Fifty on their heels knows how to get by
Fifty on Their Heels manager Scott Pactor offers advice on how bands can land repeat paying gigs:
"Low bar total equals failure, high bar total equals success," he blogs at catdirtsez.blogspot.com. "The success of the bar ultimately rests on the size of the guest list. This hurts the promoters, but benefits the bar, and the Beauty Bar will cut you if your bar total is low...so the comp list [for a July show] was close to 100. So, that's like $500 that the bands lose [in cover charges], but an additional $1500 or whatever for the bar [in drink sales], so what are you going to do? Cultivate the guest list. Expand the guest list...do you think I care whether I collect the cover? Get in there and drink."
Patrick's II in the Gaslamp Quarter reportedly pays bands $350 on weekday evenings (when there's usually no cover) and $450 on weekends (when admission averages $5).
Local bands report playing for a bar tab at the Zombie Lounge, the Ken Club, and Scolari's.
The Epicentre requires bands to presell a minimum of 32 tickets. Opening bands are expected to draw 32 to 50 people, for which they're paid $1 a head. Supporting acts in the middle of the bill need to bring in 50 to 95 people, which earn bands $1.75 per head. Local headliners are expected to draw 96 or more people, to be paid $2.50 per head. Multiband local showcases are structured to pay $1 per head for the first 50 tickets sold and $2 per head for 51 or more.
A local musician who often plays the Casbah says, "Bands don't compare notes [on pay], but as far as I know, [receiving] door percentages would probably be only for really big bands. I don't know about beer tabs, but bands do play there for free to get a break, especially at local showcases where admission is free. I've never heard of an opening band there not being paid, though in some cases it will vary by crowd size or lack thereof. Openers for a big show probably get paid between $40 and a few hundred, depending on a whole lot of variables."
Another local says, "The Belly Up pays bands when admission will be $10 or more at the door, usually $100 to $200. Some bands opt for lower pay in exchange for more [free] drink tickets."