There will come a time in your either budding or flourishing career as a musician where you will feel an itch to try new things, extend your reach professionally, and expand your scope of artistry. This is what music residencies are for.
A plethora of opportunities exist on a global scale for artists to do just that, and they come in a number of forms, hosted in a number of places. Residencies are often the catalyst for new projects and collaborations among artists, and can be the experience that opens the door for new ways to move forward in your career.
Here we go, let’s dive into the heart of the matter to help you understand the different types of music residencies and how to get one:
1. The Two Types of Music Residencies
In the US, the term “residency” holds two rather different definitions. One is centered around performance, and the other focuses on creation. Let’s walk through them together.
Residency (n): The fact of living in a place. When an artist says they have a residency, they are either referring to a residency at a venue (performance), or a residency associated with a program or organization (creation). In both cases, the artist is stationary. Venue residencies mean the artist has recurring performances in one space, and artist residencies see artists living in or working in a space for a set period of time. The nature of these residencies are extremely different, and therefore sit in stark contrast to each other when it comes to what a musician can gain from participating in them. Your goals as an artist determine which one of these is a better fit for you. Which creative muscle would you like to work more on – presenting finished work, or finding new ways of creating it?
2. Concert Residency
When an artist agrees to perform X number of shows over a given period of time at one location, they have a concert or performance residency. You’ve likely heard about Adele’s Vegas residency, “Weekends with Adele” which started in November of 2022 and has just been extended to run until June 2024. The singer performs two shows every weekend at Caesar’s Palace, one of the most well-known hotels and casinos in Las Vegas.
This is a great example of a music residency on a large scale, and how their terms can vary. While Adele only performs on weekends, Usher (who just ended his Vegas residency after 100 performances), did three shows a week. Billy Joel, who holds the longest artist residency in the US, has been performing one show per month at Madison Square Garden in New York City for the last 10 years. This is because concert residencies allow artists to negotiate their terms with venues, and only agree to what they know they are comfortable with and capable of.
This is a big advantage of having a concert residency. Artists can agree to a series of consecutive shows back-to-back, or choose to perform on a weekly or monthly basis. Pay is also negotiated, and can either be a flat rate per show or be a percentage of ticket sales. The final contract depends largely on what the venue needs and how available the artist is.
Las Vegas residencies are only the tip of the iceberg that is recurring gigs for artists – they exist everywhere. Should you begin to take note of the performance schedules of local venues in your vicinity, you are guaranteed to pick up on who performs there on a regular basis. It is common for venues to routinely book acts that they know will attract crowds, no matter the place. It is as common for DJs to have weekly or monthly residencies at nightclubs as it is for musicians to have weekly gigs at their local jazz bar, or for independent artists to have monthly residencies at a reputed performance venue in their city. Residencies are available and accessible to everyone.
2.1 Who to Contact
The person you should get in touch with if you are in pursuit of a concert residency is the booking agent of the venue you’d like to partner with.
Rather than trying to contact the bookers of every venue in your area, start by observing a venue’s programming over the course of a month, take note of any recurring acts, and figure out whether your music aligns with the type of energy and crowd they expect their current acts to bring. If you believe to be a fit and see yourself being a valuable addition, it can be as simple as walking into the venue at opening hours and asking a staff member to put you in touch with their booker.
Remember, this endeavor is mutually beneficial for you and the booking agent; you get a consistent gig, and they get stability in their bookings, eliminating their need to find someone to fill the slot you’d occupy. With this in mind, be confident in your communication and they will respect your initiative. If you already have someone who manages gigs for you, they will be the ones in charge of outreach and negotiation.
2.2 What to Prepare
The secret fast-track to reaching an agreement such as this one is to give your potential employer the least amount of imagination to do as possible. This means showing them what it would look like if you were to already have the deal you’re hoping for. Therefore, footage from a past show is a huge bonus. Give the venue an idea of what a show of yours would look like. Are you an energetic performer? Do you fit their vibe? How engaged are you with your audience? These are questions bookers will no doubt be wondering, so if you have proof, this will be very powerful.
If you don’t have videos of any gigs but would like a concert residency, your first step would be to book a small gig, fill the room with friends and family, and get someone to document how much fun it is to attend a show of yours. Even one solid teaser can go a long way.
If you’re not sure where to start, Groover hosts artist showcases around the world that anyone can apply to perform at. Keep an eye on our website for the next event we host in your city – we’d love to see you there!
2.3 Pros and Cons
There are a number of reasons why some artists lean towards residencies while others stay on the go. Whether you are an independent or signed artist, the pros and cons remain the same.
If you are still unsure about whether or not a concert residency is for you, here are some factors to weigh out:
- Residencies are easier than traditional touring
- Your ability to stay in one place is by far the biggest advantage – this means no physical or emotional toll on your body or mental health that often comes with constantly being on the move.
- Authenticity for your audience and comfort for you
- Because you perform at only one location, the consistency of your stage setup, crew you work with, and familiarity of the venue make you all the more comfortable as an artist, which shows in your stage presence. This means you perform better, creating a more authentic experience for your audience, which can lead to stronger connections with your fans.
- Negotiating power and creative control
- Venues need you as much as you need them, so you hold a certain amount of contractual power. This allows you to negotiate your terms – how frequently are you performing, and how much are you getting paid?
- Performance practice and content
- Performing is a skill, and concert residencies are the perfect playground. With every show, you can improve and alter whatever you think needs work, with the knowledge that you can try again next time if it doesn’t work out. On top of getting more comfortable on stage, you also get consistent opportunities to film your shows, and use the content to grow your fanbase online.
- Limited reach compared to tradition touring
- Residencies require listeners to come to you, as opposed to you going to the listeners. This can limit your reach in terms of expanding your fan base on a national or international scale.
- Remaining stationary no matter what
- Being under contract with one location means you may not be able to travel for other opportunities or events should they arise, especially if last minute. Residencies will limit your ability to leave your city on a whim, depending on show frequency.
- Being bound to your agreement
- Though contracts are good for you in terms of knowing you are booked consistently no matter the outcome of your last show, this also means that you will have to complete your contractual obligations, even if you realize it may not be for you. Once you’re locked in, it can be difficult to cut your residency short, though you may be able to use your personal relationship with the venue to come to an alternative agreement.
3. Artist Residency
Rather than being a means of displaying finished work like concert residencies, artist residencies are hosted by organizations, institutions, festivals, or communities and offer a space for artists to create. Most residencies are interdisciplinary, and bring together a number of creatives from various fields to work together and learn from each other over a set period of time. Many artist residencies are live-in and are offered everywhere around the world, meaning participants live together on site for the duration of the program.
3.1 What is an Artist Residency
The day-to-day of an artist residency consists of workshops, exploration of their surroundings, delving into the history of their craft, putting on exhibitions and performances, and much more. They are essentially creative camps, and every day is like a masterclass.
Location, duration, and what these residencies offer depend on the host organization and what their mission is. Unlike concert residencies, these programs are controlled entirely by their host, and artists are merely participants. Some residencies bring together musicians, photographers, designers, sculptors, painters, and the like, while other residencies are solely music-driven, accepting only singers, writers, producers, composers, etc. It’s worth noting that the latter are less abundant and more selective, but there are a growing number of “writing camps” being hosted that serve a similar purpose, and are solely focused on music.
As we all know, some governments offer more funding for art programs than others, so payment or lack thereof depends largely on where your residency is located and which institution it’s being run by. Some residencies are government funded and cover travel and housing costs, also providing supplies and resources to their artists, while others require payment for housing, or ask that you bring your own materials. Very established hosts such as big festivals or long-running programs will pay artists as opposed to the other way around, offering grants or fellowships on top of providing space and resources. Make sure to read the fine print of the residencies you’re interested in so you know what is being asked of you.
3.2 How to Become an Artist-in Residence
Traveling to a new place to meet like-minded people and create art is a dream – naturally, such opportunities are in high demand. This is why artist residencies have applications that artists must complete in order to be considered. They are meant to showcase your abilities, intentions, and expectations. Here’s how to navigate the selection process.
3.3 Applying Strategically
Just like any other vetting process, you should be prepared to prove why you deserve a spot in an artist residency. This does not mean showing off, but rather being transparent about what you’re looking for and what you would offer to that specific program. Try putting yourself in the shoes of the admissions team; if your application is too broad, they may not see why you belong in their particular program. Personalize your application by catering to the residency you are applying for, and do so for each one you apply to. To cover all your bases, you should:
- Understand the mission of the program
- While some residencies focus on creation and collaboration in general, others are hosted for specific reasons or follow specific themes. Does the residency you’re interested in have a mission? Is it for a particular type of artist or do they value diversity above all? This will help you complete the rest of your application more strategically.
- Customize your artist statement to them
- While keeping their mission in mind, explain what drives you to make music and what value you would both provide and gain as a result of being included in their roster. Convince them that it would be mutually beneficial – do you have previous experience in workshops? Have you taught or attended seminars or masterclasses before?
- Put together a portfolio
- Applications will ask for work samples, so be ready to provide some of your past work. Select these samples carefully; if they are looking for diversity, offer them various works that may differ from each other in style. If they are hoping to host a specific type of artist, show them your personal take on that genre or theme so they know you fit their criteria. You can always get feedback from a professional on our platform in case you need a second opinion.
- Update your web presence
- Social media, websites, and streaming profiles should be up to date no matter what, but if they’re not, now is a good time to sift through them with a fine-tooth comb, making sure they are a good representation of you and your character. It’s ok if your work dates back to many years ago – it will show how your sound has developed over time, which is a positive thing. Be proud of your growth!
3.4 Pros and Cons
Now that we have a thorough understanding of the difference between concert and artist residencies, we can compare the two more clearly. One is performance, and the other is process, offering a completely different set of pros and cons to consider. The advantages and disadvantages of artist residencies include:
- Traveling and changing your environment
- Leaving your current studio to work at another already does wonders for a fresh mindset, so imagine traveling to another country to do so as well. This is one of the biggest reasons artists apply to such programs.
- Meeting new collaborators
- On top of learning from each other, participants also bond over the experiences they have and the work they make as a result. Your likelihood of meeting artists you will eventually work with on projects is just as high as your likelihood of making long-term friendships.
- Sources of inspiration
- We never know what our next spark of creativity will come from, and artist residencies provide so much “newness”, you are bound to touch on something you’ve never explored before. Whether it’s another artists’ work, your surroundings, or a new technique you picked up, you are guaranteed to find something that will push your creative boundaries.
- Unfamiliar resources
- Your host may provide materials you’ve never used before, giving you an idea of how to upgrade your workflow back home. In music-focused residencies, you might use an instrument, DAW, or plugin that you’re unfamiliar with, expanding your proficiency in music creation and allowing you to get a more well-rounded understanding of how other artists work, and what works best for you.
- Lack of control
- Because you are entering a program that is hosted by an established group, you do not have much control or input in the finer details of their residency, such as how many days they are available, what their schedule will look like, where they’ll be living, who they’ll be working with, etc. All of this is organized for you, which is a double edged sword for some.
- Each residency differs in terms of financial obligation or compensation. It may be that the perfect artist residency for you charges an application fee and additional costs for housing, materials, visas, etc. If you’re lucky, you’ll be a shoe-in for one that covers these expenses for you, or better yet, pays you to be there.
- Time off from regular life
- Another double edged sword is the isolating aspect of artist residencies, which often see artists working abroad for a month or two at a time. Though some might be drawn to these programs for this very reason, others might not appreciate how much commitment residencies require, which can pull them away from their usual process.
No matter the type of residency you feel best suited for, it is guaranteed to help you grow as an artist. Whether you are practicing your stage presence or learning different methods of creation, either one is a great step forward in your climb to being a creatively fulfilled artist. We hope this clears things up for you – best of luck!