When it comes to touring, I find more musicians focused with the “How,” “When,” and “Where” aspects but not enough of the “Why.” Of course, touring can be an incredibly important step in most artists’ careers but you should definitely take some time out to create solid goals and a definitive strategy before you decide when/where you want to hit the road. Why do we pick the target areas for touring that we do? Is it because we want to travel there? Because they are big cities? Because that’s what everyone else is doing?
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Entries in Live Shows (13)
I’ve written many things about booking, such as a step-by-step guide on booking a tour and a few things on getting into SXSW, but what happens if you don’t have a massive history of touring the country? What if this is a new band and this is your first gig? How do you get started?
Here are some tips on booking your band’s first show:
The “Four P’s” is a term used to describe the traditional Marketing Mix: Product, Price, Placement, and Promotion. I’m borrowing from that expression to talk about the Four P’s of Playing Live Shows: Preparation, Promotion, Performance, and Post-Show. This series of blog posts will cover the things that you can be doing as a live performer to maximize each show. In the final part of this series, we’ll go over what to do after your show is finished:
The “Four P’s” is a term used to describe the traditional Marketing Mix: Product, Price, Placement, and Promotion. I’m borrowing from that expression to talk about the Four P’s of Playing Live Shows: Preparation, Promotion, Performance, and Post-Show. This series of blog posts will cover the things that you can be doing as a live performer to maximize each show. In Part 3, it’s all about your performance:
Live shows are what a lot of our careers center around. Whether we’re in a band, manage a band, or run sound for a band, one thing is for sure, the better the band sounds, the better the show. After reading this post you’ll be able to implement some changes that will help you gain more fans, sell more merch, and have people leave with happier ears.
For the Band
“What could we do better?” is the number one question I am asked by bands after a show. Without fail, this is the answer I give them:
“Improve your tones”
Here’s what I mean: Say you are a singer songwriter. You play by yourself, your vocals and your guitar is 100% of your sound. First of all, record yourself playing, and listen back to that recording. What is the tone of your voice? Deep? Boomy? Nasally? Harsh? Thin? Full? Listen with an open mind, and see if there are things you can improve on. Next your guitar. How does the pickup sound in comparison to how the guitar sounds when you play it unplugged? Does the pickup add low end or sound too harsh in the highs? Spend some time listening to how your instruments sound, and make them sound as best as they can.
I met up with a group of music industry professionals this afternoon, and as we were chatting, we got on the topic of the problems that exist in the area of live shows. I’m not talking about soft-seater or stadium shows, I’m talking about gigs in small, local venues.
It’s clear that there are lots of different opinions on what works and what doesn’t, but right as we were wrapping up, I made a comment that I think warrants publishing, and it’s this:
There’s nothing that bothers me more than shows that cost $5 to get into.
Five bucks, in my mind, is WAY too low. When I played in bands in my early twenties (about 10 years ago), shows cost five bucks THEN. You know what else cost five bucks? A pack of cigarettes. Try finding a store that sells you smokes for under $10 now. (Note: I’m in Toronto, Canada, so your prices may vary depending on where you live).
The Music Industry
Thinks Out Loud
- Bas Grasmayer: The Next Music Format Case-Study: Twisted Music
- Dave Cool: The Four P’s of Playing Live Shows: Promotion
- Brian Thompson: The Twitter Trolls: How to Deal with Criticism Online
- Ariel Hyatt: Musician’s Arsenal: Killer Apps, Tools & Sites - Facebook’s Timeline
- Jamie Leger: What Can We Learn From Indie Band Pomplamoose?
The “Four P’s” is a term used to describe the traditional Marketing Mix: Product, Price, Placement, and Promotion. Well, I’m going to borrow from that expression and talk about the Four P’s of Playing Live Shows: Preparation, Promotion, Performance, and Post-Show. This series of blog posts will cover the things that you can be doing as a live performer to maximize each show. Part 1 was all about preparing for your show, and in now in Part 2 we focus on promotion.
The “Four P’s” is a term used to describe the traditional Marketing Mix: Product, Price, Placement, and Promotion. Well, I’m going to borrow from that expression and talk about the Four P’s of Playing Live Shows: Preparation, Promotion, Performance, and Post-Show. This series of blog posts will cover the things that you can be doing as a live performer to maximize each show. Part 1 is all about preparation.
The Four P’s of Playing Live Shows: Preparation
We’re going to start with the assumption that you’ve chosen a venue and confirmed a date with the venue booker. For tips about getting booked, see one of my previous posts 5 Ways to Impress Venue Bookers and Get More Gigs.
Once the gig is confirmed, here are some things you will need to prepare for the show:
Who will the opening band(s) be?
I guess the first question really is will there even be an opening band? The answer will almost always be yes, as the benefits are clear. An opening band can warm up the crowd, hopefully bring their own fans to the show, and help with the promotion of the show. So when choosing an *opening band, a few things to consider (*and if you happen to be the opening band, much of this advice can still apply):
There are a few ways to make sure you get to open for a major artist in town:
- Develop a consistent reputation with promoters in your area that you can pack out whatever venues you play. Part of getting this great buzz about your music is getting into local press or radio stations (usually with the help of a publicist), being proactive about promoting your shows, and demonstrating that you’d make a good fit for the show.
- Buy your way in. Either you’ll be asked to sell a minimum number of tickets (and pay the difference if you are short) or pay the performer up front.
- Enter a random contest that you have no control over (sometimes local promoters or radio stations have a contest for local artists to enter), but the results usually have to do deal with option #1 (how much of a buzz do you have).
The first option takes time, energy, and hard work. In the process, you’ll gain the respect of the local music industry. You’ll build true fans that will come to other shows, buy your merchandise, and support your career. It’s the equivalent of a business building solid, regular customers. If the act you’re opening for likes you, you’ll be invited to do future shows with them and they’ll probably encraouge their fans to support you.
What bands tend to forget, not everyone at the show knows who they are. Some people are just there to hang out and could care less about the bands. Knowing this, you have to use every tool at your disposal to get your band recognized. It’s no good to entertain a crowd of people and then let them leave not even knowing the name of your band. (It happens…trust me…)
1. Large banner on stage
Displaying your band’s logo prominently while you’re playing has to be the number one way for everyone to know who you are. At any point during your set, people will immediately see who you are.
Simply announcing the name of your band during your set is not enough. You never know at what point someone will or will not be in your audience. People wander in and out the entire time: getting beer, smoking, going to the bathroom, just got to the club, etc. There is no gaurantee your new, potential super-fan will be in the room when you say your band’s name.
Yes, even if someone really digs your band, they can still wander out and miss who you are. Why? Well, there are usually two things that trump your show: alcohol and getting laid.
Assuming that you have strong songs and an kickass live show, here are ten (10) simple things you can do to get more gigs:
1. Create a YouTube channel for your band.
Upload a live performance video on YouTube that represents your band at its best. Include a phone number and e-mail address too, so that anyone who wants to book you can contact you easily. Say something like “Contact ________ to book us for a live show.” To show professionalism and interest, try your best to respond to every inquiry within 48 hours.
2. Print up nice business cards
…with your band name, links to your music, live videos, and a phone number and e-mail address that can be reached for booking purposes. Also, include a link to your website so they can learn more about you. You’d be surprised how many bands STILL write down their phone numbers on dirty napkins and torn pieces of paper. Wherever you go, tell people who you are, how good you are, where you are playing next, and how easy it is for them to book you directly.
I recently posted about discovering a wonderful band called Arizona. I found them while attending PopAsheville in January and I wrote - “I was invited to give the keynote speech this year. I spent an hour reminding the musicians in attendance that they are no longer in the music business, they are in the T-shirt business and they all seemed to agree. They also agreed that the music industry is not hurting, it’s the cd business that is in decline.” The whole post is here.
I am not being facetious when I say that bands are in the T-shirt business as I believe very strongly that as music slips down to zero in dollar value then artists must move quickly to find different ways to make money from their art.
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