Research is the key to live music success


Graeme Hosie, manager of Glasgow live music bar The Wise Monkey, explains why it’s important to see bands in action before booking them for your premises

Q: What are the key do’s and don’ts of putting on live music?
Graeme Hosie: “It’s important to do a little background research when booking live bands.
“You have to decide what kind of music offer you want, what your target demographic is. Do you want a Saturday night band/covers band that appeals to as large an audience as possible? Or are you looking to establish yourself as a venue known for promoting and nourishing new up and coming musicians and more of the underground scene?
“Don’t expect to just book a band and expect them to fill your pub either way though.
“Most bands do a fair bit of self promotion but it’s primarily down to you to advertise and promote any events in your premises.”

Q: How do you find which style of music works for your outlet?
GH: “There is a fair bit of trial and error involved at first. I always do some background research before I book a band.
“Bands are often recommended to me or approach the venue themselves with demos. Both are good starting points, but make sure you go to see them play yourself.
“Also, remember that what works in one place might not work in another. Some bands are great in a small cosy space but don’t take to a bigger room, or vice versa.
“Talk to your customers, get their feedback. It’s their opinion that matters at the end of the day. You are booking for their entertainment, not your own.”

Q: How much should a pub expect to pay a band or musician, and what are the most effective ways of marketing live music in your pub?
GH: “If you have your own PA system and sound engineer fees are more negotiable. A lot of young, emerging bands are often happy to play for some food, beer and a good night out.
“For a full, self-contained established band with all their own gear generally playing covers expect to pay between £100 and £300.
“More traditional ways of marketing such as posters and flyers around the bar and your local area are always an effective way of marketing but it’s also important to explore new ways and try to keep up with trends like social network sites and blogging.
“We also have a database of customer email addresses and use e-flyering.
“There are also many entertainment websites and printed publications that provide free listing sections.”

Q: How much does the cost of licences from the PRS and PPL impact on the bottom line?
GH: “Obviously it does have some impact having to pay both these separate licences but at the moment I think it’s worth it.
“If the proposed increases were to go ahead then most of us probably won’t be in a position to continue down this road.”

Q: What other forms of pub entertainment are proven footfall drivers?
GH: “We have a very successful quiz night every Monday with a strong local following. We put up a £50 accumulator prize every week, which has been known to roll on to as much as £1000.
“We also have poker on a Wednesday. It is a non-league format, which I think is more relaxed and inviting to new players.
“It’s not enough anymore to set your stall out to provide just the one thing. As well as putting on great entertainment, you have to be the whole package.
“Good food, good friendly knowledgeable staff, good background music and a clean safe welcoming and comfortable environment are all paramount in building a successful business.
“Competition is steep and customers are spending less. You have to provide interesting things to draw in new business and keep existing customers coming back. It takes time and a lot of effort, it doesn’t just happen overnight.”