the present regime, we have gasoline prices that have changed the fabric of the way every regular person does every single thing, not to mention that it has impacted the cost of every single thing.
Until we solve the energy problem with regulations on profit, as we once did with utility companies; until we force our government to deliver public transportation at affordable prices; we are going to be dealing with an audience that has literally half the discretionary capital they once did.
They have to weigh and decide how much money they have and can spend on seeing you do your thing. This obviously impacts the club owner as readily as it does the performer, so you are going to have keep all of this in mind when you are negotiating. Club owners cannot afford to have you too many times if you don’t bring in a crowd.
That being said, there are going to be plenty of people who are not that good who are going to be quite willing to play for free. But there is a perception here that has to be addressed. If you play for nothing, then that is what people will think you are worth.
I once played in a town for free (meaning no cover charge) over and over again. I drew hundreds of people and all the club owners were happy to pay me two and three times my mortgage payment for a single evening. Now when I go back to that town where I am very well known, but charge a cover, I get about one tenth of the audience I once had.
The problem is that they got the music for free by their lights, so now why should they pay $15 to get in the door. It’s the only town in the country where people don’t seem want to pay to see me perform.
I believe it’s the same for club owners. If you work for no guarantee, then they know that some people will show up. They will be making a very tidy profit on the booze that they sell and so they have nothing to lose by letting you perform and they also have no reason (unless they actually possess intelligence and perspicacity) to do anything at all to get more people in there just because you are playing. Some people will come in anyway and if you are playing for free, all that much better for the club owner. However, an intelligent club owner knows that if the club and the act work in concert that they will benefit both in the short term and the long term.
Karen Howard runs Charlotte's Web in Rockford, Illinois (www.snapshotmusic.com). Years ago, she watched me do a really good show for a very small crowd. She thought that I was good, so here's what she did:
When she had a sold out show at the Web, she'd call me and invite me to come out and do the opening act spot, but she'd only pay my expenses. This was before everyone was selling CD's at their shows, so there was literally no chance for me to make money if the club owner wasn't paying me. But because I wanted to build a following in that area and she believed in me, I took those gigs and over the course of eighteen months, I played before thousands of people. I was opening for famous acts, which always gives you a little cache, and I was building my fan base. I still enjoy a healthy following in Rockford and I actually know these folks now. They've been coming to see me play for decades, and that is something really special, I've got to tell you.When you start out, you take any gig and you take any payment you can get. But at some point you have to recognize your worth and stand by it. Once you recognize your own worth, it will be that much easier for others to recognize it. As long as you think that you have to play for no guarantee, then that’s exactly what other people with think.
In Nashville and Los Angeles, it is very difficult to get folks to come to a gig and pay if you are not famous or infamous, or the progeny of famous or infamous. Anyone of consequence and all your friends expect to be comped.
What I do is to play in Los Angeles and Nashville rarely and thereby make it somewhat of an event. That usually guarantees people coming out that normally don’t. And while I won’t do it again, I once played the Bluebird solo for no guarantee and that’s what I ended up with. The sound man made more in the evening than any of the actual performers.
That always annoys me, I must admit, as I doubt that you would have much of an audience for a soundman if the act wasn’t there. While I want everyone involved in one of my shows to make money, I always stipulate that I have to be making more money than anyone else.
And I started doing that after a promoter told me that this was all he could pay me for the evening because the sound man gets the first five hundred? I mean the only reason people are there is to hear me, right? And I have done hundreds of very successful shows with no sound system whatsoever.
That being said, I LOVE a good sound man. In the past week, Chip at the Cutting Room in NYC and Mike at the Smithfield Little Theatre gave me sound that transported me and made for a wonderful show. I am extremely grateful to them, but should they get more than me for the show?
When I have played the same club and had a real guarantee, the place was packed and everyone made money. I wonder how packed it would have been if they club wasn’t dealing with their own “skin” in the game?
As musicians, we are definitely at a disadvantage, as there will always be people who are willing and delighted to perform for free. But this is America, and you really get what you pay for.