You bet your macaroni, bands have to get paid!

Paying Bands


As YouRockRed launches today I wanted to share some my own history with you and provide some insight into the Canadian music scene.

I’ve been booking shows since I was 17 years old.  From my high school friends’ basement band to being the first promoter to bring Ten Second Epic to Quebec I would do everything to make my bands happy when working with me.

Back then I didn’t know about sponsorship deals, ad revenue or how to get media involved so each time I plunked down $400 for venue or PA rental was a huge risk.  I would put my part-time coffee shop money towards paying my bands’ guarantees instead of road-tripping to Montreal or Ottawa for big shows.  It was a really small town of less than 2,000 and no one had even put on punk or indie shows in the community rec centre that wasn’t a fiddlin’ jamboree (really).

There were no guides to promoting and artist relations available to me but I knew this much:  bands needed to get paid.  And I at least could feed them if we didn’t get enough kids out to the show.  So early in the morning of my shows I would chop vegetables and cook up massive pots of pasta.  The pasta became legendary… as did my hospitality.

A spread of veggies, cheeses, cookies, and pasta was always available to my bands.  I didn’t have any guide books on how to promote or deal with bands.  I just knew how I would like to have been treated.

Now when interviewing people like Conor Oberst they’ll rave about the food spread at Bluesfest in comparison to other festivals where there’s just corn chips instead of full meals.  It becomes not about the food, but about valuing the people you are working with.  Music is my end-all, but it’s people who make the songs that run through my ear phones.  When you have happy musicians and treat them with kindness and consideration they remember.

When I booked Rah Rah a couple years ago when I saw that their rider included a list of vegetarian food items I went out of my way to make sure they were available.  I am a fan of their band but I wanted them to have their best performance and happy, well-fed people make way better music. 

Most shows I was able to pay and feed my bands, but a few times the opening bands got only pasta.  Then again, there was a French hardcore band who chose to get paid in cupcakes.

Food became the currency and just like you do when you’re hanging out in a kitchen, new friendships, clients and experiences came out of that one small gesture. Past Ottawa Rock Lottery participants know I have a habit of stuffing them with gourmet pizza and craft beer.

I hope the bands I’ve worked with remember the pasta and when you’re down to your last macaroni, and that they remember that pasta can be turned to real currency with the right music supporters. 

How have you been paid for performing?  Let us know in the comments!  

And now for you to really get to know where I started, here’s the first article that was ever written about my concert promoting.


Serious flash from the past- teenage promoter.
Serious flash from the past- teenage promoter.