“How Many People Can You Bring?” - The Discord Between Musicians & The Hospitality Industry {by Chris Davis}

Uncategorized Jul 13, 2020

“How Many People Can You Bring?” 

Written by Chris Davis, Head of Operations & Growth of CountN, Artist Manager, Musician, Berklee Graduate

Anyone who has played local bars, restaurants, breweries etc. has encountered this question. This question typically elicits an eye roll and a number fabricated out of thin air by the musician. Often times the musician has a ticketed show coming up at a sizable venue and has no incentive to bring fans out to a $150 bar gig to hear a crowd-pleasing cover of "Sweet Caroline". Here lies the discord: The owner of the “venue” views music as a way to bring new customers into the bar. The assumption is if the musician can bring 10-20 people through the door, the bar will sell more drinks and the increased revenue will cover the small sum of having music, and provide a more profitable night. In reality, the career musician plays these gigs to put food on the table and pay rent. They have bigger and better gigs that will further their career and bring them closer to living out their dream... of getting out of the bars.

What will likely happen is the bar will put in a minimal effort of promotion, dumping the responsibility onto the musician who will in turn make one Facebook post the day of the gig and tell their mom and dad to come out. I feel the need to say here that this is not always the case. There are venues within the hospitality industry that understand this discord, but for now, let’s focus on the misunderstanding as a whole.

Here’s a tough pill to swallow.. a music program is not going to save your failing business. Music will not make your food taste better, it will not make your drink selection more interesting and it will not make your employees more charismatic. A musician program can and WILL increase your revenue, but it must be under the right circumstances. Creating a successful music program takes a long-term vision. The goal of a music program should not be to immediately put butts in seats but rather to keep butts in seats. You know you’re doing something right when someone walks into your venue, is captivated by a stellar artist and stays the night, ordering drink after drink with their buddies. When they walk into work on Monday they will likely tell their co-workers all about the fantastic bar that they found where the music was great, the beers were slammin’ and the bartender treated them like regulars. 

Now, there are two directions that this hypothetical can take. The first being that they go back to the bar, bring more friends and hear another musician of the same caliber as the first. Word of mouth continues to spread and takes these customers from one-time spenders to repeat spenders. However, say the owner is short-sighted and wants to cut spending on the music program. The owner hires an amateur musician, maybe his cousin who sounds good enough for the backyard campfire but has no aspirations of playing professionally. He brings twenty of his friends but when those previous customers come back, they walk into a completely different experience. The original customers feel slightly embarrassed, telling their friends that they swear it was better last time. They grab a beer, still great, but the bartender is slightly on edge from hearing a sloppy version of "Wagon Wheel" at the beginning of the night. They drink a beer each, tip the bartender and move on. 

Music is about creating an atmosphere conducive to enjoyment. Music has never been sold in and of itself. Music has sold physical records, concert tickets, media advertisements, and in this case, food and drinks. With a quality music program, there is no doubt that bar sales will go up and slowly but surely, the bar will become more and more packed on both the nights with music and the nights without music.

Here’s another tough pill, and hopefully with this previous information it will be pretty obvious. You get what you pay for. A music program is an investment. If you want to see returns, "invest smart." This means paying a bit more for top-notch talent. You won’t have enough money to hire Bruno Mars, but guess what; Bruno Mars got his start playing bar gigs. When you hire musicians on the road to success, you will be on the same track. And who knows, if you treat them well they may even come back and sign a photo to hang on the wall. 


To sum it all up, music is meant to give your business a truly enjoyable atmosphere which in turn will create repeat customers and over time increase your revenue. Invest smart, give it some time and you will receive plenty of returns on your investment. 


This article by a close friend of mine out of Boston, MA is a thought-provoking look at the ideology of having music at a venue. So many business owners try to treat a performance as a "draw tool" without collaborating the promotion with the artist, the local scene or setting expectations. So often, the task of promotion and the creation of successful programs is left unattended and money gets left on the table. When this unfortunate circumstance becomes a pattern, many businesses remove the live music from their location, altogether.

Now, as we come into what we are calling "The New Normal", live music has been completely halted. This means we have a unique opportunity in time to rebuild our local music scenes on the cover and original sides of the proverbial coin. This means creating an understanding between artists and venues, designing risk/reward systems of compensation, and raising the bar on promotion norms. We intend to deep dive into this topic in our Industry Chat entitled "Building A Better Local Music Scene" featuring Chris Davis of CountN. He's an incredible musician dedicated to his local community and we're excited to have the Berklee grad chat with us about how we can do this better, this time. 

Claim your membership and tune in by going to ArtistCollect.com! We'll be chatting with Chris Davis on 7/14 4p EST, streaming LIVE to our Exclusive Artist Collective Members Facebook Group, taking your questions in real-time! 

Please note: this is the LAST month we'll be offering a FREE 30-DAY Trial, so please claim yours today at ArtistCollect.com!


Contact Chris Davis:

LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/chris-davis-10001215a/

[email protected]

‭+1 (508) 733-8971‬


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*Check the Artist Collective Membership page for 'office hours' available to chat on the phone with the AC Owners!

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