One of the things I’ve learned after performing live for seven years is that just about any place of business can be a live venue. It doesn’t have to be a club, a bar, a pub, a lounge or a coffeehouse. It can be a clothing store or an office or a mall. It can even be a house!

I once held an event at my mom’s house called “Bijutsu”, which means “art” in Japanese. I displayed my art on the walls, my mom prepared refreshments, and I invited several friends to perform throughout the night. It wasn’t a massive runaway success, but it was a fun experiment nonetheless.

Sometimes the best opportunities are the ones you create. If you play where no one else plays, that market is yours. Moreover, if you’re a young band that can’t get into places with alcohol licenses, you’re going to need to consider alternative venues anyway. Playing in an alternative venue doesn’t guarantee success, of course, but you never know where it could lead.

Sometimes the best opportunities are the ones you create. Click To Tweet

Take Control & Dictate Your Own Terms

In an alternative venue, musicians can usually dictate their own terms and price. They can have more control over the logistics and how much time they get to perform.

In an alternative venue, musicians can usually dictate their own terms and price. They can have more control over the logistics and how much time they get to perform. Click To Tweet

After all, you’re not applying to perform at a local live venue where everyone plays. In a situation like that, event organizers and venue owners could already be cynical and negative about booking and promoting musical acts. And, their willingness to pay more for certain artists is going to be diminished. They probably pay the same for most acts across the board, and have no intention of paying them more unless they happen to bring out a big crowd that consumes a lot of food and alcohol.

In a venue where no one plays, you can ask for what you’re worth. You can perform for as long as you like. You can play at a time that’s advantageous to you. And, if you’re turned down, no big deal. You can always find someone else who’s willing to partner with you.

Find Events in Your Locality You Can Insert Yourself Into

In Calgary, where I live, I found out that jazz musicians play at a variety of venues I’d never played at, like hotels and storefronts. I had a friend who played at the grand opening of a furniture store, and got paid very well to do it besides!

There are many events happening all around you. Businesses are conducting grand openings, customer appreciation days and seasonal promotions. If it makes sense for them to book a band, they will.

There are many events happening all around you. Businesses are conducting grand openings, customer appreciation days and seasonal promotions. If it makes sense for them to book a band, they will. Click To Tweet

The organizers may not necessarily be thinking about music, but if you bring it to their attention and make a value proposition that’s worthwhile, they will likely consider hiring you. This is something I learned from my friend Daniel Guy Martin, who managed to tap into many opportunities guerrilla style just by actively talking to people about his music and suggesting that they make him a part of their events.

Think Outside the Box & Make the Ask

The bottom line is that you never know unless you ask. If you ask and they say “no”, you’re in the same position you were before you asked. You haven’t lost anything.

A hardware store could be a live venue. Again, you never know unless you ask. If you can create a mutually beneficial proposition, don’t rule it out.

If you have a PA, then anywhere you can set up could potentially be a live venue. I’m not saying that you should run over to the nearest park with an outlet and plug in (use some discretion here), but I am saying that if they have electricity, don’t discount the idea that you might be able to play there. You might  be able to do an acoustic performance even if not.

The main limitation you’re facing is your imagination. So, learn to think outside the box and see opportunities where you may not have seen them before. Sometimes, music and alcohol go hand in hand. But they don’t have to. There are so many places you could bring your music to.

The main limitation you're facing is your imagination. So, learn to think outside the box and see opportunities where you may not have seen them before. Click To Tweet

Conclusion

Ultimately, bars aren’t the only place where you can play your music. There are opportunities far and beyond venues with alcohol licenses.

Find out where your audience likes to hang out. If you’ve been performing for any length of time, you should already have a Facebook page with a few hundred likes. Look at your Insights to find out what kind of people have liked your page. You can learn a lot about your audience just by analyzing this data.

Then, you can go where they like to go, and show up where they like to show up. These tend to represent better opportunities anyway, because you’ll be playing to a group of potential fans as opposed to the people who happened to show up at the local pub.

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David Andrew Wiebe

David Andrew Wiebe

Founder & CEO at The Music Entrepreneur HQ
David Andrew Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work, investing, and music instruction. In addition to helping musicians unlock their full potential, he also continues to maintain a performance schedule with Long Jon Lev and Adrenalize. If you'd like to be notified whenever the blog is updated, click here to subscribe.
David Andrew Wiebe
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