How to Get a Residency at a Bar or Restaurant

Getting a residency at a bar or restaurant can mean a reliable income every month, but they are tricky to come across and can often take time to get the bar or restruant to trust music will add value. I was successful in getting a fortnightly restaurant gig at a very well know restaurant/ cocktail bar in the UK and this is how I managed to close the deal.

1. Research Venues

You need to do your research and find suitable venues who you believe could benefit from live music. For example, up market restaurant? Solo jazz or classical piano. Cuban themed bar? Jazz quartet or trio. etc etc. Once you've found some suitable locations do some research. Do they already have live music? If so, is it run in house or by an agency? Are they a chain, might there be any noise limitations meaning live music won't be possible, is there suitable space to perform? Some of the answers to these questions might not be obvious so you may need to ask.

2. Prepare Sample Material & A Business Case For A Residency

Once you've outlined a few suitable venues you need to prepare some sample recording, or even better some videos of you in action so they can see what you are, and what you can offer. It might also be an idea to explain to the owner, or manager what the benefits are to having live music.

The first question they'll ask is how much is this going to cost me?. You need to calculate how much this is going to cost you and have a rough figure in mind before agreeing to anything. Remember, if you give a figure too high they're going to say no straight away, so let them decide what they would be willing to pay and negotiate from there. Just make sure the figure is affordable for both you and the bar otherwise the residency won't last long!

3. Find Out Who Runs The Bar Or Restaurant

Before you go in, find out who's in charge and arrange a meeting with them. If you can't get a meeting come back during the day and they should be there. There's absolutely no point pitching to the hourly paid bar staff. You need to speak to someone who's in charge and can make these decisions. If you're pitching to a chain of restaurant the manager may need to approval from a regional manager. You may need to speak to them, but don't worry this is normal.

4. Offer A Trial Run

Offering a trial run is a really good way for the bar or restaurant to see you in action and see if you are suitable. Although you can do this for free try and negotiate a small fee so you aren't being taken advantage of. Now this is your time to shine! I recommend inviting your friends and family and try and do some small promotion to draw some hype to the event.

Why not use the trial run as a mini showcase gig to present to potential clients?

5. Keep A Good Relationship

If you're successful in receiving the residency, get a contract outlined and keep a good relationship with your contact. Communication is key and always react to feedback - been told you're too loud - turn down for the next gig and check with the staff the volume is fine. A relationship is two ways so if you're not happy with something talk to your contact as soon as possible.

Final Tips

  1. Check your volume, if it's a restaurant you don't want to be too loud. You don't want to be told to turn down.
  2. Alcohol policy, this ones up to you, but I recommend a no drinking on the gig policy.
  3. Never cancel. If you do need to dep the gig make sure the dep know exactly what is expected and inform the venue as soon as possible.
  4. Smile! Enjoy yourself, if you look like you're having a good time, it goes a long way.
  5. Set up and set down quickly and quietly.
  6. Keep your socials active and show your followers where you're playing.

If you're interested in getting more gigs see our article on "how to get more gigs as a musician". In the guide we discuss the key things you need to make sure your band is doing to secure more gigs.

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