Choosing your performance venue

by Russel Hlongwane

The stage is yet another touch-point of the music and the fan. The importance of performance today is even greater due to the ‘’steady’’ demise of the compact disc and live venues have rose to the occasion. But how does an artist strategize and prioritize his list of performing venues?


Well, the reasons may vary, maybe the artists wants to ‘’crossover’’ to tap into a different market. Or maybe because the artist has decided to raise his bar by performing at an immaculately professional venue, and as a result, his fans and peers will give him that heightened respect. And what if performing at café’s, galleries and other public spaces is just the perfect picture that an artist wants to portray of an upcoming experimental album? It should become apparent by now that the venues at which you perform impacts your reputation and the industry’s perception of you.


The question of where to perform is the equivalent to ‘’where am I looking to source my next cheque?’’. Since performance is your income (directly or indirectly), it’s only normal that the decision is given attention.

Meet Mark, a semi- professional saxophonist, he has spent 6 months looking for a venue at which he could perform daily. He eventually landed a contract at the local hotel where he plays during breakfast rush. And every Friday and Saturday after the hotel, he jams with a student band in the central pub for their afternoon peak hour. He says through these performances, he regularly gets corporate gigs from his audience more-so toward year end functions. And besides that, he plays with his full band about 3 times a month. In between these gigs, he gives remedial lessons to students and private tuitions. And through this Mark finds his schedule of gigs to be an interest variance. He gets to experiment at the afternoon jam sessions at the pub while he gets to play light compositions at the local hotel and still has the perks of plays his own material with his band. Not only does this help with his creative diversity, this also means he is reaching 3 different markets and these engagements will never clash in his diary. The true value of this is the fact that Mark is able to budget based on his monthly guaranteed income and this is all possible by discerningly choosing the venues at which you will perform.

In today’s world, music fits almost everywhere from politic rallies to weddings to movie premieres and this means performers need to be supple enough to align themselves with these new platforms. Gone are the days where the only stage for a musician was in a club or arena, the stage is now popping up in places waiting to be rejuvenated.

Your level of professionalism will determine where you will perform. A professional will be more likely to start performing out of town whereas the up-comer will perform close to home where the pressure is not too immense. But, as time passes, he will warily shift to more professional venues whilst ensuring that he keeps his early adopted fans.

Where you perform is where you build your reputation, it is where your income is generated and it’s where your fans (and potential fans) access your product so please give the decision enough thought. The more places you perform, the greater you will play (through excessive practice) and playing enough times in the same venues is a good way to create a following.

So where will you perform next?



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