Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Touring Bands: Where to Play in Vancouver

Hello all bands, artists, musicians.

Having recently booked a Western Canada Tour, it rapidly became clear to me just how difficult it can be to find venues if you're a band that's going on tour. Not only to find venues of your genre, but venues that also provide bands with a guarantee or some other means of compensation that makes the gig all the more worth while to you.

Because it's a struggle I can empathize with, I thought I'd post a blog to provide "Do-it-yourself" bands with some helpful tips about booking gigs AND to give you a complete and up-to-date list of venues in Vancouver.

First thing I realized about hunting for venues in unfamiliar cities is that there is no real online site that is a hub for the information that you need. So! I'm giving back to all of you by giving info on the area I know best. VANCOUVER!!!! Hope this helps:)

First: Some Tour Booking Tips

Tip #1) Decide when and where you want to tour.

-Go to Chapters and buy a good map / atlas of the area that you want to tour.
-Highlight the major cities you want to hit
-Draw in a rough outline of your driving route
-Keep in mind the distance between cities (find out how many hours of driving between each)
-Decide when you'll tour and for how long
-List all your cities and tag them to a date that's reasonable
* Try and book your major cities on the weekend (Friday, Saturday) and work around that.

Tip #2) Skip Email. Call.

-Once you've got your outline, start with the first date and city
-google the live music venues in that area
-list the top venues that seem like they are for sure "music" venues. Hit those first.
-CALL THEM. Emailing takes way too long. Weeks can go by before you'll ever hear from them. By then, you may lose track on whether or not you pursued them in the first place.
-Talk to someone at the venue ask these questions:
"do you book live music?" "what nights of the week?" "what style genre?" if all yes and is a potential match for you....ask "can I speak with the person that handles the bookings"
- get a name, phone number and/or email - connect with them.
-Provide them with these: tell them what you're doing (touring), give a link to your myspace, an exact date that you'd like to book, your contact info. Keep it short and to-the-point.

Tip#3) Keep track!!!

I keep a list that looks like this.... THIS IS AN EXAMPLE

Today's date: April 7th
Target City/Date: Calgary, September 9th

List of Venues in Calgary to Call:

Venue name here Venue number here Status: called, left message
Venue name here Venue number here Status: talked to owner, sent email
Venue name here Venue number here Status: called, left message
Venue name here Venue number here Status: interested in the gig
Venue name here Venue number here Status: doesn't do live music anymore

I call every venue and keep notes as I go along. That way I know exactly where I stand with each venue. You save loads of time when you don't have to double back or review the same venues multiple times.

Tip#4) Follow Up

-be resilient and follow up with all potential venues
- it can be discouraging but stay on them!
-if you haven't heard back in a few days or a week. Follow up with a polite email or phone call.
-Stay on them! Stay on them!

Tip#5) Book your tour 4-6 months in advance

-this gives you enough time to book ahead AND do any tour promo
-some venues will only book 6 months in advance!

Tip#6) What to ask for

-While you're on the road anything helps!
-ask for a guarantee, a door deal, meals/drinks, accommodations etc. etc.
-Every deal is different and may not get all of these things but always ask.
-Don't be afraid to negotiate. If they offer you a deal - if you want more, ask for more. They may give it to you. If they don't, then decide on whether or not you still want it anyway.

Tip#7) Contract it

-Once you've made your deals and booked your dates, make a one page agreement stating ALL information that you've agreed on. Get them to sign it and fax back! Last thing you want is a venue to flake out on you.
-You should include these things:
Band name/info, Venue name, city, address, name of the talent buyer, his contact info,
Fee agreed upon(guarantee) Set time, Set length, Load in Time, Sound check time, if venue provides PA and sound tech, Additional details like: accommodations provided, if you have a % of door deal, meals and drinks included. etc etc. Put everything in this contract!

After that, you're all good.

Touring Bands: Where to Play in Vancouver

The Roxy - is the best sounding venue in Vancouver (in my opinion) Large stage, fully equipped, sound tech, dance floor, popular bar/club and is busy every night of the week. This is one of my favourite places to go! They mostly have hired cover bands (who are great!) but they do book original bands of most genres on certain nights of the week prior to the cover bands. Located in the heart of downtown Vancouver in the most lively area along the Granville Street strip. Go to their site for info. (

The Bourbon - This is also a great sounding venue (comparable to the Roxy) They have live music almost every night. Located in Gastown - From the outside it looks a bit sketchy, but once you're inside, you see that its a large venue and gets really busy on the weekends. They have a great stage, dance floor, two bars on both sides, seating area and pool tables. This is a popular place to go and see live bands. I've seen every genre played here! (hip hop, metal, singer songwriter, rock, pop, you name it) (

The Railway Club - This is a beautiful place for artists and bands to play. The atmosphere is cozy and the audience is usually quite receptive. They have a good sized stage that is leveled with your crowd ( at seated high top tables/bar stools, some booths and seated area) When it's busy most people stand. There's also a large back room where you can eat and drink quietly away from the stage if you want. All the staff @ The Railway are fantastic people, they make you feel welcome and part of their familiar. This venue believes in and supports live music the most! They have live music every night of the week, (most genres) and they'll also do quite a bit of promoting for you as well (ie. posters up around the venue, handbills etc). Located downtown on the corner of Seymour St. and Dunsmiur St.

The Media Club - This is another very active live music venue located downtown (Georgia and Cambie St.) Live music every night, different genres - this is a good venue for throwing events! Lots of local bands and touring bands play here on a regular basis. The room is a smaller, more comfortable space, decent size stage, with lounge like seating and bar. Sound is good, sound guy there is one of my favourite people. (

The Backstage Lounge - Another popular live music venue that a lot of bands like to play. This is also a good room if you're a solo artist or do something more acoustic. Live music most nights. Located on Granville Island (beautiful at night time on the water, nice view of the city) Good for holding events. Promote your show! (not a lot of walk in crowd) They'll give you a door deal, most likely a % of tickets sold. Stage is slightly elevated, small dance floor, bar, comfortable seating, patio. Sound is decent. (

Malones Bar and Grill - Has live bands on Friday, Saturday nights. Located across the street from The Railway Club. The sound is not the greatest (but I hear they are investing in upgrading their P.A.) fingers crossed. Usually quite busy on the weekends so you'll have a crowd. They give you a good guarantee and if you're out of town, they may give you a room to stay in the hostel above the bar. Plus they'll give you 30% off food and drinks. They'll want you to play 3 sets between 10pm-1am (you can find an opener is you want) The staff is rad!

The Main - is located on Main St. Very cool area of the city. Highly artistic and creative district. This is a restaurant that has live music on Thurs, Fri and Saturday nights. The stage is really small (not ideal for bands) though, they still book bands. This is best done as a solo, duo or trio act. They want 3 sets between 10pm-1am. When it's busy, I usually always walk out of there with a nice amount of cash. Not a big sound system - they'll want you to run your own sound (its a pretty straight forward set up) The staff are very friendly. If you searched music venues in Vancouver, this one wouldn't be likely to come up - it's a diamond in the ruff. One of my favourite discoveries. Call directly.
4210 Main St.
Vancouver, BC V5V3P9
Tel: (604) 709-8555

The Biltmore - I personally don't know too much about this venue. I've never played there but I do see a lot of bands (local and touring) coming in and out of this place. I hear its a great spot in East Van. I know the room is spacious, nice stage set up, great atmosphere. (

Pub 340 - I've played there a few times and didn't mind it. Again, looks a bit sketchy on the outside but the inside is OK. Decent stage, sound is alright. Cheap beer! A lot of heavier music pulls through there, punk, metal, garage rock etc etc. but have seen other genres there as well. I'm not sure how the door deals work there - they'll usually stick a few bands on a bill for the night.

* All of the venues mention above: If you book a gig there, your show will automatically be put in the local newspaper "The Georgia Straight" somewhere in the events listings. They are good with their listings.

The Rusty Gull - is a pub located on the North Shore. This venue has a lot of educated musicians walking in and out. They know their music. I believe Bryan Adams used to play there a lot. The guy that books the place is super cool. Played a couple acoustic sets there before, but they love to have bands either original, cover or a combination of both.

Venue - is a huge club also on the Granville strip. (and is fairly new to Vancouver) Larger names pull through here. Books touring acts that are more well known with a large fan base. Huge stage, dance floor, great sound. The club has two bars on both sides on the bottom floor and has a staircase to a mezzanine with a third bar overlooking the stage. Cool party place.

Checkers - A pub on Davie St. near English Bay I recently discovered will hire solo or duo acoustic acts to come in a play a few sets of covers with some originals if you want (between 9pm -1am depending on how busy it is). You'll get a guarantee and maybe a few drinks and meal. Booker is cool. Staff is cool too. I played there on a Tuesday night. But they also have bands on the weekends.

Coffee Shop Type Venues:

Trees Organic Coffee House - my favourite coffee shop to play. Located on Granville street (further down away from the clubs) This is an acoustic venue, with a great listening crowd. On music night, typically they have 3 singer/songwriters with roughly a 45min set each. You can enjoy their wonderful food and coffee, sell some Cd's (musicians split the donations) The owner/Booker is also a fantastic songwriter himself (He hosts music night and plays a set as well) He's very welcoming, in tune with Vancouver's music scene, and genuinely loves to support live music. (

The Wired Bean - located on the North Shore. Another great listening venue. Usually a few singer/songwriters in a night. Musicians take donations. Great food, coffee and martinis! The woman that runs the bookings is also very supportive of live music and very hard working!

For Jazz:
The Cellar Jazz Club
is the place to go (
O'Doul's Restaurant (

For Blues:
The Yale (

For a complete guide to Open Mics in Vancouver:

And there you have it!
If you have questions or need help contacting these places, email me: and I'd be happy to help.

I hope this list of information is helpful to bands coming to Vancouver and makes their tour booking process a little bit easier:)



  1. This a great list for bands traveling to Vancouver; if you want to help make it easier for bands to get to Vancouver sign up at ( and sign up as a host.

  2. Helpful list and inspiring advice :) ...only recently I have discovered couple of other interesting places in Vancouver, so if you are interested look at my list.