Advertising: For God's sake, ADVERTISE YOUR SHOWS! I get it that you might not be able to afford big promotions but there are so many online places you can advertise for free now that you should have no excuse other than laziness for not getting the word out. Many radio stations don't charge for advertising local shows if the artist is an artist they play. You can also advertise for free in your local newspaper's online entertainment section, local news station online community events pages, other local internet pages. Ask around town and see if local restaurants will let you leave fliers. Get the word out. It's a disservice to the artist playing your venue for you not to actively promote their show and could result in them not returning for a second show.
Outer Appearance: The outside of your facility should be appealing to the eye. The paint should be as fresh or if not fresh, have it power-washed a couple of times a year to make it appear fresh. Take down old show posters and make sure current information is posted. If you recently purchased the building from a previous business, make sure all of their signage is taken down so as not to confuse those that may be interested in checking out your business. Make sure there is plenty of signage so people know who you are.
Safety: Safety is #1, period. Make sure all electrical equipment is in working condition. Keep all cables and wires out of sight and definitely out of the walking area, otherwise you could have a pretty hefty personal injury lawsuit on your hands if someone trips over them. Make sure fire extinguishers are in proper working order and displayed in a common area along with evacuation procedures for fire or accident. Be sure to mop up all beverage spills as quickly as possible to avoid slippage and injury and put a "wet floor" sign up in the area that was just cleaned.
Staff: Hire staff that are friendly and presentable. Make sure they are dressed appropriately for your style of venue. There's nothing more irritating than standing around waiting to be helped while Suzy talks to Jenny about her hot date this weekend or while Dave is on his phone talking to or texting his girlfriend. Hire staff that actually care about being there and don't stand around looking bored and PLEASE make sure they're trained properly. What a pain in the butt when you're at a bar and ask for a certain drink and your bartender stares at you like a deer in the headlights with a "DUH, WHAT?" look on their face. Your staff represents you, they are your front line to the public.
Lobby Entrance Area: Keep this area as clean as possible, vacuumed and dusted. If you have upholstered furniture for patrons to seat themselves on, have them professionally cleaned a few times a year. No one likes to go to sit down and see a big nasty stain in the middle of the cushion, find food particles where they're sitting or sit down and a plume of dust take over their air passages. If there is a refreshment area, make sure it's stocked. Nothing peeves me more than ordering a soda and being told it's not available, then ordering another kind and having the same thing happen. Make sure you have enough of your top selling products in case you run out. If your lobby area features overhead music, make sure the speakers are in good working order and not crackling and make sure the music you play is enjoyable for all ages, not just one demographic. (Grandma might not be a Rhianna fan, Dad might not like Justin Beiber's "Baby Baby" ultimate remix, and little Annie probably isn't gonna care for George Jones. Keep it light, keep it easy depending on your venue's genre and age group.) Use some kind of air freshener. Don't use a Febreze Coconut/Mango/Roses/Dead Animal scent but one that is strong yet not offensive.
Live Music Area: Make sure the floors are clean after each show, beverage spills cleaned. Make sure the sound guy knows what he's doing. There's nothing worse than paying to see your favorite artist and the sound mix is terrible. Keep an eye on security issues, avoid fights and possible bad scenarios. Make sure your acoustics are the best they can be.
Restrooms: Keep 'em clean. I think that's all I need to say.
Artists: If you want good music, you gotta be willing to pay for good music. If you want mediocre music that will almost guarantee you with an empty bar at midnight, then go ahead and hire a second rate band at a cheap rate. When people go out to hear live music, they want to hear good music, not your uncle Phil who once played in a band in Nashville and they don't want to hear the same bar band every weekend. Just because someone recorded a song in Nashville does not make them a real Nashville recording artist so don't be misleading with your advertising. If it's an unheard of band in the area, be realistic and don't make them guarantee a certain number of attendees. No one can guarantee that, not even major headliners. Take care of your artists, THEY are the reason your customers are there that night and make sure they're comfortable. They'll definitely consider booking at your venue in the future.
Take pride in your business, it reflects on you as a business person. Make sure it's well cared for and strive to make it the thriving business you wanted it to be when you bought it. It's up to you as a business owner, you can't depend on anyone else to do it for you.
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