It’s demoralising, playing to an empty room. I’m talking from experience here! Most gigs I’ve played have been great though. It just depends how busy the venue happens to be at the time and whether these people enjoy your style of music.
By promoting your gigs, you reduce the chance of dead shows which are just not good for you or the venue.
It’s great to have family and friends supporting you but sometimes they won’t be able to make the performance. Some venues will have bands on every Friday and Saturday night meaning the punters are generally the sort that enjoy live music. Others will rely more on the band to bring in a following.
Let’s investigate ways we can draw in more music lovers.
Getting the branding sorted
Look at how supermarkets, clothes retailers or coffee shops keep the same branding regardless of where they are or when they advertise. This is called omnichannel marketing.
Although a music act is very different, we should use the same approach. Any time we want to keep a loyal following, whether music related or not, it helps to create a brand.
Do you have a logo, a strap line, a colour or font that’s associated with your band or music act? These can be used to create your very own promotional artwork helping create your brand. If you don’t, you can give DIY branding a go or pay someone. Either way it’s important to get this in place.
Once you’ve decided on branding, this can then be used on all your promotional mediums. Your website, social media pages, posters, bass drum if you have a drummer, banners, business cards etc.
Create a website
Smaller bands tend to only be found on social networking. Having your own website gives you that professional, established feel. Any social networking accounts can then be linked to your site.
Having your own internet domain name should give you the option to have an email address for every person involved in your band under the band name itself - email@example.com or perhaps better still firstname.lastname@example.org.
A website for your purposes doesn’t have to be complicated and shouldn’t cost the earth.
Prices for domain names (per year):
- .co.uk - £5 - £10
- .band - £15 - £20 - new and super cool!
- .com - £15 - £20
Basic hosting of a website should cost around £15 per month. Often companies will offer deals to get you signed up. Free or super cheap domain names and discounted hosting for 6 months are common.
Prices correct at time of writing
Put all your upcoming performances on your website
When people have a great night at your show, they’ll want to experience that again. Make sure all your upcoming performance dates and locations are publicly available on your site in advance so people have plenty of time to make plans.
Your social media accounts can then be updated when a new gig is arranged with a link to your own diary showing all your performance dates.
Post live performance details to social feeds
Social networking is a great way to keep in touch with followers and gain new fans.
Remember to use social media as a tool to update your followers with meaningful information. The odd informal post is fine but don’t post everyday about what you had for breakfast or your favourite car colour! You may find people stop following you.
A week or so beforehand and also on the day of the performance, be sure to post the venue, location and time you’re playing. This may sound like a no brainer but believe me, it’s surprising how many get the basics wrong. Make sure that’s not you! Ask friends to share your post.
If the venue has their own social media, drop them a quick email asking politely whether they could also share your post. It’s in their interests to do so.
Get through to as many people as you can. As a bonus you will probably pick up more followers.
Make sure you create eye-catching posts. Always use a photo or video. This will always trump a few lines of text. The image could be of the venue. Perhaps an image of the building or the stage.
If you’re using Facebook, try Facebook Events. This allows a dedicated landing page for each of your events where guests can discover more, interact and RSVP.
Facebook also has location specific groups, containing details for all sorts of upcoming events. Be sure to add your gig details. Artists and bands often use the Spotted page/group to promote shows.
It may sound a bit corporate and boring but your band is essentially a business. The more you treat it like one, the more successful it’s likely to be. This takes nothing away from the artistry of creating and performing music.
With luck, one day you may be able to employ people to run or help with the business side but for most of us, we have to handle this ourselves.
Giving out business cards after a show is a great way to create personal connections with people. Spend time chatting to anyone that enjoyed your show and ask them whether they’d like a card with your details on.
Sites exist to help music lovers find live shows in their local area. Google ‘gigs near me’ or ‘upcoming gigs in [location]’.
Check out Lemon Rock. If you register as a band or musician, you can then post your live shows. Signed up gig goers also then get alerted. People can also search any upcoming performances in whichever location they choose. Currently musicians get a free 30 day trial after which prices start from £3.50 a month.
Screenshot of Lemon Rock website
Another site to check out is ents24. This site allows people to search upcoming events in their area. They can filter to just show music events and then filter further to just show a specific genre. Post your gig to this site for additional promotion.
Screenshot of ents24 website
As an additional bonus, when a user searches Google for something like ‘gigs in Plymouth’, Google then produces a calendar with events pulled from websites such as ents24. So you’re getting your live performance in front of even more people this way.
Screenshot of Google events calendar
Next door is another site musicians use to post upcoming events in specific locations. Users can RSVP by clicking an ‘Interested’ button. Next door also have an app to make life easier.
Please note we have no affiliation with Lemon Rock, ents24 or Next door.
Although the main focus of your promotion should be online, don’t neglect the old tried and trusted methods of getting the word out. Not everyone uses social media.
Some venues will display a poster for you but don’t rely on this. Get a laminator and post half a dozen for them to put up a couple of weeks before the show. Laminated posters are more durable and look better. The more they have, the more they’re likely to use. You’ll also get to design the poster yourself making sure your branding is in full view.
Mention the genre of music and if you’re a covers act, name the artists. Best to have people turn up that are into the music you’re playing.
Posters near the venue in places with high traffic will get the attention of people. Try and think of places your target audience may hang out such as music shops, colleges, rehearsal rooms, noticeboards. Make sure you get permission before going ahead.
During the early days of your band, posters probably won’t be as effective but imagine people finding out that band or performer that they really enjoyed last time is coming back soon. It’s all about getting momentum.
What’s on guide in local press
Local newspapers usually have a What’s On section. It may be well worth spending a little cash to get your show listed. Remember to include the style and genre of music you play.
Promote future performances during a show
Playing a great show is essential for gathering a loyal following but there's more that can be done during a performance.
Get a banner printed with your web address and perhaps one or two of your social networking links. Put it up for the audience to see during a show. People will be inclined to check you out online especially if you’ve really nailed the performance. Some may even comment on your feeds during the show.
Make a subtle reference to the banner at some point during the gig and also tell the audience where you’ll be playing next and when you’ll be returning should you have a follow up show booked in.
Get a support act
It’s awesome to have your own support act, but it’s better still when you think of all the hidden advantages.
- They will bring their own entourage, more people at the performance who like your genre
- They will promote the event
- Some of their fans may get into your music too
- People will come to see a night of entertainment, rather than one band
- More people equals more money for the venue, so they should be very keen to get you back
Unlike other businesses where people trying to achieve the same goals as you are seen as competition, collaboration with bands in your genre can actually be very helpful.
Create a mailing list
Mailing lists provide a powerful way to communicate directly with your fans.
Take Facebook for example. You fire off a post promoting your upcoming show. Facebook will not show the post to all your followers and the people that receive the post, will get it amongst a load of other posts. This doesn’t mean Facebook is useless but compare this to a mailing list. EVERY person on that list will get the email.
It’s also worth mentioning that social media platforms update their sites constantly. Who knows if your hard earned followers will be as easy to contact tomorrow. The fact is we don’t own or have any control over these sites. A mailing list on the other hand is yours.
So how do we get started? First you need to decide on an email marketing platform. Mailchimp may be a good starting point as they offer a free service for low volume users. There’s many other services available though. Spend a bit of time learning which is right for you.
After this, users on your site need the ability to sign up to your mailing list. This can usually be done fairly easily. Most mailing services have guides showing you what to do. If you’ve got some technical skills, this should be doable. Otherwise see if a techy friend can help or if all else fails, get a web developer to sort it for you.
Email marketing platforms allow you to do a lot more than simply send messages. Any services worth their salt will allow you to:
- set up differing email campaigns
- specify a time the email is sent (to maximise effectiveness)
- send targeted email based on demographics, location etc
- set up A/B testing
- review performance reports
You may never use these features but at least you can see how powerful a mailing service can be.
Be sure to get as many of your social networking followers onto your mailing list.
Make selling tickets a seamless experience
If tickets are needed to attend your show, make sure these are easy to get hold of. Once someone is committed to buying a ticket, the last thing you want is that person giving up because the ticket was too hard to get hold of. The process of buying the ticket must be seamless and secure.
Ask a journalist to cover your show
Gaining press coverage is a fantastic way of promoting you or your band. Why not invite a journalist to enjoy the show. Perhaps offer them a free ticket as an incentive. Press coverage like this will really help raise the profile of your band in general. Don’t forget to post a link to any press releases from your website and social media.
There’s many ways of promoting your shows. Remember not to rely on your music and performances alone. To maximise your chances of success, think in terms of your gigs starting at the marketing stage, three or four weeks before you walk on the physical stage. Diligent determined marketing can play a major role in your success.