Music Business Advice, Because You Asked

Hello fellow musicians,

I realize this page might seem a little impersonal, and for that I apologize. I receive several requests each week for booking/recording/DIY music business advice and responding to each message individually has begun to absorb too much of my free time. I hope this page helps you succeed and accomplish your dreams.

Before we dive in, please note: I teach private lessons, host workshops, and am available for hire as a consultant if you’d like personalized advice about your music career. Drop me a line.

Jump to a Section:

Booking in Colorado
Colorado Venues
Booking a House Concert
How to Choose A PR Company
Additional Resources

Booking Shows In Colorado

Colorado is a great state for live music, but there are a few things to keep in mind:

1. There are big mountain passes here, many of which are closed during the winter, or difficult to navigate during the snowy season. For example, it’s 3 hrs from Denver to my house on Carbondale. However, on a Friday, it’ll take you 4 or 5 hours because of the traffic coming out of Denver. During a winter storm, the same 3hr drive could take 8hrs. Give yourself plenty of extra time, and don’t plan on just “zipping” around the state.

2. Colorado has a band-oriented music scene. People want music they can dance to. Singer/songwriters and other mellow solo acts will have a much harder time booking in the state.

3. Many of the mountain towns (west of Denver, east of Grand Junction) are seasonal- meaning they’re only busy and well-populated in the summer and winter. Keep this in mind while booking.

Venues in Colorado

Looking for venues in Colorado? Here are a few resources I’ve found most helpful:

https://www.undiscoveredmusic.net – a great list of acoustic/americana venues all around the USA and Canada.

https://www.westword.com/concerts – Westword is the biggest “arts rag” in the Denver area. They usually have a solid list of concerts, which is one way to get an idea of which venues are currently hosting music.

https://www.boulderweekly.com/events/#!/ – Boulder Weekly is, you guessed it, based in Boulder. They still have a great arts calendar for the Denver/Boulder area.

https://www.aspentimes.com/entertainment/calendar/#/81621-basalt/all/today – The Aspen Times has a great event calendar too. If you’re looking for Apres Ski gigs/bar gigs in the Aspen area, this calendar will show you which venues currently host live music.

Other thoughts:

Google search: “live music Carbondale CO” or any city you’d like to perform in. The search results will be helpful, even if they aren’t a complete list.

Local Newspapers: these papers often have websites, and those websites often have event calendars, which often tell you which places are hosting live music.

Keep a spreadsheet with every venue you learn about, in every state. This will come in handy later- both for you, and for the good of other musicians who ask you for advice/connections down the road.

Also, (this advice works, regardless of where you live, or where you’re trying to tour) go to other musician’s shows. Pay the cover, observe what they do, how they run their show, and how they run their merch table. Sign up for their email lists (join mine here), keep up with their art, and add their upcoming venues to your spreadsheet. All of these things add up to being a good samaritan in the DIY music world. Support others, and your generosity will often be rewarded many times over.

How to Book House Concerts

House concerts are great for many reasons. Few other venues offer such an unfiltered, intimate opportunity to connect with an audience. Some public venues brand themselves as “listening rooms,” but they are few and far between.

While performing at venues, it’s important to remember that the venue is a business. They have staff and bills to pay- so they’re going to take a significant cut of your ticket sales until you’re packing the house. House Concerts have zero staff, and usually zero costs associated with the event (unless the host decides to buy food/drink for guests), so there’s usually no one taking money from the musician’s pot. If only five people attend, but they each pitch in $10, that’s a full tank of gas for the artist. If 40 people come, and they each pitch in $20, that’s a real paycheck.

House Concerts are not about the money, they’re about presenting your art in the best possible venue. That said, it’s a lot easier to focus on the music and put on a great performance when you aren’t starving, or being barked at by a promoter for low ticket sales.

There are many great House Concert series/venues around the country, several of which have been running for years. They are organized by diehard music fans, and are incredible places to perform. However, this scene can be difficult to break into, as most hosts prefer to see you play in person (elsewhere) before booking you for their series (a policy I fully support). Instead of waiting for the longstanding hosts to come around, I’d recommend starting your own House Concert network. Find people who have already seen you perform, people who are already your fans, and ask them to host a house concert for you.

Ask people on your email list if they’d like to host. Post about this on social media, and don’t be afraid to ask people in person. Don’t be pushy about it, but folks generally need to see something three times (or more) before deciding to jump on board. All I’m saying is: don’t be bashful.

If you’d still like to break into the longstanding house concert scene, I’d recommend attending Folk Alliance conferences, folk festivals, coffeehouse concerts (often hosted at UU Churches these days) and of course, go to a few shows at a longstanding house concert series near you. Meet people. Get involved in the nationwide music community, be a good musician, a good samaritan, and the opportunities will follow.

How to Choose A PR Company

For most artists, PR companies are hired to promote a specific release (album, single, ep, whatever) and they work under a contract for X amount of time (2-6 months usually) around your release date. It’s important remember: you are paying for effort, not results. No PR company can guarantee specific write ups, press coverage, or (again) results. You are hiring them to try.

Different PR companies succeed at working with different kinds of artists, in different stages of their career. For example, I hired Hearth Music PR to promote the release of my album “Jukebox” in 2018. I knew that Hearth had success taking regional, small-scale Americana acts to a slightly higher, more national stage. They weren’t going to turn me into Willie Nelson overnight, and that wasn’t the goal. The goal was to define Point A and Point B in my career, and have Hearth help me get there. They were the right company for that job, and I’m happy I worked with them. Do your research, and choose a PR team based on where you are in your journey, and where you’d like to go next.

Additional Resources

As mentioned earlier, I am for hire. If you’d like personalized advice regarding your music career, contact me. If you’d like to attend a workshop, keep an eye on this calendar. If you’d like a private music lesson, contact me directly, or reserve one via my webstore.

Danny Barnes has a few great posts about the glorious music business:

How To Make A Living Playing Music
https://dannybarnes.com/blog/how-make-living-playing-music
Good News About The Music Biz
https://dannybarnes.com/blog/few-reasons-music-biz-good-biz-rebuttal-negative-conversation-about-state-music
The Music Scene
https://dannybarnes.com/blog/music-scene?fbclid=IwAR1Rut1tR5DKATgyhgEHvr9Xsi8UNKwegL1rPwpEuZpzPFPN-U5l-7xzV7I

PODCASTS

The Working Songwriter

Music Makers and Soul Shakers

Thanks for Giving A Damn

BOOKS

How to Make It In The New Music Business – by Ari Herstand.

All You Need to Know About the Music Business – by Donald Passman.