Tuesday, January 29, 2013

It's a win/win, right?!  Not so fast, pal...

The Preachers played a gig a couple of weeks ago at a well known, but struggling nightclub in Seattle's downtown Pioneer Square neighborhood.  Pioneer Square used to be a smokin' hot location for live music clubs, as noted elsewhere on this blog.  The club's long time owner passed away last year, and the joint is now owned by one of the former owner's relatives and a new manager is responsible for booking the bands. 

This club featured live music six nights a week for over 20 years.  Local mainstream and trad jazz bands played Monday through Thursday, and blues or blues rock bands played on Friday and Saturday.  Back in the day, the same band would usually play both Friday and Saturday, but for quite a while now the blues has only been featured on Saturday nights.  This is pretty typical of the Seattle area these days - it is very unusual for a band to play anywhere for more than one night.

The club would also occasionally feature national touring acts.  I recall seeing Charles Brown, Jimmy Rogers, Larry Davis, and Mark Hummel there.  Those were the days!

One nice thing about playing at this place was that the pay was always decent, usually $100 a player, plus tips from the crowd.  However, when the economy crashed in 2008, it hit this place (and all other clubs in the neighborhood) hard.  Our five-piece band was getting paid $400 an night (plus tips) at the time the owner passed.  When the new owner sorted out the remaining bookings, we were told that the new pay for all bands would now be $200 a night.

Say WHAT?!  As much as we want to keep playing at this place, we can't do it at that price.  So we came up with what we thought was a great idea - we would accept the club's $200 dollar guarantee if they would let us charge a cover and add that money to the kitty.  The manager agreed.  One of my siblings agreed to collect the low $5.00 cover charge (note: never let the club collect cover charges for you, for obvious reasons), and lo and behold!  At the end of the night, we all made over $100 a player, just like the old days!

We thought it was all good.  The club paid $200 for a rockin' band, the place was full, for a change, of happy customers buying booze and food, and having fun on purpose, and the band got paid decently.  I did notice though, that it seemed to be breaking the owner's heart when he handed that $200 over to me at the end of the night.

The Boneyard Preachers, left to right: Tim Sherman guitar), Patty Mey (bass), Steve Yonck (guitar), Conrad Ormsby (drums), and Mike Lynch (harp and vocals).  Photo by Marta Smith.

Sure enough, we couldn't get the manager to respond to e-mails or calls regarding another booking.  So I dropped in there tonight and cornered her before she took off for the evening.  She told me that she would be happy to book the Preachers into the joint practically any Saturday we wanted as long as we didn't charge a cover and accepted the $200 in pay.  Well, that was a no-brainer, so I declined, of course.

We are just the most recent band to bail on this club.  Most of the other regular performers have moved on also.  I wish the new owner luck with this business that he as inherited.  Hopefully, he will figure out how to make a go of it or sell the place before he loses his shirt!

Check out the Boneyard Preachers here: http://www.reverbnation.com/boneyardpreachers


Anonymous said...

bummer. Funny thing is I played in blues bands in the 70's and usually made $75 or $100 a night. Plus all I could drink and sometimes other "perks".
Now I came back to band gigs after raising a family and the pay is basically the same with no perks, a drink monitor and yeah, you never get a two night stand.

Michael Lynch said...

Right, pay for club gigs in Seattle has remained essentially the same for 30+ years. However, our dollars had a lot more purchasing power bacK in the day!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I have a blues quartet in Columbia SC and we work rooms for $200 a night. Unless your calendar is so full you have no open dates I think you are just trying to gather evidence against an expense savvy owner.

Think after reading your post you burned a bridge.
You are collapsing the new owners with the old owners
and the result is you turned down a paying gig and then trashed them on the net. Great move!

Why don't you create a community of owners and players OR open your own club man. Owners are not the enemy. Get hip!

Michael Lynch said...

@Anonymous Columbia SC - So you guys typically make $100 less a night than we do in the NW. That sucks!

My experience has been this-after 30+ years of playing in clubs, I know that you can never expect a raise in your pay again after accepting a decrease. It ain't gonna happen. There are plenty of bands that will play for less, no matter how low the money goes.

At some point you gotta move on, like we and several other bands have done.

Michael Lynch said...

Anonymous Columbia SC's other post was deleted because it was a duplicate.


Mike Lynch said...

Oh, and by the way, I have worked for club owners that WERE the enemy. I'm just sayin'...

Anonymous said...

Hey brother you lead with your ego. Build a community and a partnership with all! That means bandmates, owners and fans. A vet of 30 years knows there is no typical in this bizz. I've been gigging since 1964, what were you doing in 64'?
Any owner committed to live music is a friend. It's always give and take. Unless you are above it all. In that case go get a real job.
Your attitude stinks brother, and that = less gigs. Now thats a thought! Less gigs is better.

Michael Lynch said...

Let's see, I was 14 in 1964, so you got me there, Anonymous! I already have a real job. It would be a little difficult to support a family playing gigs for $200 a night. That would be $40 a night for me. At THAT rate, less gigs is better!

Wait a minute, you don't mean $200 per band member, per night, right? If so, I'm moving to Columbia!

Anonymous said...

OK wise guy you win. I hope your readers get how
juvenile you sound. This reader gets it. Why don't you drop back and do some HS gigs or Battles.
$40 one night $240 the next.
We use those gigs to work things out. You are a superstar so Im sure your above all that. Why do you blog? What is your mission? If you think this is offering something to your readers you IS crazy.
Hey have a good ........ maybe I'll catch you at SPAH or in Memphis. Happy honking
Signing off from Columbia SC

Michael Lynch said...

Why do blog? Believe it or not, it's not because I enjoy annoying musicians in far away places. I do it for strictly selfish reasons.

If people don't dig my posts, I couldn't care less. Move on, please.

But I'll tell ya, saying that I gotta get hip...THAT's gonna leave a mark!