I Want to Play Clubs that Pay Me. How Do I Do That?

I want to play clubs that pay me. How do I do that?
By Sarah Potenza

Hey there, my name is Sarah Potenza Crossman, and I currently book my band without an agent for an average of $2,000 and up a month. I play just about every Friday and Saturday night as well as a few weeknight gigs. But it wasn’t always like this. I used to be willing to play just about anywhere for little or no pay. Why? Because I am a musician and I love to play music. But you know what; we all deserve to get paid! And let’s face it, no one is going to give you more money then you tell them you deserve. I wish all musicians would just stop playing for free because it undermines the people willing to “say, yes I would love to play at your club, now let’s talk about the guarantee.”

But since that’s not going to happen, let me tell you personally how to get paid.

First of all, you need to know your market. If your music is your product, what store (club) should you be selling it at? Where would people who are into your sound hang out? Another words you wouldn’t see designer jeans at a hardware store, so why would a country band try to play a hip hop club?  Ask yourself what kind of place do you see your band going over well?

Once you’ve decided what you are trying to sell, and you have picked out a couple of clubs or restaurants, you need to find out if they will pay you? But before you can do that, you need to be ready to sell yourself to them. You will need a website (myspace or sonicbids will do, but your own sight looks better) you need media, video, demos, a bio, and photos. Hopefully you have recorded an album, but if not don’ worry, you will need something on cd, maybe a live show, or a demo. Once you’ve got all that you have the tools you need to approach any club owner or booking agent.

Now there are a couple of ways to do this. You can email the club your info and see if they bite. If you do this be sure to include a list of clubs you’ve played, any press reviews, a short bio, photo and (VERY IMPORTANT) a link to your music. I think this is only a first step because most of these emails don’t get much of a response. I like to call and ask who does the booking. If they are not there, get a name and time you can call back, put it on your calendar (don’t have one, get one!)  And follow though. Once you get a hold of someone you should introduce your self. Let them know your band in interested in playing there, and ask if you can email them a link to your music.

Now lets say all that went well (sometimes they don’t want to hear unsolicited stuff) and you got the email sent out. Wait a week, and call back. Remind them who you are and ask if they had a chance to hear your stuff. Hopefully they did and they would like to give you a shot. They might say that the deal for bands is X amount of pay. Now the ball is in your court. You can take it or leave it. I recommend taking what they offer but saying something like “I get this much for a sat night, but I would love to do it for X and if you like us, we will charge this amount next time”

Be realistic about pay, you want to get at least $50 a guy, so ask for $75 a man, or $100 a man if you know you can draw, or you think the bar can afford to pay it. In some cases playing for the door is okay, but I find that clubs that pay you %100 of the door, and charge everyone to get in, are rare. Stay away from places that make you play the sound guy. There are some exceptions. If you really think it will benefit your band to play at a certain club, but the pay sucks, do it anyways. You might get more out of it then you think.


A lot of clubs usually have set amounts they pay. When you do find a club that pays it can be hard to get in because everybody knows they pay, and they are all booked up. In that case hang out there, drop off a demo, talk to the booking guy, go to their open mic and do a few songs. Let him know you are around and cool. In a lot of cases face time is the most important tool you have.

Once you get the gigs you will want more of them. Finding the good ones is a lot of time a research. Search the Internet for places that are like the ones you play. For example, if you go over well at restaurants with live music, then look on yelp for more in your area and contact them. Another very important tool is networking. Talk to bands you think you have a common music style with. Where do they play? Check out their calendar or talk to them at one of their shows.

One last thing, get a google calendar going with your band mates. If you suddenly start getting paying gigs, you don’t want to have to cancel them because of conflicts. A shared calendar makes it easy to avoid double booking.

Now get out there and go get paid!

www.SarahPotenza.com



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