DIY Venues: Get Creative with Your Performance Spaces

I recently saw a video on WeAllMakeMusic.com about how some musicians in the East LA scene, after confronting the fact that their performance opportunities were limited by a dearth of “proper” venues, took it upon themselves to throw their own shows at movie theaters, restaurants, art spaces, etc. With some perseverance and ingenuity, they created an atmosphere where young artists could still flourish despite the lack of an established music-biz infrastructure.

Play Live: No Excuses!

If you live in an area that doesn’t have any great music clubs, make your own magic happen! No, you don’t have to open your own venue or get a liquor license. But you CAN work with established businesses to transform THEIR space into the world’s coolest music spot for one amazing night. Here is a list of non-traditional venues where I have performed throughout the years:

Church, park, restaurant, movie theater, clothing store, bookstore, tented stage in parking lot, busking on the street, coffee shop, art gallery, backyard, basement, a boat, warehouse, corporate party, hotel room, record store, guitar shop

What’s in it for them?

Why would a business owner want to help you host an event in their establishment? Well, many of them won’t. But if you can convince just a few local proprietors that you will be respectful, professional, and handle all the heavy-lifting and precautionary work (security and door-person), they may want to help you because it will reflect positively on their company, store, church, or brand. Also, maybe they’re just nice, philanthropic people who want to support the local music scene.

Where do you begin?

Hit the pavement. Business owners will be more likely to help you out if you present yourself well in-person. Emails are too easy to ignore. So get out there and meet some people! But be prepared to describe the event you’re imagining in detail: how it will be promoted, how the flow of the event will run, how many attendees you expect, how the money will be split, etc. Will it be free? Will there be food and drink? Who will be expected to do what? Think all this through before presenting your proposal. And above all, be polite!

Second, you might need to acquire a PA system. Renting one for a single night from a music store or live-sound company will be far cheaper than purchasing one. However, if you live in a town with no “proper” music venues, you may be throwing a lot of your own shows. In this case, perhaps it is worth saving up to purchase your own PA system.

Promotion,… well, that seems like a whole article in itself.

Have you performed at non-traditional venues?

Did you set up the show yourself? How did it go? Please let us know in the comments section below.

-Chris R. at CD Baby

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