How to Find a Local Show: 6 Bits of Advice
It can be easy to miss out on a thriving local music scene if you don’t know where to look. Big concert tours featuring nationally-known artists tend to get the most attention, but are not necessarily the best music that’s being played live near you. Often for much less money you can catch better, more interesting acts in much smaller venues and even have the chance to talk to the musicians afterwards. A city’s local music scene can be one of its biggest draws, so if you don’t make seeing local shows part of your routine, you could be missing out on the best part of your town. Here are some tips to help you find your city’s music scene and see local shows.
1. Read local publications
Reading local publications is the best way to find out about what’s going on in your city. Don’t just stick to the city’s biggest newspaper, as local magazines focused on music can be much more thorough in letting you know about shows going on and telling you about local up-and-coming bands. Local music publications are often free, so if you see free magazines laying around in a bar or cafe, those can often be the best sources of information for where and when to see a show. Once you figure out which publications give the best information about the types of shows you like to go to, you can follow them on social media as well to get easy and quick updates.
2. Actually look at flyers
You know all those flyers you see hung up on cork boards at coffee shops and bars and taped to poles on the street corners? If you’re looking to see some local music, you should actually try reading those. Bands looking to promote their shows often put up flyers like that and it can be a great way to find out about events that might be too small or outside the mainstream to get press. Flyers are also a good way to find out about venues that you might’ve passed up or never heard of otherwise.
3. Learn about local venues
Once you’ve gotten out and about a bit, you should figure out which local venues you like best. Which bars book the coolest acts, have the cheapest covers, or offer drink specials are all things to look out for. Other things to consider are places that have weekly or monthly events that interest you. Many bars will book the same band to play during the same time each week, which is a great way to get to know the regular acts where you live. Some bars offer an open mic night on a regular basis, which gives new bands and performers the chance to learn their craft.
Watch for theme events like punk night or acoustic night or swing dance night to find a reliable place and time to see live music from your favorite genre. Venues that offer those type of events can be worth giving a second chance even if they don’t have the most desirable alcohol selection, or if perhaps the crowd or music isn’t really your scene the first time around. Multipurpose spaces can be particularly good spots to see music that might not have the best booze selection or food. But if good local music is what you’re looking for, you can find better food and drink before or after the show. Following venues on social media is a great way to stay updated about what’s going on in town and can help you be the first to hear about shows or find out that a show is happening that you might miss otherwise.
4. Talk to the bartender
Even in bars that don’t have live music, talking to the bartender can be the best way to find out what’s going on around town. Bartenders tend to be knowledgeable about local nightlife and can point you in the right direction for shows. The bartenders at shows are even better resources. When you order a drink, try asking the bartender if they know about any other cool shows coming up that you should check out. They may only plug events at the their venue, but chances are they’d be willing to tell you about anything cool that’s going on around town.
5. Find and follow your favorite local bands
Once you see a band that you like, make sure to remember their name. Sometimes that can be easier said than done, so writing it down on a napkin or in a note on your phone is helpful. Then you can follow those bands on social media to see where and when they’ll be playing again. The fact that local shows often have four or five acts on the same bill will help you see different people while also being guaranteed that the cover you pay isn’t wasted, because at least one of them will be an act that you already know you like. Following a band that you like around town is a good way to find out about new venues that might book similar bands.
6. There’s an app for that
If you’re out and about and you feel the spontaneous urge to see some live music, there are apps that tell you what’s going on in your city around your location. BandsInTown tells you about recently announced shows, upcoming shows, and shows that have just happened in your area and lists which shows are trending the highest.
BandMate has gotten great reviews for its functions that allow you to add a show to your personal calendar and its ability to search your music library and offer suggestions based on your taste. It also allows you to search by venue and access all kinds of information about an artist through the app.
Songkick is best for keeping up with bigger acts you already like rather than finding smaller local bands and will email you as soon as it’s announced that an artist you’re following through the app is coming to your town.
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