If you’re in a band, you’ve got to know the different types of music venues if you ever want to book a show at one. Here’s some information about four major, common types of music venues and their specific advantages and disadvantages to bands trying to book a show.
1. Bars – By far the most common venue type, bars can be very lucrative to bands, especially bands that can play very long sets. Sports bars will often hire bands for 3-4 hours at significantly high pay, making them a godsend to independent bands. The two biggest problems with bars as music venues are that most shows tend to be 21 and up, limiting your merchandising and fan base potential, and for many people, the bar band is a secondary form of entertainment, so they won’t listen very closely to the band at all. Nevertheless, it’s very difficult for an independent band to be successful without playing at a lot of bars.
2. Coffee Shops – While fans listen more attentively at a coffee shop than at a bar, shows usually don’t go as late, and most coffee shops restrict the type of music they’ll book to acoustic acts or very quiet bands. Coffee shops are usually located next to a strip of stores, as they get much of their business from walk-ins, and so loud music isn’t a possibility for many of them. Some coffee shops are dedicated music venues first and coffee shops second, but they can only remain open if they have a loyal and dedicated customer base.
3. Listening Rooms – It can be very difficult to find listening rooms, but they’re fantastic for singer/songwriters. Similar to a coffee shop, and sometimes held in a coffee shop, listening rooms have a strict no-tolerance position on talking while a musical act is performing. Often, other songwriters at the venue will critique your songs after you’re done playing, and it can be a great way to get feedback and find out what is and isn’t working. Show every other musician at a listening room the respect that they show you and you’ll have a great time and likely learn quite a bit.
4. House Venues – Very common with high school and college aged bands, house shows have several big advantages. First of all, there’s usually no rental fee or costs to cover, so whatever the band charges at the door, they’ll get all of it, or if multiple bands are playing the gig, they’ll share it. Secondly, house shows are typically all ages, allowing greater attendance and therefore greater merchandise sales. However, house venues also must cope with noise complaints, interested police who might suspect an illegal party, parking difficulty, and potential house damage for larger shows. House venues usually only survive for long periods of time if they’ve got a way to severely cut down on these negatives, for instance if the house is located a significant distance from a residential area.
Do you know of another type of music venue? Post about it, and tips for getting gigs, in the comments section below.