5 Questions Musicians Should Ask When Choosing a Venue

[Editors Note: This article was written by Adam Young.]

There are myriad factors that go into choosing exactly the right place for your band’s next performance. Music venues come with many nuances that affect the overall quality of a show, from sound and layout to physical location and audience demographics. Before booking a primetime slot at a spot that looks great on paper, ask yourself these questions. They may just save you from a less-than-stellar experience.

1. Is the venue in the right part of town?

You don’t want to perform just anywhere. Your style of music and the size of your fanbase will help determine where you should play.

It goes without saying that a location in a major city center is going to bring in a bigger crowd. And the closer your venue is to any big transportation hubs, the better the accessibility for potential attendees. When the venue is highly accessible, more people who rely on different means of transport can attend your show.

Pay attention to the fact that outside noise could infiltrate your space. Check out the venue during its quietest time, and listen to what you can hear. Does the proximity to the airport mean airplane engines overhead? Maybe a city park’s amphitheater offers a better opportunity than that downtown lounge with too much street noise. These are crucial factors to consider when considering the location of a venue.

2. What type of audience does it draw?

Reaching the right audience is crucial, and booking at the right venue can get you there. If you’re a toe-tapping jazz duo, the local EDM club isn’t going to be right for you. Do your research, and see the other musicians that have played at the spot before. Are any of them like you? The best venue for your audience is a familiar one, where they’ll be comfortable attending, and happy to see you perform.

3. Does size matter?

Yes, capacity is important. (You want there to be plenty of space for your fans to be able to come to the show, but also consider if you qualify to play larger spaces to begin with.) But the reason to consider size is less for attendance, and more for sound quality. For example, if a room is very large, the sound could be dissipated, and therefore hard to hear. But if the shape of a space reflects that potentially lost sound back to the audience, then no harm done. The size isn’t as important as the acoustics within the space you’re playing.

4. So the layout is really what matters?

Architecture has the power to make or break a performance. Inside arenas and stadiums, for instance, sound waves can bounce off various surfaces or become absorbed before reaching the ears of fans on the floor. In order to know how exactly this is going to impact your performance, the best thing to do is to go listen to a performance in that space. How does the band sound? Does the space match your style of music? Maybe where the local philharmonic performs isn’t best for your indie rock or punk band, but they’d sure have a tough time fitting into the small, underground space best for headbanging and guitar solos.

5. What about technology?

The technological power of the venue is almost more important than its acoustic capabilities. A good sound setup can minimize, if not eliminate, any flaws within the venue’s size and structure. (You should make time to find out if the venue has monitors or other equipment useful for determining your noise-exposure levels.)

And, if you’re the hottest DJ on the rise, it’d be wise to find a venue that comes with all the lighting necessary to host a stellar rave. Knowing the lighting capabilities of the venue can be vital to the performance you want to give.

Next time you’re trying to decide which music venue is right for you, remember to ask yourself the right questions. In summary: know your audience and know your sound, and choose a venue that’s suitable.


Adam Young is the founder and CEO of Event Tickets Center. He loves taking in live music at venues ranging from underground clubs to massive arenas.

5 Reasons Venues Aren’t Writing You Back

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]

 

It can be a hugely frustrating experience to reach out to a venue in hopes of booking a show only to hear nothing back. When you’ve spent months or even years creating music, it can be annoying or even downright disheartening when a venue won’t communicate with you and give you a chance to play. But like with everything, there’s two sides to every story, and there might be some perfectly good reasons why music venues aren’t giving you the time of day. Here’s a list of five possible reasons that venues aren’t replying to your emails:

1. You don’t have enough experience

If you’re new at making music, you might have a misinformed notion that the music industry is different than other industries in the fact that it’s not centered around money, but you’d be very wrong. Venues might not be getting back to you because you don’t have enough experience playing music. And if you’re new and inexperienced, the chances of you bringing people to your show, or more importantly, money through the door, are slim, and venues usually aren’t willing to take that risk. Like all of us, venues have bills to pay, and they can’t afford to bring bands in with no following and experience.

So, how do you get venues to give you a shot if you have no prior show experience? Build up your experience performing any way you can. Hit up local open mics, house shows and try to get your foot in the door with the smaller venues you want to play. And when you’ve built up some relevant experience, highlight that the next time you write venues.

2. Your communication skills are bad

You might not think that being able to write emails that are clear and grammatically correct is that important of a skill to have as a musician, but it’s absolutely something that could mean the difference between a venue booking you or not. Venues and show promoters get dozens of emails every day that are riddled with spelling errors and nonsensical sentences, and trust me, they hate it.

It’s even common for venues to get emails from bands who forget to add links to their music or even their band name. How can a venue book you if they don’t know your band’s name? If you put yourself in the shoes of a booking agent, you’ll see the need for emails to be written thoroughly and with things like your band’s name, the show dates you’re interested in, a link to stream your music and some relevant information about your band included.

3. Your music sounds bad

You songs might be awesome, but venues probably won’t give you a chance if they’re recorded poorly. Remember, venues get inundated with hundreds of requests from bands every week who want to play their stage. If your band’s music can’t compete with all the other music the venue’s booking agent listens to, why would they let you play?

If the recorded music you have posted online consists of demos you recorded on Garage Band, it’s time to invest some money and professionally record just one of your songs and share that with venues instead. You’ll be shocked at the difference this will make when it comes to booking shows.

4. The venues you’re trying to play are too big

If your band routinely draws 50 or less people to shows, landing a spot on a bill at a 2,300-capacity venue is going to be to difficult or even downright impossible. Again, from the venue’s perspective, why would they take the time to respond to your email if it’s clear you’re too small of a band to work with?

Instead of taking it personally, keep building your performance experience and work toward packing the shows at the smaller venues you work with. It never hurts to ask, but big venues can’t afford to lose money on a small band, even if they like their music. When you’ve built up your following, larger venues would probably love to have you. But until then, work towards selling out those smaller clubs.

5. Your band is unprofessional

If your band has earned a bad reputation in your scene, venues will be hesitant to work with you. Things like repeatedly showing up late to shows, talking through other band’s sets or not promoting your shows will earn your band some detractors, and their poor opinion about you will spread through your scene and venues will act accordingly.

If you’re new to music, the people working at venues might seem unrelatable, but they’re just like you and me in the way that they want to work with people who are kind, respectful and reliable. If your band has conducted yourselves in an unprofessional way, it could be the reason venues aren’t getting back to you.

4 Major Live Music Trends Changing The Industry This Year

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rachel Grate and originally appeared on the Eventbrite Blog.]

 

We’re just one month into 2017 (ed. – this was originally published in February of 2017), and it’s already proven to be a year of big changes — and the live music industry is no exception to the rule.

To stay on top of your game in a shifting landscape, you need a firm grip on the music trends that will shift the landscape in 2017. But don’t take it from us — take it from the nineteen industry pros we interviewed, including Newport Folk Festival, Afropunk, National Sawdust, and more.

Here’s how tastemakers predict the live music industry will change in 2017 — and how you can use those trends to protect your business.

1. Activism will revive the live music community

“Music has recently been more about escapism than activism,” says Jay Sweet, festival director and talent buyer for the Newport Festivals Foundation. But with major political changes coming in 2017, fans may be looking to their favorite artists to take a stance. “I’m excited because I think this could be the year where musicians could… try to affect positive change through music,” Sweet says.

Matthew Morgan, the co-founder of Afropunk, believes fans will look to live music as an opportunity to make sense of the world around them. “We’re in line for some really great art over the next four years, [and] what we’re doing is going to be even more important,” Morgan says. “So many people are looking for things that are positive, that give them something meaningful in their lives.”

“We’re in line for some really great art over the next 4 years.” — Matthew Morgan of @afropunk

In this quest for self-expression, fans and artists will use live performances as an opportunity to build community around shared causes. “Festivals are a place for people to congregate safely — a place to share a common, collective experience,” Sweet says. It will be up to independent promoters and producers to create these safe spaces for activism.

2. Immersive theater will influence live music performances

From popular events like The Speakeasy in San Francisco to the topic of breakout HBO show Westworld, immersive theater made a big splash in 2016. These shows make audience members a part of the performance, and this year, we’ll see their influence begin to make live music performances more multidimensional.

“The world of immersive theater is about to explode,” says Nick Panama, the founder of Cantora. “We’ll be seeing a lot more experiential storytelling, and its influence on live music.”

Panama predicts live shows will expand the storytelling from the music itself to other senses. Instead of relying solely on audio cues or a screen behind them to tell a story, performers will begin to activate the entire room or stadium with immersive sensory details. Using a variety of new technologies, fans will become part of an alternate reality for the duration of the show.

3. Venues will band together to establish more sustainable economics

With rising rent prices in cities across the country, venues are facing a serious financial challenge in 2017.

“Venues will either buy the land they sit on, or they’ll move,” says Brendon Anthony, the director of the Texas Music Office. “We’re not going to see our favorite venues in the same place unless they own the land. The venues that are iconic and last [will] need to control their rent.”

“Venues will either buy the land they sit on or they’ll move.”@Brendon_Anthony of @txmusicoffice

But venues may not be able to crack the code to sustainability on their own. Venues will have the most success if they band together to protect their businesses.

“There are real ways venues can work together to make their margins a bit easier to handle,” Anthony says. In Texas and other states, for instance, venues, bars, and restaurants are all taxed in the same way, even though venues have to put more of their money back into infrastructure. There could be a way for venues to reduce their tax rate, “but for that to happen, venues would have to define what being a venue means, and then go to work to lobby as a group for the change.”

Fighting for this recognition won’t be easy, but it’s the best way for rooms to protect their business. Venues in the UK have already seen success with this strategy, led by the Music Venue Trust and their annual Venues Day, aimed at raising awareness and advocating for venue rights. Venues in the states will need to follow suit, banding together to protect the future of live music in their respective cities.

4. Brands will become even more intertwined with artists

Sponsors spend $1.4 billion on the music industry in the United States each year, and that number is only going up. Instead of investing in large activations or stages at festivals, our experts predict that brands will focus more on building relationships with specific artists in the next year.

Mark Monahan, the festival director of Ottawa Bluesfest, has seen this shift firsthand. “In the last few years, most sponsors want to activate around artists,” Monahan says. “Five years ago in the festivals space, that was a nonstarter. Artists are recognizing the role sponsors play in helping to fund festivals, and are more willing to participate in auxiliary activities.”

Currently, most of these artist activations look like meet and greets, or small, private shows with festival headliners. But these activations will need to evolve and become more natural to succeed in 2017. It is likely we’ll see more activations like last year’s Lady Gaga’s Dive Bar Tour, sponsored by Bud Light. The series focused on one of the most important roles a brand can play for an artist: delighting fans by bringing them in more direct contact with their idols.

But this integrated relationship between artists and brands could be in conflict with another trend — that artists are more openly expressing their political beliefs.

“I’m hesitant about what the branded content space is going to look like in the next year,” Gaston says. “If artists get more politically involved, will that impact how brands interact with artists? It’s going to be really tricky if that spending shifts, especially since brand dollars have become more important to the bottom line for both artists and labels.”

3 Tried & True Methods of Negotiating Higher Pay From Venues

[Editors Note: This article was written by Jhoni Jackson and originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]

Upstart bands and artists in the early stages of cultivating a fanbase often encounter opposition when booking. From a business perspective, it makes sense: if a talent buyer or venue owner isn’t sure you’ll draw a crowd, then handing over a potentially big-bar-sales night to you is a risk. And when you do land a gig, he or she might insist on minimizing that risk by offering you a super low pay rate – or no pay at all. How do you convince that person you deserve more?

When looking to negotiate higher pay from venues, these three strategies can actually yield results, especially if you work hard to promote your shows. Really, these methods mean opportunities to genuinely earn more if you put in the extra effort. Talent buyers and venue owners can appreciate that, and most will pay you accordingly.

1. Show your worth with numbers

Bands often reference what they’ve been paid before when suggesting a guarantee or percentage. That’s a somewhat futile method of negotiating, as no two venues are exactly alike financially. What works for one in terms of payments won’t necessarily work for another.

Your best tools of persuasion here are found on social media. How sizeable is your online fanbase? For your last show, how many responses did you get to the Facebook event? It does matter, of course, how many actually showed up – but if you don’t have crowd shots (use them if you do!), then the closest thing to proof of great attendance is those event responses. Send over your social media pages as well as past events to show the strength of your following.

This won’t work for everyone, of course. Obviously, if you’ve never played before, you don’t have any previous Facebook events to use as examples. Additionally, not everyone trusts the prowess those numbers supposedly signify: an impressive online following doesn’t always translate to in-person devotion.

2. The plus deal

This is sometimes referred to as “back end,” though that’s technically the name of the extra profit you get. Here’s how it works: you’re guaranteed a certain percentage or dollar amount, but you also get an additional amount after a certain point. That marker can be a number of tickets sold, or the talent buyer’s bottom line.

For our purposes here, we’re talking about bands and artists who aren’t getting much pay to begin with, so let’s work with relatively low numbers.

Example one: $50 guarantee plus 10 percent back end after 50 tickets sold at $5 each.

In this scenario, you’ll get your $50 either way. But if more than 50 tickets are sold, you get more. Let’s say the cover count is 100 – the door has raked in an additional $250. You’d get $25 extra.

Example two: $50 guarantee plus 10 percent after $250, with tickets at $5 each.

This could be a situation where there are four bands on the bill, and each is guaranteed $50. If the door money reaches more than $250 – meaning more than 50 tickets sold – then 10 percent of the surplus goes to you. (And probably 10 percent to each of the other bands, too.) So at 100 tickets sold, you’d get your $50 guarantee, plus $25 more for reaching 100 ticket sales.

These numbers are somewhat arbitrary; they’re intended not as standards of negotiating, but rather as examples you can adjust to fit the exact situation you’re in. Talent buyers and venue owners might be more willing to accept a deal like this because there’s little risk on their part. They don’t think they’ll make enough from the door to pay you more than X amount, and you agree to that amount – but you get a little more if you prove them wrong.

3. Prove your draw, then up your rate

Did it take a lot of convincing to get the gig? If the talent buyer or venue owner is dubious of your ability to pull a crowd, he or she might ask you to play for free. When you’re just starting out, that’s okay, but you should always be looking toward the future. You should only perform at no charge when it means it’ll get you closer to paid, or at least better quality gigs. (Or if it’s for charity.)

Agree to play for free (or cheap) once, but ask them to commit to another gig if you draw X number of attendees. Post-show, if you can, talk with whoever booked you. What did he or she think about the performance? The turnout? If the right person isn’t present, follow up the next day via email or whatever form of contact that person preferred in the past.

Send him or her a clip of your set if you’ve got one, and mention the fan response as a way to help him or her see that your next show can be even more successful, and that you deserve some level of payment. Try to actually book a follow-up gig before the conversation goes stale. (Booking several months ahead is ideal, anyway.)

For more on transitioning from free shows to paid gigs, check out this interview with a seasoned musician who’s successfully moved into making a living off her music.


Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music journalist currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she juggles owning a venue called Club 77, freelance writing and, of course, going to the beach as often as possible.

SXSW Austin Local Picks: Tacos, Record Stores, Margaritas & More

When you get to SXSW, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll be overstimulated and inundated with suggestions for all the awesome stuff to enjoy while in Austin. And why shouldn’t you be? Austin is an amazing town bursting with great food, cool music, and of course, places to wet your whistle.

Austin local and our own Manager of Entertainment Relations Amy Lombardi linked up with some TuneCore Artists who also call Austin home and asked them about their favorite spots around town. Because trust us, you always get the best digs from folks who know the area inside and out.

If you’re heading to SXSW 2016 this week, here are some superb ‘Local Picks’ for everything from BBQ and tacos to venues and record stores!

[Editors Note: if you see it listed more than once, you better check it out!]

Holiday Mountain

Music Venues: The Scoot Inn is definitely one of our favorites. It feels like an outdoor adult playground and everybody working there is super colorful, creative, and friendly. The vibe is generally pretty mellow and down to earth and there are often some really expressive dancers/music fans. It’s an uplifting environment and drinks aren’t too pricey.
Tacos: Veracruz All Natural taco truck will treat you so right. They are parked outside of Radio Coffee & Beer which is a legit & welcoming spot to grab a latte afterwards & hang with some friends.
Margaritas or Micheladas: For sure the veggie juice-infused margaritas at our favorite queer-friendly vegan bar Cheer Up Charlies!
BBQ: To be honest my BBQ game is low because I already have enough trouble not sleeping like 12 hours a day and heavy food generally makes me feel like my only life choice is staying in bed with my dog, but some of my good friends who I trust a lot woke up at 6am the other day and stood in line at Franklin’s the entire morning – they all said it was completely worth the wait without any doubt.
Queso: Queso is another category where our education is low, but the most similar dish I can strongly advise is the Artichoke Enchiladas at Mother’s.
Record Stores: The record store inside of Juiceland on 45th & Duval is the illest, not only because you can get your juice on while you are browsing the selection, but they also are generally playing something super fresh in the vein of dank electronic neo soul like Flying Lotus.
Music Store: Switched On doesn’t carry guitars, but they are definitely the best synthesizer shop I have ever been to. They offer a platform for a lot of really advanced masterpiece instruments that in most cities, you would never have an opportunity to feel or play, if even for a few minutes. They’ve also saved my ass on several occasions, hours before a gig, helping me not freak out when one of my Dave Smith synths is acting crazy. The people who work there are really knowledgeable and passionate- we love ’em a lot!

empire control room
Empire Control Room (Venue)

Alexander Beggins of Wild Child

Music Venues: Cheer Up Charlies is my hometown hangout. Always put on great shows and it has a great atmosphere.
Tacos: Simply cannot beat Tacodeli breakfast tacos in my opinion. Pro tip: Get the green sauce.
Margaritas or Micheladas: Polvos for margs and Hotel San Jose for micheladas. I crave the michelada from Hotel San Jose all the time. It’s a first stop when I get home from the road.
BBQ: Freedman’s BBQ in West Campus. It’s all the rage in my book.
Queso: It’s not queso but it’s an app so I’m going to say it: the spicy chili edamame from Madam Mam’s is mind-blowing.
Record Stores: Waterloo always and forever.
Music Store: Fidler’s Green.

polvos
View from Povlos

Brandon Kinder of The Wealthy West

Music Venues: Cactus Cafe, Tellers, The Parish, and Stubbs.
Tacos: Vera Cruz for regular tacos, Torchy’s for Breakfast Tacos.
Margaritas: Vivo (cucumber margarita!).
BBQ: Terry Black’s BBQ.
Queso: Torchy’s & Kerbey Lane.
Record Store: Waterloo & Breakaway Records.
Music Store: Austin Vintage.

waterlo
Waterloo Records

Chaka Mpeanaji of Riders Against the Storm

Music Venues: Empire Control Room and Garage.
Tacos: Veracruz All Natural or Tyson’s Tacos.
Record Stores: Breakaway Records, Waterloo.

stubbs
Stubbs BBQ

Colin Campbell of Strange Fiction

Music Venue: Empire Garage has recently taken the cake for amazing FOH, on-stage sound and great lights.
Tacos: Not super close to downtown, but Tyson’s Tacos on Airport Blvd is always a winner. They make lots of crazy taco combinations, if you’re into that sort of thing (one personal favorite is The Pharr East). On top of that they have free beer on Fridays and give one free taco for every song you sing with the ukulele.
Queso and Margaritas: El Chile on Manor Road. Get the Queso Flameado. It’s different from your typical liquid queso, but after having this style I will never go back to the cheese soup…which I know is blasphemy to say in a town like Austin. While you’re there, you might as well have a few margaritas, too.
BBQ: John Mueller’s truck on East 6th. The lines aren’t usually as bad as other local landmarks, and the brisket is amazing. Also for a bit classier BBQ experience, Lambert’s downtown is solid. They also have a pretty incredible, though pricey, brunch.
Music Store: Austin Vintage is hard to beat with a drool-worthy selection of vintage guitars and amps, and plenty of effects to play around with.

torchys
Torchy’s Tacos

Kady and Ben of Kady Rain

Music Venue: Stubb’s Indoors.
Tacos and Queso: Torchy’s on South First and El Paso.
Margaritas or Micheladas: Polvos.
BBQ: Rudy’s Country Store.
Record Store: End of an Ear.
Music Store: South Austin Music.

DSC09204
South Austin Music

Charlie of Charlie Faye & the Fayettes

Music Venues: There are two new venues downtown that all the Austin musicians are falling in love with: The Townsend and Geraldine’s. The Townsend is on Congress, right across the street from the Paramount. The front of the venue is a classy bar with the best cocktails in town (yes, they’ve been voted as such), and in the back is a fantastic-sounding room for intimate performances. Geraldine’s is the music venue inside the new Hotel Van Zandt on Rainey Street. It’s a gorgeous room with great food to boot – and Lauren Bucherie, who books it, has created the new-hotel-meets-old-Austin music vibe of our dreams.
Tacos: I’m gonna go off the beaten path here, and tell you about the quickest place to get a taco since this information could come in handy during SXSW. It’s a drive-through called El Tacorrido on S. 1st and Oltorf. I won’t claim it competes with any of the gourmet taco places in town – but when you have only a half hour to spare between shows and you want a totally yummy taco that doesn’t even require getting out of your car, it sure is convenient. I like their breakfast tacos all day long.
Record Stores: Antone’s Record Shop. Owned by two of Austin’s best musicians, Mike Buck and Eve Monsees. These two have impeccable taste in music, and their shop is a feel-good haven for vinyl lovers, blues fans, and generally everyone who believes that the old stuff is the good stuff.
Music Store: South Austin Music. Centrally located and not overpriced, with the friendliest staff of any guitar shop I’ve ever known, this is my favorite guitar shop in town. They’re honest, they do great work, and they sell awesome stuff – new and vintage.


And there you have it: all the goods from those who know Austin best. Got a great suggestion that you don’t see on the list? Caring is sharing! Let us know about ’em in the comment section.