For Performers

First, some things that we can’t stress strongly enough:

1. We’re not a normal venue, we aren’t offering professional services, and we’re entirely run and done by volunteers. A) Featured performers are playing for door at a 40-seater that rarely hits capacity. B) If you want perfect audio or feature-film video, you need to book time in a professional studio; they’re specialists, they have way better gear than we can afford, and you’ll be paying market rate for bespoke product.

2. Nothing that isn’t under your own copyright is allowed. (Public Domain is OK.) If we hear a copyright violation, the PA gets turned off and the show is over. This is a zero-tolerance policy. We don’t have performance rights licensing for the room because we can’t afford it. Federal copyright law requires this licensing if copyrighted material is being performed or played, and the penalties for violations are stiff. One fine would kill Stage 33 Live dead. We’re serious about it because we have to be, it’s not just us being precious. If you’re an affiliate of a Performance Rights Organization, your affiliate agreement is non-exclusive and it allows you to negotiate licensing independently. You, as the copyright owner, issue license to us directly. There’s an agreement and release that you’ll have to sign before taking the stage.

3. Performances must not promote discrimination, harassment, bullying, or sexual harassment, must be “PG-13” or milder, and FCC-safe. The FCC-safe part is ours, the rest is house rule established by the owners and tenants of the building that our performance space is in, which is shared in common by the artist-tenants, and is a public pass-through at all times and for all ages to their studios. We’re at the bottom of the food chain and we only exist through their grace. Everything we do and everyone we book requires the approval of the building’s owners and its tenants. We don’t own the real estate, and the performance space is not our proprietary room for our sole use.

Lots more words follow and they’re important too. We don’t want you to participate in something that turns out to be other than you expected… being transparent and thorough protects both you and us. We have rough edges, restrictions, and pitfalls, but we like to think that they complement the glory and guts of the project. Not everyone agrees, and that’s cool.

What dates do you have available?

Because of the cooperative nature of the space and the fact that all of us are doing this as volunteers, we only do one show approximately every three weeks, almost always on Sundays, from the last Sunday in August through the last Sunday in May. We’re painfully aware that this just won’t work for some who would like to get on our stage, and who we’d love to have on it.

When we have open dates, they’re listed here. They’re first-come, first-served and available for local, regional, or national performers or presenters.


2023 is booked solid. We’re keeping a waitlist of performers and presenters who we will contact on a first-come first-served basis when 2024 dates are available. We run a level playing field as part of our mission… everybody jumps through the same hoops, everybody gets the same shot. At this writing (near the end of January), there are already 20 acts on the 2024 waitlist. This is more than the 2024 schedule will be able to accommodate. From our mission-driven perspective, having demand exceed our capacity is as heartbreaking as it is gratifying.

The waitlist thing isn’t something we ever expected to happen, to be honest, and it feels like something we haven’t legitimately earned. And the whole first-come first-served booking scheme should have torpedoed us right out of the gate, but instead these things — along with not treating the artists like animals — have somehow made us desirable, or something. With performers anyway. Now if we could just get a consistently reliable audience built up… sigh. Attendance has been even more of a struggle since the lockdown than it was before. Coming from a 40-seater, that’s saying something. The touring acts we’re in touch with say it’s been pretty horrible almost everywhere, but, however, things seem to be picking up again. So that’s good news.

Here’s an alternative that you might find interesting: The public access cable station in Springfield VT (SAPA TV) is starting to film KEXP-like sessions in their studio, and they plan to do outdoor shows as well in the warmer months. Studio sessions are non-public and not a paying gig, while outdoor shows will be open to the public by donation, with all donations received going to the artists. Contact: johnny [at] sapatv [dot] org

Cancellations and Postponements
If you need to cancel, 30 days would be great though we recognize that’s not always possible. We’ll do the same for you. In the case of horrible weather, with your input we’ll try to call it one way or the other at least 24 hours in advance. Nobody is liable for things beyond their control. Performers are independent contractors. We don’t demand any exclusivity or lockouts. We’ll never cancel due to low presales… but we’re also never going to force anybody to play a show that they don’t think is worth playing.


What sort of acts do you book?

The room has mostly defined itself as an acoustic folk/Americana singer-songwriter place, but we run jazz, pop, rock, and more. Informative and/or entertaining original spoken word is absolutely and enthusiastically on the table — humanities and science topics are always super-welcome along with artful words. We can accommodate speaker panels of up to seven people on the stage.

Only original, copyright-owned material is allowed, whether music or words. Public Domain and Fair Use is also OK (proof is on the performer). Two reasons for this: 1. to celebrate original creativity; and 2. we can’t afford licensing from the performing rights organizations… nor could we survive the hefty financial penalty for violating copyright law.

Additionally, all activity in the building has to be relatively family-friendly, sort of a soft R rating, per the tenants and stakeholders of 33 Bridge Street. They also have right of refusal of all performers and dates. Here are the House Rules we need to abide by, FYI. Since we record and film everything for eventual broadcast, having it all stay as FCC-safe as possible is a good practice.

Our main intention is to help local and regional musicians and spoken word people find ears and eyes, but we also open our door to established and touring performers. We book first-come first-served. Everything we host is because somebody reached out to us. We don’t use a booking service, and we don’t solicit performers… don’t wait for an invitation, it’ll never come.


What’s the pay?

All workers should get paid for their work, and we do our best to make sure you get paid for yours. We hope to get paid for ours one day too.

Even though we keep the project’s overhead as ultra-low as possible, almost every time something breaks, or insurance comes due, we have to scramble. Sometimes the volunteers have had to put in their own money, which is sucky. So, we came up with a formula — it keeps almost all the money heading to the act that booked the show and gives us the illusion of being less perennially ill-prepared for our next expense. If you have a good show and wish to make a freewill donation to help keep the project going, we won’t refuse it. But we won’t expect it either.

1. The first $100 of the door goes entirely to the headliner.
2. The second $100 of the door is half to the headliner, and half split between the sound person and venue.
3. Everything over the first $200 also goes entirely to the headliner.

The most the venue would ever see is $25, and that doesn’t happen until there’s at least $150 for the performer in the jar. We generally meet the Fair Trade Music minimum wage for soloists (and sometimes duos) in the smallest venue category… but not always. We’re not able to offer a guarantee, so we can’t be a bona fide card-carrying Fair Trade Music venue — good intentions aren’t enough, but that’s all we have. We also don’t have the ability to offer a deposit, meals, etc. We don’t even have a green room.

We don’t snub artists who aren’t a guaranteed draw.

Openers and Co-bills
A hard pill for us to swallow is that openers, like us, work without pay… which is another thing that prevents us from being a certified Fair Trade Music venue — though the documentation we produce has more value than the Fair Trade Music minimum compensation (which, really, means that we’re more-than-fair trade). The documentation can be used by the performers in any way they wish. Openers are welcome to pass a hat, put out a tip jar, and sell merch. Headliners are welcome to tip openers, but it’s not required.

For open mics and short sets, there’s also no pay. But we do record and film those sets too, and the performer is welcome to use the material we produce in any way they see fit.

We don’t require having an opener (if you’re booking a date and would rather not have an opener let us know), but it’s nice to get up-and-comers in on things… being as how that’s our mission and all. Headliners can bring on their own opener if they wish, or a co-bill — in that case, any stage-time and money-split agreements are between you and them… we pay out full cash on the night to the booking party.

If we have a potential opener that seems like a decent fit, we’ll seek headliner approval. Sometimes a local musical match just doesn’t churn up, so we might ask to run three or four open-mic-style short sets (usually 10 minutes each with quick turnover) that can be wildly diverse. Often, they’re people we’ve never seen or heard before. It’s fun.

When there’s no opener, we like to note that in the outreach to encourage people to be sure to get there on time. If there isn’t an opener lined up by a month before the date, we’d prefer to just roll without.

Entry Pricing, Merch Sales
We’ll work with headliners to set entry pricing to meet reasonable expectations. We can’t guarantee how many people will come to any given show, but there’s seating for 40. Prior to COVID-19 we’d been seeing the results of cultivating a built-in audience, but the chilling effects of the pandemic continue to linger.

Our best turnouts have broken 40. That’s rare. Average for touring acts is a couple dozen, half that for locals. Sometimes we have a stinking rotten turnout despite our efforts.

Ticket prices or donation-at-the-door (we’re happy to frame it either way) tend to range from a low of what-you-wish to $20 for a touring co-bill. For artists who don’t have to travel far to get here, $5 is common. Touring artists are usually $10/$15ish advance, $15/$20ish door.

Resist any temptation to do a free show. In our experience people don’t value a show if a value isn’t put on it. In our room, free shows have had the worst attendance. We’re fine with flat price, age-tiered, or pretty much any other structure. If you want us to state that nobody will be turned away for lack of funds, we happily will. We’ve never tried a pay-as-you-exit scheme but are open to the idea. If you want to try entry-by-canned-goods-for-the-food-shelf or something, we’re up for it.

We set up online advance ticketing / donations for every show. Seats up front are saved for presales. Walk-ups are pay-at-the-door festival seating.

All merch sales are yours; we can provide a large well-lit merch table made from an old football scoreboard that has a portal to outer space on the front. (That’ll make sense when you see it.)

Normally we do everything on a handshake, but if you need us to sign something just ask.

We’ve been trying to distill everything into a Performance Agreement; it’s still just a draft and probably always be, but you can look at for reference if you’d like. It suffers from our usual neutron-like density.


How long do we play, when do we go on, when is load-in?

Set Length
Headliners usually do one set clocking about 70 to 90 minutes. Openers, about 20 minutes. Co-bills doing individual sets tend to do about 45-55 minutes apiece, with a short break. Co-bills backing each other and alternating songs usually do one set of about 90 minutes.

In our room, every time one act does two sets there’s audience loss at the break no matter how amazing the performance is. Never happens when individual acts do a set each, just when one act does two sets. So weird. Consequently, we strongly recommend headliners do one long set rather than two short ones. (We’ve had seasoned players direct a short stand-and-stretch from the stage for about a minute if the audience seems to need it. With the right patter, it’s fun.)

Headliners and co-bills are encouraged to read the room and go longer or shorter by feel. When magic is happening, we don’t want arbitrary rules getting in the way of it. Shows where things just ain’t clickin’ are rare in our experience, but if going shorter than your setlist seems like the right thing to do, that’s OK.

Start Time
Most shows are either 7:00 PM evening events or 3:00 matinees, your choice. We’ve also had 4:00 and 6:00 starts. Always on Sundays (except for loud shows, which need to be Saturday evenings so we don’t cause conflicts with the community radio station in the next room which has hosts doing live programs). Attendance isn’t affected by the start time. If we had a bar or were allowed to do BYOB, evenings would almost certainly be the better choice… being a dry room has advantages and drawbacks alike. Door usually opens 30 minutes before start.

Note that the room is daylit when the sun is out, but we run the lights anyway.

Load-in and Soundcheck
Load-in is whenever you feel comfortable getting there before the start time. Our aim is to be ready for soundcheck at least 90 minutes before door, but we start setting up long before that. The room dials in quickly, but more soundcheck is better than less. If you don’t need monitors that’s great — less bleed in the recording. Getting the monitors right takes longer than FOH. (Monitor mixes are sent from the board; we hope one day to be able to afford personal monitor systems.)

There’s a loading dock if you’ve got a lot of stuff to schlep or it’s raining, or you just like loading docks as much as we do.


What’s the room like?

It’s a makeshift space in an old factory turned creative economy incubator in a building on the National Historic Register that also has the studios of fine artists, craftspeople, and artisans. It’s a sort of souped-up house concert in a light-industrial setting. There are 40 chairs.

Stage 33 Live doesn’t piggyback on a coffeehouse, or a bar, or a restaurant, and BYOB isn’t allowed. Given that the whole point of this thing is to honor the stage, we consider the lack of distractions a boon. Not everyone agrees and that’s OK. We have coffee, soda, water, and weird snacks available (by donation for the audience, free for the talent).

We don’t have a green room, but there are a couple depressing, spartan places somewhat removed from the performance space where we can set you up.


What are the technical particulars?

The stage is 8′ deep and 16′ wide and about 5″ high and has thick padding and plush carpet on it because the whole thing acts like a giant stomp box unless we damp it. We hope to do something about that from underneath at some point. In the meantime, it can feel a little squishy up there which is either kinda cool or sorta frustrating.

The stage backdrop is black drape.

We have an OKish mic locker, and everything normally needed for sound reinforcement. We typically use Shure SM7Bs for vocals. You can bring your own mics if you wish, your own DIs if you want, whatever smalls help you feel comfortable.

16 channels of send.

If you don’t need monitors, we’re happy to not set them up because it helps keep bleed down on the recording. Monitor mixes are sent from the board; we don’t have personal monitor systems but sure wish we could afford to.

Sound person supplied; you’re welcome to bring your own but ours will hover to answer any questions because the dual live + multitracking thing makes for a somewhat weird getup.

If you have unusual needs, let us know — we’ll try to make it happen.

We don’t have any backline or house instruments though.

We have color-shifting LED stage floods but no fancy lasers or smoke machines or like-that. The room is daylit during daylight hours, something to keep in mind.

We love to get stage plots and input lists.

If you want to do a true acoustic show with no amplification whatsoever (including nixing the PA), we’re game.


Do you promote?

100% guerilla. Even a small conventional ad buy could eat half to all of the gate receipts and would come directly off your bottom line.

We land decent column-inches pretty regularly. We list in appropriate calendars. We push hard on social media even though social media seems to be increasingly irrelevant. We have an opt-in email newsletter. We poster in choice spots.

We can promote better if you supply us with a good bio and some press boilerplate, high-res photos, and anything else that seems useful.

We put a lot of effort into selling the sizzle, but sometimes turnout is disheartening even for those with comparatively wide renown. There’s no apparent rhyme or reason to what clicks and what doesn’t. For many pros and touring folks, working for door in a small room is deal-breaker territory, and appropriately so. On the other hand, we feel no shame being a tour-hole-filler.

There’s almost always a positive difference in attendance when a local or regional artist promotes as aggressively as we do. For touring folks, it doesn’t seem to make much difference unless they have a decent base established in the region.

Even though the real legs of the project is the documentation, we’d rather have more people in the room than fewer solely so that you get paid better. As far as the documentation goes, an enthusiastic handful can be better than a half-hearted capacity crowd.

We’ll try to accommodate it if you want to have a closed set on purpose, which can make for a less stressful environment. And performers booked elsewhere may be contractually restricted from additional public performances, though may be interested in popping over for a closed set.

Or if you’re a bigwig wanting to play secret show under a pseudonym, we’re down with shenanigans and can keep a secret.

We say this without negativity: The immediate community is a one-square-mile rural village of 3,000 with a poverty rate of over 25%… the wealth, education, and leisure gaps are wide. A significant percentage of the attendees come in from nearby communities and farther-flung places; at one memorable show, five states were represented. However, our local attendee pool is growing — so we’re doing something right, and we’re pleased that the part of our mission to serve our community is working.


You record and film everything?

We do. Everyone who performs or presents is recorded and filmed. We have an intimidating release form — mostly so that when your back-catalog gets released by a major label or your work gets picked up by a big publishing house and their lawyers-on-retainer come after us for copyright violations, we can show them a thing where you said it was cool. We have no intention of screwing over anybody, ever. The release is meant to cover everyone’s butts, yours included, by spelling out everything as completely as possible — even stuff that’s almost certainly never going to happen in a million years. You’ll need to sign one before you take the stage.

We’re not a professional service, however. If you want perfect audio or feature-film video, you need to book time in a professional recording studio and/or with a professional video service. Those places will have way better gear than we can afford. Which you’ll pay for, along with their labor and expertise, which is right and fair.

We believe that decent documentation of a warts-and-all performance is better than something that’s technically fabulous but basically soulless. No media will ever replace being in the room, but hopefully it can inspire people to buy your work and to hit more live shows. Non-cellphone performance videos can also help you land bigger and better bookings. Our intention is that the two things should support each other, the live part and the documentation part.

We’ll eventually be using the recorded material in broadcast programming that we’re hoping will ultimately get picked up by the regional public TV and radio. In the meantime, we’re posting clips on YouTube.

We document without much interference — but we want everyone to shine, so we may stage-mom just a little. No stress. Come prepared but have fun. Do the hell out of the thing. It’s supposed to be enjoyable and rewarding and fulfilling.

We make decisions in producing the documentation that are intended to enhance, and sometimes to compensate. The intention is to help everyone sound and look as good as possible — and also to try to hold the listeners’ and viewers’ focus in a sea of other things to listen to and watch. Sometimes that part means keeping things as interesting as possible. We try to find a balance that works on everything from wee cellphone speakers to kickass stereos, and for audiences ranging from just-the-facts festival bookers to the far larger pool of casual viewers who will hopefully buy your music or go see you play live if we can keep them watching and listening long enough. It’s tricky and elusive, and largely arbitrary.

We don’t offer bespoke tweaking. We just can’t. We’re volunteers. Have mercy.

Sometimes a performance won’t get used for a variety of reasons. If a particular performance is OK with us but just makes you cringe, let us know and we’ll almost certainly bury it.

Performers can use the audio and video we produce in any way they see fit, including monetizing it.


Be cool, honey bunny!

No whining, K?

By our reckoning, this applies to less than one out of a hundred performers, so chances are excellent you’re not one of them.

Ever work a free gig for a cause or as a favor, but then somebody sucks the air out of it? They’re probably not a jerk, they’re just invested in wanting the thing to be the best thing they think the thing can be. Which is honorable. But telling you after you get there that you have to play something other than your planned repertoire, or surprising you with the news that you’re the accompanist for their tone-deaf cousin for the evening, or changing their mind about which side of the room you should be in after you’ve set up, or belittling your performance, or expecting you to also bus tables and sweep up after the show… not cool.

We’re never gonna do any of that kind of stuff to you.

Here’s the thing though: We’re the ones working the free gig, and you’re the cause we’re supporting.

Our intention is to contribute — to the best of our ability and judgment, and within our equipment’s limitations and our own, and within the bounds of reason, sanity, and self-preservation — to the ascendancy of your arc.

Business-minded people scold us for paying you instead of charging you. There’s no denying that it’s a lousy business model, but we’re not running a business. It’s a mission. And we think it’s worthy. But we’re real-life actual human people, not bottomless pits.

It never leaves the top of our heads that you’re trusting us. We always do our level best for you in every way.

We’re on this road together, you and us, trying to do what’s good and right and affirming despite our respective frailties and shortcomings.



If all the preceding sounds OK and we have an open date that looks tasty (or if you want us to add you to the waitlist if there are no workable dates), drop an email to — the more info the better, including links. We’re happy to answer any questions.

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Run and done by volunteers, stem to stern.
Donations are what keep this thing going.
We squeeze every penny,
and we'd be so happy to squeeze yours. Or drop off cash / checks at any event.
You can surface-mail checks to:
Stage 33 Live (admin)
8-A Atkinson St
Bellows Falls VT 05101

Donated equipment or services are welcome!
Tax deductible to the fullest extent.
Stage 33 Live LTD is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, EIN 82-2349941.

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33 Bridge Street
Bellows Falls VT

8A Atkinson St
Bellows Falls VT 05101