Pub Gigs – How Long is too short?

Some pub gigs have been known to last just over an hour, but sometimes they can go for as long as three. So what‘s the norm when it comes to the duration of a gig?

Years ago, when the standard weekend closing time for pubs was 11.30pm, bands or artists would start playing two hours before this. They would break for 10 minutes halfway through the set and start to wrap it up around last orders. At the bequest of the manager they might play for an extra 15 minutes but for the most part they’d finish two hours after they started.

However in more recent times pubs have been staying open later and as a result playing and starting times have gone into disarray. Based on the ways of old, gigs on a Friday or Saturday night should begin at 10.30pm. But that’s not always the case, nor is it always the case that they finish two hours later either!

Where once managers would ask a band to go on for an extra 15 minutes, it can now be 30. The unfortunate side-effect of this is that some bands will start playing half-an-hour later than they would normally or will break for 30 minutes halfway through. And then some unprofessional acts will really take the Mick: start late, finish early and have an extended break in between! Yet some performers will take on the demanding task of playing for two-and-a-half hours without a break at all! There’s no consistency.

A performer should always strive to ensure that they give those employing them value-for-money. Bruce Springsteen is known for playing excessively long gigs, going for four hours and six minutes at the Olympiastadion, Helsinki in 2012. His employers (the fans that bought tickets) really got value that night!

Needless to say, a massive concert at the Olympiastadion is very far removed from a gig in the local pub. However, the principal is still the same; publicans employ musicians to drive sales and in theory the longer a band plays, the longer the audience is engaged and the more cash goes into the tills.

However publicans can expect too much as well, asking a band to perform for longer than they’re reasonably capable of doing. The result – the quality of the performance diminishes which has the opposite effect on the tills as punters may leave and go elsewhere. It’s a fine balancing act between getting the band to stay on stage for as long as possible, but not overdoing it.

So the question remains: what should be the average playing time for a pub gig in Ireland on a Friday or Saturday night? Based on our research, we believe it should be two hours of solid playing, with a break in between.

And what time should it start? The perfect time to kick off is 10.30pm since punters tend to start coming to the pub around 9.30pm and will be hungry for entertainment by then. Since the ideal length of the gig is two hours, a good time for a break would be the halfway point of 11.30pm. The break should last no longer than 15 minutes as the punters will grow bored and impatient if left waiting any longer than this.

Finally, punters tend to go home or go to a nightclub between 00.30am and 01:00am so around this time the gig should start winding down.

In conclusion, if the gig is working and the punters are enjoying it, ask the band to play an extra 15 minutes. If you’re not doing this all the time, bands won’t feel taken advantage of and will be happy to oblige. Our suggestion for the best schedule to maximise your live band on a Friday and Saturday night is:


Start: 10.30pm

Break: 11.30pm

Start 2nd half: 11.45pm

Finish: 00.45am to 01.00am


For more information contact www.gizagig.com or e-mail info@gizagig.com


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