If you’re in a band trying to make it in the music scene today, it’s common to cast a wide net when looking for potential gigs. Whether in your hometown or on tour, you may just feel eager to get onstage and showcase your music. It can be tempting to accept any offer to play, but not every venue will be the right fit. Follow these simple steps to decide if your band should play the show or keep looking.
1. Consider your audience.
Whether your band has been putting out music for years or you’re just starting out, it’s important to consider which venues have the best audience for your band. Some factors you should consider are:
- Age — If you’re an all-male pop band in your early 20s, you shouldn’t consider any venues that don’t allow all ages. If you’re a Black Sabbath cover band, an 18+ show won’t be a problem. Age also plays into considering venue location, which we’ll talk about more below.
- Size — This one can be tough, and it may mean turning down a venue you like because it doesn’t match your audience size. Whether you’re an up-and-coming band or a local legend, it’s important to know what kind of crowd you’re going to draw. It’s better to pack a smaller venue with fans than score the “best” venue in town and only fill it up halfway.
2. Look at location.
It’s hard to know what a venue is like if you’re not there to see it. You don’t want to get to a city and find that the “close to downtown” venue you booked is actually close to a highway that leads to downtown. Ask the venue’s representatives how accessible their space is, and utilize the internet for photos, reviews and other bands’ impressions.
Don’t forget to ask about transportation. Do most attendees park their cars nearby? Is there reliable public transportation? The answers to these questions may not be deal-breakers, but it’s important to build an idea of how people will get to your show, and if you can count on any foot traffic.
3. Look at security concerns.
Another huge factor to consider is security, both for you and for your instruments, gear and possessions. If the venue is in a busy part of town, ask if there’s a gated lot or a secure place for the band to store its stuff. It’s an awful feeling to have to leave your things in a vulnerable location. Plan ahead, ask ahead, and don’t be afraid to walk away if the venue isn’t willing or able to meet your needs.
4. Venue reputation is key.
The internet makes this part of your job a lot easier. Read reviews left by fans and musicians alike, and see if the venue addresses the negative ones. Then see how the venue promotes their shows. Obviously it’s the band’s job to do most of the promotion and advertising for the show, but it’s great to see a venue actively promoting the shows they host. Ask around and see how the venue treats musicians and guests.
5. Consider compensation.
New bands play for free; it’s a fact of life and most musicians learn to be fine with it. But if you’ve proven that you’ll bring in an audience and make the venue some money, your band should be seeing some cash at the end of the night. Most well-managed venues want to have good relationships with musicians and treat them fairly, so don’t be afraid to negotiate for a fair deal. Based on the outcome, it may be the best decision for your band to find somewhere else to play.
Whether you’re playing on a street corner or at Red Rocks, picking a venue is an important part of getting your music out to your fans. You want to deliver a quality performance and form good relationships with managers, crews and venues. Choose carefully, and don’t be afraid to say no. The great gigs are out there, and with hard work and diligence, your band can find them.
About the author: Adam Young, the founder of Event Tickets Center, has attended a wide range of gigs in venues large and small around the country. When he’s not cheering for his favorite bands, he enjoys sharing his knowledge about attending events and saving on tickets.