These aren’t known levels or anything; a mix of opinion and fact, if that’s all right with you.
– Lizard Lounge (Local bands; usually unsigned; capacity 80)
– O’Brien’s Pub (Local bands; usually unsigned; capacity 70)
– Several other small venues without any prerequisite venues.
– P.A’s Lounge (Typically signed w/ a good size following; capacity 150; example: Jens Lekman)
– Club Passim (Mid-size acts of the folk persuasion w/ good size following; capacity 125)
– Middle East Upstairs (Prerequisite of Level One/Two shows; mid-size bands typically signed; capacity 194; example: Rural Alberta Advantage)
– T.T the Bear’s (Prerequisite of at least 3 Level One/Two shows; mid-size bands typically signed; capacity 300; example: Sam Roberts)
– Great Scott (Headlines fairly popular signed local/national/international bands, often from Northern Europe; capacity 240; example: Handsome Furs)
– Harper’s Ferry (Headlines low-demand mainstream/high-demand independent bands; capacity 400; examples: Wale, Flobots, Jay Reatard)
– Middle East Downstairs (Headlines highly visible independent/slightly mainstream bands with strong followings; capacity 575; examples: Black Lips, Walkmen, Dinosaur Jr.)
– Paradise Rock Club (Headlines established/new national touring acts that easily sell out Level Four venues; capacity 728; examples: King Khan & the Shrines, Anti-Flag)
– Wilbur Theatre (Headlines national touring acts that have established quite an audience; capacity 1223; example: Sonic Youth)
– House of Blues (Headlines national touring acts, which may or may not be considerably mainstream, that have established quite an audience; capacity 2425; examples: New Kids on the Block, Animal Collective)
– Orpheum Theatre (Headlines national touring acts, which may or may not be considerably mainstream, that have established quite an audience; capacity 2763; examples: Regina Spektor, Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
– Wang Theatre (Headlines highly visible bands and artists who have, usually over a number of years, developed a vast following; capacity 3700; examples: Pixies, Lady Gaga)
– Bank of America Pavilion (Headlines highly visible bands and artists who have developed a vast following; capacity 5000; examples: Flaming Lips, Elvis Costello)
– Agganis Arena (Headlines very big names in rock and pop; capacity 7200; examples: Weezer, Kings of Leon)
– Comcast Center (Headlines the biggest names in rock and pop; capacity 19900; examples: Radiohead, Nickelback)
– TD Garden (Headlines the biggest names in rock and pop; capacity 19580; examples: U2, Bruce Springsteen)
Some bands, undeniably, have a greater potential to rise to the top than others. For instance, Kings of Leon have worked their way up rather significantly in the past few years. Just two years ago they played the Paradise. This past April, they played the 10X larger Agganis Arena. Take Radiohead. They played the ‘Dise back in 1995 and just a few years later performed at the 20,000+ Suffolk Downs race track. Even King Khan & BBQ Show have been an upwardly mobile success story. They went from TT The Bears in 2005 to Great Scott in 2007 to the Paradise in 2008. For other bands like Black Lips, it’s been a somewhat slower ride. A touring band since 2000, they hit up TT’s in 2007 before selling out Middle East Downstairs the past two years, thanks in some part to critically acclaimed album releases Good Bad Not Evil and 200 Million Thousand. I’m not going to put money on it, but I wouldn’t be totally surprised if they move up the ladder to the Paradise (provided dates are available) for their next U.S tour.