Learn How to Book a Venue for a Music Gig

Concert Crowd Silhouette
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Step number one in booking a gig is booking the venue for the show. Whether you're a musician booking your own shows or a budding music promoter booking their first gig, learn more about the right approach to making a club booking for your show.

Note that this article refers to hiring a venue/renting a venue and not approaching in-house promoter about booking your group. In other words, this article is about booking a venue when you're promoting your own show, not when the club picks the musicians and does promotion themselves. Here are some tips on how to book a venue.

Choosing the Venue

Choosing the right venue for your show is really important to making the night a success. It's easy to get caught up in the idea of playing your favorite club or venue, where all of your favorite musicians have played, but in reality, you should look for a venue that you can fill. Think of it this way - what's going to feel better on the night of the show, having the show sell out or playing to a huge, mostly empty room? Playing the small clubs are how you earn your stripes to play at the bigger places, so make finding a venue that fits in with both your likely draw and your budget the priority.

Choosing Desirable Dates

Unless you're booking a gig way in advance, you have to be pretty lucky to stroll into a club and get a gig on your dream date. Before you book the show, come up with a window of a few different dates you'd be happy with for the event. (Note here that you need to make sure all of the musicians are happy with all of the possible dates. Finding out that the drummer and the guitarist can't make the gig on that day after you've booked is not ideal.)

Contacting the Venue

Depending on the size of the club, there will either be someone who handles all of the bookings or whoever answers the phone will pull out a calendar and write your name on it (while sounding incredibly bored and leaving you wondering if you've really booked the place). Either way, once you agree on a date, there are a few questions you need to ask:

  • How much is the hire fee/rental fee? (See more below about negotiating fees)
  • When can you load-in and soundcheck?
  • When can you open door?
  • When does the show need to end?
  • What do they provide technically?
  • Are there any special rules?

Signing a Contract

Many times, very small venues will not have contracts, but you should definitely ask if there is one. As you move into larger venues, you'll often be asked to sign a contract confirming the date for the show, the price you'll pay and any special arrangements you have made. Be careful when you're signing one of these contracts because if the show falls through, you'll be liable for paying them the fee anyway after your name is on the dotted line.

Negotiating a Price

In club bookings, sometimes there's not much flexibility in the price you pay for the venue. It never hurts to try and negotiate, however. There are two things that can help you get a better deal:

When you bring people into the venue and get the place mentioned in the press, you help them do what they need to do to make money - pack the place with people so they can sell drinks. Give them some evidence that the night will be a success and you may be able to get a better price.

Note that this rental "fee" is usually a minimum amount of money that has to be made on the door, not necessarily a check you have to write like you're renting a wedding hall. Hopefully, the door money and bar money will cover this guarantee you make to the venue.

  • Proving that you'll bring in a big crowd
  • Proving that you'll a lot of press before and after the show