Title seems harsh, but this is more serious of an issue than most bands just don’t seem to comprehend. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about bashing artists or putting down musicians. This is a tool to grow as not only a band, but as an important part of the music scene all together and understanding how YOU affect everything around you.
Cutting to the chase, the biggest theme of what I’m trying to express is that your band’s existence going into a show affects everything it touches and with that being said, your reputation will be directly correlated.
Let’s start with your goal as an artist/band… A promoter, a venue, a label and even other bands are usually looking for artists that want to go above and beyond. They look for bands who have an end goal of success and big crowds. If you are in it just for funsies or just want to get together with a buddy or two for a jam session with an occasional audience of 3, THAT’S ALSO OK… BUT (and this is a big “BUT”) please do not waste the time, money and resources of said promoter, venue, label and other bands playing any real shows. Have a BBQ and play to your neighbors. I promise, you will be better received.
Now, lets get into the nitty-gritty. If you actually want to succeed at any capacity as an artist/band, there are several variables that go into a show that you NEED to be thinking about at ALL TIMES. I will list them off to make them easier to follow, so here it goes:
1. THE VENUE
The venue as an entity is a business. It needs revenue to function. They have several overhead costs that go into EVERY SHOW. Just staffing alone can cost $500-700+ (sound guy, security, door, bar/concessions staff, etc.). Then you have thousands of dollars going into electricity, rent, property taxes, utilities, internet, stocking the bar/kitchen, repairs, new equipment when your genius vocalist decides to bash the mic into the ground or spit water on the PAPER MONITOR SPEAKERS (please don’t do that). *breaths in deeply*, I digress.
And after all of those costs, they are still willing to take a chance on your local band. WOW, HOW NICE! This is the part where you, as an artist, need to realize, this is a big opportunity. They are doing you a solid by letting you play in their premier venue! So how do they make that money back that they just spent on you and the few other bands playing at the show? To put it into perspective, if your show only has 10 paying people through the door at $10 per person, the venue just lost $500 to $1000 just by opening their doors. You just cost them A LOT OF MONEY. Why should they ever contact you again?
2. DOOR SALES / BAR SALES
This is literally everything. This is the only way that a venue can make money and stay in business. Imagine you went to work and your payroll person just decided that you don’t get to pay bills this month… That would suck, wouldn’t it? How you impact this number will directly effect any future shows or opportunities that this venue will or will not offer you. Want to play with the large national acts when they come through? Pay your dues by playing smaller local shows during the week, and bust your butt to get people there. Help this venue keep afloat (and even be overly successful). Show them that you are worth it by boosting these numbers.
(SIDE NOTE: Most venues keep track of the turnout/ticket sales that EVERY BAND HAS EVER PRODUCED. Yeah… They are paying attention.)
3a. MAXIMIZING YOUR DRAW / ATTENDANCE
This has everything to do with how you promote your show. The best way to look at it is, assume every other band won’t bring ANYONE (obviously hypothetical). You don’t want to play to an empty club/venue, do you? NO! NEVER ASSUME OTHER BANDS WILL BRING OUT THE CROWD FOR YOU. This is the weakest thing you can do, and trust me, we can all see it. Don’t rely on ANYONE other than your band to promote your shows.
Make sure every member of your band is pulling their weight. I understand the feeling of being the “band dad” but that has to stop. Every band member has the potential to increase the number of paying attendees in the room and just like money, “it all adds up”. You might say, “well I can only bring out 3 people so whats the point of trying…”. If every person playing (say there was 25 people all together in the bands) and they all brought 3 people… That’s 75 people in one room! That’s starting to look like a crowd!
Now picture if each person pushed 10 tickets. THAT’S 250 PEOPLE WATCHING YOU PLAY YOUR ART! How freaking easy does that sound!? Only 10 stinking people.
3b. HOW TO PROMOTE
So there are several tools to use to promote shows and events. Some are more effective than others, BUT DON’T DISCOUNT ANY OF THEM. Use EVERY TOOL AVAILABLE. This is super important. Like I said previously, ‘it all adds up”. If you push a Facebook event and all the bands use it and invite 10,000 people (yes that’s realistic), you might get 40-50 people to show up. Even though 50 people out of 10k doesn’t seem like much, that’s a decent chunk of people you didn’t have before! Now, if you don’t think Facebook works well… TOUGH SPIT, DUDE. Use it anyway! The venue, the promoter, the other bands… They can all see if you are or are not promoting via social media (which is FREE and takes 5 minutes). Keep that in mind.
Now, like I stated before, don’t only use one tool. You have 50 attendees from Facebook… that’s an okay start! Now lets dive into the other tools. FLYERS!
Flyers are great, you can make large posters and hang them up, you can make small handbills and hand them out at the mall and other shows. I suggest handing out flyers the most because it isn’t the flyer that is selling your show, it’s the conversation you have with the people that are taking the flyer. You are now building a connection with future fans, and that personal connection gives the potential attendee more incentive/accountability to go to your show! Just by that one interaction, you might have one more attendee for life that goes to ALL of your shows. That is how you build draw.
There are a lot of other tools out there, such as online calendars, newspaper ads, cross promotion, etc. But I think the most important is directly contacting the friends, family and fans that you already have around you. Imagine that you were having a BBQ or a birthday party… You wouldn’t just put a poster at the mall or make a Facebook post… NO! You would actually call your friends, send out text messages, talk to them in person and invite their friends too! If you are willing to put that kind of work into a BBQ, you better put that much work into a show at my venue, dear God, man!
For some perspective, let's break this down:
Say you did all of these things mentioned above and they each brought in a few people.
- Sold 10 tickets per band member (lets say 4 members) = 40 people
- Handed out handbills at the venue at a different show the weekend prior = 10 people
- Facebook event invites = 50 people
- Flyers up on all social sites and hanging in venues = 10
If just your band alone did that, that's a potential crowd of 110 people. Now imagine if 4 or 5 bands all worked at this! (I understand there is some overlap, but you get the point!)
Now that you have all the tools, you’ve put in the work, you’ve SHOWED UP TO THE VENUE AT LOAD IN ON TIME, and the show is packed, its time to entertain the big crowd you just earned! Be sure to thank them because they are really the ones who drive this crazy train. Give them something to talk about at work on Monday! Give them a CD to listen to in their car! Give them a sticker to put on their laptop. Make sure they leave with your band as they go back into their lives so they remember to look for your future shows and events!
I hoped this was insightful and actually helps push some of you to go above and beyond. We are all in this together. I know I’m forgetting some things so ask me questions and start conversations to stir up some new ideas, I’m happy to help. Please share this with your band mates or friends who might benefit from these tips.