One of the great things about living in a town with multiple wine bars is that we have a lot of choices, not just in where we choose to enjoy wine, but where to enjoy the entertainment that these venues typically provide. On any given weekend night, there are might be as many as half a dozen or more places with a variety of live music to keep our toes tapping.
A friend of mine, who is a very good musician, recently posted a Facebook link to an article that made a lot of points about how the bar scene is not always the friendliest place for the professional musician to operate.
My take on the article is that the author had the following main complaints…
Pay is often very poor in these venues, driven by a lot of factors, including the economy and the proliferation of amateur musicians taking gigs away from the pros.
Venue owners expect the performers to bear the primary responsibility for bringing in customers.
I certainly empathize with the author’s concerns regarding compensation, and understand it must be tough trying to make a living as a professional musician, or as any kind of artist, especially for those who don’t have “day jobs” to fall back on.
And I agree that wine bars and restaurants should have strong marketing campaigns of their own to continue to build new business.
But, somewhere in here is a happy medium, I think.
The wine bar is, at the end of the day, a business trying to make a profit (or at least survive), and should be able to expect whatever marketing effort the entertainer can bring to the table, definitely not as the primary marketer, but rather as a supplement. The band’s followers can then be introduced to a new venue, and hopefully come back as regular customers.
I don’t think the band should be held accountable for a bad turnout. But a popular band is going to be rewarded with future gigs, hopefully at reasonable pay. And in these days of social media, it really isn’t that difficult to send out an email blast or invite your friends to a Facebook event. Even creating a simple flyer, which can be reused by simply changing the venue name and date, serves as a visual aid to increase interest, and the bar can use the flyer on its own website and Facebook page as well.
In rereading the above, I fear I am not coming across as sympathetic to the entertainer as I intended. I feel I am a pretty big supporter of live music, and really appreciate the quality of the shows we get. All I am saying is that the band should be doing some self promotion of their events (after all it is in their best interests, right?) while the owner of the venue bears primary responsibility for marketing its venue to the public.
To gauge if I was on the right track with this, I checked with a very good friend of mine, who is a long-time professional musician as well as being a successful business owner in the financial field. He had this to say….
“At the end of the day, for a business to be successful, there are many components that need to be addressed, of which marketing is only one.
For the club (or wine bar) to be successful, it needs to offer:
1. Good food
2. Good service
3. Good atmosphere
4. Quality entertainment
5. Guests need to walk out with a strong desire to return
For a club band to be successful, it needs to:
1. Play quality music
3. Sound good
4. Be reliable
5. Play a repertoire that most people want to hear
6. Attract a following because of the above
I have played more bars in my career than most people have ever been in and the successful ones always treat the music makers with a modicum of respect. When a club owner offered me a meal and a drink or two on the house (which is next to no expense for them), it would put me and the band at ease to play great, not only for ourselves but wanting to make sure the club had a great night as well. It let me know that the club owner understood that the entertainment was an important component in his success and that we were partners for the evening. Unfortunately (and I could never figure out why), most owners are antagonistic to the very people they hire for entertainment, which just tees up a fuck you attitude.
At the end of the day, I never expected a club owner to make my band successful but I always expected the club to have a built in clientele before I showed up. I understand promoting my band and what I have to do to “spread the word” that we will be playing somewhere and trust that what I have to offer will bring those listeners back as well as their friends. I know that is good business for the club as well if I can bring a “crowd” but I expect the club to be promoting itself as well. It should not be my exclusive responsibility to fill the place. I can help make the cash register sing, but I can’t do it by myself.
For a successful relationship to exist, each party must assume responsibility for its own success. The musician needs to understand that the club owner needs to turn a profit to stay open and the club owner needs to create an environment that respects the musician.
As far as musicians working for next to nothing and club owners bringing in crappy bands for a one night blitz, that’s just bad business and shortsightedness on both fronts. Everyone needs to define what they are worth, what is trying to be accomplished and hold themselves to a higher standard.”
The above points are worth noting, for all concerned, as it is not enough to bring people in if they are not going to want to come back.
And for the record, I agree with the author’s comments in the original article that started this all regarding hiring amateurs who bring in their friends and family for their one big performance. Quality performers will bring people back.
I’d love to hear other viewpoints on this, from both sides of the fence.
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. (2013 Update: Eve and Michael announced Eve Wine 101 Consulting. Info is here: http://evewine101.com/press-releases/) Michael can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.