If you ask us, a venue might just be the most important decision you make when you’re producing a show. It can impact your budget, the logistics of the show itself and the atmosphere you create for your audience (plus a bunch of other bits).
A great show doesn’t just start and finish under the spotlight, it’s also about the overall experience you create for your audience. The venue influences how they book tickets, the way they travel to get there, the setup of the show, their comfort level and so many other things. It can be a massive part of their overall experience and how they view the show.
If you’re a comedy show, maybe you want the audience to just be comfortable and focus on you, maybe you want them to feel like they’re in a bar having a laugh amongst friends.
Whatever venue you choose, keep the unique experience you’re trying to create in mind – how do you want your audience to feel? One of our unforgettable projects was setting up our very own venue inside a skate shop (true story!). It certainly stood out from the crowd and made for an incredible show.
Here are some of the questions you might ask when you’re ready to book a venue for your next show.
First things first, what’s the hire fee and is it available?
It’s probably the venue hire cost that’ll determine if it’s even an option. If you’ve got a budget (and we hope you do), does this fit within what you planned or will you have to compromise on other areas to afford it? If it’s working with your budget, is it available for the dates you’ve got in mind or can you be flexible?
How many people can it hold?
Venue capacity is another big one. What’s the capacity and how does that impact on your experience and ticket prices? Too small and you might need to add extra shows or struggle to make it profitable. Too big and you might be left with a half-empty venue. Is it going to create the right kind of atmosphere and experience you have in mind?
Where is it located and does that suit your audience?
Take into consideration where the venue is and what that means for you and your audience. Is it close to parking or public transport? Is it actually easy to find? Try and find it with your Maps app on your phone and see if someone who’s never been there before will have any trouble. Bonus points if you test out travelling there at the time you’ll be holding your show, 11am on a Monday morning will likely look a bit different to 7pm on a Friday night.
What kind of access does the venue offer?
Consider both the front of house for your audience and backstage for you. How’s the accessibility? Does it have stairs, ramps or lifts? What kind of seating is available? Is there a hearing loop?
Oh, and we don’t forget about you either! What’s backstage like? Do you need a dressing room? Is there enough storage space for your set? How much time do you have to bump in? Is it in an area where access for trucks is difficult or limited at certain times? Think about what you’ll need to do backstage and how much time you need.
When are deposits due and what kind of cancellation and refund policies are in place?
How will the deposit work with your budget and cash flow? Do you lose it if you cancel or only a small admin fee? Consider their ticketing terms and conditions too – your audience needs to adhere to these so make sure you’re across them as well.
What’s the venue’s Covid Safe Plan?
You’ll need your own for any shows, but you’ll also need to work in with what the venue has in place. Consider how it’ll work backstage and what audience restrictions you might need to communicate in your marketing.
What kind of marketing support is included?
This may not have as much of an impact on your decision making as other factors, but it can be quite important. If they’ve got a sizable, engaged mailing list or social media presence you might have no trouble selling tickets. Oh, and don’t be blinded by big numbers here – make sure they align with the kind of audience you want for your show. If they don’t offer as much support or have the right kind of audience already, you might need to allow for additional marketing spend to get your show in front of the right people.
That’s a lot of questions, right? But they’re each packed with important things to consider. In the end, it’s all about making sure the venue you choose is the right fit for both you and your audience.
A successful show is about bringing together all the pieces, and we know producing can get overwhelming so we’ve broken down all the steps for you. Grab our Producer Checklist and you can work through it from selecting a venue right through to wrapping things up and patting yourself on the back for a job well done.