I’ll preface this by saying that the majority of club owners I deal with are good people. They love and believe in live music and have handed over their lives to the punishing task of owning and operating a small business. There are definitely snakes out there, but generally they’re hard-working people who took huge risks operating in an industry with a shrinking audience and growing costs. That said, when a venue doesn’t generate enough revenue to pay everyone adequately, musicians are often the ones who bear the brunt of that shortfall.
Most venues that offer door deals or low guarantees have no built-in crowd, meaning the only reason people walk through the door is to see a band. But when the end of the night comes and there isn’t enough money to compensate everyone, musicians are generally last in line to get paid. The staff gets paid, the food/alcohol vendors get paid, the utilities get paid, the taxes get paid, the bank gets paid, and the owner of the building gets paid. This is a common refrain and isn’t surprising to anyone, and I’m not arguing that these people don’t deserve their earnings. But the thing that musicians often miss is that, when you commit your time to one of these businesses without a reasonable guarantee, the fruits of your creative output are being used to pay other people first, including the generally wealthy people who own the building and loaned the business money. But for the music you create and perform, the money to pay all that overhead wouldn’t flow into the business in the first place (The same could be said about Spotify and other streaming/radio platforms by the way). Given that banks and commercial real estate owners are indirectly earning money from your work, you should think hard about whether or not you’re getting something meaningful out of the arrangement. Continue reading Low-Paying Gigs: Think About Where the Money Goes