How to Promote a Show - A Guide for Bands
The key to every successful event is promotions. It doesn't mater what acts are on the bill, if no one knows who is playing, there will be no one there. One of the most often ask questions I get as a talent buyer is, How do I promote my band and get a bigger draw? The answer is simple, work.
I know that often it might seem that your local venue has endless resources and is completely connected to promote any show easily and yes in part it is their responsibility to do so. However, your local venue may have as many as 30 or 60 shows a month to promote and has limited resources to do so. Unlike an average local band that might have 1 or maybe 2 shows a month to promote. Even a touring band has only maybe 10 or 20 to focus on at one time. So to a large degree it is up to the bands to do some of the heavy lifting.
So, I thought that for this blog I would focus on what effective promotion works and what I've seen bands do to build their draw and have successful shows.
Facebook and other forms of social networking has allowed bands a way in which to interact with their fans and gain new fans in ways that were completely unthought of just 10 years ago. The surprising thing to me is most bands have no clue on how to use it to gain attention. Here is some hints on how to be more effective in marketing your band and events:
Interact with your fans and build an audience. We have all seen it, your favorite band gets a Facebook page and then doesn't post one thing on it for months or even years at a time. I know sometimes it's hard to think of something to post when the band doesn't have much big news but the reality is that fans react to getting an inside view of what the band and the members are up to. For example, post if you had a good practice, wrote a new song, maybe you all just eat at your favorite BBQ joint or one of your collective favorite bands is releasing new music. Do all the things you do on your personal feed but as a collective and always see it as a platform to talk directly to your fans.
Post shows that you are playing. I don't mean just share the event when it is announced but in the weeks coming up to the show. Share music from the other bands that are playing the show and mention why you are excited to be playing with them. Your fans believe it or not see you as taste makers and are often very open to being exposed to music that you like. Also make sure that every single member of the band shares the event and posts about the show in their own newsfeeds. Just cause they are friends of members doesn't mean they have liked their band page. Members have a completely different social circle than the band and the venues.
Tag fans and friends in posts. The reality is no mater how often you post, people may not see it in their feed. Especially, with Facebook. Tagging someone will add insurance that they are going to in fact be notified that you posted. It's like a chain letter, it will just expand and expand and reach people outside of you social circle.
Invite, it always surprises me that band members do not take the time to invite their friends to shows. Yes, you might feel like you don't want to bother them but the reality is most people will respond to a direct invite then click on a link.
Message fans - there are a number of touring bands that have began contacting their fans in the area through Facebook messenger. This can have a huge effect on your fans, it makes them feel like they are part of the band. Not only tell them about the event but ask them to share the event and invite their friends.
The event page - Share your music, news about the show, and your excitement about playing the show. This will notify everyone that has clicked "going" and "interested" that a post has been made. Discussion on an event can peak interest in the event and makes it seem more like an event and less like just another show.
Posters and Handbills
Yes, the venue does hang them up at the venue and in some cases maybe they have a street team that hangs up posters around town. However, most venues are going to focus on larger events that they have coming up. Out of the 20 odd shows a month that Lefty's prints posters and handbills for, maybe 4 to 6 of those will get heavily distributed. We have to focus on shows with larger national acts and shows where there is maybe no local on the bill. The rest we have to rely on locals to put them up and hand out handbills. The key is to be respectful to the place you are handing them out. For example, don't post events to a competing venues bathroom or place them on top of a stack of handbills for another event. Before posting flyers in a business always ask first.
Tell the venue that you are willing to flyer. Ask them to print out extra flyers and handbills and arrange a time to pick them up. If you have a show at Lefty's, contact me aka DaVo at [email protected]. I'll be happy to have extra printed and let you know when you can pick them up.
Post anywhere that you feel someone might be interested in the show. Think about where you go and where musicians and music fans hang out. Record Stores, Music Stores, Hang Outs, Restaurants, etc....
Hand out handbills at gigs and keep them on you or in your car to give to friends, music lovers and family. Think of them as a personal invitation. It's like you are personally inviting them to the show. Also have a stack on your merch table when you play shows.
Word of Mouth:
Tell everyone you know about the show. Ask them point blank every time you see them, if they are coming to the show. Guilt them into coming. "Hey, if you are friend, you will be there to support me." or "It would mean a lot to me if you came to this show." Also tell your friends about the other bands that are playing. They may look to you as a taste maker and a source of new music. You might be the only person they know in a band and you might be their go to guy or gal for music. If you have 5 members in your band and they can talk 10 people each into coming to a show, that is automatically 50 people at your show. I don't know how many times I've had a show that relied on a local act to bring people in and they have only seemed to bring in 5 members, a merch person and 2 people on the guest list.
Go to shows. Meet people in other bands and tell them about your band. Members of other bands are more willing to come out and support bands where the members have supported them in the past. Also that contact might come in handy for getting on future shows or getting information on playing in other cities. Plus you might find yourself getting exposed to some great music you did even know existed in your own backyard.
Lefty's doesn't normally print tickets for every event. This is in part because they cost $0.75 a piece to print and we would rather not have the added cost. Mainly because with less cost involved with a show, the more that we can pay talent.
That said, we have had local bands see a great deal of success by taking it upon themselves to pay the cost of printing tickets and selling them. There is nothing more direct than selling a ticket to a fan. It is an instant commitment to attend the show.
Sell it as an Event:
People always attend births and funerals. The reality is that most band's biggest draws are their first show and their last. Give reason to come out to a show. Give them an experience that they are not going to have at any of the other 12 or 15 shows you might be doing that year. Limited t-shirts, food, prizes, singles, etc... that they can only get at this show. Let people know if you are going to be doing new material or playing dressed as killer bees. Use your imagination. Sometimes all it takes is pointing out that this is the only chance they are going to get to see this line up of bands.
In conclusion, I know selling your art may not be what you signed up for but the reality is that it is part of being in an active band and artist. The reality is that people have more entertainment options then ever before and you are competing with each and every one of them. As a talent buyer there is nothing more frustrating then watching a talented act play to staff and the support bands. While I see less talented bands draw a great deal more just because they put in the effort to promote their shows. Which always reminds me of the old quote, "Support talented people because untalented people will always make it on their own."
The reality is that if you want to get people to experience your art, you have to sell yourself. It's that simple and as some as you embrace that fact and put in the effort, you will realize it was worth it.