Over your music career, you’ll play hundreds or even thousands of venues.
When you’re just starting out, any show will be tempting to pick up… But over time, you’ll find that your audience seems to react best in certain types of venues.
No matter which venue type you end up gravitating towards, it’s good to have a solid understanding of the different kinds of venues you could come across and the pros and cons of each type.
On top of that, it’s always useful to know who you should talk to at the venue for each question that comes up.
Listen now to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of certain venue types and what venue staff you’ll be interacting with.
What you’ll learn:
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#13: Pre-Show Communication Could Save Your Show… And Your Life
#27: Harnessing The Power Of Your Fanbase | Get New Fans By Hiring Your Current Fans
#61: Now Is the Time to Start Planning Your Post-pandemic Tours
Welcome to Episode 64 of the Bandhive Podcast.
It is time for another episode of the band. I've podcast. My name is James Cross, and I'm here with Matt Hoos of Alive in Barcelona. How are you doing today, Matt? I'm doing pretty awesome, James.
How's everything going over there for you? That's great to hear. And over here, I honestly can't complain. I know months ago we talked about a 7 37 speaker that I had purchased for like $10. Well, as of yesterday, I finished putting that speaker into a handmade wooden box and took apart or rather gutted a Google home mini and hooked up the Google Home Minis Circuit Board to the speaker. So now I have a 7 37 speaker that works by saying like Hey, Google, play whatever. That's awesome, dude, I am so stoked.
It's actually a gift for a friend of mine. But I have a second speakers. I'm gonna build another one for myself, too. It took me way longer than it should have to build this thing because it's Vermont and it's wicked cold outside. So, like doing any would work out in the garage, you could only do it for, like, 20 or 30 minutes before your hands getting, um but I'm going to wait on the next project. The one I built for myself to it warms up. So then I could just, like, finish it in a week instead of two months.
Yeah, that sounds awesome. Though. I'm, like, super jealous. Now I want one. I'll have to find another speaker and build another one. Don't tempt me. I've mounted up here in the corner. It'll be great. That might be tough because the Google homes on top, you gotta put on like a bookshelf for something. Or you could build a shelf and put it up on the on a shelf in the corner. And I would do the trick. Just mounted to my desk that I built exactly. So, yeah, that's what's new here.
And I'm really excited about that. and, uh, it's a very, very late Christmas present. Today's Sunday, the 24th. So it's gonna go out tomorrow on exactly one month after Christmas. Oh, that z better late than never. This is true. This is true. I was like, Oh, I could build this in two weeks. Two months later. Honestly, it's amazing that the two pieces didn't just, you know, sit on opposite sides of the room. The fact that you got it done is is impressive. Yeah, it was a fun project I wish I could have gutted on Alexa.
But the problem with that is on Ah, Alexa or an echo, Many as they're called the speakers, like soldered to the circuit board. Whereas on the Google Home mini there's actually wires from the circuit board to the speaker. So I could cut the wires and solder a different speaker onto it s So even though I'm an Amazon guy, I have to use the Google Home many, but it was so worth it. And yeah, if anybody wants to check that out, it's on my instagram at Mad Rock Xcx.
I posted a video of it, so it's out there. But enough about me nerd ing out about old plane parts. This one was built in 1995. Sorry, I said I was gonna stop nerd ing out today. We're here to talk about the most non nerdiest thing ever. And that is about types of venues that you need to know about when you're booking your first tour. Because back in Episode 61 which was now is the time to start planning your post pandemic tours. We talked about booking your tours or planning your tours, and we briefly touched on different types of venues.
But we didn't go into detail about what each of those venues has or doesn't have. And we also realize that if you're going to book your first tour, you need to know who you can expect to be working with at these venues. So we're going to go through and give you a little bit of background information on four different types of venues that a D. I. Y band who's just starting out can expect to play. And then we're going to talk about roles that should be at those venues.
Maybe their combined. Maybe they're not. Or maybe the venue just does everything d i y and has no idea what they're doing. So you kinda have to figure out what role each person plays. Or if there's one person that's easy, you know, they do everything to get us started. Matt, do you want to go through the four types of venues we're gonna cover today and tell us a little bit about each one? I would love to. So throughout your career, you're gonna play a whole bunch of different shapes, sizes, venues.
Some of them are gonna be incredible. Some of them are going to be, like, awful on. Some of them will leave such a stain on your mind that you will never forget them. And that's just the nature of the industry that we're in. So you have small clubs, you know, these air generally, you know, some of them or well planned shows. You're generally, you know, you're gonna be working with promoters or talent buyers, production managers, you know, small clubs. They host a lot of shows, so they know what they're doing a little bit better.
You have bars which also host shows, but they may not have the in house staff to really facilitate all you know, everything that you need. Um, sometimes there's a sound, guys, sometimes there's not. Sometimes you know, you, you know, sometimes you go play a bar and they've got the whole nine yards, you know, roadies, production manager stage managers like you name it. So it really just depends on the size of the bar and how frequently they have live music. And we also have coffee houses. You know, coffeehouses air really cool, because they have, ah, hidden power behind them that I will get to a little bit later.
And then we also have the infamous and elusive house show or the basement show. We've all played, you know, a couple of those before. You know, generally these types of shows you're gonna be dealing with, like some kid in a small town who, you know, is tired of hanging out at Walmart with his friends. And so he decided last year that he was gonna start throwing shows in his basement, and, you know, those were some of the ones. How shows will stick in your mind very, very well for two reasons.
One, because they will be incredible and two because they will also be awful. So it's a very wide spectrum with house show. But I can both tell you that the best show and the worst show that I've ever played, we're both in the house. So you know, we'll get to that a little bit later. But those are the four main venue styles that you'll be working with early on in your career. Later on, you know you'll get two more marquees and theaters and grand halls and amphitheaters and stuff like that.
But, you know, for right now this is kind of the early this is you're taking off point. This is like, if you are doing everything you don't have booking agents, these are gonna be the venues you're working with and you're gonna be working with people inside of each one of these situations. Yeah, absolutely. And you know, I since you mentioned house shows that that give me a memory. There was a place called Gandhi lot down and somewhere in suburbia of Massachusetts. And I remember there was one show there.
It was my friend's bands farewell tour, and they were doing, like, three shows in New England as this quote unquote farewell tour and a bunch of us were in this kids kitchen just standing there, and all of a sudden we hear this giant crack, and this is like an old 18 hundreds farmhouse. So, like everything in the house is ancient and there's probably 10 or 12 of us, and we're like that sounded like the floors cracking and we never figured out what it was. But for the rest of the evening we were all more or less avoiding the kitchen because we were pretty sure one of the beams had cracked under the floor because there were too many of us in that room.
It was too heavy. So that was a fun house show story that I would not like to really live because I don't want to end up in the haunted farmhouse basement. That was where is your sense of adventure? Oh, I would love to go down the steps and go into the haunted farmhouse base, but I just I would not want to drop in on a ghost. I don't think they would appreciate it. What if it was the ghost of you? Was that a bad band fund that I'm not getting?
Oh, Of course it was. That's an M C R song. Man. You missed a really good one, though. I didn't I didn't want to interrupt you. I missed a couple of good ones. I was just being modest. The ghost inside, man. Come on, man. The ghost inside. See, that's like a little bit later than me. I make the my chemical romance reference because let's see. How old are you, James? I am 27. Yeah. He said I'm 31 I have older brothers. So, like, I got all the you know, I get the blink 1 82 references to some 40 ones.
The green days. You know, the Jimmy eat world. I get those references. Oh, absolutely. But you know, I have to say you were on work tour when the ghost inside was so you could make all the excuses you want about being an old guy. But you were there. There's also 50 million other bands. I was on warp tour with that. I don't remember. That's fair. That's definitely fair. But I do remember the ghost inside because those guys were incredible. Yeah, I would absolutely agree. Especially now that they didn't come back and they just sound stellar, even with everything they've been through.
So good for them. Props to the ghost inside. I just thought of, Ah, less than Jake, the ghosts of you and may less than Jake Griffin's. Okay, e. I know. I know we're going to stop talking about ghosts. Who knows if they're even. Really? I don't want to find out. Anyway, I think basically the venues that you will want to target are probably small clubs. Because, you know, Matt, as you said those were the most put together shows the most organized, most professional. But it's not always realistic to book small clubs because they might be too big for you.
A small club could be like 200 to 300 or maybe even 500 people. And so if you're draw is 50 people, you're going to be more or less stuck with bars and coffee houses. Unless there's a very small club or like a black box theater, which is kind of a tiny club, it really depends, But I think you had a little bit more you wanted to say about the coffeehouse, right? Yeah, and actually, there's a couple anecdotes I wanted to add, starting with the small clubs. You know, a lot of the time If you don't have a poll in another city, you know, you going and booking your own small club show is not gonna be very productive.
And so a lot of the time you want to reach out to promoters or talent buyers or venues and see if you can actually get onto a show that already exists, preferably, you know, one that has a local on it that is headlining that happens to have a good poll, and you can figure these things out by looking at the locals in your area or looking at the locals in the cities that you're traveling and talking with them. You know, don't be afraid to reach out to the bands that do really well in their hometown.
Those are the exact type of bands that you want to be playing with because, you know, hopefully you have some sort of mutual fan base. Yes, but coffeehouses coffee houses have a hidden power, like I mentioned earlier in that they are open all day. So you actually you know, unlike a bar, unlike a small club. You know, unlike a house show, which you will only be playing shows at night time, you actually have the ability to come to a coffee house and make money during the day.
This is powerful for two reasons. Not on Lee. Can you fill up some of the random days off that you have in your tour schedule? But also, even on days when you don't have a day off, you can go and play an acoustic set inside of a coffee house. This is an extra opportunity for you to set up a couple T shirts, some CDs and play some of your music. Acoustically, You don't even need tohave a P A. You don't need to have anything other than your guitar in your voice.
And even if you want to have a couple of those things, there's a couple of really inexpensive options to let you do that. Not only does it give you an opportunity to sell your merch and your music to more people, but also it gives you an opportunity to promote the show that you're going to play that evening so, like you might have somebody in passing when you're playing in this coffeehouse that buys your C. D. You know, for us on our CD release show, we did, um, acoustic set beforehand.
And then we went across the street to like and did a meet and greet at a restaurant kitty corner from the venue that ended up being, ah, wonderful experience because we made Justus much money from the meet and greet and from the acoustic set that we did from the show. And it was incredible because we really got a chance to meet like some of our fans, interact with these people and like, get to know who they were. You know, it wasn't just like, oh, we got to make money from them.
It was like it was just a much more intimate setting. And so, you know, the power of the pre show, if you will, is really awesome and an incredibly beneficial in your career, and the coffeehouse makes that readily available to you. Yeah, agree, that's a really kind of low hanging fruit way to get more shows without having a longer tour. And if you can fit those in yeah, it's a lot more work to play two shows in a day than it is to play one show today, but it could be so rewarding, and one venue category that I realized we didn't put in here would be teen centers.
But I would classify most of those either as a house show or a small club, because some teen centers a really put together and have sound and lights and all that kind of stuff, and they have an actual performance space. So that's gonna be more similar to a small club, even though obviously is a teen center. There's not gonna be a bar in the club or anything like that. Or it could be a teen center that just has shows once in a while. And that's gonna run essentially like a house show where, like whoever is in charge of booking activities for the kids will reach out and say, Hey, we wanna have you come play our teen center Next time you come through town and there in that case, it's probably gonna be, you know, like one person doing everything just like a house show, except that this person might be getting paid, or their non profit volunteer who just wants to help kids that kind of stuff.
But either way, teen centers could fall into either one of those categories you might have heard of 9 24 Gilman or to 42 main. Those air to legendary teen centers in the U. S. Unfortunately, to 42 is no more, but 9 24 in Berkeley, California is still going strong. And so if you're ever out in that area, you could definitely hit up 9 24 and try to get booked as long as you're not on a major label, which most of you listening to this probably your heart. Yeah, absolutely no. Those are all really, really good points, too.
And, you know, and there's like it's gonna be up to you while you're on the road, you know, to orchestrate what you're going to do. And you know what? Things are gonna be really beneficial for you. I love the coffeehouse. We used to play with no bragging rights, quite a lot, and that's something they would dio. They would go and play hot topics, which that's something we've done before. Play hot topic in the afternoon. Go and play a show that evening. It's, you know, another way that you can a just really piggyback on your mo mentum.
You're you're staying practiced, which is really nice, Like in my experience, every time we played a coffee show during coffeehouse show during the day that show the in the evening went way better. So there's a lot of it's not just about the money. It's not just about the fans, but it's also just about like that constant momentum of you're out there. You're on the road, you're creating art and you're performing. And so like the more momentum you have, the better it gets absolutely. And so let's pivot here a little bit and talk about the staff that anybody could run into at a show.
And in general, each one of these roles is going to be filled by someone. There could be a different person for each of these rolls, or it could be one person doing everything. That really depends on how the venue operates, but you'll find that the more legitimate the venue is, the more professional the venue is. These roles are going to be split up because the more professional venues each role has to spend more time doing what they do because they're more organized and put together. So to start things off, every single venue is going to have a talent buyer who is responsible for booking the shows and just keeping the venues calendar clean and making sure that there's no double bookings and all that kind of stuff.
Everybody here is familiar with the title of promoter. A talent buyer and a promoter are essentially the same thing, the difference being that a talent buyer works in house directly for the venue, while a promoter is an outside third party that is renting the venue to put on their show. The next person that we have on our list is the production manager, and this is where a lot of my experience comes from, is from the production management side of things. And the production manager is going to be your main point of contact once the show is booked because they're the expert on the sound and lighting systems at the venue and they'll be the person doing the advance with you.
Even if the production manager for a venue surprise that you want to do in advance, you should always do an advance with them. We talked about this back on Episode 13. Pre show communication could save your show and your life. That shows just how important it is to advance every single show. So you know that everyone is on the same page. It is common courtesy to do this and, yeah, some production managers that smaller venues might be surprised by it, but you should still do it because it is worth it and only takes, like 10 or 15 minutes.
Do this for every single show. The production manager will also frequently double up as thes stage manager at smaller venues, and they can also end up being thesis sound guy lighting girl. Whatever it is, they will be doing multiple roles in the production department at thes smaller venues. The stage manager is somebody who is in charge of making sure everyone gets on and off stage on time and is basically running the show smoothly. Yeah, stage managers are without a doubt, by nature of their job, the biggest assholes in the entire music industry.
It is absolutely true, but I got to say they have very good reason to be that way. Absolutely, they dio and it's because bands have screwed them over. They learned from their mistakes Years ago I was running sound for a show, and I was also the production manager. It was, ah, local benefit show with, like 75 people there, So not tiny but not huge. This one band was like, Hey, like, you know, we have two minutes left. Can we do one more song? And I'm like, Yeah, that's fine.
You can do one more just, you know, keep it short. Well, they proceeded to cover all three parts of another brick in the wall, which is like eight minutes, and I was livid. And since then I have always cut bands off. If they go over time, standard operation here as sound guy, or if the stage management sound person or separate, the stage manager will tell the sound person what to dio. First you get a warning. Hey, you're times up time to stop. Then after another minute, the monitors go out so you can't hear what you're playing anymore.
And then after that, the p A gets shut off entirely. Don't go over your set time people, because unless your stage manager has never been screwed over by a band, which is very unlikely because this is like the third show at this stage managing they will cut you off. They will not be afraid to do what they have to dio to get you off stage on time. If that means cutting the sound and making you look like an idiot on stage, they're not afraid to do that.
And when you get to a larger level of the game as well, neither our tour managers, the tour manager will walk up to the sound person if you're over your time and tell them to cut you off when you're playing at the professional level, it's a zero tolerance thing, like people will come up and tell you if you went one minute over your set time and that is a very real deal. So you know if you need toe, you know, make sure that your set is locked in.
You should know, start to finish how long your set is. Absolutely. And to be clear, this is not your tour manager. Your tour manager. She's not going to screw you over like that. This will be the headliners tour manager who was telling the sound person to get you off that stage. You do not want to mess with headliners, tour manager or anyone working at the venue because they could blacklist you from playing that venue again. That's just not a good situation to be in. It's actually fun. Fact.
I saw a certain band on Warped Tour 2016 get cut off as the last act of the night on their stage. It was not the main stage, but the next level down they got kicked off the stage and it was interesting toe watch and, uh, one of my favorite bands, actually who I'm not going to name them, But they were on this podcast a while back. Yeah, so that was fun to see. That was after seeing some 41 the same night. That was it was a good night. I bet that was a grand all night.
Oh, yes, Yes, it was. Well, there's a few more people that you're probably gonna end up working with the venue depending on the size. We have operations managers, which you know they're gonna be like the people at the box office thes air. Sometimes you'll interact with them and they'll be saying you know how many tickets were sold? Most of the time, the operations manager will be giving that information to the production manager and you'll be settling up with the production manager at the end of the night.
So sometimes this person will just not even exist in your, you know, in your life. Sometimes the operation manager is also like a promoter. They also double. Is this? So maybe you are interacting with them. You just don't realize that the operations manager is also the person overseeing, you know, tickets at the door or whatever. You know, they might be bouncing around. There's also a marketing manager. You know, this. These are people who are tasked with promoting all the events at the venue. They're gonna be the guys changing the sign on the marquee.
You know, they're gonna be the ones printing off flyers and things like that. That doesn't necessarily absolve you from your job of doing that as well in your local markets. And a lot of the time when you're dealing with a smaller venue, they might not even have somebody in house for marketing. So, you know, if you're doing coffee houses their marketing. People are working on coffee stuff, not on your acoustic program. It's still up to you. You know. Ah, lot of the time bands have utilized street teams, which is developing groups of close fans in individual markets, that they would have go out and they would actually do the marketing.
And they would print off flyers and things like that. So there's been a lot of different tools utilized in the industry for years. When it comes to this marketing purpose, but a larger venue, you will have a marketing manager. You probably won't really deal with them. Maybe you'll meet them. But again, it's mostly gonna be the production manager. You also have the general manager. This is gonna be whoever is in charge. You know, this might be like a general manager of the entire club, who everybody works under him.
It might be, you know, just the guy who owns the venue or whatever. Uh, anyway, he's the general manager. Make sure you're nice to him. You could very easily kick you out of his club. No problem. Yes, absolutely. And speaking of ST teams, Matt, let me just jump in real quick we hadn't episode all about street teams. It was number 27 harnessing the power of your fan base to get new fans by hiring your current fans. And if you don't have a street team, I can honestly say I highly recommend it.
No matter what level you're at, it is worth looking into it and just getting that ball rolling. So sorry to interrupt. Map. Please continue. No, no, no, you're wonderful. I was actually just gonna turn it back over to you. I was. You know, there's there's kind of an order of operations that you're gonna interact with these people. And so you know, James, why don't you go ahead and let people know kind of what that would look like? Yeah, absolutely. Typically, before you book the show, you're going to be working with the talent buyer or promoter.
If it's an outside third party, a lot of times clubs will have some shows booked in house and others booked by a third party bars, to an extent operate the same way. But coffee houses will almost always be in house because their main priority is coffee. They're not talking about shows all the time, So if they have a music program, it will be, you know, either the owner or just somebody who really likes music, who is also one of the baristas there. He or she will be booking the shows that they have in that venue and for, well, a house show.
There's only gonna be one person running things in most cases. So you talk to whoever you talk to, and that's it. Once the show is booked, you're going to be talking to the production manager mainly and then maybe the marketing manager to send them some digital assets so they can put it up on their website or something like that. But for the main part, you're going to be talking to the production manager. Then day of show, you're gonna be talking to the production manager, and you're gonna be working with them closely or their representative.
If that's a sound girl or somebody else, that's fine. They will be representing the production manager. If the production manager is an on site that day, you'll also be talking to the talent buyer or promoter or whoever is in charge of settling the show. Like you mentioned Matt, that can also be the production manager. It really depends on how the venue runs. You might also talk to the operations manager. At some point, you know, they might have meal tickets for you. They might be talking to you about parking that kind of stuff.
Although parking really would be the production managers area of expertise in most cases as well and a quick way to differentiate the two is a production manager deals with all the behind the scenes stuff. You know, the sound, the lighting, the production and works with the artist, while the operations manager is in charge of all that same stuff but facing the public. So they're doing behind the scenes stuff for the public, whether it's security, whether it's making sure that the bars or properly stocked all that kind of stuff is on the operations manager there in charge of running the venue effectively, the basic venue rules and departments are really vital to know, because that way, if you have a question, you know who you need to ask.
So now, having heard this episode, you could say, Oh, well, I need to know what kind of sound board they have or how many inputs they have. Okay, let me ask the production manager. She'll know what to dio. Oh, let me check on the box office sales. Okay, So box office, that's gonna be either the talent buyer or the operations manager. Now, probably it's gonna be the talent buyer because they're your point of contact and they'll get that information from the operations manager. But it could still go either way, depending on what they decide.
Ah, lot of venues will have fairly standardized roles, but there's still a little play on fringe areas where it's like, Okay, do I ask this person or this person? The main thing is, if you know the basic roles at each venue, you're going to have a much better idea off who to go to with questions. It just makes it so much easier rather than saying, Hey, who do I have to talk to you for this? You just say, Hey, who's your marketing manager? I have a marketing question.
Who is your production manager? I have an audio question. Who's, you know, I mean, obviously you're gonna know who the talent buyer is because you've been working with them, but who do I settle with the talent buyer or the promoter or the production manager? All of these are questions that could reasonably come up, and they're just some examples of what could happen. But we hope that it helps you understand who is in charge of what at a venue keeping in mind, Of course, like we've said that smaller venues, thes roles could be combined into one person, and that person might not even have an official title.
They may literally just be a bartender who likes music, so you're gonna have to figure that out and make sure you're talking to the correct person. One example of this was a small club show the night of show. The point of contact was one of the head security people. Really nice guy, super helpful. And he was running the show. There was no production manager. The talent buyer wasn't there, but the security guy was in charge, and that's because he had the most experience at that venue. It has two rooms higher ground up in Burlington, Vermont, and this was a show in the smaller room, so they didn't need the full staff.
I think they were like two bartenders, a sound guy and then three or four security people. So since he was the most experienced one, he was in charge of handling the payouts. The merch, splits, all that kind of stuff, and there was no production manager on site. There was no marketing person on site. There was no talent by our promoter on site. But they trusted the security guy because he'd been there for years to say, Okay, you handle the payouts for the bands and he did a great job.
That's just one example of how things can change at smaller venues, and that's a room that holds, like 300 people. So it's not tiny by any means, but this also wasn't a sold out show. There may be like 100 50 people there for a larger show. It might have been a little more elaborate. Point being things change, and you have to expect that these roles are going to be filled by these people unless somebody is doubling up on roles. And then you have to figure out who is taking care of each role, especially at the smaller venues like coffee houses, bars and house shows.
you're probably going to be talking to only one person or maybe two. That does it for another episode of the Bandhive podcast. Thanks so much for tuning in. I hope that this episode helped you learn a little bit about the types of venues you might want to play and who you could run into when you are playing those venues. I know it's a tough time for venues and artists everywhere, since we're still not back playing shows yet. But if you go check out Episode 61 of the band I've Podcast, which you confined at Band I've dot rocks slash 61 or by going to better dot band slash listen and finding it in your favorite podcast app, you can hear all about why now is the time to start planning your tours.
It may seem early, and I'm not saying you should go book shows. I think it's way too early for that, at least on the d I Y level. You know, Major actual book A year, a year and a half out. But for D I Y. You're looking at maybe 3 to 6 months tops, so don't go booking shows yet, but you do want to make sure that you have a plan in place. Thanks again for listening. We will be back with another new episode next Tuesday at 6 a.m.
Eastern time. Until then, have an awesome week. Stay safe. And, of course, as always, keep rocking.
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