Host Toolkit

Tips for everything from Profiles to Running the Show, for hosts

Leigh avatar
Written by Leigh
Updated over a week ago

Hosts create venue profiles, which include a description and photos of the space. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when creating your venue profile:

Space Description

The venue description is your opportunity to entice artists to match with you and to give potential guests a sense of what to expect of your space during a show.

A few things to keep in mind when writing your venue description:

  • What is your seating like?

    • Chairs? Pillows? Standing only? Bring your own seating?

  • What is the vibe of your space?

    • Listening room, party etc.

  • Is your space accessible?

    • It’s good to provide specifics here. Are there stairs? A ramp? An elevator?

  • Are there pets in your space?

    • It's helpful to specify what kind(s) of pets there are so that guests can prepare based on potential allergies / fears etc.

Photos of Your Space:

You can add multiple photos to your profile, so get creative! A visual can go a long way to making your guests feel comfortable before ever setting foot in the door.

Make sure you include clear, interesting, eye-catching photos of:

  • Outside the venue

  • Inside the venue

  • Make sure you include photos of the ‘stage’ area and the area where guests will gather.

Here are some tips on how to get started booking shows for your space on Side Door:

Connecting with Artists

Connecting is a key part of Side Door. A ‘connection’ is made when an Artist responds to your Show Call, or you’ve responded to theirs, and a chat is created.

Whether or not a show booking comes from a Show Call, creating a list of connections makes future bookings much easier down the road, as you can tap into those connections when a better time arises, without the need to create another Show Call.

We recommend not only creating Show Calls as needed, but also checking Artists Seeking Hosts on the Connect page frequently.

Read more about connections here: What is Connect? What are Connections?

The Chat

Once you’ve created a connection, a Chat will be created between you and the Artist. This is a great place to discuss all the potential of working together on a show.

Details about the time, location, tickets, capacity, and expectations of the show itself are all good things to cover in advance of confirming the booking.

Show Cancellation

In the event of the need to cancel a show, the first thing to do is be sure that you’ve had a conversation with the artist. The best place to do that is the chat.

Here’s how: Show Cancellation

When you cancel your show, all ticketholders will be emailed and automatically refunded.

If you have a Facebook event, be sure to notify guests of the cancellation and write it in the title too, so it’s all clear at first glance.

All public shows are listed on Side Door’s shows page and in our Facebook Events (if you have invited Side Door to be a co-host on Facebook).

However, it’s important to remember that Side Door is not a show promoter - we facilitate the connection to create shows. Promotion is up to the host and the artist.

That said, we’re here to help guide you! Here are a few suggestions to get you started with promotion:

Promotion Timeline

The sooner you start promotion, the better! As a rule, you should announce at least 3 months before the show. People will have time to clear their calendar, invite their friends, and make plans to attend.

Announcing includes all crucial details about the show:

  • Information about the Artist

  • Show Date

  • Show Time

  • Show Location

  • Accessibility

  • Ticket Price

  • Expectations of the Audience

  • A link to buy tickets (which is created automatically if you book your show with Side Door!)

Facebook Events

First things first - Facebook events are a free, easy, and effective way to promote your show. For many artists on Side Door, most of their guests find out about their show from Facebook.

Your Facebook event will be even more successful if you link it to Side Door’s Facebook events page. So, if this is a public show, invite Side Door to be a co-host, so the event appears on our page, as well as yours.

Please note: this will only work with a Facebook page - not a personal Facebook profile. Consider starting a Page for your venue, or talk to your artist about who will make the event. Artists often have a Facebook page already and can be quite used to creating Facebook events!

If you have a private space, you can create a private Facebook event to invite your friends, family, etc.

Setup guide for Facebook events:

  • Add the artist’s image to the Facebook event’s header.

  • Add a ticket-sales link (use the link to the show on Side Door).

  • Include a short description of the artist (you can copy this from their Side Door profile) and the venue.

  • Include a link to samples of the artist’s work.

  • Include some general info about your venue - it’s helpful for potential guests to hear about things like seating, accessibility, and whether or not you have pets!

  • Post updates in your Facebook Event to let people know what is going on and to encourage ticket sales.

  • GO TO OUR FACEBOOK EVENT TEMPLATE HERE: Facebook Event Template - Side Door

Mailing Lists

You’ll want to start a guest mailing list as early as possible.

Pass a notebook around before or after each show to collect names and email addresses. Our guest list manager allows you to export all the emails from ticket buyers of those who have opted in. You can enter these emails into a free service like MailChimp, allowing you to design and send out mass emails.

Email the list before the show is announced to let them know it is coming! It never hurts to include a YouTube video or streaming link of the artist to entice the audience.

Paid Advertising

Facebook Ads

Paid advertising is an option through the user-friendly Facebook Ads platform, which allows you to run advertisements on both Facebook and Instagram.

In addition to creating ads from scratch, you can turn your Facebook page’s posts and events into advertisements with just a few clicks. Click here to learn more about boosting a post or boosting an event.

Digital advertisements through services like Facebook Ads can be useful to boost awareness, but do not guarantee sales.

We suggest mapping out a budget for each show and sticking to it if you choose to do paid advertising. Fortunately, Facebook Ads lets you set strict budget limits for your advertisements, so you can be sure that you won’t overspend.

Other Forms of Paid Promotion

There are many other online platforms that you can create paid ads on - for example, Kiiji (popular in Canada), Reddit, and Spotify are all affordable and easy to use.

Of course, there are also traditional forms of paid promotion like local radio or newspaper ads. These can be effective, but it depends on the publication and how popular it is in your area and with the people who may want to come to your show.

Talk to the Artist

The artist and the host should work on promotion together.

Talk to the artist through the Side Door chat about promotion activities. They may have their own mailing list they’d like to send information to. Or maybe they want to invite super fans.

Curation, Local Outreach

Curate and Connect

It is unlikely that potential guests will know every artist you bring to your space. So try to connect your audience with the artist.

What we mean by this is, maybe the artist supports certain charities while touring, or has a connection to your town - this may involve a little research on your end, but we promise, it’s worth it!

Local Outreach

Local outreach means posters, mailing lists, flyers, local event listings, and good old-fashioned legwork - getting out to other shows in your area!

It’s important to keep in mind that your show’s artist(s) will be hard at work promoting to their core fan-base in your area - your goal is to reach out to people in your area who may not yet be fans of the artist, buy may be interested in coming to the show.

Mailing Lists

Mailing lists allow you to stay in touch with people who came to your shows in the past.

You can create a sign-up form for the door at your next show, then send a message to those folks when you are ready to announce your next show!


Post notices on community boards, local poster boards, and anywhere else that you’ve seen other notices for shows.

Make sure you include all the important details!

Local Listings

Whether it’s a zine, online forum, or any other kind of event listings, it may be worth considering notifying them about your show.

You can even contact local community or college/university radio stations and see if they’ll boost your event on the air.

Any space can be a venue, but it’s important to think about what you need to do to prepare your space for the show. Here are a few things to consider:

Artist’s Input

First - Ask The Artist! Talk to them in our chat to go over what they might need to be most comfortable in the space.

General mood

There are a few subtle things you can do to ensure that the mood of your space helps the audience focus on the show.

House music:

House music is a great way to set the mood when guests arrive, but it’s easy to forget to turn it off when it comes time for the artist to begin the show.

Lines of sight:

Make sure people can easily see the artist from the main audience-area. It’s frustrating for an audience member who gets stuck sitting or standing behind an obstruction, especially if the show is sold-out.

Green Room

It’s always nice to have a private space for the artist to prepare before the show. This can be an office space, bedroom, or anywhere your guests won’t be.

The green room should have:

  • Water

  • A mirror

  • Snacks

It’s a nice gesture to reach out to the artist you’re hosting in the Side Door chat to discuss their expectations before the show and if they have any diet restrictions, food sensitivities, or allergies.

Merchandise Space

Merchandise sales are really important to artists. They offer additional revenue and an opportunity for people to connect with them and spread the word. Having an area in your venue dedicated to merch sales is always appreciated.

Put your sales hat on - you want the merch table to be:

  • Easy to find

  • Well lit

  • Located in an area with space for people to gather and look at the items for sale

Consider having a friend or family member volunteer to run the table.

Stage Lighting

A little bit of decorative lighting goes a long way! Mini lights are an easy and affordable solution. Photo by Scott Munn

A little bit of decorative lighting goes a long way!
Mini lights are an easy and affordable solution. Photo by Scott Munn

Lighting is one of the most common things that hosts overlook. While it is very important that the audience can hear the artist, having decent lighting of the stage area plays a surprisingly big role in making a show feel like - a show!

Does your stage area have separate lighting from where the audience will sit?

Even a subtle change in lighting can be enough to send a visual cue dividing the ‘stage’ from the rest of the room.

The day of the show will be busy, exciting, and hopefully a lot of fun! Here are a few things for Hosts to think about ahead of time to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible:

The day of the show will be hectic enough, so we’ve created a handy checklist for hosts to use! Take a look and print out your own copy: Hosting Checklist

Load in / Soundcheck

You will need to do a soundcheck for any artist using amplification (a PA or amplifier). Discuss the needs of the artist before show day. If a sound person is required, be sure that everyone knows who’s responsible and if a fee is required, who’s paying for it.

Soundcheck requirements can vary as wildly as the show itself. A solo artist using only a microphone and PA may only take five minutes, while a full band (or multiple bands) could take longer.

A good rule to follow: Aim to finish soundcheck at least 1 hour before the show is scheduled to start.

This gives the artist time to relax before the show and the host time to welcome guests at the door.

The main goal during soundcheck should be ensuring that the overall volume of the performance isn’t too loud (or too quiet) for your guests. Excessively loud shows can be painful and even cause hearing damage. While it can be hard to find a level that works for everyone, you can consider offering foam earplugs (available at any pharmacy) for guests who find the show too loud.

Managing the Door

It’s important to have someone greeting your guests as they arrive, both in public and private spaces. This person will be responsible for checking names off the guest list and facilitating any door sales. Provide the door person with a float of small bills for anyone who may pay in cash at the door and needs change.

You can check in guests with any of these methods:

  • Manually check in guests using the Audience Manager

  • Print the PDF or CSV guest list and cross off names

  • Scan the QR code of your guest’s tickets using your mobile device’s camera

It’s a great idea to be there to welcome guests, tell them where the bathrooms are, and let them know who to ask if they have any questions or problems.

To ensure that the artist is fully compensated for any cash ticket sales made at the door, the host can ‘buy back’ tickets in the Side Door ticketing system using a credit card or mobile pay at the end of the show through the door sales ticket link.

Read more about managing the door here: Managing Ticket Sales and Audience Manager

Welcome Speech Before Performance

It’s always a good idea to welcome guests and introduce the artist before the performance. As a host, this is your opportunity to review important things like emergency exits, bathrooms, and house rules, and to establish the vibe of the show.

Don’t forget to mention your mailing list, the merch table, and maybe even say a few words of how this event came to be.

Pay special attention to your audience. If you have limited seating, try to prioritize a place to sit for those who might need it most.

Thank You / Show Wrap Up

After the show ends, we recommend addressing the audience briefly to thank them for coming and thank the artist. This is also a great time to mention your mailing list and the artist’s merch table.

Finally, if you’ve enjoyed hosting, we encourage you to let your audience know about Side Door and share your experience as a host. If anyone else is interested in hosting a show, send them our way!

Photos From the Show

If you or any of your guests took any photos, we would love to see them!

If you’re comfortable with it, it can be fun to document your shows - we suggest a group photo of the artist, host, and the audience to document the community you’re building!

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