Playing music, signing, storytelling — these are the raw creative acts that make us human. Where “the music industry” seeks to control music venues to make a buck, a thriving do-it-yourself, underground network of decentralized house shows seeks to keep music accessible to everyone. Here are some tips on hosting shows.
After you’ve decided you want to host shows you’ll want to answer these questions:
• Is your space sufficient, i.e. big enough, soundproofed, and/or isolated enough?
• Neighbors going to complain / cops going to get called / know how to diffuse that situation if it comes?
• Have you set basic ground rules for events at your space?
• What are/aren’t you going to allow in your space (Drinking / smoking / etc.)?
• Is there an age restriction? / Are you going to ID/card people?
• Are there sections of the venue / house that are off limits?
• Do you know how to handle it if someone is being harmful?
• Can you swing buying a few extra rolls of toilet paper?
After you have that all figured out, ask:
• What sort of genres do you want to host?
• What cheeky name will you give your space?
• Will you charge a “suggested donation” at the door for shows? How much?
• What portion of the donations will be given to bands? (Preferably, 100%!) Are you going to let the musicians crash after a show? Feed them? (Not necessity- but certainly is a nicety.)
• Do you have sound equipment (PA / mics / cables / etc.)? (If you don’t and can’t borrow from someone or afford to rent equipment, make sure you let bands know BEFORE you book them that you do not have a PA. The band will then either decide to bring one, go acoustic, or to not play.) How many bands would you like (ideally) per show? (You won’t like the outcome of cramming too many bands into one show)
In this digital age, you can start a “page” of some sort for your space & build up anticipation for your first show / followers / fans / common-minds / band connections.
There are several ways to book bands:
GO GET ‘EM:
• You can actively seek out musicians you dig, and invite them (in person or via Internet) to come play a date at your space that you have pre-determined to be show-day.
• You can scope out a band’s show schedule to find dates they are available to come play.
• You can ask a band to give you some dates that would work for them, pick one, and then build around it.
If you’re going to go seeking out bands to play, you probably want to, until your space builds a crowd, stick to local bands. It would be a bummer to have a band travel to play your space & end up not having a crowd for them to play to & an empty donation jar.
• Most bands have a facebook, bandcamp, or website that has their booking contact information. You could also go to a show, and ask them in person either to play, or for their booking contact info. Once a band agrees to play a show, keep them up to date with new information as it unfolds, such as other bands playing the show, any press, fliers, event pages, schedules, so on.
OR, LET THEM COME TO YOU:
• You can post info about your show space on websites like dodiy.org or indieonthemove.com.
• Find other DIY spaces & communities & collectives & organizations in your area. Let them know that you are an available space, how to contact you, to send bands your way cause you wanna make some shows happen!
• Once a band seeks you out, you decide whether you want to host them. It is polite to respond even if you don’t want the band to play at your venue.
ONCE THE SHOW IS HAPPENING:
Consider if you want your address on fliers / social networking sites. Some spaces can advertise their whereabouts without a hitch, and some do & end up fucked over by police or random assholes that show up.
Sometimes the band(s) will take care of most of the promotion, and sometimes it will be up to you. You can:
• Make a flyer: Be sure to include: Date / time / name of your space / band names / cover / acceptable ages / either the address or your email address. Friends can help with graphics if you are not artsy. Hang your flyer about town, places with good traffic. Leave handbills (smaller versions of your flyer) at other area venues.
• Have the information about the show accessible on the Internet. The more sites the more people that will see it. Facebook event pages are a good move. Send the info to music blogs and local publications.
• Call your local radio stations (college stations are the most receptive) and tell them about your event.
• Tell your friends, tell them to tell their friends. Word of mouth goes a long way. In time your space will develop a reputation, a following, and it will become much easier to book & promote shows. Tough it out until that happens. It’s totally worth it.