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UG's Career Advisor
Join date: Oct 2004
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Due to the number of post dealing with how to get a gig in the Bandleading Forum, I thought it would be helpful to elaborate on the commonly given advice on “How to Set-Up Your Own Show.” In this article, I will discuss commonly used tactics, problems that may arise, and some case examples. This article will mainly deal with underage bands that cannot play at bars and other 21+ venues. Considering promotion and live sound are two completely different aspects, I will not cover them in detail in this article.

Before the Show

Step 1: Where do I find a place?
The best place I have found to have shows is rental halls. These places include:

Ambulance/Firehouse halls
Recreational centers
Civic organizations (VFW, Moose Lodge, Knights of Columbus, American Legion, etc.)

I have found that most of these places charge between $40 and $100 per hour to rent the place for the night. You may also be able to find a place to host your show for free. The most likely place to have this is at your local church. With your church or similar organization, you can agree to share a percentage of the door with them. I have also seen shows where there was no cover, but the church was accepting donations.

You may also try finding a local business owner that you know to have a show there. It does not matter what the business is, as long as the show is after hours. I have seen people host successful shows at computer service shops and paintball centers. Skateboard parks also seem to be popular since most people who go there listen to “band” music anyways. I was in a band before that played a show at a Sam Goody music store because one of our band members was a former employee there. It was one of our most successful shows because it was during Christmas time in a mall. Many people watched us and we also had the “in & out” crowd with frequent passers.

Some people, especially older citizens, may give you a hard time if you tell them you want to have a rock show at their place. To avoid conflicts, you may want to have an adult or a responsible, well-mannered band member call them. Tell them what you have in mind and be clear about it. Be able to answer any questions they may ask also.

Try to book these halls at least 2 or 3 months in advance. Be careful around August and September because many of them fill-up with wedding receptions. Friday & Saturday nights are usually the best days to book these shows. BE SURE TO LOOK AT OTHER EVENTS. If there is major show happening in town or something else that could cause your audience to go somewhere else, avoid booking on that day. As for time, most shows in my area start at around 5pm, which I think is too early. I have noticed most people come in the door around 7pm. A safe bet would to book your show between 6-10 or 11. Most kids have curfews, so be weary of that.

It is recommended that you NOT host a show at your house. There are several reasons behind this and here is an example:

A few years ago, I was in a band that was not gigging very often and there was a young booking agent who was looking for acts. We got booked for a show of his, but it was not until the week before that we found out the concert was at his house. When we pulled up, there was a band playing in his driveway. At that point, we were thinking about turning around, but ended up staying because it was our only gig.

We were the only band that stayed for the entire event and I noticed several problems. The biggest problem was the host would not allow anyone to use the bathroom in his house and there were no porta-potties available. How long do you think people are going to stay at your show if they cannot use the bathroom? In addition, there were no food & drink available. We ended up having some pizzas delivered and people were stealing water bottles I had brought for the band. The last major problem was once nighttime hit, the only lighting available was one streetlight.

Several other factors involving hosting a show at your house include noise ordinance & liability. With any outdoor show, check with your local law enforcement agency first to determine what their policies are on noise. With liability, what happens if someone hurts himself or herself on your property? The property owner can be liable under these circumstances. However, rental halls and churches have insurance that is paid to cover such incidents.

Step 2: Who is playing?
Without music, it is a little hard to have a show. You may decide to just have your band play or have multiple bands. Both have their pros & cons.

Unless you are a well-known band in your area, I would advise to NOT play by yourself. If you do, you are likely to just bring in family members or the same people who come to all your other shows (i.e. girlfriends, little brothers, friends who want to play an instrument but have no talent, etc.)

I have found a good number of bands to have for a “typical” show is 5-7 (For a 4-5 hour show.) That gives each band about 30 minutes with a 15-minute break time in between. I have also seen newly formed bands play for 10 minutes because they only had 3 songs. You could also give more time to a popular band. You can negotiate this once you know your line-up.

If you have too many bands for your show, people will get bored and leave. I was once at a show at a recreation hall that had 10 bands in 7 hours. The first band had an audience of about 80 people. By the time, the 7th band went on, there were close to 150 people there. Once the 9th band went on, that had dwindled back to 80. We were the last band to go on and we played in front of 12 people! 8 of them were people we brought.

Finding Bands
Myspace is the de facto way to find other bands to play on your bill. Style and experience will be YOUR decision. Newly formed bands are the easiest to get considering they probably have few, if any, gigs. You may also want to get a few bands that are on your level. I would definitely get 1 or 2 well-known local bands to play. With the better-known bands, make it seem like it is worth their wild to play at the show.

When messaging or talking to these bands in person, be clear to state when & where the gig is to take place and how long you want them to play for. I have noticed most bands will not ask you a lot of questions beyond this. Just tell them you will send them a message about the show a few weeks beforehand.

Step 3: Finding your niche & Things to consider
After you have the date set, the venue locked, and the bands to play it is time to decide how you want to run the show. Many people tend to bring in more people if they mention that it is a benefit of some sort. I have seen these range from Food drives to “scholarship” money raisers. You may also be able to make sure of a holiday or major event of some sort. A few months ago, a group of kids had a “Super Bowl” Party show. Super Bowl Sunday, they had bands play during the pre-game and then they would have bands play periodically throughout the game, especially during Half Time.

This is an often overlooked, but major issue you should take into account. The first step you can take is to establish some rules at your show. For instance, you can state that there will be no drinking, drug use, fighting, moshing (Yes, I have seen this rule,) smoking, throwing stuff, etc. You could even go as far as to saying you cannot wear certain types of clothes. Too many rules however may turn people away. Be sure to make print outs of these rules and place them around the venue the night of the performance. I have also seen people post some of the rules right on the flyers to keep the riff-raff out.

You should have some people there to handle the crowd if things get out of hand. If you rent from the VFW or other civic organization, they will most likely have people there on staff to overlook things. If you are on your own, have a few parents there or other chaperones. I have had some venues in the past with a history of youth-related crime tell me if I wanted to have a show there, I would have to hire armed security guards.

Cover Charge
To cover expenses, you have to make money. Have 2 or 3 responsible persons work the door for the night. Be sure to have plenty of $1 bills and large bills to break. You should also go to an office supply store and get something to stamp hands with. Some people hate the large black permanent marker on their hands.

A common figure you could go by is $1 a band. Therefore, if you have 5 bands, the cover is $5. You can also say $3 if you are there when the doors open, $5 once the bands begin or $5 at the start of your show, then raise it $1 for every hour that paces throughout the night. If you are doing something such as a food drive, you could state $5 cover, $3 cover if you bring a canned good. I have also seen bands have a CD release party with multiple bands and the cover was $10. The reason it was $10 was because you also got the CD they were releasing as part of the show. That was a creative technique and they are one of the more popular local bands, so it worked. It also guaranteed CD sales for that show! You may also do something such as ladies get in for $2 less, or couples get in for $8 instead of $10.

How are you going to keep people at the show? People get dehydrated at shows and need something to drink. Having a variety of sodas and water for sale can keep your guests happy and boost sales. Be sure to have plenty of diet soda available for diabetics. As for food, you can simply sell bags of chips or candy bars. It would also be cool to rent a popcorn machine or see if the venue has one available. Most people will have eaten dinner before coming to the show.
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Your bands need to have a sound system to go through. Considering hiring a soundman for the occasion. If they are professional, they will cover all of your needs for the night. If hiring a soundman is out of your budget, you can find other means. If you have a suitable P.A. system, use it. Nevertheless, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, have someone there who is able to maintain it for the entire night.

I was once playing at a show where one of the other bands brought the PA; our band always had the most complicated set-up considering the instrumentation we had. I went over to the sound booth and the sound guy was nowhere to be found. I went around panicking asking where he was at and one of the girls running the show told me he had left to get Chinese food! Real professional huh? I was at a show a few weeks ago and this same clown was running sound for the show. He left the PA all night on the same settings all night and you could barely hear the vocals of any band. He had just been hanging out in the backroom with his other band members waiting for them to go on.

Be sure the PA is adequate to cover the room you will be playing in. Test your equipment before using it at the show as well. Bring back-ups and plenty of mics/cables/etc. As for other equipment, you may find it more time efficient to have bands share a drum set. If you take this route, just tell the drummers to bring their own cymbals, snare, and sticks. You may also share amps, although a lot of guitarists are picky about their sound.

Hiring a band that has a PA can be an option as well. Tell them you will pay them a little extra and take turns running the system.

During the Show

Step 4: Set Up
Arrive at the venue a few hours before or whenever the place tells you to arrive. You need plenty of time to set-up equipment, tables for merchandise, food/beverage booths, chairs if needed, etc. Have a plan on what to do about a week prior to the gig. There should be plenty of people around volunteering to do grunt work. Look for anything around the venue that could be dangerous and be sure to print out your rules & any promotional posters/banners you may have. Also, be sure someone has an iPod or other means of playing background music in between sets.

It may be a good idea to have a meeting with the bands before the show to discuss the line-up and any other things they may need to know. I see this most often at churches. However, please do not ask them to pray with you. I was once at a show and a youth leader brought all the bands into a room and that was the first thing he said. Even though it was a church, I was very offended that he assumed every band playing was Christian.

The Line-Up
Read this paragraph twice, because it is important. DO NOT LET ANY BAND MEMBERS tell you some sob story that is going to require you to change the line-up. I see this at almost every show I go to where some bands have members who either cannot get their in time, are sick, do not want to play in front of 20 people, etc. You should tell them, if they cannot be there early or have to leave before a certain time, they should not have accepted the gig. Also, if they give you any more crap, tell them they are going to go on when you said or they cannot go on at all. Rule with an iron fist. Under very few circumstances, such as family emergencies, would I allow someone to change the line-up at the show.

Step 5: The show must go on
If bands are running late or taking a long time to set-up, get on them as soon as possible. The last thing you want is for a band to take 30 minutes to set-up and people start leaving. You can always take the house music down and put the lights on them at a certain time, if they are not ready yet it will make them look bad. To avoid this all together, you may also have some of your band members or friends help other bands set-up.

Running live shows will come with experience and viewing. For the most part, just make sure everything flows well together and bands do not start acting up. If you notice that some bands are being obnoxious, unprofessional, drunk, etc. Turn their levels down and throw them off of the stage, then tell them they can play again when they learn how to act right. Be sure to watch your audience for things they like & do not like. You can use this for future shows. As a courtesy, have your band members stay the entire night. I really hate it when I see a band host a show and some of their band members are to be seen only on stage. It creates good relations if other bands see your guys in the audience.

If any major equipment is broken during the show, do not panic. Simply address the situation if needed. If the equipment is going to have a major impact on the bands performance, stop the show shortly until the problem is fixed. Do not let a band keep playing if a power amp is about to blow. If it is something simple, like a bad channel or broken mic, just fix the situation while the bands are playing.

When the show is over, it is over. The venue may charge you extra if your show goes on for longer than agreed upon. Make sure that your audience is leaving the building property and there are no stragglers. If kids are having problems getting home, help them if necessary.

After the Show

Step 6: Congratulations on your show!
If you made enough money that night, you may consider giving some of the bands a little spending cash. Consider giving more to bands that had to drive a greater distance or to bands that gave a great performance. You can also give more to bands who you saw that had their members stay the entire night. This will create good relations. If you did not make enough money, do not worry about it because most of your bands probably play for pennies to begin with.

Go around the venue and pick up any trash that may have accumulated over the night. Check the bathrooms also and be sure to clean the toilets if anyone made a mess. Leave the venue cleaner than when you came in, the venue will love you and will be more welcoming to future shows.

After you thank all the bands, be sure to thank them again on Myspace. Most bands will give you a comment within the next day or two, but be sure to get back with all of them. Be sure to say thanks to the person who let you rent the hall. For civic organizations that may have older citizens, it is best to write and mail letter.

Please let me know your thoughts on this article. I am also thinking of writing an article on networking within the next few weeks and would like to know the demand for it. If you have further questions, do not hesitate to contact me.
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Kudos, man. nice work.
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Nice dude.

Im just gonna add something.

To find local bands just search (name of town) local bands on google.

There might be a site devoted to it or a myspace that has all the bands.
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Very nice. Very Helpful
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nice post!
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pretty good info if your dabbling and thinking about doing something like this, good place to start definetly, but you'll have to a little more research if you don't know alot about live sound and you plan on doing all this stuff..
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as long as it's left here too- much more traffic here.
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Reading that reminded me of my first gig. The singer of one of the bands was a complete faggot, always moaning and doing nothing to help us (even though we weren't the organisers it seemed like we did all the work). Drums turned up half an hour before the show, There owner was left handed which meant we had to turn every thing aropund aswell and i had flu (and i'm the vocalist), but it turned out alright. Especialy since we were the most technically able of all the bands, and we showed the hosts, and the band with the asshole up :p

Our second gig was alot larger and taught us all about battle of the bands. golden rule is "If you new you will not only loose, but they will also do their best to screw you over"
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This is a great thread
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Great stuff. Very in-depth.
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good job. it had a great step-by-step on how to get a show put together, how to keep it going, and how to ensure more shows in the future. It had just about everything one might need to know about the topic. And plenty of first-hand examples to back everything up.
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Playing with a friends band is always a good Idea
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one thing this doesn't make to clear, a lot of more established bands do expect to get paid, especially if they are regional instead of local, having worked as a promoter before I have had plenty of experiences with smaller bands demanding to get paid at least something even if it's just a token amount, like $10-$20 for gas money.
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Excellent article, I noticed a lot of that stuff myself from gigging, especially about having too many bands and un professional soundmen.

I would also recommend that if you are putting up posters put them up early and often, the earlier people see them the more they make plans to go and you get a much bigger crowd.
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thats awesome. also what would be the youngest age to get a good amount of people?
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Quote by the_triangle
thats awesome. also what would be the youngest age to get a good amount of people?

I've seen kids as young as 6 or 7 at shows before. Often, they come there with older brothers or sisters. You can also have young kids if it's some kind of community event or benefit (Girl Scout Cookies?)

At most young original band shows, I tend to see a lot of 12-15 year olds. The age of your bands will also make a difference considering they'll probably invite their peers. They leds me to another idea. If you live in a urban or suburn area, get a variety of bands from different schools so you can promote at all of them and get good representation.
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thanks dutch apples ur a know-it-all (in a good kind of way though)
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I might be doing a show in a month or two, thanks for the advice
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There is NOWHERE to play in my town nor the nearest 5 towns or so. Is it a good idea to try to 'set up my own show' just for the sake of playing for an audience?

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Quote by jthm_guitarist
There is NOWHERE to play in my town nor the nearest 5 towns or so. Is it a good idea to try to 'set up my own show' just for the sake of playing for an audience?

There is somewhere, you just are eliminating places that may not be ideal for a band. Where are people in your town or nearest 5 towns? Where do they shop? Where do they eat? In my rural area, there is a small festival called Cornstock that takes place in the middle of a cornfield (how they get power is beyond me, I believe there is a nearby house with power extensions) The point is, this location is about 20 miles from anything and hundreds of people show up to this multi-band event even though it's mainly the same bands they've seen before.

I wouldn't say you should have the show just to play for an audience considering there is no guarantee you'll even have an audience there. Depends on how you go about promoting it and whose playing.

As for other ideas on places to play, most towns have a public park. Talk with officials there to get details and the go ahead. How about the gas station idea? Is there a band stand in town? Depending on your style of music, how about a museum or arts council? Drive through these towns one day and just write down every place that comes to mind to have a show at. Then call all those places. Start sparking interest. I've heard of places before that had a band play just to have a band play, because it had never been done before.
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I reckon that selling tickets round school/college beforehand is a good idea cos it means that you get an idea of how many are coming. You don't get long lines buying tickets. People know they can get in. You're dealing with less money on the day.

Also you can sell tickets beforehand slightly cheaper, a quid or 50p or so. Gives people incentive to make plans to go, not just consider turning up.
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Great, very in depth and detailed, will be keeping in mind when i get my band together.
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Very good article man I liked it.
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Great article mate !
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Good Article!


If you set up a gig and you are charging money for people to get in, do you have to get a business permit?
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Well I'm In A Band And We Only Have About Three Songs So I Think I Best Wait A While Before Booking Shows Also I Live In A Small Area Where Everyone Knows Everyone And Most People Are Into Gangster Music
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Quote by HarleyRowley
Well I'm In A Band And We Only Have About Three Songs So I Think I Best Wait A While Before Booking Shows Also I Live In A Small Area Where Everyone Knows Everyone And Most People Are Into Gangster Music

First of all: What he hell? You're not starting a new sentence with every word.
Second of all: If everyone likes gangster music, you have a good oppurtunity to convert people to better music.
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thanx very helpful and true

like two shows i was at the manager told me to turn down my amp and i did then people at the end of the show were like yeh great job but couldnt hear the guitar or the solo well you need to turn it up next time......has this ever happened to anyone?
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That is a great post. Can we get a sticky? It's a very thorough and informative post. High five!

Quote by slappymoe66
Nice dude.

Im just gonna add something.

To find local bands just search (name of town) local bands on google.

There might be a site devoted to it or a myspace that has all the bands.

Funny you say that, I hope I don't get snagged for spam, but this is truly relevant.

Me an my partner are starting a website just for that reason. It's called and you will be able to search for venues and bands by location, style, and loads of other stats. The biggest thing is bands will be able to rate venues they play at and vice versa on professionalism, performance, staff, sound system and many other things. This is not a fan site but strictly for bands, venues (and there are devoted sections to promotors, managers, A&R reps, and booking agents as well) to find each other in a way that it will be MUCH easier than trying to find gigs and bands on myspace. Bands should be able to book a national tour by search city, entering a distance from there and having the top rated (by other bands) venues pop up and available dates to go play. It is still under construction but should be ready for launch very soon.

to add to the TS,
in EVERY gig you do, always try to maintain a professional demeanor. That means don't trash things, don't steal from the venue or other bands (how scheisty is that, come on), don't b!tch about getting no to little pay if you don't bring people in, most places pay by attendance, others will negotiate a flat fee with you. Always be a professional. Act like you are talking to a respected elder, but don't roll over and die if they try to screw you, alot will. Show contracts are your friend. I can't tell you how many bands I hear cry about no bar tab, playing in front of no people and wanting to just cancel the with the same energy in front of 1 person as you do 100. It's called heart, and the few fans that see you at your scarce show see you goin like you are on warped tour, they will be that much more hardcore if they like you.....ok i'm done haha. Be professional, punctual, and courteous. As much as everyone wants to be the rockstar that does whatever he wants and trashes things and demands all sorts of stuff, noone working with him likes that. DON'T DO IT
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This is one of the best, most informative articles I've seen on UG. Really useful, and perfect for what I'm trying to do. Also thanks to everyone else who has contributed to the thread.
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