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We sorta had a thread about this before but I don't recall ever coming to a well-founded conclusion.

Here in Hamilton a band is lucky to get $200-$250 for a Friday or Saturday night. Some touring acts command a cover and get much more of course but my figure is about right for the typical bar band. Everybody seems to run either solo or at most 3 piece because of the poor money.

I remember the early 70's when a "C" level band like the one I worked for would get $2400 for a 6 nighter in Tillsonburg or St. Thomas. We had clubs like the El-Mar, Duffy's, Town Casino and others that paid great and were always packed. They used local bands to fill in between nights with Moxy, Pat Travers, Mahogany Rush and scads of others.

So what do they pay in Vancouver? Calgary? The Peg?

Is is better in Quebec or the Maritimes?

We've been running Friday or Saturday night gigs for years, with the odd matinee. Does any town still offer 3 or (be still my beating heart!) SIX nighters?

With all that oil money is Alberta where all the bands should be going?

Let's find out!

:food-smiley-004:
 

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The $200 - $250 a night figure might be a little off. I don't know anyone that would work for less than $75.00 a night, and they won't be too happy with that. $600.00 per night is a pretty modest budget, and I would expect that at that price the venue would have an in house system.

Hamilton does not have any live music venues other than Copps, Hamilton Place and Theater Aquarius. There are allot of little pubs and whatnot in Hess village and so forth, but there is no bar scene whatsoever.

Bands should not be working for $200 a night. I know that there are some people out there that don't do it for the money - but when a band will play for $200 a night it makes it really hard to get $1200.00 a night out of the same club which is still pretty low for a full time touring band. I hear this complaint time and time again from people who make a living playing music.



We sorta had a thread about this before but I don't recall ever coming to a well-founded conclusion.

Here in Hamilton a band is lucky to get $200-$250 for a Friday or Saturday night. Some touring acts command a cover and get much more of course but my figure is about right for the typical bar band. Everybody seems to run either solo or at most 3 piece because of the poor money.

I remember the early 70's when a "C" level band like the one I worked for would get $2400 for a 6 nighter in Tillsonburg or St. Thomas. We had clubs like the El-Mar, Duffy's, Town Casino and others that paid great and were always packed. They used local bands to fill in between nights with Moxy, Pat Travers, Mahogany Rush and scads of others.

So what do they pay in Vancouver? Calgary? The Peg?

Is is better in Quebec or the Maritimes?

We've been running Friday or Saturday night gigs for years, with the odd matinee. Does any town still offer 3 or (be still my beating heart!) SIX nighters?

With all that oil money is Alberta where all the bands should be going?

Let's find out!

:food-smiley-004:
 

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i lived and played in calgary for 7 years. as a mainly original act, we would get booked regularly enough for $400 for a quick night (read, pa's there, low hassle, dinner and a reasonable number of free drinks included). there were places we'd play for less on occasion, but we always let it be known that we were doing it as a favour, that we were not going to make a habit of it. now, toot my own horn, but we were pretty good. most cover bands in calgary that i know of make about $150 per member per night for a standard 4 piece with sound provided by the club (i am about 3 years out of date now, fyi), and the best ones make $2-400 per member. as a soundman in calgary, i wouldn't work for much less than $100 a night, and that was if i didn't have to carry much PA around. the only place i know of in alberta that still does a back 6 is the cecil, and i think it pays $1400? i never played there, had some buddies that did. you only played one short set m-w, two short on thursday, and full length fri and sat.

i moved to ontario, and the scene here is hopelessly polluted. there's a friend of mine who plays in a local band, with a bit of a rep. i saw them at a local bar, and the place was so full you couldn't walk. must have been 300 people, if it was one. unreal. i asked him how much they got? $400. i just about slapped him. i don't play live around here because the pay is insulting. $250 for a four piece band? forget it, i'll sit in my living room. by the time we rent a (crappy) PA ($50), i get $50 to play for 3 hours, and do setup and tear down. out of this, take $10 in gas say (I drive a small car), and $15 in strings. wow. $25 for 3 hours work, and i still have to somehow buy thousands of dollars worth of gear, and re-tube my amp every year and get my guitars set up periodically... it's not worth it. what a shame, there's as a result no appreciable live music scene in this area.

it's tough though.. the bar owners can get a good DJ for $150, and they'll be in tune, on time (probably), and can play at any volume from a whisper to a scream. the customers, who ultimately pay for this entertainment, have been taught to see music as a "lifestyle accessory", not something worth supporting. also, we've shot ourselves in the foot.. kids play for free or cheap, and the bar owners don't know the difference, and crappy bands will undercharge because they know they have to.

the only other place i know of where you're gonna do 4-6 days at a bar still is way up north in the oil towns. great pay, too. but there's some... erm.. "interesting" characters up there, you'll be afraid for your life sometimes. great times and pay though..

i lived in vancouver for 7 years as well. the scene there is pretty crappy too. although i guess the country bands make good money. too many hippies and punk rockers willing to play for almost nothing. i hosted an open stage there for a while, it payed poorly, but it was a hoot and i got a great meal and a bunch o drinks out of the deal.. wouldn't likely do it again though.
 

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We used to have cicuits - the A, B and C circuit. If you couldn't get into the C circuit rooms then you would play private parties, barn bashes or on a flatbed on someone's back 40. I've got no problem with bands playing these gigs for $200.00, but when guys have fought for years to get the pay rate up to something reasonable in a circuit and then are sudenly undercut by guys who are willing to play for nothing, there is a problem.

From my perspective, the entire music industry in Canada went to hell when the concept of in house production took hold. It quickly became the same show every week-end at any particular club. The first casualty was the light tech, once the light show was gone it was a downhill slide from there.

The "Save our Symphony' thing is actually quite funny. My guess is that they hired an event planner.

This is an example of part of the problem:

http://brantford.kijiji.ca/c-community-artists-musicians-Jazz-Band-Available-for-hire-W0QQAdIdZ20727616

...and here in Brantford we have several venues where local high-school bands get to play for free. They'll put 6 to 9 bands on the stage, charge a $5 to $10 cover, charge for food and drink, (usually an alcohol free show), and the bands get nothing. There are an infinite number of places that will pay nothing for live music.


The Brantford Symphony Orchestra is holding a dinner/dance and silent auction to fund raise to "Save Our Symphony". They hired a DJ for the dance. Without a hint of irony, they have hired a friggin' DJ for a fundraiser to promote live music.
 

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I won't disclose how much I charge for a one night bar gig but I can assure you it's a lot more than $250. Bars will pay as little as they can.


$250 is ok for just me, but not for a whole band.
 

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From my perspective, the entire music industry in Canada went to hell when the concept of in house production took hold. It quickly became the same show every week-end at any particular club. The first casualty was the light tech, once the light show was gone it was a downhill slide from there.
In Vancouver, the killing blow was the "Sports Bar". Bar owners realized that it was cheaper to drop $5,000 on a big screen TV than it was to pay a band that much every week. Patrons are easily retrained.
 

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In Vancouver, the killing blow was the "Sports Bar". Bar owners realized that it was cheaper to drop $5,000 on a big screen TV than it was to pay a band that much every week. Patrons are easily retrained.
You've noticed this too :frown:

Sometimes I think there's more appreciation for live music in the US city of Seattle than there is in our whole country
 

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From my perspective, the entire music industry in Canada went to hell when the concept of in house production took hold. It quickly became the same show every week-end at any particular club. The first casualty was the light tech, once the light show was gone it was a downhill slide from there.


I agree totally. The house system concept would be fine if it was done well but in most cases it starts off mediocre and as things wear out or break they are seldom repaired or replaced. You end up with crappy sound and lights, the same crappy lights every week all for the sake of convenience.


Additionally, because most bars are unwilling to pay for a band with proper production values, most bands walk in and just blow off the stage without mic'ing everything, without a soundman and without a light man.


I can tell you with no hesitation that although the calibre of players has probably improved over the past twenty years (it's called evolution) the calibre of BANDS and how they sound and look in bars, has gone into the toilette. The standards are MUCH lower now. There's the low end and the high end and not much in between.


I say to hell with the filthy lucre. I bring in production and use it or I don't play the gig. I do this whether the bar pays enough or not. With all due respect to those who choose a more cost feasable approach, if I get hit by a falling piano on the sidewalk tomorrow, I don't want the production of my last show to have been dictated by a cheap a$$ed bar owner who doesn't know the difference between a band and a jukebox.

I'm not saying this is the best approach. I'm just saying it's MY approach.


But even so, there's no way I'm playing for $250. I'd set up in a parking lot and play for donations to the Cancer Society before I'd give a show to a bar owner for that much.
 
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Milkman, Hamm: you guys bring up something interesting here. Maybe I'm too young (and too brought up in Toronto) to know better. I got this feeling all the years of playing Toronto bars that the best bands used to bring their own PA, their own board, their own mics, their own lights and their own sound guy. What you were providing was a production for the bar, complete from end to end.

That definitely doesn't happen anymore.

When I was with The Apollo Effect we used to bring our own sound guy and that alone made our nights sound a heckuva lot better. Especially as he got to know our songs and would work the house-side effects to help out. It was always a fight with the bar when we showed up with our own guy to run the boards. They'd have paid some washed up hippie $50 for the night already and dammit, they were gonna get their $50 worth of sleeping on the console and groping the staff from him.

We were a pretty odd band in how we did things. How we insisted we have control over more of the production. In the end we paid for it dearly. We'd walk away with $1/head for the night. $2 if we were lucky. In a place like the Elmocambo upstairs or the Horseshoe, when it's packed, that's $200-$400 tops. No cut of the bar. We tried. Maybe if we didn't play all original music, weren't a risk, and did great covers we could have demanded more.

The first time we played Crowbar on Queen I had a long conversation with Scott, the owner, about the business before we set up and it went something like this: he had originally wanted Crowbar to be a covers bar. But then he hired a few great cover bands and found out they charge a few grand for the night and don't do any promotion. Then he found out that all original acts will work for a piece of the door and do their own promotion and you can put weird rules on them like they have to bring in 50 people or they owe the bar $200 bucks. And that all original acts will line up at your door to play your place for this kind of money.

We played the Crowbar at least three times in 2 years. Who's the sucker there?

But how do you break the vicious cycle? Bands want to play. Venues want to make money. It's so broken, especially in Toronto, I think the only solution is to let it all collapse and build it back up again. I quit about this time last year because I couldn't take it anymore. It was costing me more in gas to get to gigs than we were recouping. And bars gave us zero help put warm bodies in the room. Very, very frustrating.
 

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depends on what kind of band you are and how you set up your shows. some bands play for the door, some get guaruntees. playing for the door is riskier, but can really pay off if you're in a popular band.

I agree that the standards have gone downhill. I hate playing dumps that only have a vocal PA with a mixer on the side of the stage and a couple of bare bulbs with red plastic over them for lights. it's insulting. right now there's only 2 clubs in town that have house techs.
 

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It's been since the early nineties that I've toured with a bar band. When we did tour, not only did the band change every week (at the end week-end), but so did the sound system and the light show. Some bands had better production than others, and some bands could get better results out of lesser systems. The difference was that there was an element of a show in the venue.

Now a days, the sound systems might be better quality and have more power, but it is the same setup every week at the local venue, with the same guy mixing front of house. There is usually little to no light show, and the sound man is also the light man. Your lucky if the gels get changed every couple of months. My advice to anyone that wants to put on any kind of a show now is to put all of your money into a real light show, with a real lighting tech - people hear with their eyes.

As for places that expect the band to do the promotion for their venue - that is totaly ridiculous. The only time the band or management is responsible for promotion is when they are putting on their own show and renting their own venue. It is the venue's responsibility to get people through the door, it is the entertainment's job to entertain them and make sure they have a good time. If I had to promote a gig, I would definately want whatever was made at the door and a percentage of the bar - all on top of the regular going rate. If you are promoting a show you are Management, and should be paid appropriately.

I would say that the solution to the problem is not to play at these places. I hear guys complain about agents all the time, because they take 10 to 15% of everything, but they would never put up with that sort of horsesh!t. Get a booking agent and stop booking direct, otherwise you will continue to fight these little battles forever.
 

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Disco, DJs, karaoke, big screen TVs, sports bars, dance videos, pay-to-play, and so on have all contributed to the demise of live music. When musicians started undercutting each other just to get gigs, those bottom feeding music employers didn't have to do much other than wait for bands to shoot themselves in the foot.

It has been so long now since there was decent money on the local circuit that there are few, if any, of the old bands or musicians around, and even fewer of the old music employers that remember what decent money was, never mind that would be willing to return to those days.

Peace, Mooh.
 

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Oh, and might I add that collective organization solves some of these problems in many workplaces, but don't say UNION too loud...it's damned hard to keep a musicians union running, and harder still to enforce. Seems to be a nonentity around here.

Peace, Mooh.
 

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Man, after reading all this, I am so lucky I gave up the dream of being a musician and got a great day job. At the same time, now I feel kinda guilty because my band pretty much will play for beer and chicken wings.
For us its strictly about having fun so any cash is a bonus. That being said, on average we get $400.00 and bar tab for a gig. The worst we got was $250.00 plus tab.
 
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As for places that expect the band to do the promotion for their venue - that is totaly ridiculous. The only time the band or management is responsible for promotion is when they are putting on their own show and renting their own venue. It is the venue's responsibility to get people through the door, it is the entertainment's job to entertain them and make sure they have a good time. If I had to promote a gig, I would definately want whatever was made at the door and a percentage of the bar - all on top of the regular going rate. If you are promoting a show you are Management, and should be paid appropriately.
You haven't played the Horseshoe in the last 10 years, eh? Arguably the top "indie" venue in Toronto. When they book you you're not allowed to play any other place in the GTA 2 weeks before or 2 weeks after. Fair enough. But their promotion is and will always be: you name in their box for your night in The Eye and Now, local rags where the weekly concert listings get done up. And your name on the marquee the night of the show.

If you want anything else. Radio, flyers, etc. You have to pay for it out of your own pocket.

Their argument when I complained the first time I booked The Apollo Effect into the venue was you play the 'Shoe it looks good on your little indie band resume. Take it or leave it.

I would say that the solution to the problem is not to play at these places. I hear guys complain about agents all the time, because they take 10 to 15% of everything, but they would never put up with that sort of horsesh!t. Get a booking agent and stop booking direct, otherwise you will continue to fight these little battles forever.
The agent is a good idea. But, at least in Toronto, you've got the same problem: lots of fish need representation so agents pick and choose and you're basically screaming for attention in a room full of white noise. It's as hard as finding good venues to play.
 
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But as long as 3 or 4 guys are willing to literally play for chicken wings and beer........<sigh>
And there's the problem with a big city like Toronto. Not hard to find those 3-4 guys. Or a band comings wandering through town and doesn't know the Local's rates. It's a mess to enforce.
 

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Go to Nashville....They'll have two bands on stages in opposite corners of the same room, trading sets all night long, with a bucket on the front of the stage for tips. Some of these bands have seriously talented players, but in Nashville, the pool is supersaturated, and if you won't play for tips, the next act will. And if you singer doesn't have implants, you won't get the tips. The next step down is pay-to-play. Most conversations I've had on this topic end up in the realization that the bigger the city, the worse the conditions. I know a great player in St. Thomas who won't drive to London for a gig, because the pay won't be enough. Go to Port Stanley..... and the $$$ double or triple. It's sometimes about being a big fish in a small pond. But in a lake....there are just too many big fish, and invasive non-native species too.

We're competing with DJ's, Karaoke and home entertainment. We're competing with YouPorn and YouTube. There are guys that would rather play 4 or 5 hours of Guitar Hero instead of helping discover the next guitar god.

And part of it is demographics. I'm in the last year of the baby boom (1966). The number of people currently in that 19-25 age group is much smaller than it was when I was drinking nightly. I don't go to much live music any more. I don't like the hours, and as Milkman pointed out, the quality of band just ain't there anymore. (and I play in 3 of them!!!!)

We have to find new places to play. Guys that were playing 50's rock and roll in the 60's and 70's are discovering that the audience they had 40 years ago is now living in retirement homes. So you set yourself up as a "power single" with good backing tracks and you play 4 or 5 afternoons/week on the old age home circuit. The folks that have money now are willing to spend it on quality entertainment. Milkman's new project has a great chance of success. He's got the talent necessary, and his partner has the community contacts to get the show in front of people that can pay. The question is will they pay? Then again, the Niagara Falls Pink Floyd show apparently did not sell as well as hoped. A great show by all accounts, but for whatever reason, didn't go supernova.

Here's my take on Nashville.


There's a lot of music happening all the time, and about 75% of it is utter crap. I've seen shows on Nashville TV stations that were as bad as the worst open mic jam sessions up here.

People will go there and play for nothing because it's NashVegas.

I like Nashville because it's a beautiful city with friendly people, but if I want to see good music I'll go to New Orleans, Chicago, or yes, Toronto.

I go there about once a month for business.


Personally I'm into quality, not quantity.
 

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It's been since the early nineties that I've toured with a bar band. When we did tour, not only did the band change every week (at the end week-end), but so did the sound system and the light show. Some bands had better production than others, and some bands could get better results out of lesser systems. The difference was that there was an element of a show in the venue.

Now a days, the sound systems might be better quality and have more power, but it is the same setup every week at the local venue, with the same guy mixing front of house. There is usually little to no light show, and the sound man is also the light man. Your lucky if the gels get changed every couple of months. My advice to anyone that wants to put on any kind of a show now is to put all of your money into a real light show, with a real lighting tech - people hear with their eyes.

As for places that expect the band to do the promotion for their venue - that is totaly ridiculous. The only time the band or management is responsible for promotion is when they are putting on their own show and renting their own venue. It is the venue's responsibility to get people through the door, it is the entertainment's job to entertain them and make sure they have a good time. If I had to promote a gig, I would definately want whatever was made at the door and a percentage of the bar - all on top of the regular going rate. If you are promoting a show you are Management, and should be paid appropriately.

I would say that the solution to the problem is not to play at these places. I hear guys complain about agents all the time, because they take 10 to 15% of everything, but they would never put up with that sort of horsesh!t. Get a booking agent and stop booking direct, otherwise you will continue to fight these little battles forever.

While I agree with your statements, lots of luck getting agents interested in booking a part time band. They ignore us like it's a sport, in spite of our sucess on our own. They're all interested in the big cash cpmmissions they get booking casinos and the like.
 

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Oh, and might I add that collective organization solves some of these problems in many workplaces, but don't say UNION too loud...it's damned hard to keep a musicians union running, and harder still to enforce. Seems to be a nonentity around here.

Peace, Mooh.
I don't see how a union could possibly help when you're not only competing against other musicians. Bars can easily subvert a musician's union because they have so many substitute products, THEY DON"T HAVE TO HIRE MUSICIANS. And, you're a secondary item for a bar, they're in business to sell alcohol, not music.

Disco, DJs, karaoke, big screen TVs, sports bars, dance videos, pay-to-play, and so on have all contributed to the demise of live music. When musicians started undercutting each other just to get gigs, those bottom feeding music employers didn't have to do much other than wait for bands to shoot themselves in the foot.

It has been so long now since there was decent money on the local circuit that there are few, if any, of the old bands or musicians around, and even fewer of the old music employers that remember what decent money was, never mind that would be willing to return to those days.

Peace, Mooh.
I don't see how the traditional bar band can avoid the inevitable, it's product life cycle was in it's downfall 15 years ago with substitute products like DJ's & TV's, it saw competition 30 years ago with DJ's during the Disco era, it's into the geriatric stage now and we're still trying to flog it, and the only way is by price.

The collective organization, potentially, should be a business, you have to re-define the product or create a new one. Get a bunch of bands/entertainers together, figure out who your audience is and create a product that they want (don't throw a dart), including venue, event type, etc... that you can afford, and don't just settle for rehashing something that's seen it's day . If it works, all of a sudden you're at the top of the food chain not the bottom, if it doesn't you had a good time and try something different.

Not looking to argue, just thought I'd offer a different perspective.
 

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I don't see how a union could possibly help when you're not only competing against other musicians. Bars can easily subvert a musician's union because they have so many substitute products, THEY DON"T HAVE TO HIRE MUSICIANS. And, you're a secondary item for a bar, they're in business to sell alcohol, not music.



I don't see how the traditional bar band can avoid the inevitable, it's product life cycle was in it's downfall 15 years ago with substitute products like DJ's & TV's, it saw competition 30 years ago with DJ's during the Disco era, it's into the geriatric stage now and we're still trying to flog it, and the only way is by price.

The collective organization, potentially, should be a business, you have to re-define the product or create a new one. Get a bunch of bands/entertainers together, figure out who your audience is and create a product that they want (don't throw a dart), including venue, event type, etc... that you can afford, and don't just settle for rehashing something that's seen it's day . If it works, all of a sudden you're at the top of the food chain not the bottom, if it doesn't you had a good time and try something different.

Not looking to argue, just thought I'd offer a different perspective.
Very sound logic, and I'm working on projects to do just what you suggest.

No sense crying about the fall of bar gigs. After all, if the audiences really gave a rats a$$ they would have let the bar owners know clearly that DJs and karaoke were NOT an acceptable alternative to a live band.

Why should a bar owner pay $700 ~ $1000 a night to fill the same seats as a Karaoke rig or DJ does fror less than half of that?


I say F^&k em. I'll play the bars that pay and that are enjoyable to play. Beyond that, it's ticketed events, corporate gigs, bashes, theatres and whatever else I can find that feels right.
 
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