One of the things I’ve learned after performing live for seven years is that just about any place of business can be a live venue. It doesn’t have to be a club, a bar, a pub, a lounge or a coffeehouse. It can be a clothing store or an office or a mall. It can even be a house!
Sometimes the best opportunities are the ones that you create. If you play where no one else plays, that market is yours. Moreover, if you’re a young band that can’t get into places with alcohol licenses, you’re going to have to consider alternative venues anyway. Playing in an alternative venue doesn’t guarantee success, of course, but you never know where it could lead.
In an alternative venue, musicians can usually dictate their own terms and price. They can have more control over the logistics and how much time they get to perform.
In Calgary, where I live, I found out that jazz musicians play at a variety of different venues, like hotels and storefronts. I had a friend who played at the grand opening of a furniture store, and got paid very well to do it besides!
There are a variety of events happening all around you. Many businesses are conducting grand openings, customer appreciation days and seasonal promotions. If it makes sense for them to book a band, they will. The organizers may not necessarily be thinking about music, but if you bring it to their attention and make a value proposition that’s worthwhile, they will likely consider hiring you.
The bottom line is that you never know unless you ask. If you ask and they say “no”, you’re in the same position you were before you asked. You haven’t lost anything.
A hardware store could be a live venue. Again, you never know unless you ask. If you can create a mutually beneficial proposition, don’t rule it out.
If you have a PA, then anywhere you can set up could potentially be a live venue. I’m not saying that you should run over to the nearest park with an outlet and plug in (use some discretion here), but I am saying that if they have electricity, don’t discount the idea that you might be able to play there. You might still be able to do an acoustic performance if not.
Ultimately, bars aren’t the only place where you can play your music. There are opportunities far and beyond venues with alcohol licenses.
Author: David Andrew Wiebe
David Andrew Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work, investing, and music instruction. In addition to helping musicians unlock their full potential, he also continues to maintain a touring schedule with multiple bands.