Inflation Doesn’t Exist (if you are a support band)
Recently I played a gig with my new band. It was our first gig together and a bit of a last minute affair. We were pretty shambolic and had intended to play only 4 short songs (we’re a punk band), but ended up playing just 3 and a half.
Despite the short set and shonky job, my friend who was putting on the show paid us £30 and gave us some food and beers. This doesn’t necessarily sound like much, but for a first gig it’s pretty damn good and it paid for our next practice. Nice.
It seems that there are more bands than ever. Which means more competition for gigs and this over saturation means that promoters are less inclined to pay support bands.
I’ve played with quite a few small/local bands in the past and the truth is they almost all suck. There are less half-decent bands than you would think, making it quite hard for promoters to get an good support slot for a bigger band that they are booking.
So why is it such a rarity for a band to paid for their first gig?
Because promoting is a tough job and if you’re not ruthless and don’t capitalise on the eagerness of bands to play support slots then you’re not going to succeed very long as a promoter. At least if it’s your first gig then the likelihood is that this is not already a career for you and your band and you’re not relying on the cash.
But what if you are relying on the cash? What is you’re a sort of ‘middle-sized’ band? You’re the type of band that’s had a little bit of recognition - enough to do a few support tours anyway - and hell, you might even pull in a few punters on the big bands tour, or at least make the difference in persuading people who weren’t sure they wanted to see the big band in the first place. Surely that’s not a bad position to be in? Surely you’ve got to be making enough to cover your costs if you keep them way down (hire a cheap van, sleep on friend’s floors etc)?
Er.. no. Guess what the music industry standard for paying tour support bands per show was 20 years ago?
It was £50
Guess what it is now?
It is £50
Apparently inflation doesn’t exist anymore.
Yeah yeah, costs are tight these days and there are a lot more bands (and therefore competition) for good support slots now. And sometimes, support bands with a lot of money (i.e. a rich parent) can PAY to buy onto a tour with a bigger band (disgusting as far as I am concerned). But for all the other bands, working shitty day jobs, they still get paid £50 a day and they can either like it or lump it.
Think of all the decent bands that must have got disillusioned when they went bankrupt and then got lost in the ether. It makes me sick. Think also of the good bands that make a stand and insist on getting more than £50 a gig and get turned away only for a crap band with richer parents to take their place. It’s a false economy.
No wonder then that when you see a band you like these days that the support will most likely suck balls.