Live Music & Events

Live Music Venue Case Studies

Here we speak to the operators of some key live music venues to get their perspective on what makes a great gig. Learn how they program their live music, how they operate on a day-to-day basis and why they decided to make live music a central part of their business.

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Rad (Formerly Yours and Owls), Wollongong NSW

The Milton Theatre, Milton, NSW

Milton Theatre

Milton Theatre

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking with Kathleen Evans from the Milton Theatre in Milton, New South Wales.

For more information visit www.miltontheatre.com.au.

1. How long has the venue been presenting live music for and what is the capacity of the venue?

The Milton Theatre is a 212 seat historic venue that has been fully refurbished with the latest sound and lighting equipment. It was built in 1927 and was originally the Milton School of Arts with dancing and other community events and activities. From 1976 until 1993 the theatre was used solely as a movie theatre. Since renovations in 1997, the venue has run as a non-profit venture and been managed by a community-based volunteer management committee.

The building is now used for live theatre, live music, as a recording studio and for community performances with artists that have played including the likes of Justin Townes-Earle, Tony Joe White, Holly Throsby, Harry Manx, Mark Seymour, Cat Power, Diesel, John Waters, Renee Geyer and more.

2. How often do you have live music?

The theatre usually puts on between two and four shows per month.

3. Do you have all ages gigs?

Most shows are all ages.

4. How do you choose the types of live music you program?

The management committee has a charter to inform our programming. Primarily it’s to provide diverse cultural activities to enrich the local community. We try to book a wide variety of artists – local and international from all kinds of genres.

5. How does a muso get a gig at your venue?

Contact our bookings officer via the details on the website.

6. What challenges do you face as a venue that presents live music?

As a smallish regional venue, it’s sometimes difficult to get higher profile artists to visit, due to travel and accommodation costs. Also, as we are trying to cater to a wide variety of tastes, we don’t always get a sell out crowd. And there is the battle against the television for audience members.

7. What was the most memorable show at your venue?

Some highlights in recent years – C.W. Stoneking, Justin Townes Earle, Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club, Renee Geyer, Sarah Blasko, Mark Seymour, so many memories!

8. What makes a great gig?

Great artists! I think the relaxed feel of the Milton Theatre contributes to great gigs. It’s an intimate venue, the room sounds great and the hospitality is second to none. The drinks are cheap and the Tim Tams are on the house.

9. How do you use digital and social media in conjunction with traditional advertising?

We are relatively new to incorporating Facebook into our promotions and we probably connect more with ticket-buying locals via radio, newspapers, theatre newsletter and posters. However, we have just started using the Facebook ‘Events’ interface as a way to connect directly to our online box office and we’re in the process of assessing how effective or useful this will be for us.

10.   Ticketing for live shows is changing. How do you manage access and ticketing to your venue?

We sell an average of about 50% from a local store and 50% via online ticketing. In our case, we still need to retain in store/offline ticket sales, as some people (for whatever reason) might not be able to buy online. For example holiday makers don’t always have access to a computer. Or some of the older audience members prefer to buy in-person. Online is especially useful too, as people from Sydney or Canberra planning a weekend in the area can purchase tickets online in advance.

UC Live – University Of Canberra, ACT

Here we talk with Karina Leotta from Canberra’s UC Live.

Learn more about this venue one their website: http://www.uclive.com.au/.

1. How long has the venue been presenting live music for and what is the capacity of the venue?

University Of Canberra has always hosted live events. The venues have changed, ranging from large outdoor events (like Groovin The Moo) right down to small 100 capacity comedy shows. The UC Refectory is our main indoor concert space which is a 1,800 capacity room. We also host shows in a reduced modes of 500 and 1,000.

2. How often do you have live music?

We don’t have set nights for live shows – it’s more dependent on when tours stop in Canberra. As a rule Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights work best for shows but we have hosted international acts on any night of the week.

3. Do you have all ages gigs?

Our shows are predominately 18+ however we do host licensed all ages shows in the UC Refectory (for example The Cat Empire). The option is given to promoters when booking.

4. How do you choose the types of live music you program?

We mainly host shows that appeal to a student market. As well as acts that have already played smaller venues in Canberra and are looking for a larger space to perform in – there is definitely opportunity to grow in this area.

5. How does a muso get a gig at your venue?

They can email us their links and if they are suitable we add them to our register. If it’s for a particular show in regards to a support slot we can pass their email along to the promoter.

6. What challenges do you face as a venue who presents live music?

Having a venue that is a multi-purpose space presents its challenges. It makes it expensive, time consuming to set up and to operate.

Promoters aren’t convinced that it’s worthwhile bringing shows to Canberra. The ACT seems to miss out on capital city tours being picked as a regional stop. But then we miss out on regional tours being picked as a city stop.

Having a late buying market – most ticket sales are in the days leading up to the event which makes it hard to plan.

The perception that we are too far from the city or that Canberra people don’t go out to gigs is not encouraging but the perception is slowly shifting.

7.  Most memorable show at your venue?

Lorde

8. What makes a great gig?

A combination of the performance, artist interaction with the audience and the atmosphere.

9. How to you use digital and social media in conjunction with traditional advertising?

We always create a venue-specific Facebook event to engage with our local market. This also allows us to monitor the activity and hype around our own events.

While we still advertise in the local street press we now make sure we interact with local music blogs online as well. Posters are still heavily used to market shows on campus. We also have digital advertising on TV screens and register screens around campus.

For every show,we set up Google alerts to flag relevant activity to ensure we are sharing any artist specific activity via our social media channels. 

10. Ticketing for live shows is changing. How do you manage access and ticketing to your venue?

We use oztix as a ticketing agency. Our ticket scanning system with print at home tickets makes ticket management fairly hassle free.

http://www.musicact.com.au/venue-profile/uc-refectory

Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney NSW

Here we talk to Mark Lucas from The Petersham Bowling Club about their live music program. Check out his website at http://www.marklucas.com.au and the Petersham Bowling Club website gig guide http://thepbc.org.au.

How long has the venue been presenting live music for and what is the capacity of the venue?

We’ve been presenting live music since May 2008 when I began a solo Friday night residency. I gradually introduced other artists and started booking bands from 2009. Over the next couple of years we grew the program from one to four or five nights a week. Legal capacity is 200 but it can be tight at 170.

Hours of operation, nights you have live music?

The pbc is open Wednesday to Sunday (Wednesday & Thursday 5 – 11pm / Friday 5 – 12pm / Saturday & Sunday midday – midnight). We run live music Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon and evening (with occasional ‘all day’ mini-festival events on Saturdays).

Do you have all ages gigs?

We run an annual Battle of the Bands for school-age kids and host talent shows for local schools, but we don’t run all ages events as such because we rely solely on the bar take for income.

How do you choose the types of live music you program?

I book the venue myself but try not let my personal taste dominate otherwise we’d be full of angst-ridden singer-songwriters and sad-eyed country artists! Well, perhaps not quite that tragic, but I try to listen to everything I book and base my decisions on a variety of criteria. Not just ability to pull a crowd, but also what is suitable for a venue in a residential area, as well as supporting artists who are clearly taking an interest in what they’re doing and where they’re headed. We don’t really go for covers bands unless there’s a really interesting angle.

How does a muso get a gig at your venue?

Email me with some details and links at livemusic@thepbc.org.au. As a performing artist of some experience myself, I know first-hand the frustration of dealing with rude and dismissive bookers who communicate in a desultory manner, if at all. You won’t have that experience with the pbc, I can personally guarantee that.

What challenges do you face as a venue who presents live music?

Principally, keeping the surrounding community happy with the increased traffic though the club. We have worked hard to ensure that we keep lines of communication open in case of any problem and that’s been very effective. It’s of paramount importance to be inclusive as we are, after all, a community, volunteer-run, not-for-profit club and proudly pokie-free! The club was saved from developers by volunteers from the community in the interests of the greater community. That it has, in turn, been saved from impending financial disaster by live music represents an interesting cultural model and proof that, given the will, there are alternatives to the widely accepted norm.

Most memorable show at your venue?

That’s a toughie as we’ve had some great nights. For me personally it’d probably have to be recently when we presented Canadian blues maestro Harry Manx and then US songwriting legend Danny O’Keefe on consecutive nights. Danny inspired me to write songs back in the mid- ‘70’s. I never dreamed I’d be booking him into a little club on the other side of the planet 30+ years later. Just goes to show you don’t ever know…

What makes a great gig?

An artist that connects with their audience and an audience that is there for the artist and open to the journey. Of course, that assumes you’re across the business and technical side of promoting the show and making sure it sounds good. Plus the vibe of the room is conducive.

How to you use digital and social media in conjunction with traditional advertising?

We list all the shows on the website and encourage artists to contribute detailed listings and links for their shows. We also have our Facebook presence. We tap into various groups and blogs in order to specifically target promotion and encourage artists to share their social media campaigns and event pages with us. We’re still on a learning curve with Twitter but there are only so many hours in the day when you’re largely a department of one and a volunteer. As far as traditional advertising is concerned, to be honest we haven’t advertised in print media for some time. We used to run a weekly ad in Drum Media but the financial controller pulled the plug when we needed to spend the money on crumbling infrastructure. We never returned to print and it hasn’t really hurt us. On the other hand, it’s a valid enough medium so it is under ongoing consideration for both branding and advertising purposes.

Ticketing for live shows is changing. How do you mange access and ticketing to your venue?

As a rule we don’t get involved in ticketing. Unlike many venues these days we don’t take a percentage and we don’t charge for production. So we encourage the artist to set up and sell tickets through available on-line resources (Oztix / Sticky Tickets), or they sell on the door. We provide the float. They provide the door person and ‘soundie’.

 

The Rosemount Hotel, North Perth WA

How long has the venue been presenting live music for and what is the capacity of the venue?

11 years in current format. On and off for a long time prior. Our capacity is 853 for the whole venue (there’s Main Room, Four5Bar and Beer Garden areas).

How often do you have live music?

Live music is Tuesday to Sunday and sometimes Sunday and Monday for special events. Our venue is open 11.30am-12am Monday to Wednesday, 11.30am-1am Thursday and Friday, 9am-10pm Sunday.

Do you have all ages gigs?

No

How do you choose the types of live music you program?

We’re open to all genres but rock/indie/punk tend to work best in my opinion. How? Pretty much based on likely numbers through the door.

How does a muso get a gig at your venue?

Ideally have a full lineup/theme/promo plan organised. Email is best for me although Andrew doesn’t mind a chat on the phone.

What challenges do you face as a venue who presents live music?

Crowd numbers – the inconsistency makes it difficult to plan. Also production costs can potentially be the difference between a win and a loss.

Most memorable show at your venue?

For me personally, Teenage Fanclub.

What makes a great gig?

For me? Great music. For the venue? Great drinkers. For both? No dickheads. Obvious I know, but true.

How to you use digital and social media in conjunction with traditional advertising?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Aim to use both to maximum use.

Ticketing for live shows is changing. How do you manage access and ticketing to your venue?

Oztix handle our ticketing – they have exclusivity to at least 80% of allocations.

Visit www.rosemounthotel.com.au for more information.

THE GOV, Adelaide, South Australia

 How long has the venue been presenting live music for and what is the capacity of the venue? 

We have owned the The Gov and been presenting music here for 21 years. Although the venue was opened in 1978 by Psycho Surgeons and Filth.

Capacity is 800 in the venue. Our front bar is licensed for 90.

Hours of operation, nights you have live music?

We are open 10am until midnight and beyond six days a week. Music in the venue is a minimum of four nights a week – often five or six nights.

There is music in the front bar is five nights a week.

Do you have all ages gigs?

We occasionally have licensed all ages gigs.

How do you choose the types of live music you program?

We love good music here at The Gov and don’t distinguish between genres. In fact we thrive on having a varied program, from folk, blues, rock, hip hop, pop and everything else in between.

That’s what makes us who we are.

How does a muso get a gig at your venue?

Many different ways. We contact bands, bands contact us, agents contact us and we contact agents.

What challenges do you face as a venue who presents live music?

Where do I start? Maximising ticket sales is most important to us and the bands. Looking after the bands and the customers by providing a memorable night out in a well maintained, well loved venue.

Having an excellent PA system in the room providing great sound without excessive volume is very important for keeping within our noise control limits.

Most memorable show at your venue?

Rodriguez.

What makes a great gig?

Audience love. There is nothing better than having 750 people captivated by a band’s performance – the energy is amazing.

How do you use digital and social media in conjunction with traditional advertising?

Digital and social media are utilised more than traditional print advertising by us these days. Having direct access to fans on our database gets information out quickly and cheaply.

I still think radio, posters and well-placed print ads play a major part of promoting shows, especially with audiences over 30.

Ticketing for live shows is changing. How do you mange access and ticketing to your venue?

Ticketing runs very smoothly. We are partnered with Oztix, that provide a flawless service. Customers buy mostly online, occasionally over the counter and tickets are scanned in at the door.

www.thegov.com.au

The Basement, Sydney NSW

Amidst an atmosphere of pub rock and cover venues, a 120 capacity basement in downtown Sydney opened it’s doors on May 10, 1972 and fast became a benchmark club for contemporary music – adored by artists and audiences a like.

Primarily a jazz venue, The Basement played host to Galapagos Duck, Vince Jones and Dizzy Gillespie amongst others. When its popularity reached critical mass, the club expanded into a two level space in 1977 and officially arrived as a destination venue – hosting the likes of jazz greats Art Pepper, Herbie Hancock and Freddie Hubbard.

Fast forward a decade to 1988. The venue, an Australian icon, hosting local, national and international contemporary musicians (too many and varied to mention), takes a major left turn when developments to the site see the building torn down.

Forced to close its doors for a few years, The Basement reopened in 1992 in the site in which it remains to this day. Incredibly it’s only a few doors away from it’s birthplace in 1972.

Now a custom-built performance venue, this new and improved Basement grew on its reputation as a home for contemporary and forward thinking music makers. The last 20 years has seen very little change other than the faces on the stage.

Now in its 40th year, The Basement remains a hub for contemporary music makers and lovers. From jazz to electronica, hip hop to folk, this iconic venue is renowned world wide as perhaps the most famous venue in Sydney’s live music scene.

http://www.thebasement.com.au/

Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane QLD

How long has the venue been presenting live music for and what is the capacity of the venue?

We just turned three years old and we’re 250 capacity.

Hours of operation, nights you have live music?

Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, 7pm – late. Friday and Saturday, 5pm – late.

Do you have all ages gigs?

No we don’t sadly – our licence would make that very difficult.

How do you choose the types of live music you program?

I work as the Booker. So it’s a process of seeing what will work in terms of the viability of the venue and also what styles of music we think will work in the space and align with our ethos and brand.

How does a muso get a gig at your venue?

Our website has a good run down of what should be included in the application (see www.blackbearlodge.com.au/live-music-bookings).  It’s a mix of clear, honest information, links, options and a demonstrated understanding of what is involved in putting on a show in venue of our size.

What challenges do you face as a venue that presents live music?

I guess attendance is the main battle. Brisbane has a vibrant music scene but with a smaller population than a city like Melbourne, weekday gigs can be hard to make work.  It’s heartbreaking to see bands work really hard on putting on a show and then have 20 – 30 people come along. That said, all bands have been there and that part of the scene is the place from which the future Australian icons will emerge.

Most memorable show at your venue?

We did a Friday/Saturday combo with The Preatures a while back – both sold out to the max.  Izzy stalking around the stage and the band playing hard and tight. That was a good one. The show we had with Courtney Barnett when she was just starting to get a name on the national stage with about 50 payers, that was also a good one. So many good ones to choose from!

What makes a great gig?

Well for me it’s a great band with great songs. That’s all it is. A great band will mean a great gig, whether there are 1 or 1000 people in the audience.

How to you use digital and social media in conjunction with traditional advertising?

We’re a pretty grassroots organisation. We have a Facebook and Twitter account which we use to spread the word about bands coming through the space. It’s a challenge to keep up with the moving landscape of social media but first and foremost it’s an incredible asset and a valuable way of communicating directly to our regulars.

Ticketing for live shows is changing. How do you mange access and ticketing to your venue?

We mostly partner with Oztix. They are reliable and easy to work with and their service it bullet proof. More and more options are arising now. We are open to acts using their own systems if it allows them to reduce booking fees and so on. Music Glue, Ticket Booth, Trybooking all offer a good service too.