So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star

A tasty bit of emailia that came my way:

Craigslist Ad:

We are a small & casual restaurant in downtown Vancouver and we are looking for solo musicians to play in our restaurant to promote their work and sell their CD. This is not a daily job, but only for special events which will eventually turn into a nightly event if we get positive response. More jazz, rock, & smooth type music, around the world and mixed cultural music. Are you interested to promote your work? Please reply back ASAP.

A Musician’s Reply:

Happy new year! I am a musician with a big house looking for a restauranteur to come to my house to promote his/her restaurant by making dinner for me and my friends. This is not a daily job, but only for special events which will eventually turn into a nightly event if we get a positive response. More fine dining & exotic meals mixed with some ethnic fusion cuisine. Are you interested to promote your restaurant? Please reply back ASAP.

Tom Van Dyke

Tom Van Dyke, businessman, musician, bon vivant and game-show champ (The Joker's Wild, and Win Ben Stein's Money), knows lots of stuff, although not quite everything yet. A past contributor to The American Spectator Online, the late great Reform Club blog, and currently on religion and the American Founding at American Creation, TVD continues to write on matters of both great and small importance from his ranch type style tract house high on a hill above Los Angeles.


    • Which raises an interesting (and Matthew Yglesias-ish) question, why is this so? Or put another way, can a a food cart be considered busking in another medium?

      • Well, one of the dynamics is that the restaurant is providing two things:

        A space for the musician to play.
        A space for the musician to sell their CD.

        I presume that the restaurant is not going to pay the musician beyond those two things (though it wouldn’t surprise me if the musician got a plate of food at the end of the night).

        What would a similar dynamic be for a guy selling food?

        When I was a kid working at the restaurant, we catered parties around the holidays (like every other weekend). We always, always, always brought our cards and featured them prominently among the hors d’oeuvres. (The hors d’oevres were already paid for, naturally.)

        When it comes to the musicians I know (note: I know *NONE* who have made it big, or even medium), the thought of a gig is something that makes them sit up. These are guys who go to open mic night at Meadow Muffins on Wednesdays in Old Colorado City to play a small set in front of people. I can totally see them trying out for this restaurant gig.

      • The pedantic answer is that the marginal cost of playing music is nearly nil (discounting opportunity costs, duh) but for a chef producing food has a substantial cost to it such that giving food surely doesn’t add up the same way.

        • Though I suspect if you ran a similar ad saying that you would be reimbursed for all costs the answer would be the same.

          One of the major differences I see is the issues of audience. If you come cop at my house for me and my friends, you get a small, limited number of people to market to – whereas if you play music in a restaurant or bar, you may get any number. You can even invite you regulars to come and cheer you on.

          A more interesting comparison would be for a restaurant to invite an up and coming chef to cook at their expense for a weekend, while the restaurant promoted that person’s new taste. If the restaurant was well known enough, I think that you might get quite a few young and hungry high quality chefs wanting to make their mark and get their name out.

          • Very good point, there are probably a fair amount of aspiring chefs that would take you up on such an offer.

          • My friends were a couple of successful folks who decided to open a restaurant because they liked the idea of a place where they could meet and party with old and new friends and make enough money to make it worthwhile. Unfortunately their restaurant was wildly successful. After too many years of running it (and running it well) they’d had enough and retired.
            I ran into them at a Costco and asked if they’d ever consider getting back in the biz. They said no way. I said, “How about a new restaurant where it is one building and we rotate out the chefs every night?” They really loved the idea, we even made up a small business plan. Unfortunately they really do like retirement, but anyone here is welcome to run with the idea. The biggest problem in successful restaurants is burnout. The owners just can’t take it anymore.

  1. All the objections are valid, but can anyone here truthfully say they didn’t enjoy the musician’s response?

    (Was it you, Tom?)

  2. I am pretty sure the cooking shows my wife and daughter are so fond of work on this premise. Many other things too. All presaged in the 1997 Fast Company article The Brand Called You.

  3. Dear Tom, I have a question for you (about this blog post), but I would like to talk about that in private. Could you give me a reply to given email? We have an idea to use this relationships between artist and restaurants in some way 😉

  4. Terrific work! This is the type of info that are supposed to be shared across the net. Shame on Google for no longer positioning this publish upper! Come on over and consult with my website . Thank you =)

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