Why Won’t People Come to My Shows?


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I dunno…
But lets try and figure it out.

In last month’s Grassrotsy Reader’s Poll, many of you said you’re biggest frustration as an artist is getting people to come out to your shows. I half expected the most popular answer to be money-related so I was definitely surprised.  If you think about it though, fans = money.  In other words, if you can get people to come to your show, you’ll eventually make money off these people –  door cover,  CD sales, etc.  Not to mention the fact that if more people came to your shows, your career as a successful musician might just be validated 🙂

That said, lets talk a bit about building your fanbase and help you ease your frustration.

Boycott Venues
Here’s an idea: stay out of traditional venues for a full month. But don’t take a vacation.  Spend that month playing out at as many community functions as possible.  There are things going on in your city. Just look for them! Overbook yourself until you’ve played for hundreds of new ears.  The idea behind this is that you’ll be playing to the people you someday hope to draw into a “real” show at a local club or listening room.  You’ll also have the luxury of having a fresh, built- in crowd w/out the effort of promoting.  In order to make fans, go to where the fans already are. Don’t try to bring them to you.

 I am convinced that engaging with the community you live in is the only sure-fire way to build a presence in that community.  And finding these events is only a matter of visiting your local online community calendar and emailing various event coordinators. Plan to work in adavance.  And be prepared b/c events like this won’t always pay and can sometimes be hit or miss. It’s the nature of the game.

Stop Missing the Boat!
I played at a huge art festival last weekend where the first band on the bill did not ask for a merch table to display their music.  Luckily the 2nd band asked for a table and by default band1 decided to put out their merch.  Can you imagine how much money band1 would have missed out on, had they not put out their CDs?  They nearly missed out on a very lucrative night.  There were thousands of people at this event. 

To top it off, a group that went on later that night sold its first 20 CDs in 30 minutes but had no newsletter signup page at the merch table.  I was observing this trying to figure out: ” how does this band communicate with its fans if  it doesn’t have a way to get ahold of them? And how will they hold on to the fans they’ve just made?”.  Their CDs sold so fast, it was kind of amusing to watch.

The big question is: why is a merch table the last thing most artists think about when their livelihood depends on it?

You Get Out What You Put In
Like Allison Weiss says, “Nothing bothers me more than a musician who swears off the internet”  Being techonologically saavy doesn’t just mean posting the event on your myspace calendar. These days anyone can do that.  Getting out what you put in means creating that facebook invite, having handbills at your Sept 1st show to promote your Sept 30th show, and using each of your social networking sites and the sites of others.

Things Happen
The fact of the matter is, sh– happens.  A bad rainstorm, a Steelers game (don’t expect anyone to come to a show in Pittsburgh if it falls on the same night of a Steelers game), a big event next door 🙂  There will be times that, no matter how hard you promote, you won’t get the expected turnout.  Just make the most of every show and never miss a beat in how well you promote yourself at the show…and then how well you follow up after the show.

And remember…
People Won’t Come to your shows if they don’t know you exist.  And if they do know you exist, but think you suck, well none of the above information matters.   Sorry.

***Subscribe to Grassrootsy

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