Business Overview

Live bands are paid to perform music professionally before audiences in bars, nightclubs, concerts, private parties, corporate events, and other public venues. Peripheral revenue can be generated through the sale of recordings and merchandise. In addition to the group’s musicians, ownership in the business can include its manager and anyone else with a financial stake.

Who is this business right for?

Ownership of a live band usually includes the actual musicians. Owners generally have a passion and instinct for music, a great deal of energy and motivation, and a talent for crafting a group style and sound that appeals to audiences. In addition to their performance skills, live band owners must be able to sell their services to booking managers at venues and to the audiences who watch them perform.

What happens during a typical day at a live band?

Band success involves a great deal of energy, creativity and persistence. Here are some of the multiple activities involved.

  • Scheduling performances. Some bands have managers or talent agencies to take on this critical responsibility, but many groups starting out must interact themselves with venue and booking managers or individuals who want to hire a band for private or corporate events. Often, this duty will and should fall on the band member with the most confidence, sales ability or outgoing manner.
  • Composing and practicing. This can involve finding (and often paying for) space where the band members and their gear can spread out and they can perform without disrupting neighbors. The musicians must regularly update their sound with new material, whether by covering other artists or writing and learning original compositions.
  • Auditioning talent. Band members frequently leave groups for other bands or to make other use of their time. That means there’s a frequent need to find and groom new talent.
  • Upgrading instruments and gear. As your business grows you’ll need to make additional investments in musical instruments, soundboards, lighting, sound effects and other gear.
  • Marketing and media. You must constantly maintain your social media presence, upgrade your visual look, buy and design group-associated merchandise and strategize new ways to attract fans and bookings.
  • Networking. This means going where your audience is likely to be—at shows and other performances. Here you’ll scope out your competition and potential new members, find out about new sounds and stylings and meeting and greeting managers, booking agents, venue owners, music label representatives and others who can influence your success.

What is the target market?

The immediate clients of a live band are the payers for the services. This includes managers, owners and booking agents at bars, concert halls, outdoor events and other public and commercial spaces. But, depending on your business plan, it can also include those who hire talent for weddings, corporate events, birthday and anniversary parties, bar and bat mitzvahs and other celebrations.

Your ultimate customers, however, are the fans who will watch and hear you perform. If your band can generate excitement from this crowd, and build it in numbers, that will go far toward encouraging hirers to continue booking your group—at perhaps higher fees.

How does a live band make money?

Bands most often generate revenue by charging management of the event location. Larger and more successful bands might, in addition, have their tours partially or fully underwritten by music labels (although this is less prevalent today) or by corporate sponsors/advertisers.

An accompanying or alternative source of income is directly through those who watch their performances, such as through cash tips. This is most likely in the case of street performers.

Another revenue stream can be through the sale of merchandise (often called “merch” in the trade) associated with the band. This can include recorded music, t-shirts, caps, posters, buttons and other paraphernalia that can be sold at the performance venue before, after or during the show, or online at such ecommerce sites as iTunes or Amazon.

What is the growth potential for a live band?

Live bands range from groups that stay together for an underpaid local performance to two to national tours. According to this article by the Los Angeles Times, the highest grossing band tours of 2016 included Bruce Springsteen ($268.3 million), Beyonce ($256.4 million), Coldplay ($241 million), Guns N’ Roses ($188.4) and Adele ($167.7 million).

Keep in mind that large tours involve the payment of astronomical outlays for staff, travel, stage shows, costuming, dancers and side performers, advertising, management and other expenses, so profits are much smaller.