The simple answer is yes, but there’s more to it.
Typically, when your band is young, you take whatever gig you can get, which means that you may end up performing in the not-so-great venues. Who cares? Who cares if the audience is your mom, your dad, a few friends and the drunk guy at the bar? Keep playing live shows. This is practice. And in the indie music business, practice in front of an audience grows your band. You’ll know what to do and what not to do on stage. You’ll find your groove.
You’ll need to get picky.
A time will come when you need to start getting picky. I don’t know what defines that time. You’ll know.
The venues where you perform reflects on your band image.
Each venue in town has its own personality –its own vibe. Portland has a diverse music scene and the venues to go along with it. As you grow your band and your audience, your brand becomes more evident. You’ll acquire a ‘type’ of listener and a distinct sound. You’ll be compared to other bands and you’ll be grouped into a genre, as well as sub-genres. The goal is to match your band with the right venue. It wouldn’t make sense for a metal band to play at Jimmy Mak’s in downtown Portland, would it?
The process could get tricky.
Venues don’t always have a specific genre they usually book. Although, if you’re a pop band you may not have a great reaction at Tiger Bar. Venues do have a crowd that they attract. I’m not arguing whether the venue or band draws the audience. I’m saying that a venue’s booking manager will take into consideration whether or not their clientele will appreciate your music.
Study the market as a musician. Take note of which bands play at which venues. Can you see your band performing with them? Watch the crowd. What’s the turnout? Are they having a blast? Will that crowd enjoy your music?
Some things to consider.
Your fans will judge your show on more than your performance. Their full experience will impact their opinions.
There are some specifics to think about when booking a venue, especially if you’re the band manager or promoter. First, sound is important. Obviously, you want your band to sound great. The sound engineer and the sound equipment will affect the quality of the performance. The size of the venue could determine whether the show looks like a bust or a success. The staff can make things difficult for you or make your life easier. The bar needs to be easily accessed and well staffed –no one wants to miss their favorite song. Security should be easily identifiable in case of an issue. Lastly, the management team should clearly communicate with you from the moment you contact them to the moment you load your gear to leave.
Our team has been to over 150 shows in the last 18 months. Here are some of venues that have stood out, in no specific order:
Wonder Ballroom (by far my favorite)
Someday Lounge (RIP)
Backspace (moving soon)
Alberta Rose Theater
Doug Fir Lounge (amazing sound)
Tonic Lounge (seriously, we were impressed)
The Analog (new kid on the block)
I will help.
If you need help around this topic, let me know. Shoot me a message — firstname.lastname@example.org.