Words by Kavina.
From gig etiquette to sound requirements, there are many factors to consider when it comes to hosting successful live music events ethically and respectfully at your venue. Just like we curate our music experiences, venues hold the responsibility to curate good working relationships with artists and make sure that everyone is having a safe but awesome time. While hosting live music can leave you with a ‘to-do’ list of challenges to overcome, there’s a few things to keep in mind besides advertising and ticket sales that’ll cement your status as a host venue with the mostest and keep everyone coming back so we can keep doing it all over again.
Here’s our top Do’s and a few Don’ts for hosting live music at your venue. *Spoiler alert - alot of it has to do with your artist relationships
Happy Muso’s equal happy vibes, happy customers, a pumping venue and word on the street that you’re the place to be. When it comes to your relationship with live music, these guys are your most valuable players and should be treated accordingly. While there’s a certain relaxed outlook expected within the industry, we aim to consider being the change that we’d like to see in the industry that goes beyond the bottom line. The music community is large but compact, so if you want the best artists to consider your venue as a priority for their next gig, or promote your venue to their fans, it’s only fair to honour performance agreements, liaise in a timely fashion and celebrate them by promoting them in return. You get what you give afterall.
Speaking of which...
Artists only see 12% of the profits made from their participation in the music industry. This number includes profits made from live music events, music sales, and remunerations from music streaming platforms like Spotify. The cost of making music amounts to more than that earned for a local musician and as companies capitalise on the musicmaking process, like Spotify starting Soundtrap, because **coughcough evil geniuses… it’s a struggle to make art and keep up a gig roster, when you need money to do both.
Just as you expect your musicians to show up on time and hit it out of the park for your venue, it’s only fair that you pay them efficiently for their time and craft. Make sure you establish proper award rates as well as any cuts from door sales or merch stands.
The worst thing is showing up for a gig only to realise that you have to lug your drum kit up four flights of stairs or have to contend with an inadequate loading bay or parking facility when rocking up with your instruments for the gig. Equipment is expensive, and the prime livelihood for an artist, and in order to do a good job overall the backstage stuff should be the smoothest part of the performance. It could be viewed as disrespectful and unprofessional if artists are advised to show up an hour before their set and then have to deal with uncleared DJ boothes, no proper place to get ready, or to safely store instruments in the interim of their performance. Let them know about inevitable issues like little access to parking so they don’t have to park miles away and then sprint back for their set time after unloading through the front door because the back one wasn’t big enough. *These are all true stories by the way.
And we don’t say this so you can shell out funds to pave a parkinglot, because it’s not the issues that are the problem, it’s how you deal with addressing them so everyone has time to pivet.
The industry standard for an artist performance is 45mins per set for a two set show or 70 minutes if they’re powering out for one set. Singing for any longer than 70 minutes can be detrimental to a musician's voice without a rest and there’s only so much energy with which a drum kit can be thrashed after a certain period of time. Have a conversation with your artists to figure out what works best for the time of day and their capabilities. It might be a sunset gig which requires one banging set, or a chill night of jazz that can be elongated into shorter sets spread throughout the evening to build suspense and accompany sitdown dinners.
As much as musicians love to interact with the audience, it is important to provide a performance space which is free from harassment and abuse, especially when situated in an unpredictable public arena. Make sure your security is discreetly positioned close to a performance area, or managers are easily accessible to handle any artist issues swiftly. As fun as d’n’ms are whilst mid DJ set, or getting a drink spilt all over you in someones relentless pursuit of song requests - (got to admire the pursuit for tunes though), or having the booth be mistaken as a cloakroom for coats and purses in the booth and charge their phone, most musicians probably left their babysitting gigs for music gigs as soon as babysitting just wasn’t paying the bills anymore.
Whether it’s for people with disabilities to easily come and be able to enjoy a show, or gender and race inclusivity, venues are a place where musicians thrive by expressing themselves in an industry which celebrates each individual's unique identity. Music Victoria records that around 35% of the gender diverse population lives in Victoria, 30% in New South Wales and all up 85% in our major cities, and that’s a whole lot of party.
It’s your job as a venue to advocate this sense of pride and make everyone feel welcome, safe and comfortable when music fans or the general public stop by to support the arts. This includes having amenities which cater to the needs of different gender identities, understanding the use of individual pronouns, and hosting a community of musicians with diverse backgrounds, while advocating a zero tolerance for discrimination or hostile behaviour.
You’d be surprised at how many events go unnoticed and unattended just because people weren’t aware that they were happening. Even if you’ve got a reputation within the community for hosting music, newcomers to the area may have just popped in for the first time and not yet be aware about the shows you promote on social media, or maybe you’ve invested in venue flyers but haven’t let the online world know what’s going on. Whether it’s word of mouth or your weekly email blast, don’t be shy to assume that everyone has no idea that you’re throwing a party. Ask your customers how they heard about your events, take social media polls, use bright colours, and fire up your google analytics. We out here!
Keep your neighbours happy, and your community close by making sure to follow the local noise ordinances for the area surrounding your venue. You dont want to become the local hotspot for Police visits, angry neighbours calling to complain or a general noise pollutant that becomes the talk of the town. Keep the lines of communication open between yourself and the community so you can handle any issues before they escalate to an awkward place. Have an acoustic professional come to check that your venue is qualifying with any state noise requirements and if in doubt, just insulate everything. Get your safeguards in check like noise reflectors, limiter devices for monitoring sound levels and communicating with musicians prior to their performances.
Introduce yourselves, keep authorities in the loop when you’ve got big events coming up, include your locals and advertise afterhours numbers they can call if they have issues with loud noise. It’s hard for people to be mad at you if they can see that you’re trying to respect the peace. A local discount can sweeten the deal too.
Music-booking platforms are a great way to find new talent or discover alternative music if you’re wanting to make waves with a diverse music roster but don’t know where to start. Once you’ve set up a venue profile, either create your own listing or search the profiles of artists in your local area and contact them directly. Besides cutting out the middleman, using a booking platform is an efficient way to book musicians at your fingertips, and liaise with them personally, while still having the benefit of someone handling the contracts and invoicing for you. This allows you to spend more time planning your events instead of trying to find quality talent based on their availability and proximity.
There’s a sea of advice for how to run the best events, but at the end of the day, if you’re having fun and your staff and musicians are genuinely pumped to be at work, then your audience will be having fun too. Dare to be different and try your hand at running something that your neighbourhood hasn’t seen before. The great thing about ideas is that if people can see that you’re excited, it gets them excited to be a part of your vision! We believe in you!