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Hosting Live Music at Your Restaurant Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated: Follow These 7 Pointers 

Music is widely popular at restaurants, and most patrons expect to hear it playing in the background as they dine. However, establishments with live bands offer something particularly appealing. 

Deciding whether to host musicians at your eatery is no simple decision — a lot can go wrong if you don’t plan correctly. Here’s why you might consider bringing in live music and practical tips to set up.

Should Restaurants Host Live Music?

There are numerous reasons why restaurant owners should consider hosting live music at their establishments. A July 2022 Broadcast Music International (BMI) report says 61% of customers visit restaurants and bars for music alone. Another 79% stay longer if they like what they hear, while 58% spend more on food and beverages to sit and listen.

However, the positive effects of live music at your restaurant may not be enough to justify hiring bands to play. You must fulfill additional expenses, licensures and equipment necessities before musicians can entertain patrons. 

For instance, do you have the appropriate gear available? Is there enough floor space to accommodate guests and bands without potential hazards? Ultimately, weighing whether live music will cost you more or improve your bottom line is essential.

7 Tips for Delivering Live Music at Your Eatery

You’ve listened to the demo tapes and have found the perfect band to play at your establishment. Now, you must prepare for a night of entertainment and dining. If you’re not careful, hosting live music can land your eatery in hot water. Here are seven tips for bringing musicians in to play at your restaurant.  

Obtain the Necessary Licenses

Before hosting live music — or even playing it over a speaker system — restaurant owners must obtain the appropriate licenses for copyrighted songs. Restaurants that get caught playing music without permission could face hefty fines. 

The most prevalent performing arts organizations are BMI, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, and the Society of European Authors and Composers — and you must seek licensure from all three. 

So, what’s the cost? Since bars without live music pay $500-$1,500 for each organization’s repertoire, you can expect fees to be higher to have actual bands perform.

Check Insurance Details

Despite the joy live music brings to any dining experience, things can go awry quickly. Musicians may trip over cables and equipment and customers may slip on the dance floor. For these reasons, it’s best to see if you need extra insurance coverage to protect your establishment.

Speak to your provider to determine what your existing policy includes. The cost could be worth it if you need additional coverage. Otherwise, you may face out-of-pocket liability expenses for injuries and damages. 

Meet Power Requirements

Are you hosting a pianist to play romantic dinner music at your Italian eatery? Perhaps you’ve invited a local soloist to strum a few acoustic songs at a coffee shop. Different types of musicians will have specific sound requirements. Restaurant owners must provide the essentials for musicians to hook up their equipment and perform with the utmost quality.  

On average, coffee shops, restaurants and bars need around 250 watts of power to fill the space with adequate sound. For a more accurate measurement, remember that speakers can reach 16-32 feet to the back of the room.

Prepare a Stage

Creating a stage for performers requires careful thought and consideration. Do some tables have an obstructed view? You want to set up live musicians where everyone can see them.

You must also ensure enough space to accommodate the musicians and equipment. For example, a solo guitarist may bring a portable miniature amplifier for a coffee shop performance, while a five-piece band will need plenty of space for multiple setups. 

Hire Bands for Busy Nights

According to a 2023 Yelp survey, dine-ins from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. account for 60% of all reservations, with 6 p.m. reserved as primetime. Consider scheduling bands for your busiest hours to appease the most customers and make significant returns on hiring live music.

Whether it’s the weekend or a weekday ladies’ night, your restaurant can boost its reputation for quality service and excellent entertainment. Another option is to hold an open mic night during the week for anyone to perform a few songs.

Promote and Pay Fairly

Musicians always promote their shows. However, you should assist by encouraging patrons to visit during entertainment hours. When your venue guarantees payments to the band, bringing in as many customers as possible is in your best interest. The highest-quality bands will likely expect this form of payment.

Regardless, the more people who come to your establishment for food, drinks and live music, the better your chances of boosting your restaurant’s reputation. 

Comp Food and Drinks

Offering musicians complimentary food and beverages is a kind gesture. Inform them of your policy beforehand — they are guaranteed to return if you provide a free meal or cocktails. 

In return, unless you’ve invited a touring band, musicians should tip for whatever service you provide. If not, you may not extend such an offer again or invite them back. Consider what you can comp bands without losing out on too much revenue. 

Create Memorable Dining Experiences With Live Music

Hosting live music could greatly benefit your restaurant. Entertainment helps create a pleasant dining atmosphere for customers and musicians alike. As long as you pursue the necessary licensure and specifications, live music is worth integrating into your business model.

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