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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Payout Scams: Vanishing and the Count

posted by on April 29 at 13:35 PM

scammoney.jpgYouíre on tour and you just played a show at a good club in another city. Itís the end of the night and itís time to get paid. The manager calls you into his office and shows you a chart for the breakdown of the payout. The club bases their payout on attendance.

If there had been six more people there, according to the managerís numbers, you would have gotten another hundred dollars. His figures are way off. You know there were at least a hundred more people there. And over the course of the evening, maybe two-hundred more. You tell him you think his numbers might be off but he stonewalls you. He sits back in his chair, smirks, and says, ďNope, those are the numbers from the door man. He has a click-counter.Ē The manager sounds like a robot. The words are scripted. You realize itís a scam, but what can you do?

You donít want to piss him off and get on his bad side, because you want to play there again. You try again to tell him you think there were lots more people there than his numbers show, but he gets agitated, ďLook, I donít know what to tell you, this is what the doorguy gave me.Ē Not wanting to make a scene and get blacklisted, you suck it up and take the money. Youíve been ripped off, but itís such a good venue, you want to play there again. (So you can get ripped off again!)

Venues hold the cards when they base the payout on attendance. You can hire your own door guy to count, but thatís someone you have to pay.

Negotiating a guarantee beforehand is the way to go. Print out the email that says how much you get paid. When the club tries to lowball you after the show, or tell you there is no food buyout, having that email is nice. (Even if itís a local show.)

Another scam is the vanishing bar manager. At the end of the night, they are nowhere to be found. Thereís no one there to pay you. Itís late, and you need to get on the road. You try to call the manager, and harass the staff for an hour, but they tell you thereís nothing they can do. You wait until the tour is over and harass the manager for three months with emails. Maybe youíll get paid, maybe not.

Usually touring bands are taken care of. Usually club managers are on the level. But when it comes to the click-counting power sleaze and the vanishing bar manager, you have to watch your back and be as proactive as possible. That $100 they take from your cut is spent fast.

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Fuck being on tour and getting screwed, it's worse when it happens in your home town.

Irish bar in Fremont, I am looking at you. Remember that $500 gurantee we shook on? The 200+ people we helped cram into your bar on a Friday night all of them drinking like horny sailors on their first leave?

Yeah, I live nearby and trust me dude your bar hasn't been that busy in years. So why at the end of the night was the money 50% lighter than you'd promised us?

Never mind the fact that you basically ended up taking 100% of the door.

Posted by ahem ... | April 29, 2008 2:09 PM


Print that email out! You got any emails on it? Sounds like you have some money coming to you.

Posted by trent moorman | April 29, 2008 2:16 PM

Get singed contracts ahead of time. Don't take no for an answer. When playing shows out of town ask for a guarantee, even if it is small at least you know what you are getting ahead of time. Then if you come back again ask for more. You can also have a guarantee + door split over. Make sure to have the cell mumber of your contact to call when you get screwed to thank them.

If club screws you don't go back, and make sure to destroy something before you leave. Did I say son't take no for an answer. Bring rotten meat/fish to leave in dressing room. At one club we ripped the door off the promoters office.

Posted by drheavy | April 29, 2008 2:35 PM

We all need to start naming names and letting people know what tight-fisted bitches and ignorant grinders are out there, screwing over the musicians AND the people who work hard getting their music heard.

Posted by Chris Estey | April 29, 2008 2:41 PM

We had a handshake deal. See this "bar manager" approached us as a friend, not a promoter. Some friend huh?

Posted by ahem | April 29, 2008 2:44 PM

Dr. Heavy, I love you. Did the promoter say anything about his door?

I'm packing rotten meat from now on.

Posted by Heavy Apprentice | April 29, 2008 2:44 PM

As a booker the worst is having a tour come to you as a package, with the openers only getting 100 or 150 bucks. So you end up with situations like the High on Fire show we did at the Croc (R.I.P.) where the two openers (Coliseum and Panthers) got like 200 bucks each while Mono and High on Fire walk with...well, let's just say I took a few pictures of the money while i was counting it because i had NEVER SEEN SO MUCH MONEY IN MY LIFE. I felt like I was in Scarface...

And even worse than that is having a similar deal where the opening band brings the entire crowd and you have to be like "Here's your 150. Hope you enjoy the half-a-fill-up that's going to buy you at the Shell station."

Posted by Eli | April 29, 2008 2:47 PM

Bands need managers that can play hardball with the club managers and promoters. But most bands can't afford to have a manager.

Posted by Manager | April 29, 2008 2:47 PM

I actually don't remember if he said anything about the door. I'm sure he did. I haven't been back to that club though.

I agree with Manager, if you have a good booking agent they will take care of the problems for you.

As far as opening bands not getting paid enough, when a band goes on tour with another established band, the exposure is the payout they get. It sucks that they don't make money, but they have a good audience every night. They have also agreed to what they get paid before they go on the tour. Bands like High on Fire have spent years building a good fanbase, by touring their ass off. They put on a good show and deserve to get paid. Hell, bands that play on some of the big summer tours have to pay to be on the tour, not get paid at all. The only money they make is from merch sales, and off day shows.

Posted by drheavy | April 29, 2008 3:04 PM

This is an instance where the current golden age of electronic communications can let you down. A signed piece of paper (known as a "contract") works much better than an email. An (actual, snail-mailed) letter on your attorney's letterhead containing a copy of said contract solves these problems in a way that an email (or a handshake) cannot.

Posted by flamingbanjo | April 29, 2008 3:04 PM

No one mails contracts anymore. A printed email works next best.

Bands usually can not afford attorneys.

Flamingbanjo, can we use yours?

Posted by Manager | April 29, 2008 3:08 PM

I totally agree that High on Fire earned their money. They were fully kick ass that night and they and their crew were all good people. I mean, hell, I've listen to bands with those guys in them for as long as I've listened to music. And I am well aware that everyone knows what they are getting into before the tour even starts. It just always seemed odd to give one band X Amount of money and and another band X times 100 Amount of money. I guess I'm just feeling for the little guys. Hopefully they'll be the big guys some day though...

Posted by Eli | April 29, 2008 3:11 PM

Yeah I want the little guys to get big to. Its like watching kids grow up. Then they are rolling in the tour bus and laughing at us as they drive by, smoking joints and watching porn on the flat screen. They might even drop a "hot bag" for fun. Thats why I don't have kids.

Posted by drheavy | April 29, 2008 3:18 PM

"Hot Bag" ?? I don't think I want to know...

Posted by Manager | April 29, 2008 3:20 PM

Door Guy lets people in, ignores the clicker and pockets the cash.

Posted by Miss Stereo | April 29, 2008 3:22 PM

Rotting meat? People, please.

Clubs have toilets. Always carry a few rolls of toilet paper in the van. One for each toilet at the end of the night. And a bunch of Bic pens. Ever look at how the radius of the elbow joint on a toilet is? Do you know how much plumbers bill at? You're never playing there again anyway.

Posted by Tiktok | April 29, 2008 3:49 PM

Lot's of this shifty shiz goes on with these 'special evenings' at venues not usually doing music and perfomance - like theatres and other spaces.

Watch out for those promoter types who set up the evening and run the door. Most often, they aren't to be trusted.

It's essential that you get a guaranteed fee in writing beforehand in these cases, or else don't perform.

Posted by monsenior m | April 29, 2008 3:53 PM

"Door Guy lets people in, ignores the clicker and pockets the cash."

I've always wondered how much the door guys and the promoters pocket.

No one looks over there shoulder. I bet we'd be surprised how much they skim.

Posted by Erin | April 29, 2008 6:22 PM

Door guy will also tell you the place is full and make you wait, then when he sees hot chics, he lets them right in.

Posted by DoorLove | April 29, 2008 6:35 PM

ahem...we're talking about the Dubliner, aren't we?

Posted by I played that show too! | April 29, 2008 10:29 PM

Great topic. Usually when my band gets shafted in middlesville, USA we either call the promoter at all hrs of the night or have our booker do that. Usually the promoter isn't aware that the bar mngr screwed you and the promoter wants to keep booking shows there. Always better to have a buffer between you and the club like the booking agency or tour manager so you leave an in to play there again. Run your shit like the mafia.

Posted by jon e. rock | April 30, 2008 9:41 AM

Be in a band that doesn't play big shows.

Like mine!

Problem solved.

Posted by gwon | April 30, 2008 5:05 PM

Having a contract is crucial, a SIGNED contract. Templates are available online. When musicians HAD representation, via the UNION, any disputes would be handled by union lawyers, the union still offers this service, but that's if you can afford the dues. Check out the Screen Actors Guild, the Screen Writers Guild, if musicians had their SHIT together, they'd have a RELEVANT union as well, and small bands would no t be getting ripped off as much, and alcohol and tobacco companies would be subsidizing ALL shows with small guarantees, not just big bloated rock star shows. But, for now, having some kind of relationship with the club and it's employees is important, if they are your friends, they are less likely to rip off....

Posted by Big Biz | May 2, 2008 1:08 PM

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