Probably the biggest question I get here at CT/MA Music is who's responsible for bringing people to shows; the band or the bar? If you've been in a gigging band then you've definitely come across the bar owner/manager that chews you out for not bringing a big enough crowd. And if you're a bar owner/manager, then you've definitely had nights where the band didn't bring enough people to justify their price. It's easy to place the blame on the other person. But it actually all boils down to the fact that you're both equally responsible to bring people to the show.
It definitely sucks being in a band, working hard on your tunes, promoting the show the best you can, and then still, no one comes out. It makes it even harder to get yelled at by the bar owner because you didn't bring enough people. It's discouraging to say the least. And it's hard to fathom why a bar would hire you for a set price then argue with you about it. You did your job, you played the show. What gives? Well, you need to look at it from the bar's perspective. The only reason they hire a band is to sell more drinks. They rely on you to bring your fan base to their bar to drink their drinks.
The argument can be made, though, that the band's job is to entertain, not promote. And this is also true. And a lot of bars understand this and book bands to entertain the built in crowds they have. However, some bars book bands solely for the band's fans to come in. It helps to ask this info ahead of time from the bar.
To further expand on this, the bar also needs to look at the situation from the band's perspective. A band can only pull so many people on any given night. And in many cases it's completely out of their hands if people can come. It becomes even more difficult if they play back to back shows, as it pretty much dilutes the fan base 50/50% to each show. A band's primary function is not to draw people, but to play songs. The hope is that by playing songs well enough they will then inevitibally draw a crowd. It's fine to expect a band to draw fans, but it's just poor management to expect a band to be the only drawing factor to a bar. That is, if you can't manage to get people to come through your door unless a band is playing, then you have bigger things to worry about than yelling at the band.
It's the bar's responsibility to create an atmosphere that is condusive to live music if they are going to have bands. It seems that many bars in the area hire bands as an afterthought to bring in business. It's very hard for a band, even one with a huge fan base, to bring those fans to a bar that doesn't cater well to bands. If you're going to have bands at all, you need to recognize this. Shoving a band in the corner of bar and expecting them to bring in your business with no added effort is plain unfair. Other factors such as cleanliness and friendliness also come into play. It's like inviting a master chef to cater your private party but then putting out paper plates and a box of wine. Many fans of a band will choose to go to a show at one bar over another based on how well kept the bathrooms are, for example. The bar itself should be able to bring at least half of the crowd based on its own reputation. If it can't, then something needs to be done to help that. Therefore, if a band plays a show and no one shows up, the blame is on the band AND the bar.
Ultimately, it is up to the bar to decide if they want a band back, and unfortunatly they can make that decision based on any facts they want. It's a shame that many bars in the area can't seem to figure out why bands aren't drawing. And they do need to look in the mirror as well to find out why. So before you place the blame when you have an empty show, think of it from the other side as well, and use it as a chance to make improvements.