Venues vs Musicians?

The Cult at Ventura TheaterWould it make a difference on the venues and festivals and events you attended if you found out the bands were not being compensated?  Or that they had to pay to play?  Or that they were not paid what was promised?

Of course it would.

Would you be curious to know the venues who don’t pay their musicians, or worse, who don’t pay what was promised?

But would you also want to know about which venue promised “X” amount of dollars and they made “zilch” for the evening losing money because the band did not pull in anyone?

It would be easy to say it’s Venues vs. Musicians, but it shouldn’t, because this is a collaboration, or more concise an exchange.  The musicians play for compensation.  The venue hires the musician to make more income (than without the musician) so they CAN compensate the artists and have an ideal setting for their patrons.

So there has to be a mutual responsibility. The venue promotes, but the band has to do so as well.  But more important is whether all the promotion is fruitful in the end. Did people show up?  And did they spend money?

Just as the musician rightfully should be paid for his work, the venue can’t expect to be a charity, paying for artist who bring in diddly squat; which is why the people who book bands have an obligation to the owners of the venue (they are sometimes one and the same) to not take chances with unknown bands.

The economy has improved but it certainly has not fully recovered.  Rent is high!  Venue overheads are insane!  Add to that an entertainment budget and you start to understand how fortunate we really are; it’s taken for granted that music will be available because we have such an abundance here in Ventura.  From the Harbor to the East end of town to Downtown Ventura and, on most every night of the week, we have live music.

In an ideal world, venue owners would love to pay their musicians top dollars while making a profit.

In a not-so-ideal world, venue owners take advantage of musicians and use them to get more people in the door so they can make a profit, yet have no intention of compensating the artist their worth (if at all).

In a sad world, venue owners and promoters require bands to pay to play and then make much more money at the door…because people want to hear those bands play.

I also realize that not all venue owners are the best business people. Their rent and overhead are almost prohibitive to allowing an entertainment budget, yet they continue to provide music, because they believe in this music community.  Bands play for them because they want to “support” them back.

So it’s not always black and white on the issue of whether a band should play for free once in a while, or whether a venue can pay what was promised.  It’s easy to be a Monday Morning Quarterback, but unless you’re in the trenches trying to make a living, (as a venue owner or a musician), then it’s really not altogether fair to say what’s right and what is wrong in a broad general statement.

But habitual abusers?  Wrong wrong wrong.

The ongoing debate on whether musicians should play for free may continue, (especially the newer bands paying their dues undercutting experienced well-known musicians out of the equation), but what can you, as a music lover do to help our music scene thrive?

Loosen your purse strings and support the venues and events who pay their musicians. Buy dinner there; pay the cover charge; get a late night snack, or buy a round of drinks (soda counts!). This is how venues stay in business.  It’s not rocket science!

We do our best to get out and support our venues at least two to three times a week…on top of keeping updated daily and posting on Facebook hoping to inspire others to do the same.   And I see so many of the same groups of friends supporting already!  So my intention is to NOT preach to the choir.  You know who you are and whether you’re already supporting.  LOVE YOU!!!

We have over 50 businesses in Ventura alone which offer music occasionally, and at least 35 who offer music every single week!  Crazy!!

So in the end, you’ll ask yourself, did you help?  Did you take some responsibility in making this town a great music community?

Let’s spread the love, and continue to support our music scene because it really comes down to just that.  We can all help alleviate the problem of artists being underpaid by supporting the venues who do pay for musical entertainment. Get out and be willing to spend money to have live music by extraordinary musicians.

Let’s keep this scene alive, because I truly believe today more than when we started this thing, that Ventura Rocks!!!


4 thoughts on “Venues vs Musicians?

  1. This may be a stupid question (I totally support your comments by the way) but how do we know or how can we find out which venues, who we know are making money,(because we do there and buy food/drinks) are NOT paying the musicians (for whatever reason). I can’t know who to support (or not) if I don’t know that, or am in the know. Thanks!

    • I think it is totally appropriate to ask management (either while you’re there, or send them an email or letter or even call during non busy hours) If they reply that the musicians work for food/drinks or they’re playing for the exposure, or they want to help that venue, then, I would ask the band how they feel about it.

      There is something to be said about giving “newer” bands a place to showcase what they have to offer. So it is a fine line. And it is understandable that established musicians would resent that. But if the venue also showcases established artists and pays them their worth…while giving unknowns a place from time to time, then it seems like a workable situation.

      This is a worthy discussion. Hope to hear from venues & artists on this subject without animosity and with the viewpoint of working this issue out.

  2. We have over two hundred people on our e-mail list but may only get two or three people at our gigs, some times none. On special occasions we may get 10 to 12. If we play 2 or 3 times a week, it is un-realistic to think they will show up all the time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *