Cancelling A Club Gig For A Private Event: 5 Things To Consider
It’s tempting right?
You get that call for an awesome 90-min $5k gig (with PA provided) but then look on your calendar and you’re at “The Club” for a 3-hr show @ $900 with all your own gear.
Of course, depending on your relationship with them, cancelling may not be an issue. If you have a great track record and have partnered with the venue in the past, you may have some "gig equity" you can cash in.
BUT if you think it is an issue or will be in the future (and you actually value playing at the club), consider these 5 things when you get that “offer you can’t refuse”….
1. CHANGE VS. CANCEL
First and foremost, try to make ‘everyone’ happy. I don't mean in general or in an impossible "life goal" kinda way, I just mean in this scenario.
Before cancelling a gig, try to reschedule the date with the club and at least introduce it as a joint decision - whether it actually is or not. One way could be this:
“Hey, I just got a call to do a private event on (the date), which is the date we’re supposed to be at your club. I haven’t responded yet, but wanted to see if it’d be possible to change our show to (this date) or (that date)?”
What you're doing is presenting this potentially bad news in a way that's not ALSO removing any perceived authority. You're also showing the club that you do indeed respect the club and the booking itself.
Of course, it goes without saying that the more advanced notice you can give, the better. Even the most well-crafted, well-intended email won’t go over well if it’s the week before the gig.
2. WHAT’S AT STAKE?
What’s the private event really worth? But don't just look at the amount of the contract.
Look at ALL the logistics, not just the money. Does this club owner have a happy trigger finger - i.e. have they fired bands before or gotten offended by such behavior?
Is "fun" an important motivator for your band?
One example: We've played several (stuffy) private events on New Year's Eve and in some cases looked back and would've much rather played a smaller paycheck, much more fun public gig.
3. IT’ MAY NOT BE JUST ONE DATE
Another thing to consider: How many gigs to you have scheduled to play at the club over the next 12 months?
If those dates disappear, how much more work will it be to fill them vs. NOT taking the private event? How much *new* content will you have to produce and publish once any new gigs are booked?
Calculate the money you’ll make at the club that YEAR to get a better comparison.
If you've got a $2500 private event offering you a date that conflicts with one of your "regular" club gigs that pays $1000/night, consider the impact. If you're only looking at the night, sure you're up $1500, but if you lose those dates, it's easy to see how you might have given up $6000 for the year if you're not able to replace the dates.
4. THANK YOU IN ADVANCE
This obviously isn’t possible all the time. There’s no way to know that the coordinator for the holiday party forgot to secure the band. And now the event is in 6 weeks and they need you, BAD! While you can’t control when the situations arise, you can prepare for them!!
If you’re playing a club on a regular basis, see if they’d be cool with a 30-day or 60-day clause?
It would state something to the effect that you’ve got up until that deadline to cancel a gig with no harm, no foul! Now, even if you do have that in place, you’d still want to do everything you could to give notice and even help them find a great band to replace you!
Give at least 3 months notice if possible. You never know what advertising they may have planned
5. CONTROL YOUR CALENDAR
If your band is into weddings or festivals and plays them regularly, consider leaving all or most of your Saturdays open in the busy Summer months - June, July, August, September. Most brides and grooms are looking for bands about 9 to 12 months out. Some even longer.
You may have some clubs that are booking that far in advance too. If they do, try to lean them towards Friday night shows and fill those up first. Outside of those over-achievers, your typical club is scheduling gigs 3 to 6 months out.
With that, what we would do in our band was leave those Summer Saturdays open until the beginning of that calendar year. If it wasn’t already booked with a wedding, private event, or festival, we would start filling in dates with clubs.
It came from years of having to turn down the great $$ offers to maintain relationships with some of our regular clubs.
Hopefully, you can avoid some of that pain when you get those offers you can’t refuse!
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Leonard and Jessica Patterson