Posted On: Jul. 9, 2019
YOU TOO can expand your reach as an artist through microgigs!
(a totally-not-made-up conversation about alternative venues with Side Door)
McArthur Castle is a cozy living room setting, 15-20 minutes from downtown Kamloops.
Hey there, I’m an emerging artist trying to expand my reach! How can I do that?
Hey emerging artist trying to expand your reach, I’m Mat! I work for a company called Side Door that books tons of shows in unique spaces - have you ever considered doing a show in an alternative venue?
An alternative venue? Like, not a bar or music venue?
Yeah, exactly! If you think about it, there are tons of places that music is performed that aren’t traditional venues - people’s homes, backyards, barns, cafes, bookstores, church halls, auto body shops, you name it. The way I see it, any space run by a person looking to host performances is a venue!
But how could I possibly make any money playing in somebody’s home?
You'd actually be surprised at how financially efficient a show at an alternative space can be! You’re not paying overhead to cover the rent, there are no bar staff making wages, sound rental can be super minimal, and filling a small space requires less expensive/time-consuming promo! 30 people in a living room, co-work space, garage, etc. will make you far more than if those same 30 people were in a club - plus the intimate, magical show feels that much more special for everyone! Hosts also love to go out of their way to treat their guests like family - some performers enjoy homemade meals, moments to do laundry, and even a billet for the evening, so you might save some coin that way as well.
How can I grow my audience faster than a handful of people at a time, though?
Well, I would argue that an intimate show in an alternative venue is more useful in growing your audience - the handful of folks at that small show are more engaged and walk away more fulfilled than they would from a club or venue - but I also see your point. The great thing is, you don’t need to exclusively play these kinds of microgigs! Shows at alternative venues are a great way to fill open tour dates between traditional shows, play private/content-varying second plays that don’t break radius clauses around pre-existing dates, or as casual one-offs to connect with new fans or test new material.
How do I even find these venues?
Once upon a time you had to know someone who knew someone to find out about these kinds of spaces, but now that microgigs and alternative spaces are making their way to the mainstream they’re easier than ever to discover! Asking local musicians, searching independent/DIY Facebook groups, and posting to Kijiji and Reddit are great options to start with. There are also services (like Side Door wink wink) that can help you discover the perfect hosts for your art, and from there it’s just a matter of getting in touch and booking your next magical show (...which Side Door also helps with - have I mentioned I work there?)
I’m still a developing artist, though...why would a host take a chance on me?
You’d be surprised! While there’s always a need for a bit of hustle and a solid band pic or two to pique their interest, many hosts are motivated on their own to bring art to their communities and curate excellent performances. Since these shows are usually on the smaller side and in spaces that don’t rely on ticket income, there’s less of a financial pressure than you’d find at a traditional venue - which allows owners to get a bit more creative/risky with their performances. Putting your best foot forward and being open and friendly is often enough to interest a host, and from there it’s just a matter of working out the details. And even if you don’t get traction with one alternative space, there may be many more in the neighbourhood or in a nearby town - rather than jumping from city to city to find venues, you only need to search the next community over!
Wait, so this could be going on in my neighbourhood?
Absolutely! Instead of touring to every nearby city’s downtown core, you could totally put together a small string of shows in the suburbs and surrounding towns of a single city instead. One of the awesome things about gigs in alternative spaces is that they provide a type of show that clubs and venues can’t always provide! Many spaces are kid friendly, so hiring a babysitter isn’t necessary. The venue may be just a few blocks away, so calling cabs or picking a designated driver don’t always factor in. The shows are intimate and cozy, so folks are focussed on the music instead of chatting during sets… you get the picture. There’s a solid chance that folks going to these shows wouldn’t even consider going to a club downtown, so you’re already accessing a brand new audience the moment you get involved!
OK I’m convinced, but now I’m wondering about the finer details. How would payout for this kind of show work? Can hosts offer guarantees? What about insurance, or alcohol? How can I get started right now?
All great questions! Every place will operate a little differently so I can’t say for sure what each venue or booking service will be like...but I can point you towards Side Door! Signing up as a performer with Side Door is totally free and you can get started with booking literally straight away - as well as answering the questions above, and any others you may think of. Side Door is built with artists in mind, so our automated tech is designed to make finding, booking, playing, and being paid for shows as seamless as possible.
Sweet, thanks for this imaginary conversation!
My pleasure, dear reader! Don’t hesitate to check out Side Door or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. Adios, and happy booking :)