I run my club, Carpe Noctum, on a not-for-profit basis. That means I aim to – roughly, over the medium term – match expenses with incomings. I’ve got a day job; running gigs and clubs is what I do for “fun”.
So why do you have to pay to get in? A fair question, if you’ve never been involved in putting on similar events yourself. And a very pertinent question, if you’ve any thoughts of doing so.
Let’s look at a rough breakdown for a “typical” Carpe night ….
Please note that this is approximate and indicative – there are many good reasons not to get too precise!
Venue and PA Hire
Venue and PA prices vary enormously – they can vary from a previous arrangement we had where the venue paid us to bring bands (and punters) in, through “free hire” right up to being your main expense. Different models – and I’ll visit the “gig economy” in a later post (and edit in the link here).
We’ve got a very good deal at the Lending Room, but that’s on the understanding that we’ll bring in lots of thirsty customers who won’t cause much trouble. If we didn’t have such a large (and thirsty) crowd for them to make money off over the bar, you can bet they’d either substantially hike the price for us, or simply not take our booking and work with a promoter who would bring such a crowd. They’re a business, they exist to make profit, and they’re not going to give up their lovely venue on a Saturday night unless there’s good money to be made. Such is life.
Bands shouldn’t be asked to play for free. They put in hours of practice, buy expensive equipment (that might get ruined by a stray pint or an accident on the stairs), rent or build rehearsal studios, drive across the country in a rickety old van, sleep on floors or in cheap hotels or the van itself, or have a long drive back whilst you’re still partying. Sure, they can only rarely expect to make any sort of living out of it (there are only 10-30,000 goths in the UK, after all), but they should be fairly recompensed for coming to Leeds to entertain us.
Again, we do well on this front because Carpe is known as a great night to play – a good crowd (and a queue at the merch desk) is at least a good a draw for them as a slightly higher fee.
When we charge more than a fiver, it’s because we need to pay the bands more. Either they’re a more popular and established act (and therefore can expect to bring in more customers), or they’re travelling a distance (and therefore have higher expenses), or they’re a working tribute act (who will be looking to turn some sort of profit and probably have very little opportunity to top up their fee with merch sales).
Whatever the case, I’ll try to juggle the numbers to give both band and customers the best deal possible.
Typically, we only directly pay engineers and door staff. At other venues, you might need to pay security.
Engineers are highly-trained, experienced professionals. The engineers you don’t notice are the best ones – they’re busy working to make the show sound and look as good as possible. We’re fortunate at the Lending Room to have some of the best in the business, and they make the difference by turning a good gig into a spectacular one. And it’s their job. We all expect to get paid for our job.
Our door staff also perform a much under-appreciated but vital role. It’s not just taking money and stamping hands, it’s being the face of the club; welcoming, helpful, sociable, weeding out the troublemakers and those who’d detract from people’s enjoyment of the night, and sometimes a shoulder to cry on when the emotion all gets a bit too much …. It’s a hard, long, sometimes cold, and largely thankless task and, again, the right person at the front desk makes all the difference. Feel free to express additional appreciation by offering our doorwench, Sam, a drink!
The DJs don’t get paid. We’re having far too much fun to expect that.
I like a cold night: the quids for the cloakroom go to make up my promo expenses – all those flyers and posters you see. If we come out slightly ahead one night, that’ll either make up for another event where we ended up a bit short, or maybe go towards the expense of a taxi to and from the venue. Or possibly go into a charity bucket; I’m a bit of a soft case really.
The numbers are tight, deliberately so. When I’m deciding fees for bands (our only variable expense) and what to charge on the door, I’m mentally working out how many people we can expect and whether the event can roughly break even. It’s the staple skill of a promoter, or at least should be. We’ve been in that sweet “break-even” spot for the past three years, and I remain incredibly grateful to everyone who’s made that possible.