Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 06-21-2019, 02:23 PM
WildaBeast's Avatar
WildaBeast is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2019
Location: Folsom, CA
Posts: 354

Free concerts in the park -- how does the band get paid?


The thread in Cafe Society about local musicians who never made it big got me thinking about something. Some cities, including the one I live in, offer free concerts in the park during the summer. Every Friday evening a local band performs in the park and anyone can show up and watch the concert for free.

I'm assuming that even though these concerts are free to the public, the band must be getting paid somehow. I doubt most musicians would perform for free. For these kinds of events does the city typically hire the band and just budget for it as a parks and recreation expenditure? Does the band actually play for tips, sort of an officially sanctioned form of busking? Some combination of the two?
  #2  
Old 06-21-2019, 02:25 PM
naita is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Norway
Posts: 6,524
Here's an example, including the origin of their funding:

Quote:
The NEMPAC Jazz in the Park | Summer Concert Series 2019 is possible due to the generous support from our co-presenters that include the Century Bank & Trust Co. and Harbinger Development and partners including The Greenway Conservancy and Mayor Walsh and The City of Boston.
https://www.bostonusa.com/event/jazz-in-the-park/41285/
  #3  
Old 06-21-2019, 02:33 PM
Joey P is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Posts: 28,727
They likely solicit donations from local businesses. Next time you're at one of these concerts, look around. Any business name/logo you see anywhere, be it on a program, a banner, a sign, anywhere at all, they donated money. It's very common for the local small businesses to toss a few hundred to get their name out there and some of the bigger places putting in a few thousand.
On top of all that, a local or new band will probably do the show for a fairly small fee (or even just free food and a few bucks to cover expenses) just to get in front of an audience.
  #4  
Old 06-21-2019, 03:01 PM
Dinsdale is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 18,313
Also, many towns/counties/etc have lines in their budgets to support "tourism" or provide "community services," which can go towards hosting these.

And - as a member of a local band - I can attest to the low payments for many of these events. It can be very surprising which organizations spend money like water, and which are tight-fisted. Not always what you would expect.
__________________
I used to be disgusted.
Now I try to be amused.
  #5  
Old 06-21-2019, 03:24 PM
Chronos's Avatar
Chronos is offline
Charter Member
Moderator
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 83,808
The band will often also have CDs or other merchandise for sale, and may well end up getting paid more from that than from the event itself.
  #6  
Old 06-21-2019, 04:22 PM
SciFiSam is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Beffnal Green innit
Posts: 8,319
Bands/acts do almost always get paid for free events in various ways, depending on the event and how organised the act itself is. It's all pocket money sums but that can make the difference between being able to afford to perform and not.

Acts usually get paid a small fee, depending on how the concert's being funded. Sometimes they might get nothing, sometimes they might get a decent sum. They'd also usually get vouchers for food vendors and the bar, if there is one, and most of the time organisers will rustle up free accommodation for out of town acts (I've had so many random bands stay at my flat), and sometimes they'll pay some travel expenses. It varies a lot. Obviously that's not worth much, but at least it helps mean you're less likely to be out of pocket from playing the event.

Bands also usually sell their own CDs and possibly merchandising at those concerts. Even if you only sell 20 CDs at a fiver each that's 100. Merch can be very cheap to get made, and, if either you are good or your merch looks good, you can make a bit of pocket money from it. One band I knew wasn't that great musically, but they'd designed their own t-shirts and badges/pins, and they were really nice, and they made a bit of money from that. Not paying the rent type of money, but it was something, at least.

In addition, songwriters get paid a tiny bit of money (for free events at parks it really is very tiny) from the performing rights society in the UK each time their song is played in public, including them playing it themselves at concerts, and there's a similar organisation in the US, about which I don't know the details of payments.

In the UK, for small bands, for the PRS, you don't get any money automatically, you don't get any money for cover songs (when performed live; you do for various other "performances" like records/CDs and digital downloads, where you get mechanical rights) and you have to register as the songwriter, but you can submit your own setlist if the venue doesn't do it for you, and get a payment for each song depending on its length and various other complicated factors like venue size (you also get a tiny money from busking and open mics that way). The venue doesn't pay a lot of money to the PRS for free events, but the money the songwriter gets doesn't depend on the amount the individual venue pays the PRS. Because there's no entry fee you might get nothing or you might get something, depending on the type of event. It really is really complicated, which is why some small bands don't bother paying to register. That's why I mentioned how organised the band is as being a factor. Such small bands probably can't afford to pay someone to do this for them.

That's all for the really small bands who aren't anywhere near making it into even the indie charts. For major or majorish acts the free event might be a publicity event for their latest single or album, and they might make money from merch, or if it's for a charitable cause, which many free events are, they're not doing it for the money anyway.

ETA: I've never seen a band solicit tips, but I've never performed in the US, and the situation might be different there.

Source: I used to be in a band, definitely a very minor one, sadly.

Last edited by SciFiSam; 06-21-2019 at 04:24 PM.
  #7  
Old 06-21-2019, 04:51 PM
Kent Clark's Avatar
Kent Clark is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Posts: 26,201
My daughter-in-law sung with a band that played those kind of events. There are some rare events where a band will donate their services or play just for the publicity. But mostly, the band gets paid, as part of the overall event budget that includes stuff like renting porta-potties, paying for electrical hookups, etc.

Free concerts are a lousy gig, though. My son and daughter-in-law live in Chicago, and according to him the band got booked into those events all the way up to near Wisconsin, into Indiana, etc. After the management took its cut, they got something like $50-$75 each, and had to get themselves there and back, and take care of their own food and drink, unless the host or one of the sponsors took mercy on them and gave them something to eat. At least a bar gig gave them one or two free beers.

About a month ago my daughter-in-law quit that band and joined one that plays a higher level of gig.

I seem to recall one of the bands at Woodstock, who had been burned enough playing concerts and festivals, got into a fight with the organizers by refusing to go on stage until they were paid in cash, right there and then.

ETA: I went to one of her concerts. The band had to sell their stuff out of the back of a car becuase the host wouldn't even give them a free booth.

Last edited by Kent Clark; 06-21-2019 at 04:54 PM.
  #8  
Old 06-21-2019, 05:11 PM
WildaBeast's Avatar
WildaBeast is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2019
Location: Folsom, CA
Posts: 354
Quote:
Originally Posted by SciFiSam View Post
ETA: I've never seen a band solicit tips, but I've never performed in the US, and the situation might be different there.
While not exactly the sort of free concert we're talking about here at some clubs in New Orleans (which don't have a cover charge) I've seen the band go into the audience to "pass the hat" and sell CDs during breaks.

Mostly the band will just have a tip jar or open instrument case in front of the stage for people to leave money in if they feel inclined.

Last edited by WildaBeast; 06-21-2019 at 05:11 PM.
  #9  
Old 06-21-2019, 05:31 PM
RealityChuck's Avatar
RealityChuck is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Schenectady, NY, USA
Posts: 42,580
Our local venue free concerts include amateur acts like the town orchestra, which is all volunteer and isn't paid (it wouldn't be much, anyway). Pro acts do get paid by the sponsor and by money from the town that is budgeted for the event. If they have any CDs, they sell those (I make it a point to buy a CD at a free concert).
  #10  
Old 06-21-2019, 08:54 PM
Cartooniverse is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Betwixt My Ears
Posts: 12,516

Simon & Garfunkel In Central Park


According to the Wiki page on the event, they made money from the sales of the recordings and video of the concert.

The concert was billed as a free concert, yet the Wiki references it as a fundraiser to help turn around the deterioration of Central Park. I would be stunned to find out that the impressive band on stage did it for nothing. I knew the Steadicam Operator who worked the show, mostly on stage, and know for a fact he was paid. Fair to believe that the entire video production/ stage/ lighting/ sound recording crew was all paid by HBO, which carried the concert live.

In my experience shooting live music events, it is not unheard of for the band(s) to perform truly for free. Usually a fund-raiser, and sometimes I and the crew have donated our services as well. I shot an AIDS awareness P.S.A. in the late 1980's and it was a zero-cost shoot. Also shot a cystic fibrosis P.S.A. in Philly. My dear pal David was born with it, and was the D.P. That was an amazing one. The entire crew, the catering, the insurance coverage, locations fees, the film stock courtesy of Kodak in NYC- EVERYTHING was donated. He got a lab in NYC to donate the processing, and a local edit house in Philly cut the thing for him. A full-up 35mm commercial, 2 days of hard work, zero cost. Rare, but it happens.

Similarly, a band may be inclined to give their time and skills away. Especially if they have CD's for sale. ( do bands even sell their music at a live event any more? And if so, what form does it take? Piles of USB thumb drives?? )
__________________
If you want to kiss the sky you'd better learn how to kneel.
  #11  
Old 06-22-2019, 07:02 AM
kayaker's Avatar
kayaker is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Western Pennsylvania
Posts: 31,969
We spend most summer Fridays in Greensburg, PA at their SummerSounds concerts. Local businesses act as sponsors, and attendees chip in as well. Last night we saw Toubab Krewe and they were great. Everyone brings a chair and a cooler.
  #12  
Old 06-22-2019, 07:28 AM
Chronos's Avatar
Chronos is offline
Charter Member
Moderator
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 83,808
In my experience, the music is still sold in CD form. I guess there's the assumption that the buyer will still have some device or other with an optical drive capable of ripping them onto all their other devices.

As an aside, kayaker, if you hang out with any crazy hippies in the Greensburg, PA area, you probably know my aunt and cousins.
  #13  
Old 06-22-2019, 07:59 AM
kayaker's Avatar
kayaker is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Western Pennsylvania
Posts: 31,969
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
As an aside, kayaker, if you hang out with any crazy hippies in the Greensburg, PA area, you probably know my aunt and cousins.

Greensburg is a cool little town, and it's an amazingly small world.
  #14  
Old 06-24-2019, 05:17 AM
F. U. Shakespeare is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Baltimore or less
Posts: 4,129
It's been decades since I belonged to the musicians' union (the American Federation of Musicians), so I don't know if they still do this. But a small percentage of every contract, something like 2%, was put into a trust fund that paid for free concerts. These were held in public places like parks, and in institutions like nursing homes. We played one at a mental hospital, on Halloween. Memorable gig.
  #15  
Old 06-24-2019, 05:32 AM
TokyoBayer's Avatar
TokyoBayer is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Taiwan
Posts: 10,437
I have a friend who is a professional musician. His group makes about $10,000 a show (five members, IIRC) so not really high paid, but not amateur, either.

He said they get booked occasionally for free concerts at various festivals, and will typically get paid less.
  #16  
Old 06-24-2019, 06:36 AM
kayaker's Avatar
kayaker is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Western Pennsylvania
Posts: 31,969
I attended a free concert in the park at Pittsburgh's Hartwood Acres a few years ago. The musician (who I will not name) was a FOAF, so we got to go backstage after the show to meet him. He was a bit angry about what he was paid, as it was too much. He explained that his agent booked him for "concert in the park" type events and his rates were very flexible. When Pittsburgh's rep discussed booking him, they were told an amount and immediately agreed. Every other city negotiated down to a more fiscally conservative amount, with some cities paying very little once they explained their situation.
  #17  
Old 06-24-2019, 12:18 PM
Jumpbass's Avatar
Jumpbass is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Napa Valley (lucky me)
Posts: 440
I currently play many "Free Concerts In The Park" jobs. I'm doing one this Friday. I always get paid or I don't do them. (With one exception, and that may not see our return.) Some pay more, some pay less. The money may come from business sponsors, or it may come from a community organization, or a private sponsor.

We usually will sell CDs and have a tip jar out, but we consider that to be gravy, not our actual pay.

I have played some gigs where, if a tip hat is actively carried around a room, would pay MORE than a percentage of the door or a guaranteed amount from management. I have no doubt that this would be a reasonable practice in NOLA. I've done it myself at venues here at home. Whether I take a gig at a place that has this policy depends on the venue and the patrons.

The real answer to the OP is "depends". The music world is a mess of different deals, situations and potential rip-offs.

<rant>You have to do many things that would be non starters in a regular business world. All you can do is protect yourself from the worst of it. I and my associates try to approach it in a very businesslike way. That mostly means "I don't play for free." A plumber may like his job, but you don't ask him to fix your pipes for free because "it would be good exposure." <rant over>
  #18  
Old 06-26-2019, 03:24 AM
Camille111 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2019
Posts: 3
I don't know but it is really possible to watch the concert for free) I did it several times)
  #19  
Old 06-26-2019, 07:49 AM
Dinsdale is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 18,313
Saw this thread still going, so thought I'd toss in a discussion I recently had with a member of a 4-man Grammy nominated band. I asked him if they planned on hiring a fiddler. He said, "No," and when I asked why, he said they have 4 seats in their van, it is easy to rent 2 hotel rooms w/ 2 beds in each, and (of course) the money splits better 4 ways than 5. Apologies for the hijack.
__________________
I used to be disgusted.
Now I try to be amused.
  #20  
Old 06-26-2019, 09:48 AM
Omar Little's Avatar
Omar Little is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Within
Posts: 12,889
Years ago in a different town and region of the country, I served on the board of annual 3 day weekend festival. It usually was held over Memorial weekend. It was one of those festivals where you bought a $1 button for admission and at the festival there were numerous stages with live music scheduled throughout each day. There was also other entertainment acts, food booths, and drink booths. Every evening on the main stage there was usually a B-list band (well known nationally, but had lost its luster over the past years. Admission to these concerts was free with a button, but the festival organization still paid the bands, in many cases tens of thousands of dollars. The festival organization made it's money through the food and beverage sales.
  #21  
Old 06-26-2019, 10:32 AM
Tired and Cranky is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2014
Posts: 1,452
My community runs a small Jazz festival every year. The municipality makes a grant to a non-profit organization that, in turn, pays for the bands, lights, PA, porta-potties, security, etc. The non-profit raises additional money from corporate sponsors, festival merchandise sales, and space rental fees for food trucks.

I also work with a different community non-profit that organizes a free annual culture festival and concert series on its own property. Roughly 50,000 people attend over a few days. It works basically the way that Omar Little describes. The festival earns most of its money from food, alcohol and merchandise sales to guests attracted by the free music. The organizer solicits corporate sponsors and donors. The municipality sometimes contributes a few dollars but consistently a lot in free security (police officers) to supplement the ones hired on detail by the festival. The performers are mostly "B-list" national touring acts that are generally paid cash on the barrel head. Some local acts offer to perform for free to get exposure but we usually choose better bands that we pay at least a pittance. Bands can sell merchandise if they choose but they have to have their own staffing, merchandise booth, and a place to set it up. We don't really have the space or inclination to sell bands' stuff. I doubt that people seeing a free show are the most avid fans who would buy a lot of merchandise in any event.
  #22  
Old 06-26-2019, 10:53 AM
Dana Scully is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Dizzyland
Posts: 243
Quote:
Originally Posted by F. U. Shakespeare View Post
It's been decades since I belonged to the musicians' union (the American Federation of Musicians), so I don't know if they still do this. But a small percentage of every contract, something like 2%, was put into a trust fund that paid for free concerts. These were held in public places like parks, and in institutions like nursing homes. We played one at a mental hospital, on Halloween. Memorable gig.
Sounds fascinating; tell us about it!
  #23  
Old 06-26-2019, 01:42 PM
Spiderman's Avatar
Spiderman is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: somewhere East of there
Posts: 10,598
Around here it's usually paid by Parks & Rec dept, offset by a sponsor, if they get one.

They also do about dozen movies in the park that way. Our town makes money on the concession table that they setup. A little portable generator to power the popcorn machine & candy & coolered soda &/or water for sale. Most are kids movies/cartoons, but one is always an adult (as in non-kid / PG-13 or R, not 'adult') movie, held in a different place.
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 07:54 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017