Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Calculating Stage Value

I've decided to share my views on how to determine the stage or performance value of your band.
Occasionally I am asked to critique a band performance and give a score. With price verses performance as only one of the ten criteria with which I calculate a total score, the following formula will be shown only for the purpose of identifying whether you are charging too much or too little. Most often, bands charge whatever the venue is willing to pay them for the gig. However, I think that with a little more knowledge of calculating your value, that knowledge will foment the confidence that will help you to begin to demand more money. Whether you actually get more or not is entirely up to you. The following formula requires honesty. For the most accurate depiction of your bands score, have each and every member calculate their own number using this formula and then, to get an average score, divide all scores added and divide that number by the number of band members. The formula may not seem like a very accurate way of determining stage value to you and that's okay. But when I use it to test the current bands that I book for, it proves itself every time and serves as a witness when compared with the monies they receive on a regular basis.
Just two more quick notes. Bands rarely charge too much and get away with it consistently but, frequently, and almost too frequently, bands charge too little. Some bands play for fun and don't need to get paid a lot. However, some do it as a living and it is these bands that would really benefit from the "raising of the bar" by those that are under-pricing. Here we go.

In my book there are 5 basic levels of musicianship.

  1. BAD          These guys will be your last minute fill-in's. The "never agains!"
  2. POOR       These are they that don't have any ability to improvise, play by ear or solo well.
  3. AVERAGE    Average musicians hold their ground but don't stand out either.
  4. GREAT         Great musicians improvise well, solo well, learn songs easily and stand out.   
  5. STELLAR    These are the ones that are an inch away from leaving you for a touring band.
Now, take each band member and assign them a score based on their level of musicianship.
Score them (25-BAD) (50-POOR) (100-AVERAGE) (200-GREAT) (300-STELLAR)
Example;   Paul/Drums   Peter/Guitar   Mary/Bass  Tim/Vocals  Leroy/Keyboards
                         50                    100                100               50                    300    T= 600

These scores represent your worth in dollars. Hold on!
Now I calculate transport, set-up and tear-down price by adding $25.00 for each person.
Example;   Paul-25       +Peter=50    +Mary=75     +Tim=100    +Leroy=125   T= 125.00
(Venue's don't recognize that this should be an added expense but it certainly is. Your time has value. Perhaps this item would be more respected if playing didn't seem like such a party opportunity (gulp, gulp, glug, glug) for ya.)

Now, add $50.00 for each of these qualities if the majority of the band members possess them.
Remember that in a four piece band, 2 is not the majority but 3. Not $50.00 to each band member, just $50.00 total per quality.

  • Tightness with other members (musically)
  • Professionalism (on and off stage) 
  • Members dressed in accordance with music style and or venue clientele (baseball caps are for baseball players)
  • Crowd interaction (not just the singers job)
  • Showmanship (not standing room only)
Next, add $50.00 if you've never had an audience member say, "I can't hear the guitar" or "can you turn it down?"

Finally, Add $200.00 if you'll guarantee the venue that 10 of your friends will show up and each drink $20.00 worth of Pabst. (just Kidding) But seriously, for some reason venue's do find value in how many Facebook "likes" and/or "friends" you have. I'm not touching on that one but, always use whatever you can to your advantage.
Remember that this formula is what I use to determine if a band is out-pricing their performance only. Trio's should multiply their total point score x 1.25.

In order to calculate your value as a wedding band (if your repertoire allows for it), multiply your total dollar value by 1.4
In order to calculate your value as a corporate event performer, multiply your original total value by 1.8.
Have fun.
I would be very interested in your feedback.
Don't forget to check out the new website at


D. Carl Larson
Music Menu

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Music vs. The Booking Agency

  When I started the Music Menu, supporting great local live music was my goal and still is to this day. I believe and have great hope that the day of the traditional booking agency is coming to an end. I do not see Music Menu as a traditional booking agency however. Traditional booking agencies cause everyone in the live music industry to lose. In addition, they lower the quality of music, they set limits on the availability and access of music and lead venues into believing that in order to get quality music, they have to pay a excise tax for it. It's truly a false paradigm that agents, musicians and venues are all complicit in promulgating.
The bands want agents in order to get work. The venues want agents to tell them who's good enough to occupy their stages. The Agents want bands that will leave the booking of gigs entirely up to themselves and the agents also want venues to believe that "exclusively represented" bands are the only good source of live entertainment. The agents have to convince the venues of this in order to justify their representation fees of 15-20% of the show price.
Day in and day out, I am amazed to see venues hiring bands that come along with a 15% gratuity for being "exclusively represented". A band does not become more valuable to you just because a third party is promoting interest of them to others. This fact proves that venues that use traditional booking agents do not get a higher quality of music by using bands represented by them. They are guaranteed however, to pay an unnecessary "lobby tax" on music.
Unlike the Music Menu, traditional booking agents are not Music Critics. They simply pursue booking for those that pay them to do so. When an agency is promoting a band to a venue, it doesn't have the venue's best interest in mind, it has it's own interest in mind; selling the bands that pay them to do so. So, the bands are sort of slapping the venues in the face as well. For some reason, the venues do not know that there are a zillion bands out there that are really talented. But lets not leave it up to the agents to go out and critique local talent, their too busy 'Lobbying' for their bands. Sounds like D.C. to me.

  The equation.

Venue A has 8 bands a month                            
Venue B has 8 bands a month
Venue A pays an average of $1,000.00 per band  
Venue B pays an average of $1,000.00 per band.
Venue A's bands have an "exclusive agent"          
Venue B uses his own time to pursue gigs
Venue A pays a 15% gratuity to the ghost agent  
Venue B pays no gratuity tax
Venue A hires bands that are worth $850 but pays $1,000
Venue B hires bands that are worth every penny of the $1,000

Venue A pays a tax of $14,400.00 to  an "exclusive agent" every year               
Venue B realizes that in order to out-compete venue A, he can start hiring the same quality
bands as venue A for $150.00 less each night.
The agent got paid $14,400.00 for making 96 phone
calls or $150.00/call.    CHECK OUT THE FAT CAT!                                     
Venue B just saved $14,400.00 a year because their competitor, Venue A used an "exclusive agent"

If you wanna find out what makes the Music Menu a popular option to "exclusive representation" send us an email @

Doug Larson
Music Menu

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

110 Great Minnesota Live Bands (w/links)

Attention Venues: To find out each listed bands live performance critics rating send email to
<----------Please Join this Site

American Roadhouse                    
Arch Allies                                    
Arrows at Dawn                           
Bad Romance                              
Big in Japan                                 
Big City Band                              
Bear Creek Band                         
BKS (best kept secret)                
Black Rainbow                            
The Blue Drifters                         
Brian Kinney Band                      
Brian Mac                                   
Canyon Cowboys                       
Chain Lightning                           
Cherry Gun                                 
Crimson Edge                             
Dan Ristrom and the Big Throwdown
Davina and the Vagabonds         

Get your band listed in our
catalogs and you are
Guaranteed 2 bookings a year!

Dirty Horse                                
Erins Alibi                                  
Fat Cats                                    
Fleetwood Mac Attack              
4 on the Floor                            
Free & Easy Band                     
The Frets                                   
Good for Gary                          
The Good the Bad and the Funky
Groove Stew                            
Hair Metal Mania                      
High and Mighty                        
High Octane                              
Inukshuk Pass                           
Jam Factory Band                     

Just send us an email request

Jason Dixon Band                     
Jeff Loven                                 
Jelly Project                              
Jonah and the Whales               
Junk FM                                  
Kentucky Thunder                   
Kick The Dog Band                
King Tuesday                          
Knight Crawler                        
Knockin’ Boots Band             
Leon Laudenbach Band          
Lightning Creek Band             
Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials 
Lisa Wenger                           
Moaning Lisa’s                      
Metro Mix Band                    
Midnight Radio                      
Moose Knuckle Brothers       
Mr. Bones                             
Nasty Habit                          
Northern Comfort                 
North Country Bandits          
100 Watt Jones                    
Outside Recess                    
Plan B                                  
The Prodigal Sons               
Redneck Hippies                
Ring of Kerry                     
The Rythm Roosters           
Rocket Science                  
Ronn Eastons All Star Soul Revue

The Roy Rogers Band        
Ryan Daniels Band             
Scarlet Haze                      
Sell Out Stereo                  
The Senders                      
The Shaw Brothers           
Shirts and Skins                
69 Cents Band                 
Soultight Commitee           
Square One                      
Soul Tree                         
The Soupbones                
Steel Orchid                     

Please let us know if you must be
removed from this list

Stockcar Named Desire   
Strange Daze                   
Sum of All                       
Sweet Papa Dave            
Theory of Relativity          
Thirtytwo Headshots        
Tool Tribute                     
Trailer Trash                     
Tribute to Rage                 
TroubleShooter Band       
Voodoo Butter                
Vintage Raggs                  
Whiskey Tango                
White Iron Band              
Zed Leppelin                   

At Music Menu, we make it easy
for you to find great local

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

MN Music Menu's Top 15 Local Live Bands of 2011

  Over the past twelve months I have watched a lot of live bands performing in a number of different capacities  including but certainly not limited to solo gigs, duo's, trio's and full bands as well as different stages such as festivals, street dances and theatre shows. As a local music critic, my favorite way to observe a live performance is in a dive bar atmosphere with intermediate ambient sound, a good beer in hand and with a generous amount of passion being exhibited from on stage. I am also a musician who plays drums and likes to sing and I know that there are a ton of factors that determine the amount of passion being displayed while on stage. However, passion is engagement, it's physical interaction between people who are often hundreds of feet apart, sharing a musical moment in time. It's body language, and it counts just as much or more as musicianship, band tightness and continuity of style. With all it's importance, passion is by far the least pursued and portrayed aspect of live performance locally today.
  All of this of course is a segue to the topic at hand. The Music Menu's Top 15 list of live bands that, among other great attributes, are 'passion filled' performance groups. These bands 'bring it' as performers, musicians and personalities that are appreciated on and off the stage. Some of the things that I look for when critiquing live performances are continuity of stage dress, band tightness, appreciation for their audience, off stage demeanor, sound quality, PASSION, individual musicianship, songwriting, originality, genre range, crowd interaction and price versus performance. Without going into any further detail of what each criteria means to me, suffice it to say that the following bands have all these characteristics and it is my pleasure to introduce them to you. The bands are listed in order based on continuity over a given number of witnessed performances.
The list is as follows;

#15 East Fillmore

for your listening pleasures.
St. Paul, MN.

#14 Flashback

70's Rock
Burnsville, MN.

Tony Hernandez

#13 Downtown Sound

Classic Rock/Country
New Prague, MN.
Jim Reeder

#12 Outside Recess

Classic Rock
Maple Lake, MN.

#11 Menace

80's Rock

#10 Better Off Red

Classic Rock
Plymouth, MN.
John Ryan

#9 Big Bob Scoggin

Minneapolis, MN.
Bob Scoggin

#8 The Shaw Brothers

Classic Rock/Country
Prior Lake, MN.
Trent Shaw


#7 Sweet Papa Dave Band

St. Cloud, MN.
David Hart

#6 Sell Out Stereo

Classic Rock
Minneapolis, MN.

#5 Chris Brooks & The Silver City Boys

Modern/Classic Country
Minneapolis, MN.
Chris Brooks

#4  Modern Condition

Progressive Rock/HipHop
St. Cloud, MN.

#3  Leon Laudenbach Band

St. Cloud, MN.
Leon Laudenbach

Leon Laudenbach & Mark 'Sparky' Anderson performing the Headwaters Blues Opry 2011.

#2  Redneck Hippies

Classic Rock, Blues, Funk
Eagan, MN.
Kevin Gagnon

#1  Gilman's Crossing

 Gilman's Crossing is;

Ray Gilman-      Guitar/Vocals
Ben Craig-         Bass
Pat Swedzinski- Vocals/Guitar
Brian Sherry-     Drums

Well, that completes our list for 2011. Please check out all these band links and keep supporting local live music. Happy New Year!
D. Carl Larson
Check out the Music Menu blog site here- Music Menu Website
Check out the Music Menu band site here- Music Menu

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 in review. A Message to Musicians & Venues Everywhere

The time sure flies by doesn't it. It seems like yesterday that I was sitting with my wife in Sauk Rapids watching Sweet Papa Dave and his killer quartet roasting notes like they were sparks off a grinder, cutting original blues grooves into the hearts and souls of the captivated audience. Man these guys are HOT!- I said to myself, I just gotta get these guy's to play my festival. I had a lot of fun this summer hanging out and watching the bands perform at local venues. The only bad thing that I can say that happened in 2011 is what this jerk stain did to my venue count by spreading lies and slanders to those good folks after I booted the liar out of the Music Menu mix. Some people are just jerks. There is nothing you can do about it sometimes. There seems to be one in every crowd. Oh well.

  This last July, my wife and I were thrown a wedding reception up in Wascott, WI. It was fun. Following the reception which was comprised of dinner and a local DJ (I know how you all love DJ's), we had another great blues band play at a local bar there. The Leon Laudenbach Band was stellar as usual. This is a bar that is situated 165 miles from their hometown of St. Cloud, in the middle of nowhere, the town having a population of about 150 people, who after hearing Leon and the boys playing there the previous year, demanded their encore performance. I just can't say enough about Leon and his band. They're so easy to book. So original. So inspiring, and their music so emotional and physically motivating. They play for the love of performing. It isn't about the money as much as it is about being worth more than they expect to be paid. This is a band that all young artist's should try and emulate and their attitude and appreciation towards being able to play their music is part of the reason for this blog as you will soon see.

  One of the Music Menu's greatest joys regarding venues this year was meeting the new owner of JJ's Bar in Annandale, MN, which is now called the Annandale Roadhouse. The owners, Tim & Mary Frei and their son's Andy, Joe and Jeff all contribute equally to the development of the Roadhouse. The Frei's take the term 'family business' to a whole new level. These guys are smart and it didn't take much help from anyone to get to where this venue is today. If only other venue's would  follow the Roadhouses lead. Yeah sure, they had some bumps and bruises along this past 3 or 4 month road but, they heal quickly for this steadfast family and I think we can expect to see them as a major player in the Music venue business for a long time to come. Congratulations Frei's. Great bar and your dedication to understanding your customer's desires is inspiring (maybe not the 'toss the midget bowling' though).

  All right, down to bidnis.  I'm starting with venues here. When venue's ask me the age-old question; "which bands are going to bring in the most people?", I generally have to sit there for a minute and collect my cranberries. Then I tell them this; It is not the band's job to bring in people to your venue. If your drink specials, food specials, food and drink quality, ambiance, sanitation upkeep and a hundred other components are not in line with the very local economy, there is no band that can bring them in without you paying a handsome price every time. Live music should be a gift to your established clientele. It should be looked at as a favor and as a reward from and to, your clientele. The reward is, we've given you all we got and in turn, you have provided us with your patronage. The favor is that you would stay and enjoy this reward, this music, beyond your normal, everyday visits duration to 'our' establishment. The Frei's figured this out rather quickly. They figured it out because they sought feedback. The feedback was respected and because of that respect, quick and decisive action was taken.
Unlike in the 50's, 60's and 70's, there are now bars everywhere, entertainment everywhere, cops handing out dui's everywhere and absolutely no reason for people to drive and to risk their lives to see a band at all while paying $4.00/drink at your bar. The venue's have to do better than that. Not even your 25 cent chicken wings and two-fer-ones can compete with American Idol. Let me say it again. Your need for live music is a cover for everything else that's wrong with your venue. Your clients desire for live music will be the reward for their patronage. Got it? Good!

  Bands- are you scared now, 'bout what this gangsta's got to say? You know why venue's pay $2,000.00 a night for some live bands? Because once you go for broke on an expensive band, your clients will not accept anything less. All venue's should learn that lesson. There's another reason as well. Bands that perform for less than they are worth are always sought after. This popularity becomes a tool to get a higher price and to fill their schedule. Let's face it, if a venue really thought you were doing the job well, you'd be booked there every other month. Utilizing that equation, it would only take 8-16 venues to fill your schedules solidly throughout the year. That should be easy if you deliver the goods. If your not working as much as you would like, you can continue to blame it on the filler-slop-shop bands that will play anywhere for a C note, or you can lower your expectations. It's that simple. Be worth more than you get and you'll get more gigs, which will lead to more demand/higher prices. Be worth less and you'll always wonder why these 'crap bands' are so popular. Most of my best bands are willing to play for under $700.00. These bands will out-perform any and all of the $2k bands on any night. It's the occasional $700.00 booking that I get them that helps with schedules staying filled. This in turn promotes popularity, and popularity will eventually promote higher prices.
We are now working on our second annual music menu catalog. If you as a solo, duo or band ensemble would like to be listed in our 2012 catalog, drop me a line and we'll get you in there.
Thank you to all the bands and venues in supporting the Music Menu.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

D. Carl Larson
Music Menu