Dear Bands, You Are Not Special

*Originally posted on March 31st, 2014 as an editorial piece for


“Soooo… we’ve had some changes to the lineup tonight and now you’re on first, and you’ll only have 30 minutes.”

You’re a hard working band who’s earned every bit of success you have by the sweat of your brow. You’ve screen-printed your own shirts, bought your own tour van with your own pooled-together money, even Kickstarted enough cash to record and release your first album. You have thousands of online fans, and everyone who sees your show believes you are going to be the next major star.

So why are you still playing Tuesday night opening slots for a show you had to sell tickets to be on at a venue who wants to pay you with free beer and doesn’t think twice about last minute changes to the lineup or cutting your set time in half? It’s because to the venue, you are not special. Yep… that’s right, I said it. Your band is not special. I’ve met literally THOUSANDS of these bands over my years in the industry, where only a handful ever get much further than this level of self-sustainability. Usually they break down or break up after their first short tour, or they stay local playing only a few venues in rotation because they can’t get it through their heads that you’re never done paying dues. You’re never going to get the “rockstar treatment” unless you are one of a few hundred acts in the world who are filling arenas and festivals.

take-a-numberThe average music venue hosts bands 5 nights a week, conservatively 3 bands per night (although I’ve seen some who cram 8-half hour sets in just to get the place enough business to pay for the bands’ bartabs). Either way, that’s a minimum of 15 bands per week, 780 bands in a year. Trust me… whatever new hot sound and crazy stage antics you’re about to drop on them, they’ve already seen. The bartenders probably have closets full of free black t-shirts with white ink scrawling out an illegible band name nobody’s ever heard of.

If you want to get beyond shitty timeslots and lackluster promotion from the venue, you have to earn the venue as a fan. The best way you can do this is by bringing live bodies into the place to pay a cover and spend money at the bar. No amount of ass-kissing or stellar stage show is going to ever be more important than the numbers you can draw without the bar’s help. Of course, being professional is important, and so is the talent you possess, but nothing speaks more loudly than profit, especially in a time when the venues that give upstart bands a chance are dropping like flies. Be understanding when changes are made to the show that are outside of your control. Roll with it, and make a good time out of every opportunity.

No amount of ass-kissing or stellar stage show is going to ever be more important than the numbers you can draw without the bar’s help. #DIYMusic Share on X

So next time the prima donna in your group raises a fuss about how your band got the shaft, take a moment to count the heads you brought into the room and ask yourself… of the 780 bands this stage will host this year, why are YOU the special one?


*Disclaimer: This is not to say venues don’t screw bands… it happens, but that’s a whole other issue. This is just a frustrated vent directed towards overly-entitled shitsticks with Christmas guitars.

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