What Happened To All The Bands?

A customer recently asked me a good question:  Why doesn’t Hannah’s have live music any more?  He recalls the days when we had a band every weekend, sometimes two bands, and notes that there were usually good crowds to see them.

The answer is all those bands made me lose lots of money.

Here’s how:  A good band costs about 500 bucks.  We found that a good band could increase gross  sales by roughly the amount we paid them.  Given that our net, like all restaurants, is a small fraction of the gross, we were taking $500 off the bottom line in order to add a few dollars to the bottom line.  Yikes!   We were busier than we would have been without the band, but the band’s expense made us lose money on that extra business.   Not smart, I soon realized.  Restaurants can’t afford to take losses like that when taxes, rents, and payroll expenses are always going up.  Confusing being busy with making money is what crushes inexperienced folks who open bars and restaurants.

Musicians understand this issue, and they have a solution:  Cover charges.  Using the above example, if I charged a $5 cover and 100 folks came to see the band, my overhead would be covered before the first note was played.  In order to do this I would need a separate area for the music, which I just don’t have.  Blocking off archways within Hannah’s to separate the rooms won’t fly with the fire marshall.  Also I’m just not comfortable telling my longtime regulars that they suddenly have to pay to come in.

So Brent, the bottom line is I don’t see a way to have live music on a regular basis without losing money.  If anyone has a viable idea to make bands work, I’m all ears.


  1. Why not pay the band a guarantee of say $250 and then give them a % of the net sales or a % of what the bar makes? $250 for live entertainment is cheap and then you arent out as much of pocket because the bar is paying them off for the rest. The band doesnt make money if the bar doesnt. My band will work with you if we can get in there. Check us out / http://www.thelastcallmusic.com


  2. Nice explanation , we recently visited your hendersonville restraunt and had a good lunch , i have a question concerning the old t-shirts you guys used to print , it had the ole style galic saying on the back with the galic symbol on the left chest , this was the most awsome bar t shirt i have ever had the chance to puchase……..do you still have these designs avalible ?

  3. If I pay you a guarantee and then give you a percentage of the net, only one person is guaranteed to make money: You. The $250 you propose comes out of the net just like the additional percentage does.

  4. I’m an out-of-town visitor, so not familiar with the local scene, but in many places the “beginner bands” would be more than happy to work for just the percentage with no guarantee. Good experience, exposure and fun! Personally, I’m always looking for Irish music when I travel (being an Irish music singer myself) and it is nearly impossible to find! Something to consider anyway!

  5. I’m from Europe and have spent a lot of my time working in the Entertainment industry. However, i’m very suprised that Hendersonville is so lacking when it come to live music.I can understand the problems you face when you have to pay a band a certain amount of money and not able to recoup the expense on the night, but what we do to combat this is usually aproach a company such as Heineken or Guinness etc and rope them in to sponsor the events Maybe yoiu should consider doing this.
    Also, i dont thnk that you should just view your profit and loss from this one night. Entertainment can bring in new clientelle that may start frequenting your place during the week, for others reasons other that just to check out the music. Live music is great marketing for a pub and i believe that your expense should be tied in with your marketing budget.

  6. Just a customer, that has enjoyed a 2 piece band long ago when we first visited Hendersonville, Made an impression on me and my husband. We now live in East Flat Rock. Maybe free drinks and some of your good food would satisfy some that play for fun and entertainment. Like open mike night. Or day. Just a thought.

  7. Robert offers an excellent suggestion. Having a brewer sponsor a band as a promotion for a beer would allow us to have a quality band without losing money. I am going to contact some of our suppliers and float the idea.

    His second point is the idea that bands have a marketing value beyond just the night of the show. This is true to an extent, since any promotion exposes new folks to Hannah’s. But it doesn’t change the fact that I have lost a boatload of money on that promotion, when there are other more effective ways of spending marketing funds. And viewing profit and loss by each promotion only makes sense. How else would you ever know if anything is a good idea or not?

  8. There’s a little place in Saluda that has live music every Sat. night. They pack the crowds in. The bands play for tips and an opportunikty to sell their CD’s. There is a plethora of talent in Western NC – and many would love to play for tips.

  9. Most customers would prefer to spend a cover charge to their home bar then spend the money on gas and parking to drive to asheville. Lets face it people love listening to live music.

  10. Why not hire an awesome solo performer or kick-ass trio instead of a full band? There’s still entertainment value bringing people to your venue… but less out-of-pocket expense for you. And personally, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for musical performers to require some sort of guarantee. They are, after all, running a business… same as you.

  11. Hey Matt, Maybe emulating someone like Jack Of the Wood in Asheville would be a good idea. They do jam nights throughout the week. Musicians just play for the fun of it and free beer. It really brings in the crowds too. II think the do an Old Timey jam night, and a bluegrass jam night. Why not a Gaelic Music Jam Night?

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