I’ve always been a firm believer that the headliner slot at a club or pub gig is definitely the worst.
I think the worst spot on the bill is the “headliner”. As you are on the bill with say two other acts, you would think that, ‘okay, I won’t get paid much but we may win a lot more fans of the people that have come to see the other bands’. In my experience it doesn’t work like that.
First band on will play to their friends and family and members of the other bands (if they’ve stuck around). Towards the end of the first band’s set the people supporting the second band will start to arrive. The second band comes on and may catch some of the first band’s crowd as they leave. They will play to their own friends and family and maybe some of the third band’s crowd as they arrive.
Third and last band takes to the stage and may play to some of the second band’s crowd as they leave, Most of the other musicians will have left at this point, so most of the set will be playing to just the people they have brought along and the bar staff. Then as final band, you will have the pleasure of stripping your gear down and carting it all home.
I think the headline spot is the worst spot in these conditions as you have to be there first to set up and last to leave as you have to pack up, will have played to the fewest people, If you really want to play these types of gigs, try and get one of the middle spots, if there’s three bands on, try and get second spot, if there’s four bands on try and get third spot. I’m not saying ‘don’t do these gigs’, as for some bands it’s all they can muster, certainly in the early days, but just be warned that they are not always what they are cracked up to be.
I know some promoters insist on you guaranteeing to bring forty people along per band, and to be honest, unless you are a young band with loads of unmarried friends you’ll struggle to get that many people to regularly commit to coming along. Plus, if you can absolutely guarantee to bring forty people to a venue to see you, you’d be better off approaching venues yourself and negotiating a decent fee