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The basics of booking acts and programming events

You'll Discover:

  • Overview of putting on live music
  • Who puts on live music
  • In-house booker's tasks
  • Gig night tips
  • After the gig

This guide outlines some of the day-to-day details of coordinating a live music program at your venue. It gives venue operators information on what to expect from a venue booker, rough timelines for live music programming and details on who does what.


Who books live music

Depending on the style of band you’re dealing with, you may find yourself working with a number of people to book their gig. Alternatively, you might work with one person who represents the band but is not involved in creating the music themselves.

A Musician

In many cases the person responsible for coordinating gigs at your venue will deal with a musician from the band that you are booking directly. This is especially true of smaller scale bands at local venues.


An Artist Manager organises and progresses the affairs and careers of the bands they work with by undertaking a wide range of activities in support of the artist. Activities can include gig bookings, coordination and promotion. 

Booking Agent

Musicians who frequently perform - and are usually higher profile - may engage an agent to help book their live performances. Music Industry Inside Out, describes a booking agent as being “responsible for managing bookings and appearances for artists, negotiating and liaising with venues, and communicating between the venue, artists and artist managers”

Examples of booking agents for other venue entertainment options include someone who solely books regular comedy nights, trivia, or acoustic acts at a venue or a number of venues.

Lastly, a Booking Agent (or in-house Venue Booker) could work solely in your venue to program music which suits the venue size, style and audience. A number of venues interviewed for this Toolkit had chosen to assign bookings to and pay a staff member or other individual to book live music week in, week out.  This is the most likely arrangement if you are a small venue starting to put on live music.

The Live Music Office has a simple guide which you can access here, detailing additional steps your venue can take to find musicians (even if you have no current music contacts).

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In-house booker's tasks

Here’s a list of weekly tasks that the booker at your venue should be undertaking:

  • Answering emails (at least 3, ideally 5 days per week). Expect heaps of them. Usually requests will have to be dealt with very promptly. 
  • Building and maintaining an events calendar (usually booking ahead by at least a month).
  • Creating worksheets, artist agreements, sending on payment details so that artists can invoice to get paid for performing at the venue.
  • Working with venue management, or independently to program music which suits the venue’s sound and style.
  • Working with venue management, or independently on event marketing.
  • Coordinating all aspects of events on the night (from additional staff like sound engineers to artist payments, bump-ins and bump-outs, rider allocation).
  • Stage managing the events and making sure that they run smoothly.
  • Keeping up a good rapport with musicians & event related staff.

For new event bookers, you might find this guide from the Live Music Office a handy reference document when planning for each event. Of course, omit anything that isn't relevant to your venue or your booker (e.g. ticketing).

Live Music Office guide on putting on a gig.

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Gig night tips

There is alot to remember on gig night so we've included some practical pointers below.

If the event is ticketed and/or likely to reach capacity you should create a guest list. A guest list means that bands can invite plus ones and they will get into the venue at no charge. The guestlist might also include media (e.g. photographers, reviewers), staff and others who are not considered standard punters. You should limit the amount of people able to be added to the guestlist per band member and based on the capacity of the venue.

Most venues will provide a rider of some sort for performing acts. A rider is an allocation of drinks for each performing band. Sometimes it also includes food, usually in the green room (e.g. for acts who have been on the road). 

Set times - you may have limitations on the time that you can put on live music. Venue Management might want to also ensure that live music doesn’t (or does) overlap with other entertainment events or venue activities. Once you know these limitations set times for each act can be set, with a reasonable changeover time between bands. You should also include a finish time that works for your venue (e.g there might be restrictions on times that music can be amplified until). Make sure you run to schedule!

Many venues will run set times so that they consistently start at the same time for each event. For example, on a three act bill each Friday night you might have set times starting 8:30pm, 9:30pm and 10:30pm.

Bands should be allocated sound check times which will run between bump-in and their set time. Usually sound engineers can get through sound checks quite quickly if the band is prepared and ready to go. Sound engineers cost money and charge by the hour so the more organised the bands are, the better it will be for you!

Find additional tips for setting up your stage area and making performers feel comfortable, especially when you don't have a stage here.

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After the gig

Once the event is over you will need to finalise all details.

Artist payments - This might include following up with invoicing information before you can pay artists. You can find further information on invoicing here and paying performers here.

Report incidents and repairs - If you haven't already, report any on the night incidents (check your venue's policy around this). Additionally any equipment that needs maintenance or repairs should be sent out quickly so that its back in time for the next event.

Review the event - especially true if you are embarking on a new music series at your venue. Review the event and figure out what needs fine-tuning so that you can continue to work towards running your events seamlessly.

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