The Benefits – And Risks – Of A Residency

[Editor's Note: The following is the first in a series of articles by Ryan Sweeney about getting a residency for your band]

A residency is a phenomenal opportunity to give fans something unique. Though they come in all shapes and sizes – three or four shows on consecutive nights, one show a week for several weeks; promoter pays a guarantee, venue gives you a percentage of the door – residencies are, at their heart, a chance to show off a new side of your music to current and potential fans.

These opportunities come with their own special challenges, though. A residency needs to be promoted differently, coordinated differently, and performed differently. Here’s a brief overview of the things you need to remember when angling to land a residency for your band:

Different Expectations (And Different Calls to Action)
Obviously, it is much easier to pitch the possibility of playing a residency if you have a good relationship with a venue or promoter(s), or if you have a history of delivering what you say you will. But you have to remember that all of your fans won’t come out to every single date. Don’t hurt your relationship with a venue by over-promising and under-delivering.

Let’s say your band draws an average of 75 people to a regular show. When pitching the idea of a residency to a venue, tell them about your normal draw of 75, but also tell them you’re expecting 25-30 people per residency show. This will show them you are appropriately evaluating your draw.

Also, it will help if you mention to the promoter you are doing something special to draw fans. This can be something related to your music – maybe you are playing all acoustic versions of your songs – or related to your promotional efforts, like securing a drink sponsor or partnering with a local promoter to coordinate the show and help draw an audience.

Up to this point, most of the tactics you’ve honed have centered on one-off events – one show in one venue, on one night. You need to promote your residency slightly differently.

Artistic Chances (And Risks)
Typically it is a good idea to consider a residency only when you have enough material to play new songs at every show. This allows you let your fans know that every show you play will be unique, which increases the chance of the same fans coming out to more than one show.

But it can’t be all about repertoire. Get creative on how you bring in your audience. I have seen other bands play two or three night residencies where they only performed songs that they’d never played on tour before.

Whether your band is producing the entire residency or just showing up and playing a slot once a week for a month, changing up your set is still a good idea. The only time a band might not want to do this is if there is a built-in audience at the venue. In that case, always play your strongest set.

More Power (And More Responsibility)
The best residencies allow a band to coordinate the entire series. When a band can handpick opening acts, set the ticket price, organize promoters and sponsors and other aspects of the residency, it gives them a chance to make the series exactly what they want it to be.

That said, it is a lot of work, and without meticulous attention to detail, the residency will fail. If any of the bands don’t draw, it comes back to you. If the promoters aren’t given enough information about the bands or there’s a miscommunication about how many people they can comp, it comes back to you.

If you’re organized, though, coordinating a residency represents a huge opportunity. You get to play with new bands, both local and out of town, and create strong long-lasting relationships with them. And if you pull the whole thing off, all the bands, promoters, sponsors and presenters you’ve been working with will come away respecting you.

If you are expected to draw 50 people per show, do not be afraid to ask the venue or promoter for at least some input (if not outright control) on variables like booking. It can lead to great things.