An Open Letter to Live Music Venues


I’m lucky enough to live in Bury, a town with numerous music venues, two dedicated pretty much solely to rock and metal, and close to Manchester which also has an abundance of live music venues.  Alas this abundance of live music venues is fast declining and not just in my neck of the woods.  I thought it was maybe time to look at ways to stop this decline in its tracks so here goes…

Dear Live Music Venues.

I love you with all my heart, you feed my passion for live music and I don’t want you to leave me.  I also don’t want to see you get hurt.  I just thought I would share a few of my thoughts to help our relationship blossom.  Oh and I want you to see other people, I have no problem with us having an open relationship, the more the merrier.

Work with your peers.  When I say your peers, I mean the other music venues in your area.  Yes this may sound bizarre but you may find it will work in your favour.  Here’s an example.  One venue has a “night”.  This may be a rock night, a jam night or whatever.  This night is fairly successful.  Another venue sees this and decides they want a piece of the action and starts up the same night in direct competition.  This may seem like common practice and good business sense on the surface however what you’re doing is splitting your potential audience in two which helps no-one, least of all your punters.  Why not offer an alternative instead?  Not everyone who likes punk likes rock and vice versa so if you know there’s a punk night nearby, don’t put a punk night on the same night, put it on the night the other venue has a rock night.  The list of examples is endless but I hope you get the idea.  Collaboration over competition.

Don’t guilt trip your punters.  Believe it or not, many of your regulars may have formed an emotional connection with your venue.  This is a good thing.  Don’t abuse it.  Don’t guilt trip them if for one night they decide to frequent another establishment.   You want people to come to your venue because they want to, not because you’ve made them feel guilty for going somewhere else.  If your punters feel naturally guilty because your venue is so awesome and they missed an amazing night, you’ve done your job.

Have an up to date gig listing on your website.  Sorry folks but guess what?  Not everyone has Facebook so a Facebook event two hours before a gig isn’t going to cut it (this also applies to my next point too).  You have a diary, you know what’s in it.  People still plan in advance believe it or not.  There is nothing wrong with putting up a gig listing for months in advance.  If it’s booked and confirmed, list it.  It may be the difference between someone coming to a gig and someone being disappointed they can’t because they’ve committed to going elsewhere.

Promote.  Seriously, this is another letter in itself.  A FACEBOOK EVENT IS NOT THE ONLY WAY TO PROMOTE A GIG.  Apologies for shouting but really, it’s not.  There are so many Facebook events flying around that it becomes noise and people don’t always pay attention.  Also, don’t leave it to the band to promote the gig.  Yep, it’s their responsibility to promote their gig but it’s also your responsibility to promote your venue so if no-one shows up, don’t blame the band.  You love your venue, shout about it and make others love it too!  Let’s get people excited for upcoming gigs.  There’s a lot to be said for posters.  Stick posters for upcoming gigs up around your venue so if someone is there as a one off, they get to see what you’ve got coming up and maybe they will come back.  There are endless ways to promote gigs and your venue itself.  Think beyond Facebook!

Treat your bands well.  If they’re playing for free, throw them a couple of drinks.  You can nip to a supermarket and buy them a crate of beer if you’re worried about your profits.  Make them some sandwiches.  Just be hospitable!  Remember that bands talk.  As much as punters can help boost/destroy your reputation, bands can too.  Treat them well on the rise and you never know, that band that once played for free but were treated well may just come back and play a free gig for you when they’re charging everyone else hundreds.  If you’re paying your band then be sure to stick to your word and be completely upfront about what you’re paying them.  Don’t leave it until the night of the gig to let them know that they’re on a door split when they’ve driven halfway across the country thinking they were getting their normal fee.

Celebrate yourselves.  It’s a damn hard industry so if you’re still open, you’re obviously doing something right.  Shout about it!  Been open for a year?  Five?  Have a birthday bash!  Managed to book an awesome band and you’re really proud?  Let the press know about it so they can help shout about how amazing your venue is.  Whilst it would be lovely if folk did this for you, people won’t always do this.  Make sure you celebrate your venue.  If you don’t, you can’t expect others to.

Create a brand for yourself.  What do most successful brands have?  Logos.  Merchandise.  There is no reason you can’t create distinctive branding for yourself.  There is no reason you can’t sell merch.  It will help you survive!

This letter could go on forever so I will bid you farewell on this note, it may be continued.  Everyone has a part to play in making sure live music stays alive.   Make sure you do yours or you will end up just another sad statistic.  To those who are already doing these things and more, I salute you and long may it continue.  You’re a credit to the industry.

Lots of love

The Rock Fairy xxx

4 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Live Music Venues

  1. Sarah Statham says:

    Great article! Bury’s my home town, weird that I was talking to a friend only a few days ago about how rare and cherished it seems to be as a place that’s had a core rock and metal scene for a long time. Esper Scout’s first manifestation (different name, I played drums) certainly found that people were always up for going out to gigs but barely anything was done promo-wise and we never got paid – usually up to us to build buzz for a night.

    Things are gently changing for us now we’ve worked up a situation where we’re starting to be offered fees. Like with most things change will only happen through people (bands and fans) standing up for themselves which would probably mean putting forward their case as a large enough group and withholding their willingness to play and pay in for gigs until the venues take the threat seriously. As much as I love the city for many reasons Manchester is rotten for it, so we got fed up and realised we couldn’t face growing up musically there and left for Leeds.

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