Why We Wrote This Guide

Music venues are some of the most important elements of the music industry. Concerts create revenue, but also many often kickstart artists' careers. Concerts are a place for community and creativity. They are a vital part of the music industry. Yet, running a music venue is a difficult process. It can be rather costly due to equipment, management, and the infrequent nature of performances. The Music Industry Report 2020 from Exploration suggests that “...some venues seek sponsorship from private or public arts funding organizations to stay afloat”. While starting a music venue may feel overwhelming, this guide is here to help you navigate the process and make the right decisions for the music venue you want to create.

Who Is This Guide For

  • Recording Artists who are interested in learning about the ins and outs of a music venue and how it relates to the different aspects of the touring cycle itself.
  • Booking Agents/Tour Managers who are curious about the operations that take place in a music venue.
  • Anyone who wants to learn more about the process behind creating and managing venues.


What is a music venue?

In simplest terms, a music venue is any location used for a concert or musical performance. Music venues can range in size and location, from smaller bars to outdoor stadiums. Normally, different types of venues host different genres of music: opera houses and concert halls typically host classical music performances whereas nightclubs and public houses often offer music in contemporary genres, such as rock, dance, country, and pop. Venues can be privately or publicly funded, and may charge for admission. An example of a publicly funded venue is a municipal park, and these outdoor venues, for the most part, do not charge for admission. However, a nightclub is a privately owned business with the goal of bolstering incoming profits; venues like these charge fees in order to generate revenue.

Depending on the venue, opening hours, location, and length of performance may differ, as well as the equipment used to deliver the event. Furthermore, other attractions can exist, serving as a complement to the music itself: standup, performance art, or other social activities are just some of the many found in various music venues.

Listed below are types of music venues found across the world:

- Amphitheater
- Bandstand
- Concert Hall
- Jazz Club
- Live House
- Opera House
- Nightclub
- Stadium or Arena
- Theater

Locating and Opening your Music Venue

Picking the placement of a music venue is one of the most important elements of starting a music venue. Technically the placement is not the key to your success, but where the venue is located can help attract individuals. Most venues are located in downtown city environments, but if your venue is promoted well you can place it anywhere.

Typically, the placement depends on the size and type of the venue you want to start. Your target audience in concert goers and artists/bands also matters too. Match your venue style and location based on what your target audience is. Also research what genres do well in the city you are looking to place your music venue in. All music genres thrive everywhere, but when you think of Nashville your brain immediately goes to country music, so if you wanted to focus on country music maybe look into starting a venue in Nashville.

Always consider how much you want to spend on the space and how much it will cost to turn it into the music venue of your dreams as well. It is important to remember that location is important, but being able to financially afford the area is even more important.

Venue businesses usually require lots of local permits and licenses before opening their doors to people. Any venue planning to sell alcohol needs to obtain a liquor license while concert venues require special permits specifying their maximum legal capacity and the time of night they must close. Furthermore, venues may necessitate substantial capital investment in equipment for sound, lighting, and security systems. Many venues lease or purchase existing buildings, but some choose to build new facilities. Either approach can involve large bank loans or outside investment.

What equipment should you use?

Sound equipment is the most important part of a music venue because without it how would your audience be able to hear the music. When starting a music venue, focusing on good equipment is really important. If you have bad speakers the audience and the artists will be disappointed in the show. It is super important to make sure your venue is acoustically sound and has good sound equipment to compliment the acoustics.

You can easily hire a professional audio engineer to help aid you in finding the right equipment and the right setup for your venue or you can do your own research. Do research on audio equipment that fits your needs for the venue size and genre of music you will be having shows for.

There is a lot of good audio equipment out there that is reasonably priced. For microphones, Shure SM-57s and Shure SM-58 are a great option. These microphones are highly durable and reasonably priced. Speakers and monitors are really important. Find the right speaker setup for your space. How many and what type depends on the size and acoustics of your area. Often you will need a center, right, left, and sub channel, but it all depends on what is suitable for your music venue. Mixing boards are really important as well. The size depends on how many channels of audio you plan on having in your venue. Often it is recommended to find a 24 channel mixing board, but if you are only going to have acoustic singer-songwriters play in your venue then a smaller channel would be suitable. Remember to get instrument and mic stands. Also get amplifiers for instruments and all of the cabling needed for your microphones, instruments, amplifiers, speakers, mixing board, and monitors. An added bonus would be a lighting board. For smaller beginning venues, this is not as important. However, as you progress and your shows become more extravagant a lighting board would make the concert more magically for the audience.

Promoting a Venue

Venues must market their services for every event they host and in between events. If a venue hosts its own events, in-house promoters should create and place advertisements in local outlets such as radio stations and newspapers. Utilizing social media and mailing lists while spreading fliers or posters provides additional spread to the community. To take it a step further, you can design a website and join social networking sites to enlarge your audience and make more people aware of what you have to offer.

Originally, all promoters would ask of an artist was to show up on the night of a concert/performance and give a great show. Nowadays, promoters and venues deepen their partnerships with artists, getting them involved in marketing. Targeting the artist’s social media audience and working with their team can further your promotional success.Do not be afraid to diversify your programming to introduce your venue to different audiences. Stepping outside your comfort zone by running unique events is another way to build a consistent community for your businesses. During performances, go ahead and live stream concerts to gain traction online.

Ultimately, as you go through different strategies in promoting your venue, you should always collect data. Though music may be an art, running a live music business is also a science. Making informed decisions on promotion requires an understanding of what you’ve been doing and its intended effects. Look at the analytics behind online and social media traffic towards your venue to see what is working so that you can continue to hone in on those strategies. Continuously collecting information is the best way to make smarter marketing decisions.

The Recipe for Success

  • Differentiate your venue from competitors:

    You need to market your establishment as a musical hot spot. Hire proven or well-rated performers who can entertain your regulars and create a vision for your venue. Analyze your community and research ways to break into their market so you can make your place a place people want to come to, regardless of who is playing. Know your target audience and cater to their needs.

  • Be organized and communicate:

    Take notes, write or type things down, and keep a log of your findings or schedule. Maintain a calendar and keep records of the performers you’ve hired and paid for. Reaching out to bands and artists is integral for operating a successful music venue. Creating relationships that last by facilitating conversations and checking in with performers to ensure they are up-to-date are only a few actions you must take.

  • Be consistent and patient:

    Follow a regular calendar of events and scheduling so that your audience knows what to expect. Regularity helps bring regular followers. Most importantly, be patient. It takes time to build a word-of-mouth around your venue’s live music scene, and so you will have to experience the occasional slow night. Knowing how to adapt and stay the course instead of panicking or jumping ship is one of the hardest lessons to learn.

Permits and Legal Issues

Venue business owners must ensure that their events comply with laws and regulations regarding noise disturbances, alcohol sales, maximum capacity, and other safety concerns. Breaking these rules can result in hefty fines while major violations, such as serving alcoholic beverages to minors, can result in a revocation of a business’s permits. To add on, venues must allow fire marshal inspections to show that no building codes are violated and that emergency exits are properly maintained and free of obstructions. Inspections also check for fire hazards and overall maintenance, proving the importance of a well-kept venue.

Venues also need blanket licenses to be able to allow musicians to be able to play music in their venue. ASCAP, a performance rights organization that handles lots of blanket licenses, defines blanket licenses as “...a license that provides unlimited access to an entire repertory during the term of a license for a single fee”. Exploration has a lot of resources on blanket licenses and performance rights organizations. Their article, “What is a Public Performance License?”, includes lots of informative research on performance rights organizations and how businesses can apply for blanket licenses with these PROs.

What amenities should you include in your venue to appeal to concert goers and artists?

The amenities included in your venue depend on your target audience. If you are trying to appeal to more indie smaller artists maybe make your music venue a small club. Clubs can be 18+, which can be beneficial and harmful. You are losing out of an audience of younger concert goers. However, running a venue that is 18+ can create more revenue. You will be able to serve drinks to those who are of age, which creates more money and attracts more individuals to your music venue. You also could serve food at your music venue. This would bring in additional income. If it is an outdoor venue maybe serve cookout foods like hot dogs and hamburgers or if it is a club maybe serve specialized foods.


Author: Isabella Weaver and Ahmad Zargar

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