live music

How to Make the Most of Live Music in Your Restaurant

Live music can be an effective way to attract customers to your restaurant and encourage them to spend more money on food and drinks. Music and food share an intimate connection: they conjure emotional responses that give your restaurant more personality and create memories for your customers. Bringing these two elements together is also a powerful expression of your brand, whether it’s a pianist softening the atmosphere during Sunday brunch, a band singing Broadway tunes for an after-theatre crowd or a cool singer-songwriter who could be the next-big-thing.

Here’s how you can make the most of live music:

Find the right performers for your demographic

Determine your target demographic and the music that they like. Do a quick survey of your customers with questionnaire cards on the tables and perhaps offer a free appetizer in return for their thoughts. Or get wait staff to ask guests after a meal what kind of live music they’d like to hear. Once you know the music they like, or if you already know what would fit in with your menu, décor and atmosphere, go online and search “local musicians,” with the name of the genre. Once you find their online presence and contact info, connect with them or their representative to see about a booking.

“Take a look at other restaurants in your town or city, and see what they’re booking,” suggests Jennifer Brown, senior vice-president of operations at SOCAN. “Go out to see live music at bars and small clubs. If you see some artists you think would be a good fit, ask them about a possible gig at your restaurant.”

If there are open mic nights where musicians play two or three songs at bars or small clubs in your city, have a look there to find undiscovered gems who might be available.

Best days to schedule live music

People look for live music most often on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The drawback is that there are a lot of other musical offerings competing to attract listeners during these nights. It might seem counter-intuitive, but if you book live music on a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night, and make that a recurring event at your restaurant, you can build a following that makes you a target destination for that evening.

live music

Promote your event

Once you’ve booked a live act, social media is a key way to promote it. Live music is very visual, so think about using platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Start promoting the event one month in advance so customers’ and the artist’s followers mark their calendars. As the date draws closer, accelerate your promotion and increase to daily posts the week before. Engage your musicians along the way. If there’s a really great band, singer or instrumentalist, make sure to give them shout-outs on social media platforms, using their handles and hashtags or tagging them in your posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They will re-market these posts to their followers and draw them into your restaurant. 

Boost the morale of your artists

Restaurants that have music creators’ interests at heart will make sure they are compensated properly. Keep in mind, when you hire musicians to play at your restaurant and pay them directly, you’re only paying the performers for playing music.

“You’re still required by law to pay music licenses so that the songwriters who created the music also get fairly compensated for their work, which you’re using to improve your bottom line,” says Brown. “Even if the performers also wrote the songs, they are two different kinds of musical work and require two different kinds of payment. The license administered by SOCAN ends up as royalties for songwriters. That’s how they make a living.”

Legalize it

It’s easy to work with SOCAN to obtain the right license to play music to make your business better. Just go to and use the License Finder tool. A bar or restaurant might need more than one license to play music, depending on how they use it for their customers. There are different licenses for background music, live music, karaoke and recorded music for dancing, each bringing its own value to businesses for entertainment and retaining customers.

Becoming Licensed To Play by SOCAN will help ensure you make the most of your live music event. For more information, please visit SOCAN’s website.

SOCAN: Licensed to Play live music