Starting a Music Series

Have you ever wanted to start a music series – a Coffeehouse series up the street from your house, a regular singer-songwriter night residency with your favorite venue, or maybe a ticketed house show that’s known for quality music, good food and company? Fall is a really good time to do this. I recently had a friend email me for suggestions about starting a series and here are some things that came to mind…

It’s a good change of pace
Picking one thing and doing it well is a really great idea. Maybe the idea of booking X number of shows in X number of places exhausts you. If you think about it, doing one show at the same place is much easier and will definitely help you build a solid fanbase. It might limit you to a geographical area, but it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to focus on this approach and take the occasional show elsewhere whenever its offered.

Don’t do it too often
Once a month. If you want to do a show well, give yourself time to promote, host, rest, and then do it all over again. A monthly series will stick in people’s minds. Every 2 months is a bit too infrequent and every week will wear you out. Some things don’t take much preparation (i.e. weekly open mic…etc) but to do a show and really do it well, you need time, strategy, and rest so you don’t burnout. note: also remember that location has alot to do with how heavily you’ll have to promote. Maybe you could get away with a show ever two weeks if you’re at a central location with alot of walk-ins.

First time is a charm
Promote that first show like your life depends on it. Do it up so big and get the biggest turnout you can. If the first one is a success it will do all the work for all shows to follow. A good first show means people will come back. It means people will tell others. It means people will make Facebook comments about how much they enjoyed the first one and can’t wait for the next one.  I’m convinced that the key to the success of a music series is the very first installment and the maintenance of that vibe…which leads us to the next point.

Establish the vibe and stick with it
Pick a good name for the music series.  Make sure the space you’re hosting the show matches the type of vibe you want your event to give off.  Pick the most important aspect of your series and never change it. This is what will keep your core audience coming back.

The wonderful thing about hosting a music series is that you can bring in so many different artists over the life of the series, you can make yourself the resident musician (if you wish), and you can build a fanbase for the series and for yourself. Its like killing two birds with one stone.


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4 Comments on “Starting a Music Series”

  1. midwayfair Says:

    “Establish a vibe and never change it” is definitely key. Sometimes the people coming to the show don’t even realize what the most important aspect is.

    Earlier this year, I took over the Baltimore Folk Music Society’s open mic, and I decided to start doing a half hour feature. Some of the regulars (and this is a 20+ year old open mic now) got scared because they thought it would fundamentally change the experience. It turns out that what everyone really cares about is that there’s a small crowd of people familiar with sitting around listening in a very supportive atmosphere, with some snacks on the table. Exactly what the name says — “The Friendly Coffeehouse”.

    Unfortunately, I’m not sure that the “First Show” part is true with certain audiences. The first Coffeehouse I ran was with Matt Pless. It was by far the largest crowd we had; it was also one of the best audience reactions I’ve ever seen (he actually sold out of one of his CDs while there), and then the next couple months went back to the regular sized crowd. Some crowds just don’t talk as much, and there’s only so much you can do with building an open mic’s audience.

  2. I couldn’t agree w/this idea more. I have the most fun with gigs when I put them on myself. It’s a great way to guarantee you have a place to play, AND it’s a great way to share the wealth and give other performers a chance at a new audience.

    (I’m doing a semi-monthly series that started up last Spring. I alternate the shows a bit. One month will be me and two other songwriters in-the-round. The next month, I’ll just play host, and give the night to someone else. It’s a good kharma investment, and it’s a lot of fun giving others a place to play…especially out-of-towners who might not be able to book themselves into a bigger venue.)

  3. grassrootsy Says:

    Really really great thoughts guys. Michael I completely agree with you. I find that when all the organizational aspects of a show are in my hands, it turns out exactly like I want it to. There are no surprises.

  4. seconda Says:

    Yes, it’s really important to get a connection with your audience. That’s the only way to entertain them properly.

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