The opportunity costs of creating your own venue

Creating your own venue offers lots of opportunities, not the least of which is Control. Are you a control freak? All the better. You will probably have control over lots of things:

Show Details – you determine what bands are going to play, who goes on when, for how long, etc.

The Door – you decide what (if any) cover will be charged, who collects the cover, and how the bread is split. But don’t forget about carding and security issues. More on this in a minute…

Promotion efforts – it’s all in your court. Are you going to post flyers? Run an ad in Westword? If the venue location is a place that doesn’t normally generate a crowd, you’d be better be highly proactive with the promo efforts.

Butts in seats and risk
It’s no great secret: if you can guarantee paid attendance, you will be master of your domain. You have the potential for unlimited income and good times. It’s the “if” part that trips most people up. You see, booking is an easy task – promotion, not so much. And there are other reasons to be wary when in DIY mode, such as basic liability.

Has everyone signed a liability waiver?
Has everyone signed a liability waiver?
Wherever you set up shop may or may not carry liability insurance. Moreover, specific event liability may be necessary depending upon the circumstances. Now you may be saying to yourself “so what?” at this point. “It’s not that big of a risk to basically throw a party with live music!” But consider these scenarios:

*The crowd rushes the stage and a PA speaker tumbles on top of a fan.
*A fire (a la White Snake) breaks out when the opening act, unbeknownst to all, steps up their show with pyro-techniques.
*A Cirque de Soleil moment occurs (i.e. death or injury from inexperienced players).
*Alcohol and automobiles are mixed. Remember that parking and traffic are an integral part of most events.
*Underage drinking – this one can happen anywhere. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is not a light charge so make sure you don’t have a lax door guy.

Three great ways to minimize risk:
1) Buy event insurance. It can be a one-time purchase, or even an annual fee to cover future events (cheaper in the long run).
2) Have all participants sign a waiver upon entry into the venue location.
3) Don’t invite Hell’s Angels to the show.

Does the idea of buying insurance put you off? Welcome to the world of business. So often, musicians want to fly by the seat of their pants and just take a chance, skip a few steps, save some coin. But it only takes one unforeseen mishap to ruin a whole music career.

One Comment on “The opportunity costs of creating your own venue

  1. Hey Marc,

    Just want to congratulate you on maintaining such an interesting and informative forum!

    My bandmates and I started Rocky Mountain Sound Garden a little over a year ago, and can certainly corroborate your caveats in this article. Liability insurance is a pain in the ass to budget, but it’s definitely worth the peace of mind.

    RMSG is unique in that, as we’re primarily a rehearsal studio, we can exert much more control and discretion over our event bookings than, say, a bar that must put “butts in seats” that will purchase booze. With eight bands in our seven longterm lockout studios, plus an always-growing roster of bands that rehearse hourly on our fully-equipped stage, we’ve begun building those partnerships you describe in “Music School 101.” From promoting and attending clients’ shows around town, to writing and submitting album reviews to the various local publications, RMSG strives to support local musicians as much as we solicit their patronage.

    The most important thing to remember, in our opinion, is that life in music is a marathon, not a sprint. Promoting shows and hustling your tracks might feel like the most pressing priorities, but we’ve found, just as you have, that creating relationships is the only thing that (almost) guarantees stability in our weird little musical world.

    All the best,

    Phillip Sparer
    Co-Owner, President of Operations
    Rocky Mountain Sound Garden, Inc.

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