I have been playing smaller Manhattan clubs fairly frequently on and off for the past 2 years, and I can tell you that my experiences have been both frustrating and rewarding. The expectations of larger cities ARE slightly ridiculous. However, I know what I'm getting myself into, and now understand how it works down there, and have over time accepted it for what it is. I take A LOT of risk with my travels. The fact of the matter is that in a larger city, we are tadpoles in an ocean with heavy tides. Sure your talented, but so are some of the homeless men on the streets with an open empty sax case playing for those passing by, hoping for some spare quarters and dimes.
Generally speaking, HOW IT WORKS IN NYC (which from the sounds of it, it isn't that much different that LA):
CONGRATULATIONS! YOU'VE BEEN BOOKED IN MANHATTAN!! Now here are the expectations:
*$10 cover -
You are expected to bring in at least 10 people. For the first 10 people you bring in the door, the money goes to the VENUE. Every person accounted for after that, you get the door, or half the door. For someone traveling from out of town, in a new area, you are lucky if you can even stretch the 10 people.
*Generally no hospitality (free drinks, food), 1/2 off drinks if you are LUCKY and ask for it.
*If you are traveling from out of town, chances are you are put on a bill with a 45 min time slot, an hour if you are lucky or if someone backs out, with 5-8 other bands traveling from out of town with the same exact expectations as you.
* There are generally 2 levels to each venue. Some venues have entertainment on both floors. Unless you have a great following, talking 100+ people, don't expect to ever be put on the main floor which will ultimately give you the exposure you are seeking, and traveling for in the first place. Instead, you will be playing either upstairs where there is NO built in crowd, or downstairs with NO built in crowd for the 10 people you hopefully brought in, and whom you will receive no compensation for bringing.
NOT SO GLAMOUROUS HUH?
SO BASICALLY, you are required to bring in your own crowd, you are not getting any real exposure to City folk, big industry people, etc, and you're either getting paid very little if anything at all. THIS IS WHERE I UNDERSTAND THE AUTHORS ARGUMENT.
This however, does not stop me from making my regular trips down to the city, or from continuing to play Manhattan. "WHY, IT'S NOT WORTH IT?" No, it IS worth it. I just have to be smarter and work a little bit harder if I want to be rewarded.
My experiences have taught me much. I've been discouraged, I've played a Manhattan club for 2 people, and I've also played for a packed smaller room of a 100 people. I honestly NEVER know what to expect, and typically walk in expecting nothing, because expectations lead to disappointment. It's not worth the bad energy. If I'm proven wrong, I'm happy and I can write it off as being a successful trip. What I've learned is that NETWORKING with other bands from the area IS KEY. Recently I've opened for a few kind bands, who ARE bringing in people, which has given me the exposure and opportunity to perform for a new crowd of listeners who are taking my Cds, passing on my music to their peers, and who are inviting me back to play more shows with them. My resume is building, and I'm getting invited to play better venues with more notoriety. It's been 2 years, an uphill battle, and it's now all finally making sense and paying off.
I've found that playing City burrows, and just outside a major city to be more beneficial. Brooklyn for example- totally different scene than Manhattan. You will always have a room full of listeners. They crave original music with substance. If you want to get paid decently, you have a better chance at getting paid in outside areas, or in an area than may be 10-20 minutes outside a major city. Sure it SOUNDS great to say you've played Boston, but why should I risk playing Boston with the chance of dealing with the same bullshit as Manhattan, when I can play Cambridge get the exposure I'm seeking, and get paid like a real artist should?
ARGUMENT REGARDING ADVERTISING/PROMOTION:
MUSICIANS: WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT…….
If you want to play out, if you want people to catch wind of who you are, if you want to get paid, YOU HAVE TO TRY your hardest, DO YOUR PART, no matter what city or venue. IT'S A BUSINESS ON BOTH ENDS. YOU don't want to play for a crowd of no one, and THE VENUE isn't looking to hire someone who can't bring any new paying customers to their establishment.
My following locally is decent, not tremendous, but that doesn't stop me from getting hired to perform, from getting paid well, nor stop me from trying to increase my draw and from trying in general. I do well as a solo artist because I put the time into my craft, and because I also promote my ass off for EVERY show, near and far. Anyone who knows me knows that. If I'm playing out of town, I take it upon myself to promote even harder, because I know I am outside of my comfort zone, and can't draw as well as I would locally. I take full advantage of social media, have posters out 1 week and a half to 2 weeks prior to each scheduled performance, and take advantage of all FREE resources, sites/tools. YOUR EFFORTS should not end at getting the gig booked. To those who have bookers which do half the work for you, YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE and no right to complain if you aren't taking advantage of the same opportunities, and taking it upon yourself to promote. VENUE OWNERS, the same applies to you. The least a venue owner can do for their hired entertainment is shout it out on social media. It doesn't require a whole lot, it's free, and it is beneficial for both parties involved, and in maximizing your overall turnout for an evening. It's your business, you're doing something cool by providing entertainment, capitalize, but be fair.