The task of finding, and then filling, venues willing to give new groups a chance to perform can be daunting as a new band, and understandably so. First, there is the issue of trying to find an appropriate venue; one that fits your musical style, is a suitable size, has all the right technical equipment, and god-willing, can pay for your time. This can be hard even in big cities that on paper appear to be home to plenty of venues. Venue managers and promoters, like much of the music world, move in closed circles, and without knowing the right people, it can be very hard to catch their attention. Whereas the ability to reach out and send music to these people is now very easy, this also means that it takes more than ever to stick out amongst the crowd. Once you have a gig secured, this problem then follows you to the other side of the task, filling out the venue. People are inundated with more advertisements for events than ever before and it is hard to know which ones they will follow through with, even after they have clicked ‘attending’ on a Facebook event. Professional promoters can be hit and miss, and should probably never be relied on. So what is the key? Without trying to sound too much like a schoolteacher or your boss, it really does come down to initiative and a bit of creativity.
The good thing is that theres a long and rich history to learn from of bands and artists who have taken matters completely into their own hands when it comes to finding venues and audiences. Often times, this type of upbringing has been the foundation for some of the most revolutionary and maverick musical scenes ever, and has also been responsible for creating fervently loyal fanbases as well. Truly groundbreaking scenes like Hip Hop, Punk, and House music all originated as DIY scenes in some form or other and this spirit can be tapped by new bands today to get their following started.
Part of it does come down to being insistent upon making friends with key venues and other bands within your musical genre. The emerging punk scene and its more glam successor the New Romantic movement both started with a core group of bands and the same few clubs like Blitz, Vortex, Subterenia and Dingwalls and Rum Runner in Birmingham. When this proves unfruitful, there are always even more creative alternatives, too. The Chicago House music scene started with, as the name suggests, self-run do it yourself warehouse and block parties, and this tradition still continues around the world in the realm of electronic music – legal status aside. Even in the UK the wrath of health and safety hasn’t been able to stop the ongoing post-punk DIY scene especially prevalent in the North of England where basement shows are still commonplace, and has produced successful bands like Hookworms and Eagulls.
The benefit of taking this path in the early stage of a band’s career is that it creates an authentic and personal touch between band and fan. It ensures that the artists have control over the aesthetic of the event and how it is promoted, as well as existing as a self-serving proof of determination and commitment. The chance to create a strong grassroots following is crucial too, and as the band grows this core following will be essential in sustaining a long term career over the years.