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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Payout: The Split and Your $37

posted by on May 6 at 13:28 PM

split.jpgYour band plays a local show. It’s a Wednesday night, you’ve hustled on self-promoting and there was a decent turnout to see you. You made posters, hung them yourself, and made sure people were there. For a school night, it’s a good show.

The end of the night arrives and you are handed an envelope with $37 in it. The posters you made cost you $30. The manager says, “Sorry, the headliner (who no one came to see) had a guarantee, and we took $50 for the posters.” $50 for the posters? The club didn’t put posters up. You saw one poster in the bathroom that the club made. You tell the manager about the posters you hung and he says, “Sorry.”

It was a four-band bill, after the headliner and poster fee, they split the money evenly between the other three bands. You give your band members $5 each and consider it a good promotional show – “To get the name out there.”

Other clubs pay the bands after the bar makes a certain amount. Some clubs pay a percentage of the door. The club has costs. There are sound engineers, bookers, and promoters to pay, lights and equipment to run, and employees to pay.

Sometimes the bands that have made the club money don’t make money themselves. But it’s worth it, because you had a good show, and hopefully you can get a weekend show there and make some money.

One question – who keeps the club honest? It sure seems like you should have made more than $37.

RSS icon Comments


The "poster fee" is the biggest sack of horseshit I have ever smelt.

You hung some posters in the club that you ran off on the club's photocopier ...yeah that's worth $50.

I will resist naming names, but clubs/promoters reading this know exactly who they are.

Posted by Hee-Haw | May 6, 2008 1:37 PM

Ah yes, the "poster fee." Reminds me of these inscrutable little $5 "user fees" and "service fees" that banks and phone companies like to append to your bill. They mostly seem to translate as "because we can" fees.

Playing for "exposure" is just something bands tell themselves to feel better about playing for free. As long as generations of musicians grow up dreaming of the big million-dollar payoff in the form of their record contract and world-domination tour, they will continue falling for this one. And in doing so, they help to drive the market value of the service they are offering down to almost nothing.

The things that keep bookers and clubs honest are written contracts and bands that hire somebody to count the people that come in the door. Refusing to play again at a place that rips you off is a good idea too.

Clubs often don't make a lot of money on live music because the overhead is so outrageous, but when bands pack the joint and are told they didn't make any money it's not in their best interest to shrug their shoulders and try to book a weekend at the same joint.

Posted by flamingbanjo | May 6, 2008 1:44 PM

"The World Domination Tour" !!!!!!


The Sleep On the Floor Tour (of Domination).

Posted by Axeman | May 6, 2008 1:55 PM

Same goes for the no-cover-charge-bands-split-"10%"-of-bar-sales venues. Very frustrating when you see a room packed 8PM-close, and bands walk away with $20 in their pockets. For those who play these venues, ask to see a detailed breakdown of sales at the end of the night.

Posted by anon | May 6, 2008 1:58 PM

Again, certain Irish Bar in Fremont your "What you didn't get the check yet?" strategy is not fooling anyone.

Posted by A-hem | May 6, 2008 2:04 PM

Trent's view is the zen-like approach that will keep me out of too much trouble, but it is hard not to pay heed to the words of flamingbanjo. Is there a middle-ground? What sacrifices are worth it and what aren't - and when... that probably matters too I would think.

Posted by WOLF BLITZER: SPECIAL REPORT | May 6, 2008 2:06 PM

Being Wolf Blitzer right now means going through the motions of booking a newly developed act in a town full of questionable venues. I get a lot of folks telling me what's worth sucking up and what's not, but I can't really make any sense of it yet.

Can a relatively new act in town expect to get screwed for a certain period of time as they develop, or are there certain things that are important to insist on from the get-go, that may separate me from people who cheapen the service we provide by allowing themselves to get screwed over.

I've been doing this a good amount of time, and have taken groups I've assembled on the road with my own money, figuring it was exposure.... more than once. Felt fine about it in every way other than that I felt a duty to pay my band as well as possible (I always want to do that).

I am a solo act now, so there is less pressure on that front, but it is still a tough predicament.

Posted by WOLF BLITZER: SPECIAL REPORT | May 6, 2008 2:14 PM

"ask to see a detailed breakdown of sales at the end of the night."

A good idea. But some clubs just doctor the numbers. Sadly, there's no real way to know what the club made that night.

And most bands can't afford to have their own door counter.

Obviously though, a club is going to want to keep a good band happy so they will come back.

Posted by Axeman | May 6, 2008 2:17 PM

as much as i respect people who take the DIY path and book themselves without the use of an agent, i can't help but feel that the autonomy and honor of self-sufficiency doesn't necessarily outweigh the burden of being a lone soldier. being a part of an agent's roster is like being a member of the mafia: people are less inclined to fuck with you because they want to stay on the agent's good side.

but of course, a good booking agent is a tough thing to come by. no band should expect to make money right out of the gate, but every band deserves to have the financial arrangements for a show stated clearly (in print) on the front end, and to get paid according to those terms. find out what the overhead is in advance, and get it in writing. do a rough head count during the show. if you still wind up with $25 at the end of the night, that is simply a harsh reality, especially in the era of $4/gallon gas prices. stick to promoters you can trust and make every show a worthwhile event.

that's all one can do, i suppose.

Posted by brian cook | May 6, 2008 2:33 PM

Say you have a festival that is a non-paying gig for "exposure", and an excellent and experienced rhythm section that expects payment...

...what is the balance between the "pay-for-exposure" vs. "not screwing youself and giving musicians a bad name by playing for free where/when you shouldn't"?

Personally, I plan to pay the band as much as I can and try to make up for it selling CD's.

It's my first time performing at this function, so they aren't paying me... though I feel obligated to take care of the guys who are so kindly sitting in with me.

Posted by WOLF BLITZER: SPECIAL REPORT | May 6, 2008 2:34 PM

who needs honesty when you've got booze?

Posted by anon | May 6, 2008 2:38 PM

God keeps the clubs honest.

Posted by Axeman | May 6, 2008 2:40 PM

It's a tough reality. If your band is not successful, you probably are going to get screwed a lot. That doesn't make it feel any better when you do. It's a fucking pisser. But being clear about that helps one to absorb the blows and keep plugging along.

This is why very successful bands often feel completely justified in driving a very hard bargain with everyone they deal with once they have the leverage to do so.

I have heard stories of bands getting support slot dates opening for large, successful bands in theaters and walking away with $300-$400 a night.

It's a bit like Fraternity Rush. Once people get through it, they feel justified in inflicting it on the new pledges.

Better or worse, it's a hard thing to get around.

I agree with Brian Cook. Having a booking agent helps, especially if that person has a good roster of bands they can threaten not to book into an offending club.

Getting things in writing helps too (even if it's just an e-mail). Bring it with you to the club. Sometimes it can help give you at least a bit of moral force to encourage the person you are dealing with (who is often not the person who you booked the show with) to be cool.

Of course, many bands never get to the point where they can interest a booking agent. Harsh as this may sound, that's often a reflection on the band just not really being that great (or at least not that popular). Sometimes it's a reflection on people not having their act together.

Bottom line, trying make money playing music is a Darwinian business--a sausage plant you shouldn't enter if you can't make peace with how the sausage is made. The people who stick with it tend to be the ones who feel like they have no choice.

Posted by j-lon | May 6, 2008 3:01 PM

"Exposure"--you can die from "exposure". Playing to the other three bands on the bill and a handful of their girlfriends and roommates isn't exposure. It's like standing in line to use the urinal at a club--who remembers what anyone else looked like in the bathroom?

Posted by Tiktok | May 6, 2008 3:02 PM

How did those of you who have Seattle-area booking agents find them, and at what point?

Posted by WOLF BLITZER: SPECIAL REPORT | May 6, 2008 3:14 PM

So the focus here is on keeping clubs honest, always important (and as long as we're naming names, two thumbs up for the Tractor Tavern - by far the best at being straight up and transparent about the math - also about paying attention when an opener draws a good crowd. I've known them to toss in a little extra to reward a band who has agreed to open for a bigger band for exposure alone, or for just a small flat fee).

But I find that often there is a lack of forethought on the part of the bands you're playing with. I know that quite often you only deal with the club, and not the other bands on the bill - especially if you're touring. But say you're booking a local show and you're able to put together a bill you think is good and pitch it to a club. It's the same story as with who plays first, middle, last - which has been discussed on this blog before... sometimes you get to the club and someone has changed the tune. You thought you were middle band, now you have to play last.

Well, how does that all relate to the split? Assuming standard variables; no one has a guarantee, bands split up the door minus whatever the club takes off the top for sound, door guy, etc... Does the headliner deserve the lion's share of the split for having the responsibility to hold the crowd until late? My experience is that too often it never even gets discussed before the night of the show.

What if you get the old "our drummer has to work at 6am, so we need you to play last instead of us" line.. should you be compensated with a bigger cut? Seems like when a band doesn't want to play last, it's often because they know they don't have a good draw, or can't hold a crowd until last call.

Some clubs in other cities ask people at the door who they came to see, and pay the bands based on that polling. Is that over the top? Is there any kind of "standard" split for a three-band bill that is generally fair, like 50/30/20? Does your band always know before you show up what percentage you're supposed to get at the end of the night, or do you just assume it'll work out?

I'm curious what y'all think..

Posted by yep | May 6, 2008 3:26 PM

#13: 'The people who stick with it tend to be the ones who feel like they have no choice.'

word. up.*

*if you are talking about how there is really nothing else you wanna do with your life other than write and perform music. which probably isn't what you mean...

Posted by no-fi | May 6, 2008 3:45 PM

"One question – who keeps the club honest?"

Answer: The person entering into the deal with them.

It's already been said in various ways up there, but it really is about communication: Get the deal in writing, get it in advance, bring it with you to the show. Ask in advance who you are settling with, load in time, set time. Good bookers will be impressed and want to work with you again.

Show expenses are all just negotiating points anyway, you pay for some things (sound, door, posters) you don't pay for others (insurance, electricity, noise violations). Make yourself valuable by promoting well and growing your draw. There isn't a club in town under 1000 capacity that wouldn't give the right band their room for free.

Posted by TP | May 6, 2008 3:53 PM

Yeah, poster fees are a CROCK. And then there's the 'scratch my crotch fee'. Come on. Bars pocket as much money as they possibly can.

TP @ 18, bands pay for their insurance. If an accident happens and some band dude gets injured, let's say he cuts his hand on something backstage. That band dude's gonna have to pay for the medical costs. So you're insurance figuring is off, in my opinion.

Posted by Block | May 6, 2008 4:12 PM

You wanna know how to keep the clubs honest?

It's a cost, but bands, it's worth it --

Get one of your bigger, semi-smart friends to be your 'manager'. Have them come with you to the shows with a printed copy of the booking emails in hand. Have him meet with the bar manager, and say that at the end of the night, you all want a copy of the club's money break downs for that night.

Trust me, this will help.

Have this large manager do a head count when your band plays and have him hang out as much as possible by the door.

You are going to have to pay him, but it's worth it.

Posted by Block | May 6, 2008 4:20 PM

@ 19 - that's "your insurance figuring". See, I'm semi-smart.

Posted by Block | May 6, 2008 4:22 PM

the six negotiating strategies:

- be prepared - knowledge is the only true power

- only deal with decision makers

- control the location

- get the agenda

- trade concessions - dont give them


Posted by bobcat | May 6, 2008 4:24 PM

unless you already have a name for yourself asking for numbers in writing seems like a red flag for bookers to never call you again.

seems to me their are countless other bands here that would be glad to open a good show and not care what they get paid.

my band is currently in this predicament... starting to get a draw (sometimes bigger than the headliner) but we don't want to piss off any clubs and get tagged as being difficult.

Posted by kdiddy | May 6, 2008 4:31 PM

It wasn't my intention at all to suggest that artists don't have expenses, just that it's impossible to truly apply actual costs to a show deal. It's about finding a fair middle ground. Most clubs carry a $1 million liability policy for drunk patrons slipping and hitting their head, band dude backstage may actually be covered...

Posted by TP | May 6, 2008 4:32 PM


Those don't really work in indie band land.

- be prepared - Yes, be prepared to be screwed and print out the booking email.

- only deal with decision makers - Doesn't work. They all pass the buck and say, "I don't know, I didn't set this up." Or "I'm not the one who deals with this." Cause guess what, the person they will say who does deal with it, isn't there.

- control the location - ??

- get the agenda - ??

- trade concessions - dont give them - ??

- WALK AWAY FROM BAD DEALS - They're all bad deals. The money made to hours put in ratio is not pretty.

Bottom line is that $50 poster fee is in their pockets. Along with the other money they've skimmed.

Posted by Block | May 6, 2008 4:34 PM

TP @ 24,

Band dude is covered? Really? Well that's good for band dudes and band girls then.

I always figured the clubs easily got out of having to be responsible for that kind of thing because could just say it was negligence, on the part of band dude and his 9 beers.

Posted by Block | May 6, 2008 4:48 PM

"Block" are you emo or indy? The 'pity me' attitude you retort with seems like you fall into the former grouping.

You control where your band plays. if you get stuck playing shows on Wednesdays at the Central then that's your own damn fault.

Whomever charges a fucked up $50 fee, post up the culprit.

Posted by bobcat | May 6, 2008 4:50 PM

Bobcat, calm yourself. Are you trying to say 'indie'?

I'm neither 'Indy' or 'emo'. I'm 'evil'. And nowhere in my comment do I sound 'pity me'. But I pity you.

When's the last time you went on a tour that was over a month long? Go on a monthlong tour then tell me how much of your business school bullshit holds up.

I'm just saying it's a different game out there than you think it is.

Posted by Block | May 6, 2008 4:57 PM

I went to business school? RAD.

Here's your pity me comments reposted since you can't scroll 1/2 a screen up:

"Yes, be prepared to be screwed and print out the booking email." - TRANSLATION: WOE IS ME

"Doesn't work. They all pass the buck" - TRANSLATION: CUE THE ELLIOT SMITH

"They're all bad deals." - TRANSLATION: WE'RE DOOOOMMMED

Posted by bobcat | May 6, 2008 5:04 PM

Bobcat, your dick disguise is good, but weak. But if it makes you feel better, go ahead and keep acting like fucking asshole.

If YOU could scroll up, you'd see I wasn't trying to argue with you. I was just saying how it really is. I don't get it, are you one of the people that skims from the bands at clubs?

Lets play your dick disguise game:

"Yes, be prepared to be screwed and print out the booking email." - TRANSLATION: WOE IS ME

** So saying print out your emails is 'woe is me'? Wuh? You lose.

"Doesn't work. They all pass the buck" - TRANSLATION: CUE THE ELLIOT SMITH

** Sorry to burst your bubble, they all do pass the buck. Again, you lose.

"They're all bad deals." - TRANSLATION: WE'RE DOOOOMMMED

** Not doomed asshole, just being real.

TRANSLATION: Bobcat is a dick.

Posted by Block | May 6, 2008 5:14 PM

#23 - I've been involved at various times on both sides of the deal for a while now, and did a thousand door deals when I had an in-house booking gig. If you're getting paid based on door or bar numbers, you have every right to get a breakdown of the numbers in writing at the end of the night. If you're setting something up over the phone, just send a follow up email to verify that you understood. Any decent booker would appreciate that. And for the people who think they are always getting screwed over by everyone else... maybe the problem doesn't lie with everyone else.

Posted by Abe | May 6, 2008 5:14 PM

As cute as this AOL chat room argument is, I'd just like to point out that by the end of the night, you and your homeskillets could be eating roughly 37 bean burritos, and still have a nice working relationship with the club. Love America.

Posted by lone soldier | May 6, 2008 5:14 PM

Yeah, why's no one naming names? It's an anonymous forum.

I want to hear which clubs will jack you!

Posted by ante up | May 6, 2008 5:41 PM

If you spent 30 dollars on posters then you wasted your money - for the band I'm ins first few shows I spent night after night printing posters and putting them up all over town only to find them covered up the very next day by some Poster Giant bullshit. No promotion at all is better than posters.

I'm sure there are some shady club owners bilking openers out of their money but I'm sure there are just as many headlining bands requesting unreasonable guarantees or percentages. As an opening band the sad truth is that, in the club's eyes, you are there so people have more time to drink - it's tough to get respect as an opening act which our band almost always is - we've headlined like one show in our "career." Either way, if anyone is setting out to make a living off playing music you are probably going to end up disappointed. It seems like everybody makes money off music but the musicians, that's pretty lame, but if your intentions are just to enjoy yourself and be creative it doesn't really matter.

I dunno! Confused on this one!

Posted by R. Pecknold | May 6, 2008 6:35 PM

AOL chat room? Watch the low blows there 'Lone Soldier'.

Posted by trent moorman | May 6, 2008 6:35 PM

@ 32: A/S/L?


Posted by i'm a dick | May 6, 2008 6:40 PM

R. Pecknold. Fuck the fliers. Just spray paint your awesome band night on the sidewalk.

Posted by eric grandy is god | May 6, 2008 6:44 PM

It was funny walking to work at Bimbo's every morning and seeing that graffiti on the sidewalk outside. Is that still there?

Posted by R. Pecknold | May 6, 2008 8:26 PM

R. Pecknold, you are smart motherfucker for a kid. I am gonna like your band now. Well put. You hold your own in a pool of idiots (present company included).

Posted by I'm a Nuclear Bomb | May 6, 2008 11:14 PM

@ 38 Robin,

I don't know about the graffiti, but seeing the parking lot that's there now scares the hell outa me.

Posted by The New Seattle | May 6, 2008 11:19 PM

@ 33,

I just heard a story about an out of town band getting completely reamed by King Cobra last weekend. As the story goes, the manager told the door guy to stop charging people halfway through the night because "they weren't making enough money". My (local) band was considering trying to get booked there, but not anymore.


On the other end of the spectrum, the one time we headlined Nectar, they were incredibly detailed as to exactly how much they brought in - spreadsheet and everything. They even had me count the piles of bills before they were distributed.

Posted by naming names | May 7, 2008 8:06 AM

Heard the same story about King Cobra last weekend. When the first band started the place was pretty empty so the club waived the cover charge. By the end of the night the club was full. All those folks were buying lots of drinks. The bands had to "pass the hat" to raise money. When confronted the club said the bands were lucky to get the $$ from the passing of the hat. Bullshit move by King Cobra.

Posted by @44 | May 7, 2008 8:31 AM

I don't know, K.Cobra should have given them something, you're right.

But I'd rather play to a full house any day.

The bands would have made no money playing to an empty room too. I'd rather make no money and play to a full house. More chance there to sell merch.

Did they consult the bands before they started letting people in for free? If they consulted the bands, I think it's ok.

Posted by Axeman | May 7, 2008 9:07 AM

Last weekend, King Cobra made the decision to waive the cover charge to increase attendance and bar sales, so there would be money to pay the bands... and a crowd to play to.

The door guy was pulled at 10:45 after 15 people paid to get in. At the end of the night, bands left early or were offered gas money, and the bar lost it's ass in sales... and house costs.

There were lessons learned. But King Cobra is a new club and is working hard to develop a good reputation with bands and fans.

Posted by kc | May 7, 2008 9:53 AM

My small-fry, unpopular rock band just returned from a brutal couple of weeks in the midwest. There are a few places where the "Old Ways" are still being practiced, which is the only saving grace for a band of our stature to survive in the era of $3.80 gas.

the old ways:
Local bands don't take a cut- You came down to the club after work, the out of town band just drove 300 miles- Your payment will be the return of the favor when you're on the road. I have never in 15 years taken a dime when on a local bill w/ a touring band.

Hospitality-Someone better offer the band a place to sleep, or at least a safe driveway to park their van in, so they can sleep in it w/o waking up to an attmpted break-in.

Club owners and promoters are almost universaly shitty people. There are some notable exceptions (Brian from the Funhouse, as one local example, treats bands very fairly). You will be screwed as often as not. Sometimes they'll just change the deal, sometimes the deal was fucked to begin with, sometimes things just don't work out. You can try to persuade them to do the right thing, you can threaten them with violence. In the end the best thing to do is to realize that without a notable lable behind you- doing promotion, acting as leverage, having a track record with certain venues/promoters- you are doing this as a hobby. Hobbies cost money. You don't expect to get paid to go fishing, do you?

Posted by Chris Jury | May 7, 2008 10:37 AM

this has High Dive written all over it.

The bar has been known to call and harass bands after shows about money, pay-out and how little they made. A friends band even had the bar call and ask for money back from what they were paid, because the bar didn't make enough money.

Posted by educated guess | May 7, 2008 11:08 AM

@ 46,

WE have played at the High Dive on several occasions and never once had a problem dealing with them. The High Dive is a classy joint, they treat us well. Good times are had by all.

Posted by WE Mike | May 7, 2008 11:51 AM

"Last weekend, King Cobra made the decision to waive the cover charge to increase attendance and bar sales, so there would be money to pay the bands... and a crowd to play to."
I played that show. It was a little sparse in the beginning, but they came eventually, as our crowd ALWAYS DOES. We sent a touring band, whose bassist was in the fucking Dead Kennedys no less, away with the money from the hat. A TOURING band! We didn't care if we made a penny - the touring band needed that money. BTW, since the show was free, did the 15 who paid get their money back?

"The door guy was pulled at 10:45 after 15 people paid to get in. At the end of the night, bands left early or were offered gas money, and the bar lost it's ass in sales... and house costs."
Lost its ass in sales, huh? Let's see the books. Do you think losing their ass had anything to do with our crowd knowing what happened at the door? What about the $150 made at the door? Did that go to pay the goon squad? Also, why was there a goon squad - it was a powerepop/new wave show.
If they had kept the doors there, the club would have had at least $2000 to pay out. Everyone wins.
Furthermore, the bands left early because the management told the singer of the headline act "You were lucky to get that $XXX. Take your $XXX and get the fuck out of my club!" I saw the whole thing go down.

"There were lessons learned. But King Cobra is a new club and is working hard to develop a good reputation with bands and fans."
The lesson: Don't play King Cobra, don't watch bands at King Cobra, don't drink at King Cobra. Lesson learned.

Posted by Chazwazzer | May 7, 2008 12:12 PM

(I don't work for the King Cobra, but they seem nice enough.) I have never in my life seen sales jump from $150 to over $2000 in a night for a rock (or "powerepop/new wave") show.

Posted by my band rules | May 7, 2008 12:58 PM

if you are in a band to make money, you are a stupid motherfucker.

Posted by bobcat | May 7, 2008 1:10 PM

That's not so bad... $37.00. Hell, with most of the bands in this city I would CHARGE THEM to play in my club... Just kidding... Seems like a normal situation to me... Openers always get the shaft... Unfortunately they always will... Boo Hoo!

Posted by Rick KLU | May 7, 2008 1:11 PM

Oh yeah, one last thing...

" It's a long way... To the top if you wanna Rock and Roll... Yeah such a long way... Long way..."

Posted by Rick KLU | May 7, 2008 1:22 PM

We as musicians have a responsibility to ensure the quality of the scene we play/work in. The onus is on US to enforce a code of ethics in our industry.

If a club's nefarious actions aren't brought to light, they'll continue as status quo. Door-guys will continue to be pulled, bands will continue to get fucked, and those responsible will not be held accountable.

However, if communication and solidarity are exercised to the fullest extent, an example can be made. Precedents can be set. The bullshit can be made to stop.

We all owe it to ourselves to look out for our fellow musicians -- and we'll be looked-after in turn.

Club owners, promoters, bookers, musicians and savvy fans, listen up: It's a small city. People talk. They SHOULD and WILL talk.

Act right before you earn a well deserved and irreparably marred reputation.

Posted by Aaron | May 7, 2008 3:02 PM


Agreed. For a no name band, the HD is kind of a joke. I've played there once with my no name band. The bookers at the time were running some ticket thing. "Here's 50 tickets to give out for free. Your friends will get in for free and blah blah blah." Granted, we didn't have a great draw (Tuesday night, after all), but at the end of the night, we didn't get paid either.


If I'm not mistaken, your band has juice and a following around town. Now, I'm not expecting any club to treat a no name band the same way your band gets treated, and I also expect the club to want to make money, but how much crap does a band have to take to get to the same level yours is at?

I've seen several shows at the HD and they were packed. I'm certain the bands got theirs, but for startups? Not so sure.

Don't know if the HD is still sending out their ridiculous rider for bands wanting to play there, but, IMO, it is quite lame. Here's some of it.

"Promotion: It is expected that all bands on any given bill work to promote their show. Poster for any one date must be brought to the club 2 weeks prior to the show. If a poster isn’t created by the bands in the proper time High Dive’s graphics team will create one and have it printed. The cost for this is $60 and will be taken out of the door. This will cover the cost of design ($40) and the cost of printing 10 color posters for the club. In Addition to the required posters we encourage all the bands to explore advertising in other means including as well as the xxxxxxxx."

"Graphics team"??? Riiight. So if you don't spend the time to make a poster, you're $60 in the hole before you even set foot on stage.

But wait! There's more!

"Payment: All bands will be paid in accordance with this agreement immediately after the bar is closed. (Band Name) will be paid (whatever you negotiated) after deductions of room fees and 10% for taxes. Room Fees: Weekends $125, Weekdays $75"

And then there's this:

"Merchandise: IN ADDITION the bar owner request one medium size tee shirt and one CD for all bands playing in the club that have such merchandise. CD’s we be used to play in the bar, thus promoting bands that we work with and supporting the local music scene. Tee shirts are worn kindly as a means to promote the bands that have played High Dive and to keep the xxxx happy and in style."

Say what?

I'm not opposed to giving CDs and/or shirts away for free, but to be required to do so to play your club? Huh?

One club I've played several times and always got a fair shake at (meaning got paid) is the Skylark. Jessie (whom I've only met via email) has been good to me, as has Charlie the sound guy. We go, we play, we have fun and we get paid. Funny thing is, they don't charge a cover and they can still pay us. Interesting...

Posted by anon a mouse | May 7, 2008 4:38 PM


I agree, the Skylark has been quite kind to me as well. Not a ton of money, but at least SOMETHING, plus clear communication from the booker and super-nice people working in there.

But then... I never expect to get paid. Which is both a good and bad thing for me. As someone (I'm too lazy to find the comment # at this point) said, it's musicians who need to ensure a reasonable lowest common denominator.

However, I, like Mr. Pecknold, remain completely confused as to how this can happen. It's a lovely sentiment, but it's a bit idealistic, yes?

So for now, I play wherever I can get booked, I have a joyous time because I'm playing music, and I am pretty happy if any money comes out of it. But then, I'm super-small-time. Maybe I'd feel differently if I was semi-big-time.

Posted by Penny Lane | May 7, 2008 6:12 PM

The quoted High Dive email from above... anyone who's played there is familiar with it, but are they still sending it out now that they have a new booker?

I actually brought the requested t-shirt in once and the bartender looked at me like "what the hell is this for"? :-)

Posted by Ted | May 8, 2008 8:41 AM

everyone should read the chapter in freakonomics about drug dealing to understand this.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | May 8, 2008 11:46 AM

When I used to help put on a night at Re-bar it was $50 to the soundguy, $20 to the door guy, everything else to the bands. I thought that was totally fair. Still, when it was a Tuesday night and the crowd was mostly the band's friends that were guestlisted in, the first 14 paying people just covered the expenses. Sometimes there was little money to pay the bands. When it was a bad night, I'd pull $20-$40 from my pocket and give each band at least $10, just to give them something. I found being up front with bands about the breakdown and what came in at the door was the way to go, they weren't pissed for only getting $10 when they knew the breakdown and thought it was fair. A big club is going to have a lot more expenses (and that 10% tax the city takes is lame!), but they still should have a set formula for payout and expenses that they can share with the bands. It's all about transparency and communication, the good clubs have this, the bad ones don't.

I do think bands need to promote their own shows, talk their friends into going, and do posters if they can... it's not all up to the club, and I wouldn't trust a club to promote it as well as you could yourself.

Posted by dan10things | May 8, 2008 12:19 PM

I think its time an actual booking agent steps in here and says something. as former booker of high dive and current booker at the tractor ill kindly explain our "rider"/"show advancement" that was sent out at high dive. the email we would send out to bands once the show was booked wasnt to make us look all holier then thou or scam a free t-shirt but more as a way to get bands to help promote the shows, educate the artist and make it a win win situation for all of the people involved. we want the bands to make money and we want to keep the bands happy and playing high dive. We also wanna make sure you show up on time, know when your playing and make sure your promoting the show. Not once in the almost 4 years i was booker of high dive was anyone charge a graphics fee, nor was any band asked to sell tickets by anyone at high dive. we did use a couple outside promoters that did ask that. if you dont want to sell tickets then dont play the show.

At High Dive we took out ads here at the stranger, the weekly, seattle sound and kexp. Granted thats all part of a owning a business we never took that out of the bands cut. Our costs were taxes, sound and door, pretty basic stuff.

The biggest problem in seattle with local bands is that you over play! how many times did i look at our calendar and compare it with other calendars around town and see other bands playing on the same block the same week. seriously, does it do anyone (the artist/owners/staff) any good to play 3 shows in a week? if you think im kidding look at the calendar here in the stranger?

So at the end of the night, when you walk out with your $12 dollars think..about what you did to promote the show, how many other shows did you play around it. most live music venues in this town are destination spots, meaning that nobody goes there unless they are wanting to see a show. people dont just go to hang out, drink and eat at the average live music venue in town.

I love the music and bands that are in this city, and yes i even play in a few bands myself. overall i dont think alot of bands understand what it takes to open the doors of a live music establishment. all live music venues in this town have costs that need to be re-couped before anyone gets paid. call it unfair or whatever you want, but until you work behind the scenes or own your own place thats just how it is.

the best advice i can give any local band and a few have asked me this in the past, play 1 show a month. always make your posters, flyers, get the show on your websites. at the end of the night, if your show can always have something to fall back on and the chances of you getting another show is always better. the owners, agents and staff always check that stuff out

not ranting, just hoping to open a few eyes and ears in this town.

ps. im no english major so if my writing gets to you sorry, it gets to me too.

rock on seattle

Posted by greg | May 8, 2008 12:41 PM

Nice to see you chime in Greg. This is Brent.. head of interface booking and (once upon a time) Greg's boss.

I see some snapshots of the H Dive rider attached here. To funny... .I love it. The cat is out of the bag. YES we expect bands to promote their shows. We're evil bastard who want everyone to succeed.

On the "$60 fee for bands that don't bring their own posters".. It's obviously in the rider. Here's the deal, in the 4 years we've booked this room we have never ONCE activated that fee.

Now, we Have called bands to tell them,"Dude, hook it up... get us some posters and get excited about your show" but have never had to charge. It seems that (in most cases) we're booking quality bands that have a work ethic. Thank God... that's what allows us to have fun and be successful.

Love you put down your laptop, pick up your instruments and really express something. We'll put cha on stage if you ask nicely and bring a poster and a crowd.

Have FUN!

Posted by brentalicious | May 8, 2008 1:06 PM

hi everyone, #56, thats from the old document that was sent out before i started working there. I still send out a document for every confirmed show, but it is one i have updated. If anyone is truly interested in viewing said document, you can view it at , on the blog that says "BANDS PLAYING SHOWS AT HIGH DIVE: READ THIS!" . I think its important to be up front about what is expected of both artist and venue when a performance agreement is made, this is one way of doing it. Seems to work pretty well and saves some time in the process.

yeah, have fun!

Kwab, booker of High Dive

Posted by kwab | May 8, 2008 1:22 PM

The cover was $10. If 250 show up, that's $2500. Take out club expenses, that's roughly $2000. No?
I never expect to make money at a show. It's always a pleasant surprise when it happens. An unpleasant surprise, though, is when, in the middle of the set, I find out the club stopped charging. Week sauce. I've never had that happen before.
I spoke to an employee of a larger venue in close proximity to KC who said "The bands have to get paid. From the bar, from the door, from the owner's wallet."
Every business has bad nights as well as excellent nights. Take it like a man and pay the musicians. You'll get 'em next time, tiger.
It's a matter of principle, too.
We all know there's no money in it - no-one denies that. But, when musicians say "I'd rather play a packed house for free", they should realize it's not a loss-leader, it's just a loss. Where does it end? At what level of popularity do YOU think bands shouldn't charge money?
All I want is for someone to do what they agreed to do. They agreed to charge $10 and split the door between the bands. They changed the deal. We still played. If we went into the show knowing it was free, everyone wins. I'm playing a free show this weekend. Who fucking cares? Right?
You're free to do as you see fit for your band. Play for free, give your music away, whatever. But, don't tell me what I should want or expect, or that I'm stupid for wanting it. I've been doing this for fifteen fucking years. I know how it works.
Also . . .
Kwab, you rule!

Posted by Chazwazzer | May 9, 2008 12:31 AM

When I book shows at my apartment, I give all the band members a lap dance as compensation.

Posted by Joh | May 9, 2008 6:51 AM

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