How many times have you gone out to hear your favorite band play and the venue was charging a cover? How much is too much? Does paying a cover sway you one way or the other?
Venues that charge a cover charge when bands are playing are a source for some great debate. I posed this question on my Facebook profile yesterday and received alot of great responses from musicians, bar owners, and fans. Because of the state of the economy, not only are we, the consumers, suffering but the establishments that offer entertainment to us (i.e bands) are suffering as well.
One bar owner stated that "Venues book bands to bring in NEW clientele that wouldn't normally frequent their bar. Just because the place is packed does not mean the patrons are spending money, and that is why alot of places charge a cover." Let's face it, bars make the majority of their money from alcohol sales and not everyone drinks alcohol! But at the end of the night the band/entertainment still needs to be paid. I, for one, do enjoy my "adult beverages" but I do not drink everytime I go out to see a band play. So this bar owner makes a very valid point.
Some fans of local bands also made some valid points. One fan said "I don't have a problem paying a cover because I understand that a venue is responsible for paying the band. With the new liquor laws and people, like myself, who don't drink alcohol, the revenue is not coming in like it used to, so the cover helps supplement the lost revenues."
Another fan said "$5.00 for a cover charge is reasonable but a venue that does not charge a cover is more attractive." One thing that seemed to be a constant in all the responses I received was if the drink prices are kept reasonable, and the venue is a good venue (good customer service, good reputation, good food, great wait staff, etc.) then paying a cover would not be a problem with $5.00 being the reasonable maximum amount they would pay. The exception to that rule would be if there were more than one band playing in one night, and then $10.00 would be a reasonable maximum amount they would pay for cover.
Musicians, on the other hand, had very differing opinions on this matter. The one thing that is evident with most local musicians/bands is they don't feel their fans should have to be the ones to "pay" for the band via a cover charge. They feel it is the venues responsibility to pay the bands/entertainment and not the fans. The fans pay for the food and drink.
One musician stated, "If the place is nice, and a person enjoys going there and generally the place has good bands, then a modest cover charge is OK. The cover should also cause the bands to make more money there, too. It is not a one-sided thing. Venues today are competing with clubs and firehalls where the drinks are cheap so keep that in mind."
Another musician disagreed and said, "I have seen through out my time playing in the valley that cover charges turn people away no matter how good a band is or how terrible a band is. Venues tend to think that by hiring a band to play, that band is required to bring in the crowd to their venue as well, and that is not the case. My band is hired to entertain your customers not to fill your establishment."
What I have noticed for the past 3-4 years is that the relationships between venues and bands/musicians have become strained and lazy. Venues, on the average, do not advertise/promote like they did 3-4 years ago.
I remember when I first moved here in 2005, I could open up the local paper and find out who was playing where every weekend because venues advertised. You don't see alot of that anymore with venues advertising what is going on and it is sad. I realize the economy is rough, money is tight, and times have changed but sometimes you need to spend a little money to make some money. One of the first questions asked of a venue is does the venue advertise/promote?
Which brings me to another question: Why don't venues advertise what entertainment will be provided at their establishments anymore like they used to? Is it a money issue, is it a lack of interest on the venue's part (as long as the band does it for them and they make money, why should they do anything to help), or has the concept of social media taken things to a different level that should be addressed? I will discuss this question next week.
Have a great weekend everyone and until next time..Music feeds the soul!!