Live Music In Pubs Guide

Live Music 

Providing live music is in your pub or making your pub a specialist live music venue can produce some great nights to draw in new customers and encourage repeat business from regulars. According to research conducted by the Musicians’ Union in 2012, 24% of pubs reported an increase in taking of between 25% and 50% on nights they featured live entertainment, with 71% seeing an increase of between 10% and 25%. On average, pubs without music were found to be three times more likely to close.

Check your Premises Licence against the provisions of the Live Music Act 2012, as this activity may or may not be regulated according to the law. You will also need a Performing Rights Society (PRS) Licence to cover performance of copyrighted music, the cost will vary according to the size of venue, how many performances per year you put on, whether you charge etc. For more information on the Live Music Act 2012 and how the law affects pubs click here.

Keep the night(s) regular i.e. every Friday night or every first Sunday of the month (whichever night(s) you choose stick to it).

A rule of thumb for the cost of these nights is that you should take at least 3 times as much as the act costs above the average takings for a night without live music. For instance if you average take is £1000 for a Friday and the act costs £150 you must take at least £1450 to cover the cost. Of course you can relax this rule if you are using live music as a ‘loss leader’ or when starting out; charging admission will also reduce the pressure on bar takes to make live music profitable for you. The first £150 takes care of the stock you’ll use to generate the extra sales, the second takes care of the band and the last takes care of your extra profit for putting on the night. No need to worry about marketing, employee costs, overheads such as utilities, they’re already paid for in the first £1,000.

Whilst the rule of thumb is a great way to ‘guestimate’ whether putting on live music, or any event for that matter, is going to be profitable, so for a more rigorous treatment I’ve created a nifty calculator to help you take some of the guess work out of planning your events. Just enter in all the pertinent costs of the event (not stock), the gross profit percentage your pub achieves, ticket income if applicable and the calculator will show you the breakeven point for the event and the cash sales (inclusive of VAT) needed to breakeven. The only guessing that needs to be done is “Do I think I’ll make this level of extra sales?”

Stick with it – don’t give up on live music after the first or second night just because you don’t reach expected sales – it can take many weeks or even months to build up a regular following.

Keep your roster varied in the style of offering – jazz, rhythm and blues, soul, rock, acoustic, folk, solo, duo and bands. Don’t be tempted to keep booking in the same bands/acts over and over again – for instance on a weekly night book bands no more than 4 times a year.

Host a Battle of the Bands for local bands – they compete for a prize and they are likely to bring plenty of friends and family along to support them.

Tailor nights to suit your customers – if the majority seem to enjoy rock then put mostly rock nights on, but keep putting other genres in the roster to please other customers.

Try and get out to listen to some bands in other venues – see how other pubs operate and how bands perform.

When taking enquiries from potential acts always get a link to their website or social networking site (most bands have them now) – is the music what you want? Do the band list venues where they are playing? Do they invite their friends/fans to attend? Which other bands are they featuring on their respective sites? Are they suitable for your venue?

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