It’s a bit of an understatement to say that original bands have a tough time making income for their performances – much more so than cover bands. When a band plays covers, they understand their singular purpose: to entertain the masses. The venue has employed them to make sure the crowd has a good time. People should be dancing, drinking, eating, drinking some more, reminiscing about songs from their youth, ordering birthday shots, singing along, hooking up and you know…perhaps a little more drinking.
In exchange for playing the role of the human jukebox, cover bands are rewarded with something called…payment. In Denver these days, payment is typically $400-$800 a night (for the whole group) when performing at most local bars. And so a typical four-piece ensemble might make $100-200/man for 4+ hours of work (more like 6+ when you take into account load-in and out).
Cover bands often have to lug their own PA system as well. Apart from obvious liability issues, they will need to employ a sound man, maybe to take an equal cut of the pie, or maybe even a flat $100-$200 rate out of the total gross proceeds, thus cutting individual band member income even further.
Original bands are usually not even welcome in the haunts of cover bands. Thankfully, there are venues dedicated to original music and many of these are more desirable to play than the bar circuit. There are formal stages, decent sound systems in place and maybe even lighting and more; a far cry better than scooting a pool table out of the way to make room for the band at the local bar.
But because these original music venues typically have less walk-in traffic or “regulars,” a large part of the onus falls on the bands to supply the people. Original bands usually play multi-band lineups with short sets (45 minutes to an hour) to bring fans out in decent numbers and not fatigue their ears. If your band can clear $150 for a set (30 fans @ $5 each), you’re actually starting to approach the hourly income of a cover band. But you can surpass the hourly wage mentality altogether if you’re willing to be an entrepreneur…
Here are some suggestions to optimize income for original bands:
In short, don’t fret about the fact that you will need to mobilize your people in order to get paid these days. This is a fact of life in the new millennium. To make decent income you will need to stay in control of the environment, collaborate whenever possible and, oh yeah, produce the best possible music and live show you can.