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How the Club Circuit Works

Why Play Clubs?
Roman Candle on stage at Local 506 in Chapel Hill, NC
Roman Candle on stage at Local 506 in Chapel Hill, NC

There are two main reasons why you want to play clubs:

  • You want to get exposure. The only way to build a following is by playing in front of potential followers.
  • You'd like to make some money playing your music, and many clubs will pay you something. Even if they don't pay you, you may be able to make something from tips or by selling CDs and T-shirts at the show.

The club has one big reason for booking your band: to draw a crowd. A crowd will buy drinks, and that's how the club makes money. Besides the profit angle, a club might book your band to build a reputation -- which is really just a more indirect profit angle. The club wants to be known for booking hot acts. If your band has a significant following, some of your followers may come back to the club to see other bands, and they'll bring their money with them.

It's important for your band to understand the club's goals. If your band can bring 50 people to a small club, that is a big deal for the club owner. You'll get invited back, and now you've got a club owner you can use as a reference. If you get booked at a club and no one shows up to see you, this is bad. If you book a show and you are terrible, so the customers in the club are screaming for a refund on the cover charge, this is bad. Reputation-wise, this is worse than never getting booked at all.

So before you start trying to get into clubs, be sure of two things:

  • You have a following -- meaning that you can get some people to come to the club to see you play. Even if your "following" is a big bunch of friends that you can count on to show up, it's a start.
  • You have a decent act.

If you can't be sure of these two things, it's too early for your band to be trying to play in clubs.