By Vanessa Cavasinni, editor Australian Hotelier

Live music can change the vibe and patronage of a pub, so to be taken seriously as a venue for music lovers to patronise, getting the right set-up, bookings and gig calendar is essential. The licensees of two pubs known for live music share their advice on what needs to be considered.

Josh Stewart runs the Bald Faced Stag Hotel, a pub that has been revered in Sydney as a live music haven for decades. The ‘Stag’ has a front bar stage that can host 100 people, and a larger auditorium section where acts can play for up to 450 people. The pub hosts eight live music gigs a week, and is hoping to increase that to 10 shows a week over the next 12 months.

In Melbourne, the Bendigo Hotel is known as one the best live music pubs in the city, thanks to licensee Guy Palermo, who in 2010 reverted the restaurant/function space area back into a live music space, as it was in the 70s and 80s. Since then the Bendigo has won numerous accolades for its live music offering.

Stewart and Palermo shared their tips as to what makes a pub a successful live music venue.

Vary your acts

Even if your pub focuses on one particular style of music, ensuring that you play different styles of music will bring more people to your venue.

Stewart: “The Stag has certainly been known, at least for the last few years, as a bit of a home base for rock and heavier music genres like metal and hardcore. We love and embrace being the home of that here but we are by no means exclusively that and have regular shows from garage to hip hop  to Latino music to 50s big band swing.”

Set-up matters

Invest in your staging and equipment if you want to be taken seriously.

Palermo: “Our band room is a 300-capacity room. We update our equipment every 2-3 years to give the bands the best possible sound and lighting for the size of the room; the whole set-up will set you back over $100,000 plus there is ongoing maintenance. If you don’t have the right setup and you have a full room it will sound terrible – bands won’t want to play at a venue which doesn’t sound great, nor will their fans turn up to hear them.”

The right personnel

Having a band booker in the know can really set your gig list apart from other venues.

Palermo: “In order to be successful you need a great band booker or band booking agency to get bands playing at your venue. After a few not-so-successful attempts I was fortunate to get one the best band bookers in the country, Dave Collins – also known as DC – who played a major role in creating a metal/rock/punk scene in the venue. It’s been a lot of hard work to [make] crowd-pulling bands want to play at your venue, and having DC on board was a game changer.”


The correct soundproofing and communicating with your neighbours, can help avoid noise complaints.

Stewart: “We have done quite a bit of noise reduction on the venue over the past six months to what already existed and upgraded our PA, and hence we do not get noise complaints.  We are also very conscious of the regulations placed on our venue and we adhere to these very closely, so that helps to keep our neighbours, our bands and our guests happy.”

This article is an excerpt of a larger feature on music within venues in the July issue of Australian Hotelier. Check out the digital edition of the magazine here.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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