A letter to music venues…

Dear venue owners and managers,

You may have noticed a decline in attendance, lower quality of music, and generally unappreciative performers. I feel your pain and have some suggestions for you so that you get the highest quality of music, more attendance, and happiness in your life.

We professional musicians–the humble, the great–know we are servants. We bring joy and soul to the darkest corners of downtown, and then shlep our axes through the back alleys.

Pay us.

That’s right! Monetary compensation for a service which we have trained for years to be able to provide. Some of us even went to school to better understand the magic that we bring. Do you understand how disheartening it is to watch the doorman go home with most of our cover?

Weed out the amateurs. We don’t mind.

Don’t feel you should pay lower quality musicians? We agree! Take a little time to make sure your acts are the real deal. Feel free to listen to the music. Look at our resumes. You are a curator.

Have a decent PA system.

If we bring our own PA, it might not be the best kind for your specific venue. We want to sound our best so people are comfortable STAYING. You want that too.

Feed us.

Musicians shouldn’t have to spend money to stay standing at a gig. It is common courtesy to provide food.

Don’t give us “drink tickets”.

It’s like giving an allowance to a 23 year old. It’s patronizing to 1) be paid in beer (Is that how you pay your bartenders?) and 2) have you assume we are gluttonous drunks.

Promote us.

We will do our fair share of promo, but unless you want us to only bring our friends and family (half of which will want to be on the guest list and none of which will return without us), do a little work. Get us on your website calendar (with a picture, mini-bio, and link to our website). Put up our flyer in your bathroom.

We have fans, but the steady working musician can’t be expected to bring them to every gig. I’m sure there are fans of your venue. Bring them out! What’s more, if you can build a reputation for always having amazing musicians, people won’t even care who is playing. They will show up.

Stop offering us “exposure”.

To what are you exposing us? Our own fans who we painstakingly convinced to come support us? Unless you have a large, built-in audience (e.g. a festival) that is there to see what great new act you have procured, “exposure” means nothing to us. NOTHING. (And if you are running a festival, you should be paying musicians anyway because that’s probably why people are there.)

Okay, take a deep breath. You are probably pretty angry right now and want to switch to Pay-to-Play just to spite us (if you haven’t already). We know that you are running a business. We are too. You need to make a profit. There are expenses. And unless you are happy with a noob garage band who will trash your lovely establishment or drink until horizontal because that is their only payment, we are one of those expenses. You have a right to expect excellence. We WANT to provide you with quality entertainment. We WANT people to keep ordering food and drink all night so they stay and watch us. We WANT to build a rapport with you. So please stop pushing us away by making gigging a miserable experience.

Treat us well and we will be your bards, your court jesters, and your geisha.

Because, remember, when you are counting on word of mouth, we hold the microphone.

With love,
A Working Class Musician

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