5 Things You Need to Know When Bringing Live Music to Your Venue


Many venues are searching for new ways to add entertainment and experiences to their lineup. And why not? It offers endless variety and can introduce entirely new audiences to your spot. That said, musicians and bands come in many different styles, sizes, and experiences, so it’s critical to understand a few things before stepping into the live music arena.

Here are five areas to consider before bringing live music to your venue.

1. Understand your audience and your goals

Maybe you’re a restaurant with a line already out the door, have identified some slower nights, and are looking for new ways to draw in business. You could be a venue with sophisticated clientele or thinking about morphing into a rock club. Regardless, you will need to understand what kind of set lists musicians offer to ensure the proper fit. Keep your eyes on your customers when you have specific playlists in your space and pick up on how they respond.

2. Take advantage of money-saving opportunities

Musicians usually base their pricing on multiple factors. These factors include band size, amount of travel, requested set length, potential marketing responsibilities, and more. While most of these items are typically out of the venue’s control, there’s plenty a venue can do to negotiate the price with the artist effectively.

Adding a dedicated sound system will add upfront costs to get up and running but will save you money in the long run. Getting paid a little less, coupled with the ability to walk in, plug in, play, and leave without the hassle of setting up and breaking down is very appealing to artists, and just a few nights of live entertainment can pay for two nice main speakers that will continue to save you money.

Other options range from having a dedicated sound person on call to offering food and complimentary drinks (within limits) and lodging. All can drive down the price of hiring artists. While the venue’s cost for these items is usually relatively low, each carries significant value for the artist.

3. Know your best volume level

It can be uncomfortable when you’re in a room, and nobody can hear the person next to them. It’s equally painful as an artist being approached by venue staff and asked to turn the audio down.

It’s not always possible, but one step you should take would be to do some homework on what volume your venue can handle. Pick up a decibel meter and set up a stereo before opening one day. Turn up the volume while you and a couple of co-workers take turns walking around the room chatting. Then, when there is a full crowd in your venue, turn the same stereo up to where you feel it is comfortable and determine if that volume still works. Efforts in this area will save countless headaches for everyone involved.

4. Think through your venue’s ambiance

Don’t leave the overall aesthetic of your events up to the artist or simply dismiss it. Artists are being brought in to perform, and deciding how they sound and look needs to align with your venue’s brand. Thinking of just a few things to set a nice stage for your venue and artists can create an atmosphere for your customers that will go a long way.

Take a picture of the performance area and pay close attention to the backdrop, lighting, surrounding distractions, and whether an artist’s attire will help support the venue’s vibe. Room TVs and bar lights can pull eyes from a performance, and clothing like shorts and sandals can bring down the quality some venue spaces are going for, so putting together a game plan for these things before the night of performances goes a long way. Then again, if a relaxing beach vibe is the goal, bar lights, shorts, and sandals could be perfect.

5. Document and communicate expectations clearly

Contracts are daunting, but they can keep things clear for both parties and serve as incredible assets on the evening of a performance. Think through the timeline of an evening and write down anything that can help your venue and the artist prepare.

Some suggestions to include are:

  • The primary contact at the venue
  • Load in and out times, as well as the location
  • Set times
  • Set break music ownership (if necessary)
  • Set break lengths
  • Marketing responsibilities
  • Cancelation policies
  • Payment terms

Set yourself up for success

Whether you’re planning to introduce live music to your venue or want to bring it back, these tips can help you and the bands you work with be on the same page. Once all of that is in a good spot, find some artists and start enjoying some live music.