The Coffeehouse Talent Buyer State of Mind

Finally getting back to speed after getting a bad, bad cold during my holiday expeditions (the cold all my Northeast U.S. clients warned me that I would get!) — I’m catching up on a few hundred e-mails. If I haven’t responded to yours yet, just hang tight! I’ll plow through them over the course of the day.

I did want to call attention to this article in Slate that describes the decline and fall of a New York cafe.

So many of my clients are trying to work with mom-and-pop establishments on their first bookings, that I often have to remind them that helping folks like these get people in the door is your job. Establishing a great relationship with an owner/operator, especially at a place that doesn’t often offer music, can get you to your first residency gig.

Look at how much every cup of coffee sold means to these folks. If you can get 25 people in the door and each one of them buys an Americano and a croissant, you just helped that cafe make $75 in profit during your 60 minute set. Do it every week, and you’re adding $300 to your bottom line.

This helps your bottom line in a few ways:

  • You’re showing other talent buyers that you know your job is to help them make money.
  • You’re creating regular opportunities for your audience to see you, and to bring their friends.
  • You’re teaching your audience that buying something at the venue is part of the regular support you need to keep making music.

Some musicians I meet at music conferences and seminars complain that they shouldn’t be judged based on how many people they bring on the door. Unfortunately, that’s the only metric talent buyers can use to figure out if your act is worth the risk.

Booking agents and self-booking musicians that frame up bookings in terms of actual people that can get to a gig will always get more bookings than rookies that plead for an open slot “because they’re good.” As you can see from the cautionary tale of this cafe, “good” doesn’t always pay the bills.

Remember that even small venues don’t owe “the scene” anything — they’re simply trying to do what they can to break even. If you can help them do that in a way that’s fun and memorable, all the better.

[ Thanks to David Lorenzo for the tip! ]

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