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June, 2006

"Working With Club Owners"

by Webmaster

I wondered what to write about this month--figured since I'm concentrating on songwriting these days, I'd write something about songwriting.

Well, a few things involving booking at clubs have happened recently, and I thought I'd mention them.

  • Club #1 changed hands, and some of the same people continue to play there. In addition, a bunch of new people are playing there. The club manager has taken to scheduling folks for Friday-Saturday night gigs, then giving one of those nights to someone else later. Sometimes he remembers to notify the person who lost the gig. Sometimes he doesn't.
  • Club #2 seems to have closed. I got the info via e-mail from one of my fans who lives near there. At this point, the folks with gigs there this month have not been notified by the club.
  • Club #3 is owned by someone who tends to forget who he has booked, when he booked them, and what he agreed to pay them. One musician did not receive the pay they agreed to.

These things happen in the real world. It would be nice if they didn't, but they do. In all of these cases, the club owner/manager is also doing the bookings in addition to his/her other duties. 24 hours are not enough to do everything they need to do. Day to day business decisions and crises take first priority. The business of a club is to sell product to customers: food and drinks must be prepared; inventory must be purchased; cooks, waiters, bus staff must be hired and managed; advertising must be designed and purchased; bills must be paid; kitchens and dining areas must be cleaned; toilets must be unclogged.

Mundane? From a musicians standpoint, yes. Necessary? Absolutely!!!

Going out of business is traumatic, even when welcome. I've been helping a store in my town close--the owners are retiring. It's a lot of work to count inventory, sell what is salable (product and equipment), pack what gets moved (product and equipment), move, clean the empty space, and deliver what gets sold. A place to put everything that's being kept must be located and filled. All of this must be done by a deadline controlled by a lease. Anything not controlled by that deadline can be postponed.

To a musician, these mistakes and oversights are more than just minor inconveniences. Musicians rely on the money they earn to pay their rent and buy gas and groceries. Accepting a gig for one night might mean turning down another gig. When that gig gets cancelled, it is more than inconvenient. It is a serious loss of money.

To a musician, the club owner/manger appears to be incompetent and to be treating the musicians with a total lack of respect.

I can understand the club owners conflicts: more things need to be done by deadlines than phone calls to musicians to organize schedules and clear up double bookings. They happened long before I got into the business and will continue to happen.

I can also understand the musicians need to have gigs and pay confirmed.

So, what can musicians do to make booking easier?

  • Accept that mistakes happen and roll with the punches (It won't make up for the lost money but you'll live longer.)
  • Call and confirm gigs (You might avoid the expense of a wasted trip and might even have time to get another gig.)
  • Get into a network situation where double bookings can be caught early (ie.
  • Stop playing at clubs where the mistakes appear to be intentional (This will hurt you more than it hurts the club--there are lots of musicians looking for gigs.)
  • Put the booking dates, payment, and other details in writing (This will help you remember the details.)
  • Get the written arrangements to the club owner/manager and get his/her signature on it--and leave a copy with the club (This will help the club remember the details.)

Aha! What we have here is a contract. Wow. What a concept. (Does sarcasm come through the written word?)

It doesn't have to be a formal contract--it could be simply a list of the details and the signatures show that both parties have agreed to the details. Consider it a simple reminder for everybody.

It's a lot more work for each gig, and may not be necessary for every gig / club. But, it's invaluable for those clubs where it is needed, and it may save a lot more than the time it took, in the long run.

Well, I didn't know where I was going with this when I started writing. It might have been more interesting to write about songwriting, but I'll save that for another month. Just in case you stuck with me this far, and have a sense of humor, you might want to read a Sample Music Contract.

Thanks for visiting

An added note (July, 2006):

Even putting things in writing may not help. I know of a gig that was booked for August 11 in late May, and details were put in writing on June 3. There was no feedback from the club owner until an e-mail dated Wednesday, July 19, 2006:

Sorry about not getting back to you sooner, It was a mistake on my behalf that [another group was] booked, however, they are a tried and true draw at the pub and it is my final decision to keep them, I am sorry to cancel at this late date.

An added note (February, 2007):

The club closed in the fall and the club owner was seen again, as an employee of a hotel in charge of special events.

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