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How Often Should You Play? 6 Drawbacks to Playing More Shows

In some of my other articles, such as How to Book SXSW, I mention the importance of playing often. However, I need to add a disclaimer: it isn’t just about the quantity of shows plated, it’s also about the quality. While in theory, it sounds good to perform as much as possible because you can gain more exposure, the results can be quite different.

There is such a thing as playing too often, especially in the same market. Here are some of the biggest reasons why you should limit the number of shows you play:


  1. It hurts your draw. Even your most die-hard fans won’t want to see you every week or two. Playing too many shows close together will split your ability to draw. This in turn hurts your relationship with the promoter. In fact, some promoters actually make you sign an agreement that prevents you from booking in the vicinity for 2-4 weeks around a show. Unless you are invited to play a residency, try not to play the same town more than once a month.

  2. It diminishes your value. We tend to think of things that are rare, collectable, or limited as more valuable. The same is true with your show: not only will your supporters consider it a special opportunity to support you (especially when they’re only being invited a few times a year instead of a few times per month), you’re more likely to get higher guarantees as a result.

  3. It doesn’t increase your fanbase (that much). If you are playing with unknown acts that don’t draw well, you’re going to only end up playing to the other bands. These days, most venues don’t have a steady walk-in clientele that you can perform for. Music venues rely heavily on the bands to make the show a success. That extra time you spend booking your local shows could be spent finding better acts to play with instead.

  4. It’ll cost you other shows. Playing too many shows in your region will crowd your calendar and might cause you to lose opportunities opening for larger acts or special events that you could be invited to. If you keep a good rapport with promoters, you can work with them to be more strategic about the calendar.

  5. It wears your band out. Too many shows can also stress the band out: your gear, your vehicles, interpersonal relationships, etc. You don’t want to burn yourselves out playing small shows every weekend when, if spaced out properly, those shows could be doubled in size.

  6. It takes you away from building your career. Shows take up a lot of time. You have to book the gig, haul gear, setup, play, tear down, etc. That’s extra time that could be spent on writing music, working on your music career’s long term strategy, booking a tour (different than regional gigs), networking, or even visiting someone else’s show to get some inspiration for your work.

Instead of trying to fill the calendar, use your efforts to fill up the venue.Think about your long term goals. Add some variety to the calendar with the types of venues, locations of shows, the kinds of events you could be playing. If your goal is to play 100 shows this year, 90 of them should be out of town.

Try this: imagine that your band can only play four local shows this year. Where would you want those to be? Which acts do you want to play with? If you value your time and believe that each show needs to be a part of an integral part of a long-term goal, you’ll be more careful about the kinds of shows you book or accept.

Being strategic about your shows will get you closer to your goals than conquering one dive or bar patron at a time.


Simon Tam is the President and Founder of Last Stop Booking, author of How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements, and performs in dance rock band The Slants. Simon’s writing on music and marketing can be found at He is on Twitter @SimonTheTam 

Reader Comments (5)

Touring and Live Gigs, none of these should be taken on unless you actually have something to promote. I take on board the points made in the article about what to avoid.
I would also add that the main problem with gigs are that promoters haven't upped their game. Many rely to heavily on the bands to do all the promotion and invest little or nothing to the event themselves.
Recent gigs have become little more than Battle of the Bands with the artists expected to do all the promotion and then hand a large part of the ticket sales back to the venue. (This is becoming the norm). I do understand touring both large and small and how to make it pay but if i were touring a new band today I would struggle to find enough suitable venues that had a good reputation for decent promotion and promoters.
The fact is that social networking is blinding promoters and quite a few record labels, killing the art of good A&R across the board no one knows what's good or bad any more and if they do they are unable to act upon it for fear of failure.

Great read, thanks! Yes it´s difficult to sustain interest locally whilst playing a lot. Plan B can be to perform at house parties instead of venues. Best, V.

May 3 | Unregistered CommenterVincent

I have a different take on some of the points in this article. But I go in assuming this article has to do more about original shows and working with a promoter, which is not always the case for many musicians, myself included.

On point #1, this is true if you are promoting every single show. I play over 200 shows a year, but I put my promotional efforts into the ones that matter the most or when I'm expected to draw a crowd. Which is probably 20 of those 200 shows.

On point #2, I disagree to the point that not gigging as much does not improve your stage performance or musicianship all that much. Bands I know that follow this point are not as impressive, not as polished on stage, and therefore ruin their chances and reputation with the venue. Plus it's a let down for fans.

On point #3, yes venues that depend on bands to draw are going to be hurt if you gig too much. Venues that promote themselves and your gig, which is very rare and should be done more, can actually help create a win win for themselves and the band. The band gets more fans and the venue gets more interest in the types of music it brings in.

On point #4, this is not always true. Using myself as an example, I have many repeat venues I play at least once a month throughout the year. Some months I'm so busy that I have to turn down gigs. I've even turned a venue down multiple times which gives them the impression that I don't want to play there and it hurts my reputation. Plus many of my gigs have lead to private funcitons, corporate events, and bigger opportunities.

On point #5, yes, this is true. But it's about self-care and being in top shape that reduces the wear factor down.

On point #6, I agree, but then writing music and doing other music business things takes away from playing gigs as well. Opportunity cost in both instances.

The touring comment is for another article. But for me at the end of the day I play music full-time in an expensive high cost of living city and sometimes have no choice to play lots of gigs to make ends meet. If I followed this advice where I am based I'd be back to a desk job and not enjoying my life.

Brian Franke, Singer/Songwriter

If you don't play a lot of shows, you'll never become a great live band. The key is not to play them all in the same town...

May 14 | Unregistered Commenterdko

Great article Simon. I agree - Playing shows is effective for building a connection with the fans you already have and for making money (when you have a big enough audience), but generally not for building a fan base - there are better ways to do that online.

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