How to Find and Sign Live Performers for Your Bar

In most cases, performers will find you as soon as they hear that a new bar is opening. Talk to other bar owners to see who the biggest draw is.

Naturally, you should audition performers or go hear them sing at someone else’s bar. Before you hire, tell them the rules:

  • Specify how many breaks they should take. For example, maybe you agree to one 15-minute break every hour. Your call.

  • Agree to discounts on the price of their drinks and the limit for the discount. Identify who qualifies for the discount as well. You may want only band members to get the discount, rather than girlfriends, boyfriends, or family members. You may not have to give them a discount at all, or you can take the bar tab out of what you pay the band.

  • Develop a groupies policy. You don’t want your bar full of groupies who buy one drink and sit there all night. You’ll lose customers and possibly your bartender if it continues.

  • Determine your free or discounted meals policy. Identify who you feed and the price they pay.

  • Approve the set list. You need to make sure that their song choices appeal to your patrons. (Remember the original Blues Brothers movie, “We play both kinds of music: country and western.”)

  • Negotiate the cost to you. Some bands set a cover charge (an admission price that patrons pay to hear the band play) and keep it. Others split the cover charge with bar owners and take a percentage of sales. Others simply get a flat fee for performing for a certain amount of time.

    Figure out what the plan is before you’re slapped with a bill at the end of a long night.

You can even have amateur or open-mike night at your place if you want some live entertainment but don’t want to pay a lot. You may or may not have a lot of patrons participate, but remember: You get what you pay for.

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