Monday, 4 February 2013
Cover Band 101 - Venues & Economics
The realities of the music business - at least on a club level, and especially in Memphis (with a few notable exceptions which will be covered below). These are just general observations that I thought I would note, as I find the dynamic to be continually interesting and sometimes entertaining.
I certainly don't profess to know it all, but after so many years of doing it (not just in Memphis but in other markets as well) there are a few tips that can make your experience more pleasant and potentially rewarding. Mostly it's just common sense, but I felt like blogging this morning, so here ya go.
Local Music Business 101 - Cover Bands & Economics
1. If you have a band, particularly a cover band - looking for a "guarantee" - don't bitch if your pay is too low when you only manage to bring a few people out to your shows. Clubs that book cover bands are businesses, and they pay money out for bands who will help bring business into their establishment. They are paying you as an investment to help increase their sales, not as an expense that leads to a potential loss. You *must* bring something to the table.
2. Just because the club lists you in the guide or on their website, doesn't mean that you automatically will have a big following. This takes work, and all of your band members must participate. You need to promote yourselves to build your following. Stop by every table and thank who came to your shows - yea, talk to them! Flyer the venue. Post ads on Facebook (oh my God yes, that might mean you have to actually spend money!) Use social networking (but don't rely on it alone). Make an effort. Even if your "following" isn't as large as it needs to be, I promise you that the venue/club will remember that you at least made the effort. Do what you say you are going to do, too. If you make big promises to the venues that fall through, that's not nearly as good as underpromising and overdelivering.
3. If you think so highly of your band and you believe you are worth more than you are being paid, make a door deal with the club/venue and waive your guarantee. After all, if you are a bona fide rock star, your throngs of followers will no doubt come and pay good money to see you, and you will make a killing.
4. Don't get hung up on how the club/venue is "screwing you over" if it is part of a corporate chain. Most corporations have definitive limits on what they allocate for entertainment. It is what it is, and until it changes, that's the way it's gonna be. The reason these places exist and continue to exist is because they have figured out the economics so that they can continue to do business. In other words, every time they book a band, they take a risk (see paragraph one). So if they have five proven bands that draw wall, and several others that do not, the established economic guidelines help to ensure they don't lose money over time, and hopefully make a profit. So - if you don't like it, then don't complain about what they pay and don't play there. Find somewhere else to play.
5. If you are a new band, and you have not yet established yourself - even if you have players who have played in other bands - you can't expect top dollar. Make a deal the first time in. It's not a sin, I promise. It's a show of good will, that you understand the club needs to make money. Of course, there are exceptions, when say there are five guys who happen to play in road bands or who have been around long enough to each have a nice fan base, but most of the time this is not the case. And - by making a deal first time in, you are *not* selling yourself short. You are showing goodwill. I've done free shows before and I have no problem making this investment to help get established.
6. Club owners are not impressed with drunk musicians that are being PAID to do a job. Stay off the booze and the dope at least while you are performing, or at least maintain until after all is said and done.
7. For crying out loud, do NOT argue about your bartab! I've seen this a million times. Seriously, you won't get booked again. Don't be a douche. And definitely, don't walk your tab, If you do, call or go to the venue and apologize profusely and pay it! Nothing pisses off a venue more, and at the end of the day, the bartenders/waitresses do have influence - their opinions count.
8. Don't be so pompous that you say "well I hate this owner" or "won't ever play there again," etc. You know, it's kinda small out there. You never know if the owner you "hate" might open the next big club, or maybe the manager that "screwed you on your tab" could open their own establishments. There are limited resources in Memphis particularly - always keep that in mind.
9. If you don't like the pay scales in Memphis, seek out venues in other cities. There are plenty of places to play outside of the metro area that would love to have a good band. But remember - if you do not live in that area, the first time you play you are going to have to make a concession, unless you are Bon Jovi. You will need to make the effort to promote heavily, get a decent crowd the first time in, and make sure you leave the place talking about you, so that next time, your following (and your money) in that market goes up.
10. The Golden Rule. If you are "too big for your breeches" then there is always going to be someone hungrier out there that will gladly take your place if you pass up an opportunity. Therefore, pick your battles carefully. You can either make a deal and build your reputation and following (sometimes it takes a LONG time), or you can sit your ass home on a Friday night when another band that you think "sucks" is taking "your" slot.
The Built-In Crowd. Looking for a "built in crowd"? Guess what. The club doesn't need you. Get over it. They can pick any band they want, if they are just providing something "extra" in addition to the mystical draw that said establishment seems to have. But still - they are most likely going to choose artists who actually have a positive social and economic impact, not those who show up late, bitch about their tabs, and draw flies. Even if you are freaking Rush or Beyonce, if you bring nothing to the table except mosquitos, you are likely to be passed over.
Beale Street. Yep, it's legendary. At least in Memphis, and around the world in many cases. Therefore, it's pretty damn serious business. Tourism is no laughing matter - it's a major part of the economy here. Most often, Beale is going to be chock full of tourists who come to Memphis to enjoy the Beale experience. Unfortunately for most local artists, this means that the economics are mostly established, and that only the BEST of the BEST will have the opportunity to play there. This has been the topic of much debate as I have seen - "let's form (or join) a union," or "let's protest," this kind of thing, to "get paid more". However, the issue is, Beale is a hot commodity, with only a few places, and a gazillion bands who want to play there. It comes down to supply and demand, as well as upholding the global reputation. The higher the supply, the lower the price. And - if you are not established, especially in the Blues genre, don't expect to get booked **unless you are willing to take risks and be persistent***. It's just the way it works. So again - if you think you are so freakin' good and you demand a certain price, or you won't play, guess what? Someone will take the slot that could have been yours, and your ass will be sitting at home on Friday night.
Respect the venues, even if you disagree with their economics. Promote your band. Promote. Promote. Promote. Be willing to make deals. Don't bitch about your bartab. Don't get drunk while working. Respect the economy of the market. Be patient. Work hard. Be persistent. Stay focused.
Have a nice Monday! :)
Posted By Zach Bair at 10:52 AM in Category:Music Business
Monday, 17 December 2012
Time to think hard about guns
I know there are many differing opinions on this, but after the terrible tragedy in New Jersey, I am going to voice my opinion. Love me, hate me, it's an opinion and everyone has one, but more people are going to have to start using some common sense to solve this huge issue we have.
I grew up in the South. I have a gun. Everyone I know has guns. But there is one basic problem with that. Our nation has more guns than any other nation in the world - seriously - and what that means is that we have more gun deaths than any other nation in the world - by FAR! Statistics do not lie, folks.
Now, I'm not sure what to do about it. But what I can say is that the Second Amendment was written at a time that our nation was young, and had a very small, organized military and depended heavily on militias. That was the reasoning to "keep and bear arms". Now, however, that has all changed. We have a sophisticated military, a government that works (at least most of the time), a democratic process, and a judicial system that is exceedingly fair (and in some cases probably too much so). Therefore, largely, the meaning of the Second Amendment has diminished and does not hold the same meaning as it did a couple of hundred years ago - and to rest the basis of owning a gun on it is just plain silly and a weak argument at best.
Unfortunately what has happened is that so many guns have been made, manufactured and sold in our country, imported and such, that it is unlikely that there is a way to "turn back the clock" to a time when there were less guns and less tragedy. Throughout most of my adult life it has become worse and worse every year, and the media doesn't exactly help by seeding the warped mentality of others who may be on the brink and have a firearm within reach.
There is a simple fact at play: the abundance of guns in our country and the ease at which people can purchase them - legally or not - leads directly to more gun deaths. You don't see a crazy person carving up people (killing them) like we saw last week with a knife or a bow and arrow. Certainly Columbine and most other of these tragedies would not have happened, had the guns not been available. The argument that owning a gun will stop this kind of crime is just plain wrong.
The fact of the matter is that the availability of the firearms allows people who ordinarily might not act on an urge instead to complete their destructive agenda, knowing that a quick bullet to their own head is something they will never feel and therefore it's much easier for them to make the ill-fated decision to run rampant.
Do I have an answer for this? I do not, and believe me, I wish I did. Like I said, it may be too late, and the violence is just going to get worse. I do believe some much stricter laws should be put in place, and I think honestly the federal government must take action in some manner to try and curb firearm availability and maybe even initiate some kind of a program to buy up and melt down some of the arms. I would gladly do this with my own gun, and you are hearing this from a Southern boy, born and bred.
Chances are, my nine is not going to save me if some idiot really wants to get me; and more than likely, I won't have it on me when I really need it. I do however have a big ass dog that will take down just about anyone brave enough to try and enter my home, so why do I need a gun?
So in closing, think hard about this, and what we can do to protect future generations. We need to morph into a peaceful society, not one that is hell bent on owning guns no matter the cost. If you have any doubt as to the real world statistics, google it, or have a look for yourself, right here (only one of hundreds of accurate articles):
Posted By Zach Bair at 7:47 PM in Category:General Interest
Tuesday, 13 November 2012
The election is over. As you note in my previous post - it's time to move on.
But to what? Now we deal with the same old problems. A hard-core right wing House whose favorite words are "no". As in "no" to raising taxes, even on the high earners.
Look folks. This company was founded on paying taxes. Our taxes support our way of life. I don't like it anymore than you. But let's face it. People who are crazy wealthy, or even well off, make enough to handle paying a little bit more. There is simply a level where you just can't spend any more money, unless you have it just to buy boats, planes and strippers.
Sure, there are places we can trim the fat - but it has to be a "balanced" answer - meaning raise some taxes, and make some cuts. But don't cut the programs like medicare that keep my mother healthy.
Again - I do not claim a political affiliation - but in this case, I do have to side with the Democrats, although just a little. They are SLIGHTLY less stubborn that the Republican party, who apparently seems to FAIL over and over to see that the American public has had enough. According to this article on CNN, now 53% of Americans will blame the Republican party if we fall off the fiscal cliff. That's because the word "compromise" has not been in their vocabulary.
It's time for our President to "grow some" and say "no" a few times himself. I think he will now. But it is also time for Republicans to show some common sense. Something that has evaded that party for quite some time. Maybe the bruising they took in the general election will knock some sense into them.
Posted By Zach Bair at 4:33 PM in Category:Politics
Wednesday, 7 November 2012
Ok. It's Over... Let's Get On With It.
Whew. Am I glad to get all of this over with. What a brutal, brutal election year this has been! Instead of spending a billion dollars on medical research, feeding the homeless, or rebuilding the Jersey Shore, we have watched that billion get poured into a campaign season that got us... status quo? Amazing. What a waste.
Well, beyond my obvious distaste for that complete waste of good money, now I must turn my ire elsewhere. But before I do, I have a disclaimer. I do not claim to be Republican. I do not claim to be Democrat. I do not have a specific far left or far right platform. My position is as it has always been - I am a believer in going for the man (or woman) who I feel is right for the job.
So the blog you read today reflects the very real situation we have now, which is our President who has now been re-elected into his second term.
For the whiners out there - and there are many of them I am sure - let it go. He won. Now, it is time to STOP the partisan bickering and try and mend this country. Both of these men put up a great fight for sure. I think both are pretty darn qualified for the job, although I have to give kudos to Obama for managing to get *some* things done despite a first term Republican objective of "making Obama a one-term president". Obviously that strategy didn't pay off, and now it's time to get some serious business done. And it is time for the Republican party to take a serious look at themselves and at their constituents.
At no time in history has the Republican party been so far right, and so stuck on idealogical platforms. There was a time in the not too distant past where being a Republican meant being "moderate". Take a look at the oft-quoted Ronald Reagan. This moderate type of platform simply doesn't even exist any more. It's all or nothing, right or wrong. And people, that is NOT what democracy is about! Democracy means working together and forging workable compromises, even if it's not exactly what you want. Democracy means that sometimes the other side is going to get more than you. And you know what? Live with it! That's the beauty of our society. This keeps the right wing (and left wing) extremests for setting policies based on narrow sets of ideals; instead, it provides us a method to make sensible decisions.
Now, am I unhappy with every politician? Of course not. Do I think they blow smoke to get votes? Of course! But any elected official who wants to sit in the chambers and vote "NO" for everything that is put before them will NEVER get my vote, I can promise you that. This is what Mr. Obama has endured - four years of NO to EVERYTHING. Despite this, he has still managed to accomplish some amazing things against extraordinary odds. If you want to see for yourself, I found a great website: go to www.whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com. I don't condone the domain name, but you will be surprised I think.
So I am not saying I agree with everything the man has done - and I think he should have been tougher sometimes when dealing with the other party and in some cases, his own. However, the simple fact that he was able to get re-elected despite having to fight the entire four years should say something to those who continually try to force a decaying platform: change it, or you are going to lose again in two years, and again in another four! Enough is enough folks. Meet in the middle, make things happen for your constituents, and LISTEN to them.
Really - we should be worrying about who is marrying whom, or what a woman can and cannot do with her body. Please, it's ridiculous. Those are things the government should stay out of. Instead, focus on ways to fix the health care system (and it is still far from perfect for sure), reduce spending, and make sure everyone pays their fair share in taxes. That way, we all have an equal shot at success. Fix education! Where we were once the shining example of innovation we are quickly descending into a hole that we will not be able to climb out of (at least not easy).
And please, for the LOVE OF GOD, can you people who "live" by the Second Amendment get a life? Your gun is not the end all be all and should not decide which way you vote. That amendment was written at a time that is much different from now, in so many ways - and primarily it was to allow the new country to protect itself from foreign enemies. Already, our country has more guns than anyone else - per capita and maybe even literally - and therefore more gun deaths. And listen to what I'm saying - I own a gun!
Nothing is going to change for either "side". It's just too late. The most we can do is to try to stem the flow and reduce the number of arms (hey - almost like START for guns instead of NUKES!) Novel concept. But we can try and use our sensibility to reel it in and deal with it the best we can.
So, in closing today's blog, let me reiterate. Obama won. It is what it is. Get over it. Now, let's put the "ridiculousness" aside and work together. It's time to show the world that our country is not a joke, and that our system works. People - work together. Be moderate. If your elected official is sticking to ludicrous platforms that you dont' support or stonewalling important measures because someone told them to, let them know. In numbers, if possible!
Things will not get done if the parties do not cooperate with each other. Here's a fact too, guys: our country is in a lot of debt, most of it from the prior administration. If any of you think that the President could fix the problems in four years what it took eight to create, come to your senses. These are deep problems and only staying the course with razor sharp focus will get us back on track. Part of that is taxes. Part of it involves trimming fat where possible. But we can't trip fat where it affects my 82 year old mom or for that matter my future retirement that I've worked my entire life for. It comes from being fiscally smart in many ways, and realizing that without devoting money to educating future generations we will devolve into a 3rd world country.
Let's make the next four years the best they can be - regardless of who is in office. They work for us, remember? And they way they work for us is to tell Congress to get off their collective asses and get stuff done.
Posted By Zach Bair at 11:18 AM in Category:Politics
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