I am not saying that a regular venue is bad. And I do not deny the tepid power of a general Facebook invitation. Certainly artists need to take advantage of all that online social media can offer – although there are far better ways to do that than most bands utilize. That is a topic for another article though.
I’d like to mention what I feel are just a few of the many problems with the “lazy approach” of the one-venue/facebook invitation approach.
- Your current core audience tires of going to the same bar/club each show
- Your core audience can not be expected to attend every show you do so your audience numbers taper down
- The band members themselves tire of going to the same club to perform
- No new fans “happen” to hear you onstage, because you are in the same venue with same neighborhood people and your fans
- Your invite goes to the same people every time – so few new people receive the notice
- There is no proactive promotion to find new fans
SCHEDULING YOUR CITY TOUR
FIRST, take stock of your bands “tools.” Make sure you have at a minimum: a web presence, a physical/mail-able press kit, and an electronic press kit.
Your website should be simple, easy to navigate, have basic info on the band and the members, a player which allows visitors to hear your music, and it should be EASY to purchase your music/merchandise from your site. Nothing frustrates a site visitor more than wanting to purchase a download and having to navigate through the myriad gates of hell to find out how or where. (More detailed information on elements of a successful website in another article.)
If you do not have these things, spend some time putting them together before continuing your “tour” planning.
SECOND, set a band meeting and determine a reasonable number of gigs per month. Assuming you want to gain new fans, keep current fans, make some money, and encourage sales of your music and merchandise – a reasonable goal may be to play 3 shows per month, each at a different venue.
Of course, you and your band mates may have vacation time soon and want to pack in 8-12 shows in a month. Great! Pack in a lot of gigs and call it something clever like “Hot Summer in Sioux Falls Tour” or “Fall into Portland Tour.”
THIRD, do a survey and mapping of your local area. Go online and “Goggle map” or go old school and get a paper map. (Paper maps are more fun anyway!)
If you live in a metro area of 10 million people or more – such as Mexico City, Tokyo, Sao Paolo, New York, Shanghai, Los Angeles, etc. – you already have more potential fans, resources, and sales opportunities, in your local area than some entire countries have in population! Start treating your local area as a major resource for your success!
If you live in a smaller area, say a small city of 85,000, map out a more regional area. Use your town as a centering point and gauge a drive-time radial distance of about 2 hours out and mark this as your border.
Divide your area into multiple sections. If you are in a sparsely populated area, you may only have 6 quality areas. In a city such as Mexico City, you can come up with at least 15, after removing those “danger zones” that you dare not tread! The number of areas should indicate your basic minimum number of different venues for your “city tour.”
FOURTH, begin your research and search for clubs/bars/live houses in each of your divisions. Do an online search and pick up local newspapers and magazines. Look for websites of venues, ads for upcoming shows and where they will be at, etc. Ask your friendly fellow musicians to share their knowledge of venues in the area. (You DO network with other bands and musicians, right? Best practices of making friends, influencing, and networking with fellow musicians and music professionals – another article!)
As you compile your list of possible venues, you will probably notice various cost-types:
1. YOU pay them to let you play there – sort of like a rental hall situation
2. THEY pay you to play – but you may need to audition to be on the roster
3. FREE to play there
As a starting band, you might want to make initial bookings with the venues that are FREE to play. You pay nothing out of pocket, and can get a decent percentage of the cover charge. But DO contact and send your press kit to those clubs that require an audition or demo tape. Often these clubs are larger with a good reputation for their music performances – general music lovers will attend shows of bands they are not familiar with on the strength of that clubs “recommendation.”
If you chose venues YOU must pay, think carefully of your bands budget. Consider pairing with another local band to share the expense and your mutual audiences.
FIFTH, time for another band meeting. Get out the calendar and mark the days and nights when all band members are available for shows. Assuming you have regular band practices, those nights should already be available. Even if your fellow band mates have pesky “real” jobs, spouses, kids, school, or psychotherapy sessions – there WILL be at least 4 nights each month when all members are available!
And tell your cohorts to bring the significant other and kids to the show. Children are never too young to rock out – why else do they now sell infant size concert tees?!
SIXTH, contact the venues via telephone, email, website contact form. Send the physical press kit to those clubs that want it. Attach your electronic press kit to inquiry emails. Direct others to the website. Start scheduling your performance dates.
Okay – you have completed the above steps and you now have one, two, or three months worth of performances set up on your bands calendar. Your shows are strategically scattered in various neighborhoods and areas across your region at different styled clubs, bars, live houses.
Now what? On to promotion!
Perhaps your previous form of promotion was to send out a Facebook invite. List your upcoming shows on your website and/or myspace page. Maybe send a tweet to your followers. Great.
The problem is, this information is going to the SAME people every time you have a show! It can hardly even be called promotion – unless me asking my friends “hey, wanna come hang out Friday and grab a beer?” is promotion. It is really just a notice or an invitation. And let’s be honest – your last Facebook invite, the one you sent to your 4562 friends…how many came to the show?
(The problem with only using your Facebook and myspace friends as your invitees to the show is multi-fold: many of those “friends” are your family/friends that live far away. Many are online pals that share your love of Moroccan cooking. Others harvest your trees on Farmville. Some…just want to be friends cause you have a super hot profile pic. Sad, but true! Sure, many of them could become buyers of your online music and merchandise, but it won’t help your live audiences.)
A FEW GUERILLA PROMOTION IDEAS FOR YOUR CITY TOUR
- Have business cards made for your band. Band name and picture, musical style and website listed on front. Back should have the next 3-4 live show dates and venues written in. Going out to eat or drink? Give one to your server, the bartender, leave a couple in the bathroom stall. Shopping? Leave one in the dressing room, give one to the clerk. Going to some other bands live? Hand them to fellow audience members.
- Go old school with actual printed flyers or post card type notices. Do some reconnaissance in the areas of your upcoming shows and ask if the small shops or coffee houses will let you post one/two in the window. Put them on car windshields or in bike baskets – in areas where your bands demographic works or goes to school.
- Post on other bands blogs, sites, and facebook pages. If it is a bands webpage or facebook, do not post a hardcore plug of your show…but more of a “Hey, saw your show last week! It was great! Come see us play next week at Bryans! Maybe we can do a show together sometime!” Those band members read it, their fans read it…new ears listen. Read any general blogs regularly? Start posting friendly comments, and mention your band and activities. Read music specific blogs? Also post friendly comments, but also ask for input from fellow readers on your music, etc. Again, new ears for shows and sales. It goes without mentioning that when commenting, you should be signed in online so that by clicking on your name, the reader is taken to your website.
- Frequent shopper point cards! Don’t let major retailers be the one ones cashing in on the idea of customer loyalty. Grab it for yourselves. Your core audience, and new fans, sign up for the band’s point card (enabling you to capture names and email addresses so you can ALSO start a band mailing list – much more focused than general social media invites!), and start getting a punch/stamp each time they attend a live show. After a set number of attended shows – they get something: 5 shows get a free download or a band logo item. Maybe a discount on a higher priced item. 10 shows get no cover charge for a future show. A free t-shirt. Super fans – which have attended 30 shows? You offer to cover their favorite song by another band – in your own style, of course! The ideas are endless.
- Open Mike Nights! Regardless of your bands musical style, the vocalist and guitarist should work together and craft an acoustic version of one or two or your bands best songs. Metallica has acoustic versions. Lady Gaga has acoustic versions. Miyavi has acoustic versions. YOU should too! And on random Wednesdays or Thursdays when that interesting restaurant or bar has “Open Mike” night – the vocalist and guitarist attend and hit the stage for their allotted minutes. An audience that might never have heard of you, your style, etc – is there! For free! An event arranged by someone else. Impress them with YOUR acoustic version, tell the other performers they were “great” and/or “very unique” (even if it is not completely truthful) and hand out those business card/post cards.