Pay the Cover | Darren Keen

Posted by admin on Sun, 01/23/2011 - 2:26am in column, darren keen, music, nebraska, pay the cover

By Darren Keen

I am so broke right now. And this is not me being humble about the amount of money I have, or an attempt to have a catchy intro to my first amazing column. I am having serious financial problems. 

As an industrious artist, it's easy to blame music piracy for contributing to my money woes. But while people stealing movies, music, comics and other media doesn't help, it's not the only thing I blame for an increasingly devalued creativity.

Everything seems to be within our reach. And gratification is immediate and, often, constant.

But imagine my great-great-great grandpa in Ireland — waking up at 4 a.m., feeding cows and tending to the Irish countryside. He's only heard music in church, parades and, maybe, some drunken sea shanties (I hope I descended from Irish pirates). But if you handed him an iPod Touch, Seamus O'Blackbeard and his contemporaries wouldn't be ready for the cultural revolution provided by such a technological jump. He wouldn't have known what to do with non-local music.

Here in my basement, I'm sitting at a quad-core iMac, listening to traditional Zeuhl music on my ear buds. The giant, can-style earphones I have placed over my ears blasts "I Can" by Nas, which is hard to hear over the dub-step track bumping two feet away from my head on the studio monitors — it seems to have a similar bassline to the song in the movie I'm watching.

But at what point does having such easy access to art start to devalue it?

Recently, Duffy's Tavern, 1415 O St., in Lincoln, was named the best college bar in America by, the president or something. (Ed. Note: It was Duffy's was also named best college bar by a major music mag about 10 years ago. If this is truly a cornerstone for college culture, then why can't bands charge a cover when they play there? I think that if everyone had to drop even $2 to get in (as is the business model at the Replay Lounge in Lawrence, Kan.), the fishbowl crowd would at least want to get their money’s worth. They might even stop and check out a song or two on their way to the beer garden, allowing us artists to try and convert some of them into fans.

When you allow people to come to the shows for free, you instantly devalue the music in the attendees' eyes. People assume that if you aren't good enough to warrant a cover charge, then you probably aren't worthy of their attention.

Although illegal downloading is in someways directly stealing from an artist, I think it's important to examine the deeper implications of people not needing to pay for art anymore. Next time your friend has a show, try and shed all of this entitlement that you have been tricked into feeling — fuck the guest list — buy a ticket, stand in the front row, and just be a fan for a change.

Pay the cover.
Darren Keen has a lot of sci-fi tattoos and makes a lot of experimental electronic music.



App077yoN on Thu, 06/14/2012 - 1:51am

What cover??

What cover??

Dub on Wed, 01/26/2011 - 6:54pm

Darren is Keen

Thanks, Darren!  I just thought I would clear up any confusion.  Nice seeing YOU last night and looking forward to Good Speakers on Sunday!  It's only $3, people!!/event.php?eid=185109564846379

Cory Kibler on Wed, 01/26/2011 - 12:29pm

Darren's piece has lots of comments!

Doesn't it?!  This is awesome!  The site is already really informative and a good way to entertain myself at work :)

bhb on Wed, 01/26/2011 - 11:34am

ur right D!


you couldn't be more right Darren!!!!

thesonof76 on Tue, 01/25/2011 - 7:54pm


One Percent always pays their bands fairly?

darren keen on Tue, 01/25/2011 - 6:07pm


I SHOULD NOTE THAT : I do not think DUFFY'S devalues music with their donation model, I think people who are attending the shows, but not donating are the problem.

duffy's rules!

i'm playing there twice this week!

Ungnome on Tue, 01/25/2011 - 4:00pm

I had a similar thought.

I really like this idea! I was also trying to think of something like this and only had one idea and I don't like mine as much as yours.

The idea I had was that you could either pay the cover or buy a minimum of 2 drink tickets at the door.

I think for a lot of the really unknown bands, a cover can be a barrier preventing new blood from entering a venue and discovering new music.

Also, I think venues and bands should have more of a discussion regarding how much is charged maybe?

The really well known/popular local bands can totally still bring people in at $5+. But for the noobs, they might need to have a $2 cover.

Heraclitus on Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:36pm

Pay the Cover, get the drink special!

Pay the Cover, get a blue wristband, get the drink special! If you don't want to hear the band, but want to smash in with 100 people who problem, don't pay, get the green wristband, and no special for you!

Free art for the truly broke, reward for those that pay the cover and no breaks for the defiantly stingy.

mgee on Mon, 01/24/2011 - 10:01pm

I have an idea.

Get a haircut and get a real job.

Jason Koba on Mon, 01/24/2011 - 7:49pm


I do not think that anyone's creativity has been devalued by people not paying a cover, or bands not getting as much money as they would like. The opposite appears to be true to me. For the last century, money has been eating away at and destroying peoples creativity. If you want to make money of playing music start a cover band, but please do not beg for money on the internet. It makes you look bad.

Dub on Mon, 01/24/2011 - 7:27pm

Yes or Yes

Darren has a very good point. Pay the cover. Just pay the cover, people. It's a simple process that everyone should expect to be a part of any given show THEY choose to attend.

I am in full support of this.

After being an employee of Duffy's, on top of booking & promotions, I started to realize that there were things keeping people from coming in and potentially becoming a life-long patron of what we have to offer. The location (getting everyday bar traffic) on top of not being solely a music venue every night were hard to come up with a solution that works for everyone.

We always want to look out for and take the best possible care of the acts, as well as make sure we aren't turning (most, but ideally any) person away that is wanting to come in for whatever reason.

We have our shows that have covers and have also started taking donations at the door - in hopes for a win-win for show goers and potential street traffic. The frustrating part is when people hear or see the word "donation" and automatically associate that with "free". It would be great if everyone one felt invest enough to chip in something when they come in knowing that the acts performing will be getting rewarded and compensated for their time and efforts.

I presume and hope that this article was not written to throw Duffy's under the bus, but to make the point clear that people should expect and be willing to pay something when they decide to come out and show support for live music.

Once again, I agree with Darren and appreciate some of the previous comments, but wanted to make sure that everyone was clear on how and why we operate the way we do.

With that in mind, know that I am always open to ideas and/or suggestions on how we (as a venue and a continuing music community) can make each and every show experience the best it can possibly be. For anyone interested in dropping their thoughts and ideas my way please do so via

Viva Hear Nebraska
Viva Live Music
Viva Darren Keen
Viva Duffy's Tavern
...and, of course, cheers to all of you guys for making all of this possible.

This year is going to be big and raise the bar for local music and it's going to take the continued communication, support, ideas and help from everyone involved. I look forward to it.

JOC on Mon, 01/24/2011 - 6:46pm

It's too late.

Music has already been devalued. The public is unsympathetic. You've left out some critical information in your "article." How are the bands getting paid? Are the bands getting paid? The Hexagon in Minneapolis never charges a cover and bands are paid a percentage of the bar. If the bands don't want to walk out empty handed they need to get the drunks in the door. I'd like to hear how Lincoln musicians feel about playing in a town that can't keep a single record store in business.

Tim Scahill on Mon, 01/24/2011 - 5:42pm


duffy's does have donation shows!

Bill_In_Red on Mon, 01/24/2011 - 4:38pm


I respect Duffy's Tavern for wanting to help spark interest in newer bands. I also see the value in getting paid as it helps fuel the music and for some of us like Darren it is how he gets to eat each day. I can't say I'm in the same boat as I have a full time job. But as a band The End In Red usually checks to make sure were going to be compensated for our efforts before a show. Not that we ask for a lot. Or that we usually put up a fuss if things don't always go according to plan. But getting the funds to at least break even on recordings and t-shirts is something we work toward.

I doubt the band will ever be in the black when it comes to how much money we put in. But we are having a lot of fun. And props to Darren for going out there and really doing it.

I would also like to say props to One Percent in Omaha for always paying their bands and treating them with respect. Also for putting together shows that give new bands a shot. I frequent the Waiting Room and Slowdown and they have the best sound, the best sound men, and bands walk out with money even on a night where they're probably digging in teir own pockets to make sure it happens.

Anyway. Love the new website and Darren's column. Good first go.

Tim Scahill on Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:17pm

Great article

I thought I heard the president say that Duffy's was the best bar too.
Also, I agree. $2 cover charge is a sweet business model. Omaha has now switch to $7 and $8 shows for local acts. Seems strange but I still pay it even though it's a bit tougher on my brass knuckles wallet. Good Karma I suppose.

Replay in Lawrence is awesome, best Beer Garden ever! I've heard some Darren Keen stories from there. ;)

KyleMartin on Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:06pm

Darren has an astute grasp of economic theory.

(Full disclosure: I work for Duffy's as a door guy, sometimes.)
But he isn't taking into account the background of the proprietor. He has a background in the financial world. When you work there you often work in risk mitigation.
Duffy's is trying to help small, local bands get seen and heard. What is the biggest risk that a small band has, when it comes to playing a show? I would say that no one showing up due to bad weather/ lack of publicity/ whatever would be the biggest fear. To avoid that, Duffy's does what it does.
That might not be so good for larger named acts, but it provides a guarantee of earnings for smaller ones.
Also, there was a cover for the New Years Eve concert. I think the bands did very well for themselves.

Andrew Norman on Sun, 01/23/2011 - 2:50pm