Tips on Booking a Venue with Justin Rudge

Subscribe to Forte Magazine

Tips on Booking a Venue with Justin Rudge

With the news of Music Victoria’s brand new Live Music Professionals program, a free opportunity for established independent promoters and venue bookers, Forté chat to industry expert Justin Rudge, head of Melbourne-based artist booking service Public Bookings, to get an insight into the booking business.

So Justin, you’re a wealth of knowledge on booking everything from small scale gigs to larger ones. Have you got any pro tips on what to avoid, or issues to keep an eye out for?
It’s a business for everyone involved. Art is important, but remember commercial imperatives for all involved. Aim within your means, and be aware as a venue booker that you are responsible for making your venue sustainable. We all want to have great bands in our venue, but if it isn’t financially sustainable, it’s no good for the artists, punters, venue, or your career!

Music Victoria has just launched Live Music Professionals, a program to help venue bookers and promoters build more sustainable careers, how do you think this would have benefited you in the mid stages of your career?
We are fortunate in Victoria to have a wonderful community who will happily divulge resources and information – if you have the gumption to ask! I see the LMP program as breaking down that barrier for those beginning their careers who might not have the networks to learn from others in the responsibilities of venue booking.

If you had to name a single most important aspect of curating a line-up, what would it be and why?
I believe that line-ups and events only work if everyone is happy – venue, artist and punter. Curate your line-ups to ensure that you are going to (hopefully!) achieve this.

For people who’ve never dipped their toes into booking before, what’s the best way to get started?
You absolutely need to have a passion for what you’re working on – in the early stages, the financial benefits won’t be enough to make you happy! Work with artists you’re passionate about, and place them in venues that suit the market and demographic you want to work in. It’s a numbers game, but also a word of mouth industry. Do good work, and the work (and opportunities and income) will follow.

Finally Justin, have you got any good stories for us about an event that went either amazingly well by chance, or by contrast, one that went horribly wrong?
I was managing an artist that was REALLY taking off. We had booked a venue with too small a capacity, and was close to selling out as doors opened. The venue had a new door person, who hadn’t taken the guest list into account, so we were over capacity before the first band started. I made frantic calls to those on the guest list who hadn’t arrived, apologising if they couldn’t get in. As the headline band started, I was apologising to a group of 50 punters who couldn’t get in – a good problem to have. At that point a fancy car drove up, and a highly respected international promoter got out. A firm conversation was had with management, who were refusing to let him in – so I sent him in and missed the gig myself! By the end of the night, the promoter had shaken hands on their first national tour support, so it was worth it.

Live Music Professionals is a free opportunity for established independent promoters and venue bookers. For more information, visit

Applications for the program are open until March 31.