The Dirt: Venue Booking

The Dirt: Venue Booking

We speak to Jake Snell from MONSTER, to get all the dirt on what it's like to be a venue booker in the Perth live music scene.

Can you explain what a venue booker does?

A venue booker programs the entertainment for pubs, clubs and other establishments. This can entail constructing line ups or giving a date to an external promoter to work. A lot of time is spent liaising between the venue and promoter, agent, artists or DJs to ensue that the show is successful and runs smoothly.

How did you get your start in the industry as Bookers are quite specialised?

I stated out playing in bands, guitar teching, tour managing and basically saying yes to everything. I was very fortunate that this lead to a position at Monster which allowed me to cut my teeth booking venues and is where I am to this day.

What would a typical agreement or worksheet for a show have on it?

I favour very thorough agreements and worksheets though at a minimum they should contain:

  • a venue, promoter / artist, and production contact
  • ticket price
  • load in, soundcheck, doors open, playing and doors close times
  • Whether a door person and a front of house operator is supplied

What does it mean when a venue asks 'specs'?

“Specs” refers to details of your production set up and requirements. A stage plot, which is essentially a diagram of a bands stage set up from a birds eye view, is the most common and easy way to effectively deliver specs to a venue.

What venues do you book and what are the capacities?

  • Amplifier: 450
  • Capitol: 650
  • Metropolis Fremantle: 1,200
  • The Newport: 500
  • The Mustang Bar: 400
  • The Civic Hotel: 350

You look after a number of venues of different sizes in and around Perth, what sort of things are you taking into consideration before booking a band for a certain room?

There are many factors that are taken into account, though the two primary ones are whether the band and line up they are part of can bring an adequate crowd for the size of the room and if the show is stylistically in line with what works at the venue.

What are the key things a venue wants from putting on entertainment?

In most cases venues that run live music do it primarily for the love of it. Though the reality is that regardless of passion the entertainment needs to be a financially viable exercise, which ultimately boils down to people frequenting shows. If a band has an audience they will never be short of shows. 

What doesn’t work at some venues?

Most venues have styles or formats that they are best suited to and generally the opposite of this doesn’t work as well. For instance a room that caters to metal wont book many acoustic singer songwriters and vice versa.

How does a band know what venue is suited to them?

The best way to establish if a venue is the right fit is by looking at what is going through the room. If the bookings are in line with what you do chances are it will be a good fit.

What is a basic rider an act deserves or is this negotiable?

It is my opining that all bands deserve a rider. If you are a headliner this can often be negotiated, though if you are opening and just starting out you may only be looking at a few jugs of beer and some waters.

What are the basic requirements a venue should have when booking a band?

At a minimum venues should hold appropriate permits, licenses from rights holders (APRA / PPCA) and suitable production. Beyond this there are certain expectations that apply regionally. For example in Perth venue’s supply FOH operators, while in Melbourne this is something acts need to supply.

Why are band posters such a priority for venues to advertise gigs?

Apart from the obvious fact that posters are a great promotional tool for shows, as stated prior, venue’s that host music do so out of a love for it. It is part of their identity and a great way of expressing this is by having posters up.

Any disaster stories?

Unfortunately disasters do happen from time to time, though they are generally much worse in the moment than in hindsight. It happens very rarely but when an act does go MIA it can be very disruptive to the flow of a show.

Fees for acts? How do they work? Ticket cuts etc.?

Fee’s can be structured in many different ways. I would advise that all acts are clear on what the financial implications for each show is before you confirm. Don’t assume anything and never be afraid to ask.

Worst backstage area? Can you name it?

I have never been a fan of the backstage areas that are effectively a storage closet. They smell like cleaning products and the seats will undoubtedly be boxes and crates. That said having worked with venues for so long I have huge respect for those that show artists hospitality, even if there are limitations.

Do you have a say in the local supports for an international act playing one of the rooms you book?

International supports are usually at the discretion of the act themselves via the national promoter. If you want to be considered for such shows and don’t have the appropriate contacts, contact the venue booker and they will undoubtedly be able to point you in the right directing.

How should bands / artists should approach venues, what kind of information should they supply?

The old rule of 'who, what, when, where and how' applies when contacting venues...

  • Who: What is your band / acts name and how can a venue booker check you out (send links not mp3s)
  • What: Are you wanting to put on a launch, fundraiser or is there some other angle
  • When: What date or date range are you looking at
  • Where: Most venue bookers look after more than one venue so always clarify what room you are interested in
  • How: How are you going to promote this show to make sure there are people there