David Garrick

Say Goodbye To The $5.00 Show

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Rancid Show Poster, Art: Jermaine Rogers


Right now in our city, and across the country as well, there seems to be a disconnect about how much a show should cost.  It’s unfortunate for those of us who love seeing bands, comics, and entertainers in a live setting, that everything has gone up in price while wages really haven’t. But, the fact is that the $5.00 show needs to become a distant memory, and fast.  Think about it for a second, I saw Rancid in 1994 for $9.00, which under inflation rates would be $14.39 today.  Yet many people balk at the idea of paying more than $5.00 to see anything today, and those people either need to fork over more money or stop going to shows, period.


This is being brought up because no less than five times a week hear someone say, “$10.00?  I’m not paying $10.00 to see a show.”  And, to me that’s a vulgar sentiment because I’m willing to bet that everyone who reads this knows at least one person who’s either a performer, entertainer, comic, or whatever, and they also want to see that person succeed at that endeavor.  But, without a higher cover charge they will never have success in an already difficult industry.  For an example we’ll use musicians for a simple model.  I’m not going to break down the fact that musicians spend money on gear, or time practicing, or anything else you’ve seen on an internet meme before.  What I will use is the show itself and the common everyday numbers to explain the value in paying $10.00 versus $5.00 to see a band.  


In today’s music world, your friend’s band is more than likely playing with several other bands at a music venue, and the split on the door or off the tickets is usually just that, a split between the venue and the acts performing.  The most common split is known as a door deal and the most common percentage is 70% for the bands, and 30% for the venue.  The door deal is typically a fair cut because the venue has door personnel, professional sound personnel, and advertising costs associated with the production of the show.  So, under this model, the bands will receive $7.00 from every $10.00 received.  But, that’s not $7.00 per band, but rather $7.00 split between typically 3 bands.  Which comes out to $2.33 per band, depending how things are split up at the end of the night.  So, that means that when your favorite band plays at, let’s say a place where 250 people can attend; that they stand to make no more than about twenty dollars shy of $600.00 if the show actually sells out.  The average band has four members, which comes out to $150.00 per member; again if it sells out.  That set up seems like a pretty good way for your friend’s band to actually have a chance at being able to afford playing on a consistent basis and possibly even recording an album with proper personnel.  


However at $5.00 for a show, all of those numbers are cut in half, which makes any form of success or ability to afford to actually come out and play for you nearly impossible.  These numbers are just an example, but an actual real world example.  They can be applied to pretty much every show and every medium of the entertainment spectrum.  The other value in paying more than $5.00 to see any form of entertainment is humanity.  I don’t know anyone who will work under minimum wage as I suspect you also don’t.  It’s a little crappy to expect a band or an entertainer to do the same.  The fact is that on a $10.00 ticket, an act can keep a little bit of their integrity while being rewarded, in a small way, for their craft.  Bands, make very little to nothing off of album sales.  The cost of recording, packaging, and promoting is much higher than you think, and I invite you to look up pressing and packaging here, here, and here as examples.  If a band is signed to a label, then they have to repay said costs at a percentage of about $4.00 per unit, while giving up a percentage of their publishing which counts against them in licensing or use outside of the art’s intended purpose.  


In a time where we devalue pretty much any form of art, this is your chance to actually show that you support art and want it to be here for generations to come.  Without using the boring comparison to a cup of coffee, I’ll use the beer model instead.  Beer typically costs no less than $3.00 at a venue, but closer to between $5.00 and $10.00.  Is it right that a drink costs more than admission to get in?  If you pay around $10.00 to see a show, the odds are greater that your friend the comic, your pal in a band, or your neighbor the performance artist can actually afford to keep entertaining you.  While there are still plenty of shows for $5.00, and even many for less or FREE, we as a society need to start getting used to the fact that the days of shows being under $10.00 are numbered, and we also need to be okay with that.

  • mjpushedoff

    $10? It’s a fucking sandwich. Buck up, cheapskates.

  • Wolverines!

    Join a cover band… I played in indie rock bands for 15 years and made a total of $75 I didn’t do it to make a living most times it cost me money to go play a show…but playing out in front of people and getting everyone to have a good time is awesome and fun and the money never even bothered me…the talented ones will rise to the top and succeed if they do things right … But most bands are fun but mediocre at best so just enjoy playing out and that someone actually came to see you and get over yourself cause you ain’t that good… An I don’t want to pay more then $5 to see you

    • Jymbeau

      Exactly. I play for fun. It’s fun for me and especially fun if I’m playing a benefit for a cause that I believe in. If the crowd digs us, even more fun. I have a career that pays my bills. If I played out to support my wife and kids, we’d starve.

  • Fernando J. Delgado

    The easiest solution is for bands (those which have a following and/or a history of bringing out a crowd to their shows) to receive a percentage of bar sales. That way the $5 cover can remain, or be eliminated.

  • Jeff P

    No surprise. When everyone is downloading lossless albums by the gigabyte and paying nothing, why pay $5 to see some guy press buttons on his drum machine?

    If you want to live the creative life, you have to realize that creativity is not just about making the stuff you want. It’s also about finding creative ways to make money. Artists should find better ways to capitalize on their work instead of expecting the general public to somehow subsidize their careers. Or just get a day job and make art without the corrupting influence of capitalism getting involved.

    The good stuff always rises to the top. The rest probably deserves to sink.

    • lastrid

      So you feel entitled to consume other people’s creativity and work for free?

  • Ghoul1977

    One problem with this is that inflation hasn’t caught up equally across the country. In the tiny depressed post-industrial city I live in, wages have remained low, as have relative costs of living. The most interesting part of this question to me is the peripheral effect of inflation on how or whether at all art is going to reach depressed geographies. In (redacted) NY, rent is $250 and people still struggle to make it working five days a week. So when a band that lives in New York City rolls through expecting $1000, they’re bound to be disappointed because they’re passing through a virtual time warp. The result being that bands stop coming to these regions, and art remains something that belongs to those who live in affluent cities. Or at least, art becomes regionally isolated more equitably. I.E. (Redacted) develops a network with other working class artists and bands, and New York City just becomes an ever more incestuous isolated community.
    I don’t know of a good solution, but it’s an interesting problem.

  • Robert Alexander

    while I agree with the sentiment, I think its within reason to consider some facts.

    People aren’t earning more (when inflation is taken in to consideration) compared to the 90s. So while things are getting costlier, pay hasn’t kept up and people have become much more frugal because of it.

    The demographic of the traditional $5 show-goer, is generally late high school/college age to young adult (20s) searching or working that entry level job and likely paying off student loans.

    The cost of college has skyrocketed compared to the 90s, and again, loans loans loans loans loans for many and the reality that the difference between $5 and $10 is pretty significant when considering “going out”.

    I totally agree that $10 a ticket is reasonable, but I’m also not in a situation where I don’t do something because its not $5 (though I have friends that would). The idea of a bar or venue sharing a small percentage of bar earnings for that night seems like a nice way to curve the need for charging more and gives the band some incentive to really promote the event. I don’t know if thats a thing or if it would work, but in my head it seems ideal. thoughts?

  • Mark G

    $10 or $15 cover is cheap. If the shows would start earlier and have lots of parking that would help. People who have money to go out usually have jobs that start painfully early.

  • Dan-Ramone

    As both a performer and patron, here is what I think: Covers annoy me. If I don’t have to pay to get in I will easily spend $30+ at the bar. Charge a cover and my money goes to the place that I get in for free. Fucked up, right? However, the places that charge no cover and give bands a cut of the bar (10% ish) have bigger crowds to play to and give bigger pay to the bands. The band has more incentive to support the show and the bar benefits from having “jerks” like me get in. If the band can’t draw then they don’t get booked again. Why is this not a standard business model? Is my math fucked?

  • friendship220

    You aren’t talking about the level of the band itself. National acts cost more than $5. Not so popular local bands might cost $5. Not so popular local bands aren’t particularly scarce. There is no problem with a lack of supply of not so popular local bands. Not so popular local bands being plentiful tend to drop the costs down. I can take a quick look at the Houston Pollstar. Grace Potter is at the House of Blues tonight. Without even checking, I can guarantee that that show is going to cost more than $5. I’d guess $25-$50. So, then, I’m pretty sure we’re talking about local bands. We’re talking “your pal in a band”. Here’s the core fact. Your pal in a band wants to raise the price of friendship. That really doesn’t always sound good to the not-in-band friend. Those pals are asking you to go to shows over and over again. And making it cost more doesn’t make things better.

    The fact that local bands are basically playing to their same friends over and over again leads to different conclusions about the best way to succeed here. In some areas, there’s a developed “pay to play” or “hit me up for tickets” situation. It’s accepted that bands will have physical tickets and will try to get money from their friends and family before a show - sometimes those bands don’t play if they don’t sell enough tickets. Other times it’s not like that. But in other places, bands have an understanding that what they’re doing is not going to be very successful as a high dollar endeavor and they focus not on money but on putting together shows that people will enjoy. Bands might play for free, for free beer, for free beer for the bands + cheap beer for the fans. If they happen to live in a city that has quality national acts all the time, they know it’s not going to be easy to win the attention of those who are not their friends.

  • Moxie LaBouche

    When I wonder if I’m pricing my shows fairly, I compare them to the movies, both in current cost and quality of entertainment.

  • Mike

    How about the bars actually pay for the talent they are using to get bodies in their doors? I have one venue that we play every 6 weeks in the summer where there is no cover at all and we get paid extremely well. Why? Because they kill it on sales when we are there. New years eve we were asked to play. We told them 1000 bucks. They were happy to pay that much for quality entertainment and there was no cover! Why? They killed it in sales. A long time ago I stopped playing the door share game. Any venue that offers any version of door share gets told that I will just play somewhere else. It makes me mad when I see a venue only give part of the door to the bands because without the bands there would be no door charge. The place would just be a bar. So bringing in entertainment drives the venue’s sales up. They are making a killing on alcohol, So why in the world should they share the door? It makes no sense to me. The venues are using you, the entertainment, to drive up their sales and then making further profit off of you by keeping part of the door. I have spoken to many entertainers over the years(I’ve been playing live for over 20 years) about this very subject and many feel exactly the same way. Many also refuse to play the door share game. I could go on and on about this. I also refuse to pay for beer at a venue that I am playing. I’ll be damned if you(the bar) make money off of me while you are making money because of me. If I have to pay for beer, I’ll go buy a 6 pack down the street and drink it in the parking lot.

    • Matt Cieslak

      You’ll be damned if you are going to pay for drinks? How many bars give there employees free unlimited drinks? Are you not an employee or at least an independent contractor while you are there (not much different than a plumber paid to perform services). You are under no obligation to imbibe while you are working…which is what you are there for, right? Also to go and drink in the parking lot would be illegal at most bars and could result in a financial penalty or suspension of license for the bar owner…

    • friendship220

      Just get guarantees and free at the door is how it should work.

      • Steelychan420


        • friendship220

          The problem is that often, you’re talking about unpopular bands and unpopular venues. You’re talking about bands who can’t and don’t get as much money and as many shows as they’d like and venues who don’t have as many customers and money as they’d like. The supply of bands and the supply of venues is above what the market can really support. Venues don’t want to go out of business and bands don’t want to stop playing. Usually, you’re talking about arguing between $0 and $100. I’ve been on the “band” side, trying to get good deals for bands, on the “venue” side, bringing in bands at a cost that’s in the long term interest of the venue, and right now, I’m more on the “fan” side.

          Things are currently problematic, basically because people don’t want to buy what the bands and venues are selling. I mention small guarantees and free at the door as the solution because there’s just some hope there that the venue can afford to spend $300 on guarantees, and make money doing so.

          I can tell you that it is not uncommon at all for a 3 set cover band with a bunch of 50 year olds in it playing “Hair of the Dog” by Nazareth to bring their own PA (which is a key element to this, often) and make a guarantee of over $300. Rural areas, the same bands over and over, and they often suck but they get paid. So old, tired cover bands get viable guarantees, and original bands get door deals. And that requires a cover, which people really wouldn’t get paid.

          I expect that quite a long time ago that venue owners decided that new people will not see a new band, that paying $5 is something that every single fan of the band will pay, and there will not be customers other than the existing fan of the band.

          It would be useful for venue owners to really dig down and figure out exactly how much money an extra person coming through the door will make for them. If each customer makes them $10 profit, adding just 10 more people will give them an extra $100. Making the show free should bring in an extra 10 people. That $300 could be seen as the high side, again. $50 x 3 would work as well, but the hope is that the $300 would work. 3 solid original bands vs “hair of the dog” for $300. I live in a rural area now, so I just happen to have my eye on that $100 x 3. It should be a standard in rural areas to bring in bands from the bigger nearby areas.

  • Mickie Rat

    Where the hell do you live where the majority of the door goes to the bands? In CA and most of the other 37 continental United States that I have played in, the split is 70/30 (or 60/40 if you’re REALLY lucky) with the majority share going to the venue. I wanna find this magical place where bands actually get paid anything at all from the door and live there forever.

    • T.J. Ghoul


    • Marble

      in my area the end theatre in florence alabama it’s a flat rate of $125 from the door that the venue takes and the bands keep anything else made. Of course it’s a theatre ,and not a venue , but it’s a Non-profit place

    • Duane


    • friendship220

      Maine, PA Door minus sound is a fairly typical arrangement for shows.

    • vadimfv


  • http://swamplot.com GlenW

    If you think $10 is too much to see a show, then leave your cheap ass at home.

    • friendship220

      That’s what those people will do. They’ll stop seeing their local friend’s band. But those same people will see an act they want to see at the House of Blues.

    • http://sterlingchainsaws.tumblr.com Kittypops1

      But that’s what people are doing. I haven’t seen live entertainment in years because I have been priced out of it. It’s a bummer, but that’s how it is.

  • Chris Irwin Davis

    Most of the same people who whine about paying an extra $5 for cover will easily spend $20-30 on drinks and tips over the evening. They’re willing to pay for alcohol, but not talent. How about having one less beer and pony up for a $10 cover.

    • friendship220

      People spend money on tickets to acts they want to see. When you’re talking about your friends, they’re there because they’re your friends. They don’t want to pay more to watch you do the same thing yet again.


    While I understand your reasoning, I and my constituents who are also performing artists care more and rely more on accessibility. You can’t and won’t be able to force people to pay a higher rate when they have a choice on whether or not to attend. I have personally witnessed people not going to a show because it cost $10 as opposed to $5. I would much rather have a packed house on a sliding scale door or a $5 door then have attendance be cut in half only to play for those who can afford it. You also have to account for purchasing drinks and maybe food at an official venue, which then turns your $10 night into a $20 or more night, further detouring attendance. If you keep the admission at a low price, attendees then have extra money to spend on merch which goes directly into the band’s pocket. Also, if your band is at a level that it’s playing larger (250+ capacity) venues then you shouldn’t be relying on a door split. You should be negotiating a guarantee with the booker. Otherwise, the $5 show will always stay as long as I’m able to book shows in my city.

    • Duane


    • friendship220

      I like the idea of small guarantees for smaller local bands. Ideally, you’re in a situation where the venue isn’t about to run out of money. If the venue sells beer, the venue can just pay the bands a nominal amount, and then, make the shows free. That should work for the band, right? Instead of paying $5 for cover, they’re paying $0. And that will appeal to extra customers, who will spend that money on beer. Often though, these venues can’t just give 3 bands $100 a piece. I mentioned House of Blues. House of Blues can afford to play 3 local Houston bands $100. But there might be many places who can’t.

    • Steelychan420

      Get the fuck out of the city you cheap piece of shit. How about I give you five bucks to go fuck yourself? You can keep the tip, though it won’t be much.

    • Brandon Wilson

      The issue is competition. If I can see similar bands for $5 or less, or the same bands for cheaper on a different night, it makes it tougher for people to justify the higher cover charge. If everyone started charging higher covers I think people’s expectations would adjust. The problem is there will always be bands undercutting that to try and draw a larger crowd.