Get ready for the return of live music

Friday, 26 Jun 2020

(Fond memories of the band Big Smoke playing a Parlour gig - photo by Glenn Luck, courtesy Parlour)

Signs of life are emerging around the live music scene. Whether you’re tempering your enthusiasm when it comes to making plans to play live again or are ready to jump on stage at a moment’s notice, it’s definitely a good time to consider what this re-entry to live music might look like and sound like and how you can be prepared to get back out there.

So, where to start? Let’s ask a few of the behind-the-scenes specialists for their advice on what opportunities are percolating at venues, at non-traditional gigs and how to get booked.

"Our biggest challenge now is uncertainty and it’s something no one in our industry was ever trained for," says Select Music's Stephen Wade.

The restrictions are changing day-by-day and by state/region, so make sure you to stay informed with what's happening in your local area. And, if you're looking for a rehearsal space, please check out our rehearsal room directory to get practicing again.

Booking platform

Jeremiah Siemianow, CEO and Co-Founder, Muso

Tell us a bit about Muso. 

Muso is a live music booking platform for venues and musicians. Muso was founded two years ago with the sole purpose of creating as much live music in as many places as possible. We saw a massive problem in local live music, whereby organising it was an administrative burden that often meant venues didn't host it at all, and personal hirers often resorted to pre-recorded forms of entertainment instead.

For artists, finding gig opportunities, getting paid on time and managing finances was an unnecessary roadblock when playing live. We didn’t like that at all. 

Muso was created to remove the admin, help venues focus on booking talent and help artists focus on their music. This is achieved by significantly reducing the hurdles, in order to increase the opportunities for live music, which in turn increases gig revenue for musicians. We liked that better. 

Since launching we’ve seen 200 venues join the platform running around 2000 gigs. 

How does an artist sign up with Muso and who is booking them from the platform?

Originally, the Muso platform was a completely closed marketplace - any artist could sign up, but they had to be approved by our artist team before being permitted onto the platform; requiring the need to display their ability to perform live. 

However, we’ve recently launched our ‘Public’ Artist profile functionality. Now any artist is able to sign up to Muso, create a profile, promote it to their network and get booked. Artists will reap the benefits of the Muso platform such as end-to-end booking management, automated payments and invoices and 48-hour gig payments. We wanted to make all our features publicly available to all artists, and free, especially in these challenging times. 

New artists are reviewed each day and those who are able to demonstrate their ability to perform live at an acceptable level, are invited to access the exclusive gig marketplace, in which they have a higher chance of getting booked by venues/hirers.

A lot of our regular hirers are venue-based; pubs, bars, clubs, breweries and restaurants. There has been an uplift in event-specific hiring, including weddings, birthdays, special events and other private hirers.

Musicians have been booked for what we would consider to be less-traditional events or spaces including baby showers, gym challenge parties, cycling studios and university society events. 

What is the opportunity in terms of Muso Artist performances as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted? Are you seeing more Hirers logging in to book artists?

We’re super excited to see how quickly hospitality is coming back to live music post the restrictions of COVID-19 being lifted.

It’s a really important time for venues to curate an exceptional entertainment offering and stand out from competitors in such a competitive time.

Venues have already begun listing gigs for future weeks on Muso, which is an encouraging sign of expectation around increased trade to come. 

What’s been particularly interesting is the amount of interest in private gig bookings for things like get-togethers and parties with sub 20/50 people (depending on state). We expect to see more of this in the future too. 

It is quite difficult to estimate how closely linked the easing of restrictions will be to the programming of live music, as many are taking different approaches as trade begins to return to pre-pandemic levels.

We’re expecting to see a shift in bookings to more unconventional places as well as in mid-sized venues, which is our bread and butter. 

By giving all musicians access to public booking profiles, booking tools and an automated payment system, we hope that Muso can help musicians get booked for gigs and put some earnings back in their pockets. 

How can artists promote themselves on Muso to potential Hirers? 

This is where our public profiles are very effective; the reason behind the recent re-engineering of them was to make them universally shareable and universally accessible. Almost like a LinkedIn for Musos, or their free personal website.

Musicians can ‘share’ their profile with their personalised ‘booking button’ and booking link on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Linktree - wherever they want, and direct people as to how to book them. 

Inside the platform, Muso has a ‘featured artists’ section, which hirers are presented with immediately after logging in. Artists are featured for a week or a month at a time. 

Musicians who are granted access to the gig marketplace will also be able to see all of the gigs listed by all hirers on Muso, which is almost like a ‘newsfeed’ for gigs. It’s really easy to be seen. We have a tight-knit community of musicians and industry folk.

How does Muso facilitate payment and what fees are involved?

In short, direct bookings, 0% commission. Anything on our curated marketplace, 15% commission.

Free to have and use: Creating a Muso profile, using the booking tools and automating payments is completely free. We wanted all artists to use our tools without having to pay anything, we hope that this will increase live music booking post COVID-19! 

0% commission; direct bookings: Any bookings made directly to an artists' profile incurs 0% commission, the person booking the artist just needs to pay a small booking fee. 

15% commission; gig marketplace: The gig marketplace is a more curated and closed system. When artists get given access to the gig marketplace, we are giving them access to thousands of gigs of a certain calibre that we have brought onto the system. Here we take 15% commission. 

0% commission; pre-existing relationships: Another thing to note is that if Muso is brought into a new venue, we do not take any commission from gigs of pre-existing relationships. We only take commission on gigs we facilitate. 

Lastly, why should a gigging artist sign up to Muso? 

Muso is designed to make gigging easier. We save our musicians stress, time and money, and in turn give them more headspace to work on their music. 

We are dedicated to creating more live music, by convincing venues to start doing live music, or by convincing venues who already do live music… to do more… and to do it in the easiest way possible. If you’re an artist who wants to streamline all the unnecessary admin whilst increasing your gig opportunities, then Muso is definitely a system for you. 

The Booking Agent

Stephen Wade, Select Music

What are the opportunities for artists who want to get back to playing live?  

COVID-19 has created chaos but also new opportunities like drive in or streaming shows and now we are starting to see some restrictions easing and smaller venues are re-imagining their space and encouraging more intimate shows. These don’t work for all artists and are a stop gap till we get back to 100% but there is some real light at the end of the tunnel.

How can artists adapt their performance as restrictions ease?

With uncertainty and especially the financial risks that involves, my advice for all artists would be that they be careful with their decisions and especially what they are budgeting.

This is not the time to take financial risks.

State borders make national planning untenable right now so stick local, and check with any venues beforehand to ensure you understand the COVID protocols that are in place.

You have an extensive roster with both established and emerging acts. How are you helping artists in such varied situations and career stages to get back to playing live?  

For established acts, not a lot changes. We plan and strategise up to 18 months in advance so COVID-19 meant moving around those existing schedules, which has been a set of new challenges. Re: developing acts, it has definitely made things more challenging and they will have to, in most cases play it safer in smaller venues and rebuild that connection with their crowds.

As an agent, what are the challenges around forward planning – whether that’s for the next month or in three or six months from now?

Our biggest challenge now is uncertainty and it’s something no one in our industry was ever trained for. From the initial shutdown we worked towards the Government guidelines of six months which is Sept/Oct and moved all of our acts into this time frame or early 2021. For now, our challenge is being ready to jump the second everyone’s doors are reopened to full capacity.

At home concerts

Matt Walters, Founder & CEO, Parlour

Tell us about Parlour.

Parlour is a technology platform that makes it really easy for artists and their teams to book house shows directly with their fans. Since launch we’ve facilitated over 2,000 Parlour gigs worldwide. Our mission is to help artists build more sustainable careers and deeper connections with their fans.

How does an artist sign up with Parlour? 

Any artist can sign up. Though, generally speaking, an artist must have some fans to use the platform.

What is the opportunity in terms of Parlour Gigs performances as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted? 

Parlour has always specialised in small gigs in homes. Our average capacity for gigs is around 50 people. We are starting to see gigs get booked all over Australia again. Mostly we’re seeing this occur in areas where limits on gatherings of people in the home have been lifted. We have just implemented a COVID-19 safety protocol for each gig which artists, guests and hosts must adhere to. It has been received very positively by our users.

How are ticket prices set and how does an artist get paid? Do you have tips or guidelines on pricing?

Artists choose their ticket price and minimum capacity. Across the platform this varies a lot. We have artists that are as low as $10 per ticket and some that are $200 or over. Generally artists charge at least 50% more per ticket with Parlour than they would with a venue show. When a gig goes on sale the artist is paid an advance deposit to the value of 10 tickets. The balance is paid straight after the gig into the artist's nominated bank account. Parlour takes a 17% service fee.

Can you share your tips on the performance aspect and the kind of production values that suit a Parlour gig? 

It really varies from artist to artist. We used to believe that our platform would only be used by mid-tier / blue collar / touring artists. But we’ve seen so many big names use the platform now that we believe any artist could do this. Most artists naturally scale the show down to suit the space and capacity of each gig. Most of our artists opt to do their own production but Parlour also books PAs in for more established artists so they can turn up and do their thing without having to worry about production. 

Hosts are encouraged to decorate their space with bedroom lamps / fairy lights to create a vibe for the show.

Why should a gigging artist sign up to Parlour?

As an artist that used to tour quite a bit, I know that Parlour makes the process of finding the fans to host, booking the shows in, managing the gigs end to end, building your audience and getting paid very easy. Parlour’s technology will save you a heap of time. With Parlour’s tech, you can book a full tour in minutes (not hours). The average payout is $3,000 AUD on our platform. So it’s a great way for artists to generate revenue. All the gigs are private, so it won’t impact your public facing activity. Artists have used our platform to get into new markets and offset costs, fill in off days to generate extra money and book full tours. At its core, it’s a utility to help an artist build a more sustainable career. 

APRA AMCOS members who play Parlour gigs, you can claim the live performance royalty. Be sure to submit your setlists.

The Venue

John Collins (JC), Venue Director, The Triffid

How is The Triffid adapting to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in terms of:

    • The style of live music you are presenting: 
      I think with the significantly smaller capacities we have targeted a much more relaxed style of programming.
    • Format – seating, production set-up, set times:
      The state government has made seating mandatory for all shows, so we will be following the correct guidelines.
    • Health and safety measures/guidelines:
      The venue has come up with a very detailed COVID-19 Safe Plan and we have gone above board as well by introducing a T-Scanner. The T-Scanner operates at the front of the venue and measures patrons' temperature as enter the venue, it only takes 1 second for the scanner to read their temperature. We have also placed detailed measures based around looking after the artist at the venue, such as different microphones and separate areas as band rooms.

What kind of opportunities are out there for artists who want to perform live again in the coming months?

I feel like it’s a fantastic opportunity for artist to look at their performances.

With the reduced capacities it's not about huge production values but more about offering something different and re-working their shows to suit the more intimate setting. I’m sure some of the artist may find something new in their performance by exploring different formats which may add a new dimension to their regular shows in the future.

And, more specifically, what are you looking for from artists as you adapt your programming in line with COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing guidelines? 

I think the real challenge for the artist is to take a reduced fee with the smaller capacities.  We are looking to share the experience with the artist and get the wheels turning again in the industry, hopefully we can have some very special performances that we will all look back on fondly in the years ahead. 

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