Every musician dreams about the day they’ll play their music within the walls of their dream venues. The feeling goes both ways, as every small venue dreams of being known as the hub and launch pad for the best local talent around! So how can we make your venue the hottest attraction and first point of call for aspiring musos wanting to get on the scene and lock down a spot on your coveted gig roster?
We’ve got exactly 12 ideas on that, and it doesn’t have as much to do with pomp and grandeur as you think.
1. You reach out to the artists you love
The lines of communication between artists and venues have blurred over the years, with artists generally making the first move. Since venues outsource their talent acquisition to a promoter who isn’t always accessible to new artists trying to break into the scene, the same roster of artists ends up playing the same few venues.
By reaching out to musicians or even using a booking platform, you’ll be first on the scene to come into contact with fresh talent that may just be getting out there for the first time. Many artists won’t pitch themselves to your venue because it’s too difficult to find someone to talk to, or they don’t consider themselves a fit. Taking matters into your own hands is an incredible boost for the musicians and extends your range of artists tenfold.
3. You set up a local music spotlight
Bring attention to local musicians by featuring their music on your venue playlists, website and social media accounts. Your venue will become a hub for featuring indie beats and could earn you a name synonymous with local stomping grounds for artist discovery.
Online artist playlisting is so impersonal. While the music is out in the world, it’s not getting rotation in the area it needs to be heard the most. Not only will it be an absolute dream for artists to have their songs playing in their local while having a place they can go to hear them, but your venue will actively be pushing the culture for surrounding talent in your area.
Set up a submission link and be amazed at the talent that amasses!
4. You host competitions and talent searches
Bring new talent out of hiding by proposing a monthly battle of the bands. Starting out is hard to do and there’s no better place than your venue to help musicians find their feet and meet a new community of aspiring artists with whom to make connections.
You’ll fill the place with the cheer of supportive friends and fam, and you can even put local businesses on the map by teaming up to deliver epic prizes that benefit the careers of the performers, like free studio time or merch printing.
5. You team up with industry pros
Building on teaming up, be THAT venue and create an affiliate collab with your neighbouring key players in the music industry. Lend your space to sponsor local record label showcases, recording studio artists, or community radio live streams.
Offer a public avenue for those who don’t generally have a live audience, such as community radio DJs, and record shops. Feed your new team by adding a once-a-week meal discount to help them fuel up after long hours in the studio, or access to a slot on your music roster. By giving different industry communities a place to gather, you’ll soon be smack-bang in the middle of a creative hub filled with the best talent in the area.
5. You have an artist merch shop
Enter your venue gift-shop era by becoming the official house of local music merch. – Cute. You could even get in on that train by highlighting your own wares/wears and convincing touring artists to entrust you with some of their surplus stock to sell after they’ve moved on from visiting your town.
I’m envisioning a dedicated record section, a mixture of local art to set it all off, and the add-on purchase of your venue tote bag so punters can carry their new merch in style. It’s a vibe.
6. You give back to the community
The music community rests on the foundation of support provided by dedicated punters, and they know all too well how important it is to champion a cause. I mean, music is THE ultimate cause after all, and infinitely, every musician dreams of being able to make a difference and give back in some small way, especially with their music.
Promote a single event or an ongoing series that is themed around giving back to a charity of your choosing or different causes for each event. Ask the musicians who play at your venue which causes they’d be passionate about giving back to and collaborate with a policy for donating a percentage of proceeds from each gig.
If we’ve learned anything from Sir Paul McCartney’s secret pre-Glastonbury gig at a not-for-profit, community-owned venue, it’s that the bottom line isn’t always the goal at the end of the day. This endeavour will bring the best of the like-minded and kind-hearted musos to your doorstep!
7. You host fun rooftop live streams(or the likes) circa the Beatles at Apple Corps
Take inspiration from your all-time favourite studio set ever(it’s the Beatles on a roof obvi) and host a live stream from the most intriguing settings you can dream up at your venue. Give artists the unique opportunity to serenade the street from your rooftop(just don’t get shut down by the cops), or throw some shag rugs on the stage for a sit-down acoustic jam session. Share it online with the world!
Tiny Desk Concert? Sofar sounds? One day your live recordings could go down in the history books when your featured bands make it to the big time. Or your series could become a viral sensation that launches local talent into the world. With enough traction, your venue will cement its status as a cultural icon in your city and become an attraction for tourists who have seen your sets from around the world!
8. You offer a decent pay rate
You’re thinking haha good one! And it’s funny because it’s true. But yes, some venues have a reputation for not paying their artists, not paying them on time, or paying hardly anything at all(and we know who you are)! Ask any artist and they’ll tell you stories about playing gigs for free just for the chance to gain exposure or getting ghosted when it comes to settling up their gig invoice(cringe).
Become the venue with the ace booking system that runs like a well-oiled machine and the talk of the town for rumoured above-award rates and timely communication. – Hot damn! It may not sound like cause for excitement to you but stability and reliability are hot(non-existent) commodities in the music world, and artists will be flocking to you and shouting your name in their artist communities for being generally top folk to be in business with.
Be the change you want to see in the world! For more on what a fair gig rate is to pay your artists, check out our guide on the Muso Blog
9. You spruced up your venue stage
Moulin Rouge and the Whisky a Go Go have nothing on you! Think of all the top-shelf gig content, and artists will too when securing a gig for this venue drawcard. Think signature blue velvet curtains for a jazz lounge or an indoor forest floor setting, complete with wood stumps and foliage-covered floors(is that a fire-safety risk? Let’s circle back.).
Have some fun with the stage play and create a performance space that your punters and musos will remember for a lifetime. Maybe musicians dress in a theme of their choosing or play western saloon-style renditions of their songs. Or cover the stage in band stickers or a giant Bowie painting! I’m getting off-topic here, but as I said, have fun with it!
10. You team up with other venues for an artist-swap
Swap talent, make instant new connections, and mix up the vibe at your venue while allowing musicians to do the same. Take this to the next level by hosting an artist swap with venues in regional towns or neighbouring cities so you can showcase local talent from around the country while bringing new artists to your area.
That’s a good one actually, more of this!
11. You house state-of-the-art music equipment
DJs have certified bragging rights in the concrete jungle if they have ever played a venue with the infamous Funktion-One sound system. Generally reserved for world-class music festivals, Funktion-Ones made their way into venues and practically blasted our ears and hearts into oblivion. The sound is incomparable, and the giant speakers look like they belong on a spaceship. – Search Carl Cox & Funktion One for a free demonstration.
You don’t need to buy spaceship speakers, but if you want to buy spaceship speakers, you’re going to become kind of a big deal. Both local and world-class talent will be calling you up based on your new urban-legend status, and punters who want to face the danger of having their clothes blown off while they listen to their favourite DJ play will be lining up in the streets.
Sound production and quality matter a lot to musicians wanting to have their music heard at its full, most stunning potential, and it can be hard to find spaces with the equipment to bring it to life. Your venue will be topping their goals lists and haunting their dreams until the day they get the chance to test drive your equipment.
12. You started an artist collective
An artist collective is a group of artists who essentially band together to build a unique showcase. The collective becomes the brand for their music and they either feature at a single venue or take their collective on a tour of sorts around different venues in their city, giving its musicians a bit of an authority on their niche.
Artist collectives are awesome because many hands make lighter work(and more promo), they are a package deal and a well-rounded experience in a particular genre, and can amass quite a following. Punters know where to find the music they like and build an interactive flow with the artists involved, who occasionally feature other guest artists, and can even get big enough to start putting out records from members of the group if they raise enough from events.
Become the venue behind a collective and now you have your own in-house hype team, building a brand behind your music and nurturing it into something with endless opportunity!
Now get movin and shakin! You’ve got musos to meet and epic gigs to host!
If you’re just getting started on the live music journey, check out our ultimate rundown on everything from getting set up to hosting events right here