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Before Booking: Know the Venue

Before Booking: Know the Venue

A Guest Post by

Before Booking: Know the Venue

I know a lot of bands, my own previous band included, that will book any venue that will give them a chance to play. Sometimes you have to do this just to get a chance to play! But if you don’t know anything about the venue before you book, you could be heading for potential disaster.

I’m going to cover some pointers from what I’ve learned after years of booking my band. A bit of research about a venue can really help you out before you book there. You might find out that you want to run screaming in the opposite direction of that venue!

Know their booking details

Bands often miss this extremely important detail: Read the venue’s booking details from their site. Some venues spell out every single detail of their club, down to what the stage dimensions are and how many people they expect your band to bring through the door.

But I see bands that completely ignore doing this. The club spelled out exactly what they want from you and how they can be contacted. Their booking page tells you to contact them by email, but the band will post a booking request on their Facebook wall. I’ve seen a blog post from a venue saying “Do not ask for booking requests on this blog post.” And then I look at the blog’s comments with a ton of bands asking for shows.

This makes your band look stupid and unprofessional. Why would a booker want to deal with a band that can’t read simple instructions?

Some venues don’t post their booking details. In this instance, you should contact them and ask what the details are before booking there. The more you know about a venue, the more successful you will be booking and performing there.

Know their specs

Nothing sucks worse than travelling to a venue just to find out they don’t even have a PA system. Or there’s only one microphone when your band has 3 part harmonies.

Some venues are great at listing the details of their stage and what they provide. But there’s been a few times I’ve driven hours to find we needed to bring our own mic stands.

Understand the club’s specs first. If you don’t have a PA system to bring, you could be really screwed if you book a show there. If you have eight members of your band, but the stage is barely big enough for the drummer, you’re going to have problems. Do you need direct inputs? Special mic’ing for the viola player?

Know their capacity

I’ve booked shows, walked into the club, just to be greeted with a giant 500 person capacity venue. If you’re an unknown band playing a new city, this is not a good situation to be in. Not unless you’re somehow opening for a national touring act. Most likely you’re going to get barely anyone listening to your band. The larger the club, the less happy they’ll be with you when you don’t bring people through the door.

I remember one time playing a 500 capacity venue to exactly one person in front of the stage while the janitor was sweeping the venue. You feel like crawling into a hole and dying when you see a gigantic empty room while you’re playing.

Don’t make my mistake. Find out how many people the club holds and how many people you are expected to bring through the door. When you are first starting, smaller is definitely better.

Know their neighborhood

On one tour, my band drove down to Sacramento, California. We booked a show at this club, and we were really excited to play. Our hearts sank when we saw this venue was on the very outskirts of the city. Only a gas station was nearby. Otherwise, it was just trees and road.

No one was going to go to this club unless there was something extremely special going on. No foot traffic. No regulars that go there for the music. Nothing.

That club wasn’t the only one I’ve had the misfortune of booking that had no hope for people casually walking in. Trust me, know the club’s neighborhood. Are they close to other clubs? Is the surrounding area really populated or deserted? Are they along a convenient bus line, or do people need to drive an hour to get there?

It’s hard enough to get people to come out to your show. Booking a club in the middle of nowhere doesn’t help.

Also, be aware of the crime rates in that neighborhood. Is your equipment going to be safe in the van outside? Are YOU going to be safe if you stand outside? I’ve played some sketchy neighborhoods and have luckily avoided being hurt or having my equipment stolen. Trust me, it was luck…purely.

Know their reputation

Do a Google search on the club you’re going to play. Search for “review” or “scam” or other key words you think might give you some insight into the club. Sometimes, you can find the horror stories about these places. Or you can find great, glowing reviews.

Another source to get information about a club is Yelp. Check out the club’s reviews on Yelp to see if patrons or bands have left any valuable information on the club.

Additionally, Indie On The Move has a growing database where musicians can rate clubs and sign up for notifications of clubs needing bands. Currently, it seems more geared towards the East Coast than the West of the United States, but that is changing. Check out my interview with Kyle Weber about Indie on the Move.

Know their bands

Finally, but most importantly, contact other bands that have played there. A band can tell you the dirt immediately and whether or not you should play there.

Be careful to not just take one band’s opinion. If one band had a bad experience, that could have been a fluke (or something that band did to cause the incident). However, if every band you talk to says the same thing, you know exactly what you’re getting into.

More to come

If you haven’t already, sign up for my email newsletter. I’m continuing my discussion about booking there; Information you won’t get on this blog. What’s more, you will get a free eBook that helps you get more fans to your shows.

Next week, I’ll be covering how to get your band out of your home town. In the meantime, leave your booking experiences in the comments! Your experiences could really help others out. Take care!

I am Chris “Seth” Jackson, a bass guitarist and composer.  I am an average musician, working a day job as a software engineer, in pursuit of fulfilling my life’s dream of being a self-sufficient musician. is to share the ups and downs of this adventure and, hopefully, find great techniques that everyone can use to achieve success in the extremely difficult world of music.


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