[Dixielandjazz] Re: Band renumeration / Break even / The Dixielandscene

Richard Stevens thejazzfactory at ozemail.com.au
Fri Jul 16 15:22:56 PDT 2004

Hi Steve,

One of the venues we play mid week reported to us a few months after we
started that they lost $150 every Thursday we played there. I also found out
that before we started they lost $2500 every Thursday. I assume they haven't
gone broke as we are still there after 3 years. They don’t have
entertainment on Friday and Saturday and do more business both those nights
with no band! Ps regular gigs pay the bills in my house. 

Richard Stevens

-----Original Message-----
From: dixielandjazz-bounces at ml.islandnet.com
[mailto:dixielandjazz-bounces at ml.islandnet.com] On Behalf Of Stephen Barbone
Sent: Saturday, July 17, 2004 6:44 AM
To: dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Re: Band renumeration / Break even / The

> "Tom Duncan" <tduncan at bellatlantic.net> wrote (polite snip)
> Tex Wyndham wrote in one of his columns reprinted in The Mississippi Rag
> American Rag?) about the multiple that a restaurant/bar's take had to be
> over the band fee in order to cover the costs. I believe it was either
> or four times. In other words, if the entertainment wants $1,000, the
> needs to take in either $3,000 (or 4,000) in covers and/or admittance
> charges to meet their nut. Can anyone confirm these numbers or elaborate
> this issue. If a band can show that they can draw, let's say, 100 diners
> patrons a night at about $30 - 40 per head, that gives them a talking
> in setting a reasonable fee.
> Looking forward to hearing about other band's experiences or thoughts on
> this,

Yes, Tex figured 3 times the band fee. He assumed a profit of 50% on drinks
and 10% on
food. So he ignored the food for his rule of thumb and postulated, for
example, that if
a band cost $600, the venue had to sell $1800 worth of drinks. The 50%
margin meant
$900 gross profit on the drinks, minus $600 cost for the band leaving $300
net profit
before taxes for the club.

But, he also pointed out that if the venue can sell $600 in drinks without
the band,
the net profit before taxes is also $300.

So, if the band is to be a viable investment for the owner,  the break even
just to
cover band cost is sales of $1200 MORE in drinks with a band, than without a

That means as a generalized rule, that a band must generate EXTRA drink
sales of twice
its cost.

He took it a step further and postulated that most clubs have about 100
patrons and if
they average 2 drinks each that's 200 drinks at say $4 a pop or $800. 3
drinks each
gives you $1200 which is the necessary amount. However, again, these would
have to be
over and above any drink tabs that the place got without the band. He did
not factor in
music cover charges which many clubs impose.

Therefore, he also postulated that Dixieland is dying because folks will not
come to
see it in a club environment. So, Dixieland was not able to pay its way,
ergo not
commercially viable in the USA, except perhaps in New Orleans and Orlando
and of course
with Jim Cullum in San Antonio.

This was in his "Texas Shout" column in The American Rag. It is also in his
book "How
Dixieland Works" in a chapter called "Economics of Dixieland".

I paraphrased it slightly, raising his band fee example from $300 ($50 a
man) to $600
($100 a man) because I don't know any decent Dixieland Bands in the
Philadelphia area
that would work a club date for $50 a man, even on a weeknight.

His assumptions about Dixieland not being commercially viable do not square
with the
actual experiences of those of us who are playing in clubs and other public
Perhaps because he is too focused on OKOM Festivals and/or OKOM Cruises
where so called
"Artistic Dixieland" is heard by old folks who neither spend a lot of money,
nor stay
out late. That is where his bands play.

That is not where the action is. And that is why I preach about playing for
audiences. They go clubbing, they spend money and if you have a good band,
not hung up
on reprising "dead guy" music, you can have a lot of fun in public venues.
Young people
are surprisingly open to good music, presented properly to them. A good band
can freely
create jazz within the "Dixieland" framework while also making money for
both the venue
and itself.

That, in a nutshell, is why I formed my own band, Barbone Street, two or
three years
after joining his "Red Lions" band here. They play 3 or 4 gigs a year in
this area and
I wanted to play the many gigs ( we now do 160 a year) which I knew were
within a Dixieland format. (having also free lanced with several other
Dixieland Bands
that were working club dates and other public venues around the area)

Will Dixieland provide a living wage for musicians? Probably not, and for
most years of
its existence it never did. The pros. Davern, Wilber, Peplowski (yes I am
oriented) ALWAYS took other musical (commercial) gigs to supplant their
earnings. They
do radio/TV commercials, they do "society" work, etc. But then, that's
nothing new.

Steve Barbone

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