What To Do When You Get Burned By a Venue or Promoter

Hell hath no fury like a band scorned, right? Spending time and energy over emails settling on a date and promoting a show only to have a booking agent or promoter back out at the last second has got to be one of the most frustrating situations for a band to experience. And if you’re a small fish in a big pond, it can seem like you have little to no recourse when it comes to getting the shaft from a big club in your scene, but there are a few things you can do when you get burned by a venue or promoter.

Don’t post about it over social media but do warn peers in your local scene

It might be tempting to make a huge deal out of what happened to you over Facebook and Instagram, but all that drama and negativity might end up hurting your band more than helping it. However, if a venue is screwing you over without reason or justification, then you should by all means tell other bands in your scene. Bands in music scenes have a lot more power than you might think.

A few years ago, word started going around the small scene in Lawrence, Kansas that one of its local venues was mistreating bands. The venue closed down shortly after. Venues that are routinely bad to bands inevitably don’t last long, so if one has taken advantage of you, don’t despair.

If you had to cancel a show at the very last minute, you probably would feel angry and would want to let your fans know in vivid detail what actually happened, but the truth is that your fans only care about the music you’re making. By telling other bands in your scene to avoid working with a venue, you’ll do much more in the way of impacting change than if you incoherently bitch about it over Facebook.

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Avoid making the same mistake twice

If a venue or promoter took advantage of you, then the only way to prevent it from happening again in the future is to take stock of what happened. Did the venue have a bad reputation? Was your communication with the booking agent or promoter totally clear? Did something seem off in any way when you set the show up? If you can identify what went wrong for you this time, you’ll have a better chance of not going through the same mess in the future. And a note here, for some readers, the problem might be with you, not the venue.

If you didn’t properly confirm your show and made assumptions of any kind in your communication, then the blame for your troubles falls squarely on your own shoulders. This same thing applies if you feel like a venue didn’t pay you enough. Did you read the terms laid out through email or on their website when you agreed to play the show?

This is all very boring non-music stuff, but if you want to avoid problems like shows falling through and not getting payed for performances, you’ve got to be professional on and off the stage.

Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

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