Understanding the Landscape of Local Music Venues
In order to get regular paid gigs, it’s helpful to understand the venue landscape. Here I’m going to talk about the venue landscape in my area, and then spend a little time on the bigger landscape for those of you who travel for gigs. Understanding the venue landscape for me, wasn’t just about identifying all the different places that I wanted to play. It’s also about understanding the types of venues that were a good fit for my bands and those with whom I work. Learning about venues also presents an opportunity to network with other musicians. In my case, there are different bands and musicians working in different venues. For example, I spent past years focused on club venues, where as today, I’m more focused on winery, restaurant/bar venues, and private events. I have friends who are well known in the art & wine festival scene and the Summer music series scene. These can be good paying gigs that are typically outdoors on a decent size stage and sound system, with great crowds. Having a good understanding of your local venue landscape can help you target venues. As I’ve said before, the venue landscape changes. An example of this in my area came about a few years ago, when I recognized that local wineries were interested in live acoustic music. Given other things that were happening at the time, I thought it would be a good idea to tailor acoustic acts that were marketable to local winery venues. It was a good idea. Having tailored some acoustic acts with a cast of good band mates, I’ve become a trusted resource among a handful of winery venues in my area.
Having an intimate understanding of venues can also help you be a favorite among venue staff and owners. Little things like accommodating special load-in requests, catering to their regular patrons, and being prepared and otherwise flexible for unexpected situations, will garner much appreciation for your consideration. Here are some examples little things you can do that will get you some appreciation points from venues.
- Being understanding when a venue explains that your performance schedule has changed, due to unforeseen circumstances
- Helping them out by providing something as small as extension cords, or a music playlist that runs during your breaks
- Bringing a simple lighting rig to liven up the look of your show
- Mentioned in a previous chapter, posters for the gig date
Anything you can do to make your venue contact look good, or that makes their life easier is gold. Having intimate knowledge of venues comes through experience at the venue, but it also comes from asking questions. You can ask the venue owner questions like:
- What’s the typical crowd like?
- Does your band need to bring power strips or extension cords (you should of course always have this in your gear bag)?
- Would the venue like you to provide some lighting?
- Is it cool to have a tip jar, and is it okay to mention upcoming shows at other venues?
- Can you sell merchandise?
Finally, making this simple statement will go a long way with venue owners and contacts.
Let us know if we can do anything for you, or if we need to dial the volume back at any point during the show.
Private events can be great. Sometimes they can be really fun, and they can also pay quite well. There are a couple of ways to go about getting booked for private events, and there are different types of private events. One of the easiest ways is to simply let it be known that your band does private events. It can be really helpful to meet everyone you can at your shows. During breaks, shake some hands, introduce yourself to people, and thank them for coming to your show. Many private gigs are offered not only on how good your band sounds, but also on how you present, and how you deal with people. Think about it this way. If you’re performing somewhere, and someone in the audience thinks that they might want to ask you about your availability for a private event, they’ll probably come up to the stage and ask; but if they see that you or one of your band mates if very friendly and very approachable, they’re even more likely to ask about your availability for a private event. I hope you’ve heard this before, but people want to do business with people they know, like, and trust. Give your audience a glimpse of who you are, and you’re likely to make some new friends, some of whom might hire your band for a private gig, or refer you to someone who’s looking for a band to work a private gig. Think about this as an opportunity for you to get to know your audience too. Maybe there’s someone in the audience that you’re a little unsure about working with. It’s a lot easier to figure out if you want to do a private event for someone, simply be taking a few minutes to speak with them. Pay attention and you’ll know if you like a particular person, or if they’re someone that you and your band would actually enjoy working with, or if they’re more likely to be a royal pain the arse. You don’t want to work with someone who’s going to be difficult. When I say, “It’s all about relationships,” I mean to say, “It’s all about quality relationships.” Do yourself a favor and only work with nice people and people that you like.
Another great way to let it be known that you’re band does private events, is to let your peers and venue contacts know. This is a simple conversation or email. Here’s an example email template.
Just wanted to let you know that my band does private events. If you know of anyone who’s hiring for an event at which my band would be a good fit, I’d appreciate it if you’d share my contact info.
[YOUR CONTACT INFO]
Another route is to advertise on Facebook, Craigslist, or any of the well known gig websites.
Private events can come in the form of birthday parties, holiday parties, weddings, company parties, and corporate events. Birthday and holiday parties, can often be very relaxed and casual, where as weddings or company events can be a more formal affair. If you and your band are known for good showmanship and good appearances, then you’re likely going to be a good fit for corporate events as well as weddings. In both cases, presentation is important. If you’re trying to get into this circuit, people to reach out to would include event planners and HR professionals. It’s also helpful to let your inner circle know about your availability for corporate events, especially friends who work at big companies. If you have any friends that are a Human Resources professional, you should definitely mention your availability to them.
What should you charge for private events? It really depends on the caliber of your band. Here’s a pricing guideline for a part-time cover band.
- Private Parties $100-$300 per musician
- Weddings $250-$500 per musician
- Corporate Event $250-$750 per musician
If you’re a pro full-time musician, these rates may be less than you’d typically charge. The thing to remember here, is that not all gigs and not all bands are created equal. By that, I simply mean that the right rate for one band, may be completely different for another band. It’s helpful to know your market here also, and again, the easiest way to get a feel for your local market is to ask fellow musicians.
There are so many different levels at which various musicians play, but it’s safe to say the following. If you’re a part-time hobby musician, it’s reasonable to ask for $100 to $750 per musician, per performance, depending on the gig.
Take the time to learn more about your local venue needs and interests. It pays to know this stuff! Connect with your audience at gigs. This is part of relationship building and serving your audience. You can connect on and off stage. Schmoozing during breaks is a great way to meet people who dig what you do. Let it be known that your band is available for private gigs. Network with HR and event planning professionals. They often know about the good gigs. DO NOT underestimate the value of knowing the landscape of local venues! It’s your marketplace.
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