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5 min read

Getting Started With Live Music: The Ultimate Rundown for Venues

Getting Started With Live Music: The Ultimate Rundown for Venues
Published on
July 11, 2022
Live music is a journey, and its best destination is frontstage at our favourite gigs and at home in our local venues. People can't help but be drawn to it, and if you're thinking about getting started with gigs at your venue, your timing couldn't be better.

Since there's a lot to consider, from which live setup works for you, to figuring out the semantics of music venue licensing, we put together the ultimate venue rundown to help with the process. Complete with links to our most helpful Surreal blog pieces on the subject, this should leave you with more time to start putting on epic gigs!   Interested? Picture this: bustling streets filled with music on every corner, at all hours of the day and the nation’s hottest bands and acts playing at your venue. Yeah, we're into it. Brace yourselves and get ready to kit out your main stage, get to know your audience, and join the inevitable promo hustle. Live music incoming. Population: your venue.

The rundown:

  1. The impact of live music
  2. Getting to know your audience
  3. Finding your audience demographic
  4. Your essential venue setup
  5. Music venue licensing
  6. Live music strategy
  7. Building your live music brand
  8. Promoting events and selling tickets
  9. Live music management

1. The impact of live music:

Why is live music so important, not only to the world but your business? We could go on about this for days, and as you can see by how much we’ve written on the subject, we have.

  • Live music adds to our global economy

Even after facing a pandemic that nearly decimated our beloved industry, live music has returned with plenty of room to grow, with space for everyone to get involved. So if you have hot dreams of turning your venue into a live music destination, there’s no better time to get involved and bring the good times to your customers.Live music is a major driver of our global economy. It will bring in $31 Billion worldwide by the end of 2022, even after the pandemic cost us 90% of our industry. Now in its official comeback years, the live music industry will continue an upward growth spiral, with more demand for live events than we’ll know what to do with.

  • It impacts us socially

While the additional revenue from adding a live music roster to your venue is incentive enough, it’s the incredible social and mood-lifting value that makes it so special. It plays as the backing track for the special moments in our lives, which makes it highly nostalgic.Live music is magnetic, helps us to feel connected and literally makes us happier. 1 in 3 people call it their number one passion and creating a place for customers to come and experience it will cement you as their number two passion in their lives, for sure.

  • It impacts our venue brand and mode of service

Adding live music to our venues directly impacts how our customers perceive their surroundings and what it means to your venue brand. It adds an infectious level of atmosphere, transports us and enhances our decor, fills the awkward silences, and changes the way we perceive wait times in a busy place. Certain types of music can change the crowd's energy, help you attract the customers that you want, and entice them to stay and get cosy at your venue a little longer. It brings a sense of community while helping people to loosen up and relax.  Learn more about the economic and psychological impact it has on us as humans and the impact of adding live music to your hospitality and venue experience.  

2. Getting to know your audience

Alright, so you concluded that putting on live music at your venue is one of your more genius ideas with pretty much no downside? Great.

Now it’s time to get strategic about:
  • What music to put on
  • Who you want it to attract?
  • And, what customers are looking for?

In order to answer these broader questions, uncover the true motivations behind your customers' visits to your venue. For example, it might be surprising to learn that a lower price isn't always the first factor when investing in a hospo experience.Check out the trends in your area, as well as in the hospo scene. Consider the more flexible workspaces that evolved after COVID-19 lockdowns, and the cautious and safety-oriented approach customers take to attending public spaces now. And that's just the beginning.

To find out more, check out some of our articles on the subject:

3. Finding Your audience demographic

You have an epic venue space, and you’re keen to fill it to the brim with infectious ambience, cheerful customers and live gigs. It’s the perfect recipe. But what even is music if not shared? Indeed, your gigs are going to need an audience.  And to find that, you're going to need to gain an understanding of audience demographics. Jumping into your live music journey will take discovery and research because the music and artists you bring to the table will complement your hospo offering and fly the flag for your brand. Once you’ve reflected on who and what you want to represent, figure out what music your ideal customers are jamming to. There are many factors to consider when getting to know your clientele, such as their general demographic and age range, who hangs out in your surrounding neighbourhood, and their interests. Understanding your audience demographic and general preferences will help you to curate effective live music rosters and entice more punters through the door. *Hot tip* your biggest crowd consists of millennials. They are a complex, socially conscientious group of giggers who respect sustainability, care about inclusion, and love to support local businesses.

Analytics tools

You won't have to go door to door to get this info if you’re a keen visual observer and have consulted the books and your online social presence to see who’s been hitting you up.But other online analytics tools will help you to gain invaluable insight into your target audience by looking at who is checking out your website and socials, where they live, and what other interests they have. Take advantage of google analytics, social media trends, and especially Facebook pixel to see where your biggest crowds are drawn from.

4. Your essential venue setup

Lights, sound system, music!With the yields of your customer research, build your live music schedule and deck out your main stage accordingly.Whether your audience prefers bangin pub gigs, DJs and cocktail ambience, or lowkey acoustic sessions(or a mixture of all), each setup will require some live music essentials. This includes unique sound and spatial elements, plus audio equipment. A.k.a live music feng shui. You will need to figure out the right sound equipment for your setup, including the appropriate microphones, speakers and mixing gear to keep your levels in check. And yes, when in doubt, always have extra cables on hand.

It's always good to get some advice

It always pays to get the right guys to come in and help with your audio setup. To start you off, we chatted with our favourite sound system engineers from BHSS backline and Australis Pro Audio about picking the right equipment for your venue and not blowing the budget. *Hot tip, expensive isn’t always better.

5. Music venue licencing

You will need a music licence to play music in a commercial venue. Music licencing is how a musician's rights are protected for their music being played while ensuring that they receive proper compensation by way of contributions to their song royalties, anywhere in the world. Figure out the music laws of your city, the different licences you’ll need for your venue, what your capacity limits are for hosting bigger music crowds, and where to register. Copyright laws can be tricky to navigate so we’ve covered it all for you in our article on music licensing.

6. Live music strategy

So you understood the assignment, read your audience like a good book and committed to the essential live music setup for your venue space. Licensing is in the bag, now comes the good stuff - filling up your music roster with fresh, local talent. Implement a music strategy to get the most out of your live music gigs. Think of it with the same reasoning as you would serving dinner after dessert. There’s a time and place for everything, and dessert just doesn't hit the same before the main course. Your live strategy’s job is to bring the rest of your venue’s offerings to life by placing the right music with your food and hospo service, enhance your decor with added atmosphere and essentially, fill your space with customers.

Some food for thought:

Think about factors like, how to liven up your quieter nights, create flow and distraction on your busy ones, how you can bring something new to the table and the neighbourhood and why it’s always good to keep our favourite classic genres on the menu.

For our essential tips on creating an innovative strategy, including elements like food and music pairings, and the use of music genre, check out some of these:

7. Building your live music brand

You may have already established yourself as a culinary great or THEE after-work hotspot but get ready because all of that is about to either level up or change completely. Adding live music to your venue will establish you as a new entertainment destination and act as a unique point of difference, so consider what you want your music to say about your venue.Your live music brand is what people will hear when they walk in the doors, and importantly, it is what they will see online, which may become a deciding factor for whether they come to visit you.

Get specific

When creating your brand be specific with your goals and how far you want to take your venue’s music journey. By getting real with your ambitions you’ll be able to estimate how much needs to go into different music promo channels and which local publications you need to reach out to. Becoming a live music destination also opens many different doors for you to experiment with. From touring national artists, creating merch opportunities and music collaborations with other top brands, and adding colour to the budding arts scene around you. You could become a whole movement if you wanted to!

And in case you're feeling stuck, here are 6 ways you can make sure your venue stands out from the crowd.

8. Promoting events and selling tickets

Ah yes, the dreaded part where you have to raise enough awareness to get customers excited about seeing your live entertainment. Promo is about as essential as the live music itself, especially via social media and your website. Besides foot traffic and word of mouth, every person deciding where to go on their next night out will be getting their recommendations from online sources, starting with a Google search. By online sources, we don't just mean social media either. Reaching out to local music blogs and publications, radio, and advertising around your neighbourhood are great places to start. Figuring out ways to reach new potential customers will all be on the list of potential promo opportunities. The more creative you are about reaching customers where other venues haven’t considered, the better results you’ll get.

Because promo is so essential to the success of your live music roster, we’ve written a lot about it.

9. Live music management:

Last but not least, how you manage your live music experiences will be the biggest determiner of the success of your new offering. Managing live music is a game of sublime performances mixed with behind-the-scenes etiquette that doesn’t really have a set of rules to go with it. There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there about how much you should pay musicians, the right and wrong way to host a gig, and how to make friends in the industry. Some ground rules like paying musicians on time and being sure to pay them at all may seem like general common sense. You would be surprised at how many musicians have played for free, just for the “chance to play.” *cringeOn top of that, music management extends further than between the venue and the artist. Take into account that your new music dreams may not have a 100% popular vote amongst your neighbours, though, of course, you still have every right to put it on. You will need strategies that allow your neighbours to communicate issues, like when the music is too loud before the cops become your new venue regulars.

Your Surreal booking system

The setup and the gig can seem like the better half of the fun, but hacking the booking and payments end of the gig while conquering your online promo in one place is going to be the game-changer. The best way to optimise your booking management experience is with the help of a booking platform, which will help you expand your gig roster faster than you thought possible. By keeping your rosters, invoicing and payments all in one place, using a booking system will save you time and help you to track upcoming gigs, and set future recurring dates efficiently. The Surreal Live system also has a built-in widget to help set up gig promo so you can share booking info straight to your website. Utilise our analytics tools to directly monitor and track ticket sales and where your biggest audiences are purchasing from.

We didn’t write a whole article on this one because we’d rather just show you. If you want to get in touch and talk about bands and booking, you’ll find more info on how to reach us here.

Discover the benefits of our venue management software at Surreal.Live.