Trumpet Wom'

It’s a paradox every up and coming musician knows about: going out to build a fan base by playing lot’s of shows at bars with no draw themselves who always ask “How many people can you draw?” Two parties who want and can’t provide the same thing for each other.

Now it makes sense to me when a music venue asks about draw, they are in the business of hosting concerts. As for the bars, I’m calling BS. If you are a bar you are in the business of selling alcohol. While live music is a great idea for creating a specific vibe and attracting new customers, the success of the bar should not depend on musicians but your ability to provide drinks and an environment that people want to drink in.

Many bars arrogantly treat musicians as if they’re doing us musicians a favor. No pay, no new fans, sometimes these bars have the audacity to charge the musicians (please don’t ever do this)! Thanks so much for the favor. Moreover, many of these bars have shoddy to no musical equipment and put zero to 5% effort into promoting the events. What a horrible business partnership.

Now there are bars who approach this the right way. One of my favorite bars in Brooklyn is The Way Station. I have a good time there whether I’m playing or just hanging out and the live music is a big part of it. Not only do they treat musicians with respect, but the booker puts thought into how the night is booked, pairing together similar sounding bands in one night, booking unique acts and ACTUALLY promoting. Every month they print out the shows for the month, they feature the acts of the week on their website landing page and they are happy to put up posters in their windows.

The difference to note between these two examples is what they’re focused on. The bars with no draw are focused on money (or their lack thereof) while bars like The Way Station are focused on the value they are adding to everybody they interact with which in turn attracts money to them. This makes the difference in any business and I think many bars that try to use live music to attract customers are missing this point.

If people can trust you to have good acts booked, they’ll just wander in repeatedly and randomly. If people can only trust you to book bands with a good draw, that may or may not sound good or have a good vibe, they’ll just go when their friend’s band is playing and as you’re not a real music venue you’ll have a harder time attracting bands with high draw.

So musicians, stop working with bars that treat you like crap and have no draw, they aren’t helping you! And bars with no draw trying to use musicians to attract customers, please focus on what value you’re adding and not what people are giving you, I think it will work out better for all who are involved in the end. What do you think? What are some of your favorite bars to play at or see live music?

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