Almost every independent artist struggles to fill even the smallest of venues… Yes, some artists seem to have it all figured out, and sell out their local and hometown shows.
You’re probably wondering how they do this? They must be industry plants of some sort. Right?
Wrong! They likely have a combination of factors including great music, an approachable personality, and solid work ethic. Thankfully this is all something you can learn, too.
Listen now to learn how you can increase your band’s draw to fill venues, sell more merch, and start playing better shows outside your hometown!
What you’ll learn:
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It is time for another episode of the band have podcast. My name is James Cross and I help independent artists who are smart this week on the Bandhive Podcast. We're gonna be talking about how to get people to actually come to the shows you are playing because there's nothing more soul sucking and draining than playing to an empty room.
Now I totally get it as an independent artist. It can be like pulling teeth to get people to come to your show. People make all kinds of excuses and ultimately what it comes down to is that if they're making excuses, it's because they do not want to come. Now, obviously there are tons of legitimate reasons that people might not be able to make it, but there are also people who will say, yeah, I have this.
It's like, yeah, dude, didn't your third cousin twice removed, get married last month. You can't come to the show because. Okay, whatever. so the issue is that if people are making these [00:01:00] kind of obvious excuses like this, you haven't hooked them. You haven't made them think, yeah, I really want to go see this band play live and it's similar, whether you're playing your hometown or a city, hundreds of miles away.
you'll probably have similar struggles to fill the room until you get to a certain level, but your strategy to get people through the door changes quite drastically until you have your fan base built up outside your hometown as well. So for example, what you do in your hometown, where you ideally have people who know you and like you, that's gonna be a different strategy than playing a few hundred miles away.
Now once you have a fan base built up in that other city, then your strategy is gonna look more similar to what you do in your hometown, because you have people who know and like your music. that's kind of what we're gonna cover on this episode of the podcast.
And I'm gonna discuss my top tips for getting more fans through the door for your next show. So stick with me here, and we're gonna start [00:02:00] with playing your home. I have to say that the absolute most important thing that you can do is not play your hometown more than once every two to three months.
If you're playing your hometown more often than that, You're oversaturating the market and people aren't gonna come to your shows. You want to give those people a chance to think, Hey, you know, I wish this band would play again instead of, eh, they play every month.
I'm just gonna go next time. That is so huge. if you're that band who plays all the time, then your show is nothing special. You want to be the band who has great events. You want to be known like, oh, that band, they don't play that often. So when we wanna go see them, we better go see them, cuz they might not be back for three to six months. so we're gonna go to this show because we don't wanna wait another six months to see them live. In the meantime you and your band can practice regularly. So when you do play those shows every two to three months or [00:03:00] more really? I wouldn't recommend playing more than three shows in your hometown every year. That's, you know, roughly speaking if it's four, okay. Whatever, but you know, three is good. Four is max and two is even better if you do every six months.
That's great. between those shows, you can practice, you wanna practice your songs. Obviously that's what everybody does. They all practice their songs, but you can also practice your banter on stage. You can practice your stage, blocking your movement.
try this in front of a mirror, whether you're a guitarist, a bass player, some kind of horn player, keyboardist singer, Whatever it is, you do practice in front of a mirror and watch your actions. So you can kind of see what the movements and gestures you're making.
Look like to the audience are even better. Get a GoPro and film your band practices and rehearsals and do full dress rehearsals. Say, Hey, we're gonna play through a. and it's gonna be exactly like our live show.
Do that a bunch of times, that is so helpful because then you can go back and look at that footage [00:04:00] and say, Hey, this is what we could do better on. And this is what we think we'll do really well. Once we bring it to a live show. Now the next thing aside from practicing a bunch and not playing too often is to reach out to people directly social media.
That's absolutely great. You can post on social media as much as you want. You can put up flyers around town. That's all great. You do need to do these things, but they only go so far. Sending direct messages or texts directly to people who have supported you at past shows or have said, they'll come to a future show that goes so far because it does a few things.
One, it shows them that you remember them. You remember that they've supported you in the past or said they wanted to support you, or, you know, maybe you have a true. They're gonna feel so, so happy that an artist who they like as a fan has reached out to them to say, Hey, would you like to come to our show next week?
when you're doing these DMS, don't [00:05:00] just say, Hey, our show's next week. Come say, Hey, how's it going? I hope you're doing really well. You know, what's new and start a little bit of a conversation. And then once you have that conversation going say, Hey, by the way, We have a show next Friday at this venue.
And we would love to see you there. Let me know if you have any questions or want more information and you wanna be genuine and avoid being pushy or, you know, coming across as pushy. You don't want to, you know, make it seem like the only reason you're reaching out is to tell them about the show, which obviously you are, that's what you're doing, but you can do that in an ethical and kind way, rather than just salesy, salesy, salesy, Now, one thing to mention is if there's a door charge, do let them know in advance. Like the last thing you want is for them to show up and realize they have to pay when they weren't expecting to pay. that just leaves a bad taste in their mouth. So definitely let them know, say, Hey, just so you know, you know, tickets are $5 at the door.
Tickets are $10 at the door, whatever. Now, if you have pre-sale tickets gently ask them to [00:06:00] buy. Especially, if you have discounts for presale versus day of show, say, Hey, by the way, you know, we have tickets available for $8, but if you wait till the night of it'll be 10. So if you wanna buy some tickets, let me know, and we can set that up Now this is all great. You've put together a better show. You're not playing too often. You're reaching out to the people you. But what if that's not enough? What if you don't have enough people in your network who will show up to your performance to fill the venue?
Well, here's one of the most important things is you need to book other local artists who are good and don't play your area too often, but they do put in effort to bring their crowd. because if you're booking bands who won't even try to bring their fans, that's useless.
They don't deserve to be on a show with you. If a band is not willing to do any promotion because they feel that they are above that. Well, chances are, they're not above that because every successful artist in the world promotes their shows in their music. So if you ever [00:07:00] see a local or regional band saying, nah, well, we posted on social media once.
That's good enough. Like we don't wanna spam our fans. Run away. That is not an artist you wanna play with because they are not taking themselves seriously. And ultimately it's gonna be detrimental to your show that you're playing with. So make sure that the bands you play with are going to match your effort when it comes to bringing people to the show.
That means they're gonna DM their fans. That means they're gonna post on social media, not just once, but multiple times, they're gonna post interesting content. They're gonna go around and put up flyers in places that maybe you missed. And, you know, I know it's 20, 22, but flyers do still help go to your local music stores, go to any local bars where they'll let you put up a poster and you.
obviously some bars, they're not gonna let you do that. Cuz they have their own shows that night. But other bars, if they don't have shows, yeah. They'll probably let you do that. Go to the local library. You never know anywhere. You can put up a poster. That is one of the best things you can do.
And it doesn't cost that much [00:08:00] aside from some paper ink and your time, My point is it really is so important to get other local artists who care and have demand. I've been to way too many shows, where there was a touring band coming through and the venue you just put on some random local, and the band was awful.
You want the opening acts to be good and get the audience going for the headliner if there is a headliner, but if they're bad and. Unappealing People are gonna talk over them. They're not gonna get the energy in the room going. And worst case scenario, some people might leave.
If the opening band is that bad people will leave. So you have to be very careful with who you book on a show, because if you book the wrong band, You might have fewer people in the venue than if that band wasn't playing at all. I'm not gonna lie. Like I hate to say this, but there are shows that I have not gone to, because I [00:09:00] knew one of the opening bands and I knew they were just awful and I didn't wanna see them.
So I said, I'm gonna skip that show now. Not everyone is like that. And granted, if it had been an artist that I truly love, if it had been one of my, like top five or top 10 artists, I would've gone no matter what, I might've stayed outside till the Oakland was done. But the point is, if you're struggling to get people through the door, don't book the wrong artists to play with all of these tips will help in your home market. And some of them like booking the right artists will also absolutely help when you're playing away from home. So let's talk about that and just transitioning right there first and foremost book. Good locals. That's what I was just talking about.
So similar to what I was mentioning a second ago, you gotta bring those bands who will put in the effort to actually promote the. if they don't put in that effort, you're gonna end up with no one at the show, unless you have fans in that city, which if you're playing there for the first time, you probably don't.
So you're relying on the local artists to bring people out, which means you [00:10:00] need to be even more selective in making sure that those artists are going to pull their share of the weight for promoting the show. another similar thing to what we were discussing earlier is try to play those same markets outside your hometown, every three to four months before you ever headline there.
And you know, really at the local or regional level headlining is kind of just a term that gets tossed around. It doesn't mean much. The ideal world here would be. You could play these cities, you know, an hour or two, maybe three hours away from your hometown every six months or.
And when you are playing those cities, when you're playing those shows you focus so much on having people come to talk to you at the merch table. Now this does a couple things. First of all, it gives you the opportunity to chat with them and you can establish a good relationship with them. this is one of the key things that a lot of artists don't do. They just play their set and then they leave or they go hide in the corner. Maybe they're just surrounded by their friends, But [00:11:00] this is the time for you to go out and meet new people, meet new fans, establish that good relationship.
And once you've done that, ask them to join your mailing list, which is free. So you can let them know next time you're gonna play their city. The other thing it does is that when they're already at your merch table, they're much more likely to buy. So. So instead of saying, Hey, go to the merch table to buy blah, blah, blah.
Say, Hey, we would love to meet all of you. We'll be over by the merch table after our set. Just give us five minutes to load off the stage and then we can meet you over there. So come on over. We're happy to talk with you. Super easy. Just invite people to come talk to you. That is the first step. It's not salesy.
It's just saying, Hey, let's have a conversation rather than, Hey, go buy our stuff. Thanks, bye. Like that doesn't work. Okay. Maybe one person will buy something, but it's way better. If you can say, Hey, we wanna talk to you. You don't even mention that you're selling merch. It's implied when you say oh, over by the merch table.[00:12:00]
But the other thing, like I said is you get them on your email list. And when you do that, you need to be absolutely sure that any new shows or tours are announced to your mailing list. Ideally you have it geographically separated so you can target people in specific markets, but even if not, you want to be telling that email list about every single public show you're.
And if you wanna learn more about this check out episode 116 of the Bandhive Podcast. It's called emails. Not dead. You can find it by going to Bandhive.rocks/116. That's the number 116. Again, that's Bandhive.rocks/ 116. Now once you Now once you have a solid 5,200 people from a new market on your email list in whatever city you're trying to play, you can set up and announce your first headlining show in that town or city.
And you'll want to make it a special event for anyone who buys presale tickets, which is gonna be the people on your email list. So you can either say, Hey, if you buy a presale [00:13:00] ticket, we'll give you this exclusive sticker. That's only available to people who buy presales or a poster or a me and greet or whatever it is.
It's not gonna be paid. Add on anyone who buys a ticket from you before the night of that show is gonna get these bonuses. and then when it comes time to play the show, you want to mention those bonuses and that they were available to people on the email list, remind them that they can meet you at the Mer table and sign up for the email list and exchange for an exclusive item, like a wristband or a sticker or something else to continue that cycle, whatever item it is that you choose be specific.
When you mention on stage, You don't wanna just say, Hey, meet us over there for a free item. That's not the same. What you wanna do is be specific and say, Hey, join our mailing list. Get a free wristband. And you get to talk to us right over at the merch table, five minutes after our set ends.
So we'll see you over there. Okay guys. Looking forward to it now above all. Bringing people to your shows, whether this is in your hometown or you're playing somewhere else means you have to have great music, a [00:14:00] well rehearsed set and provide an entertaining evening that will get people off of the couch and stop them from watching Netflix, stranger things for whatever it is and bring them into that.
you have to utilize all the resources that you have to make it the best show possible. And you cannot be afraid to ask people directly if they'll come to your show, especially if they interact with you a lot on social media, those are the people who are probably gonna say yes. So send them that personalized invite to your show.
Two year show. Before I go one last tip. Don't forget to have fun. As much as being in a band is work. Playing shows should be fun, 90 to 95% of the time. if you're having fun, so is the audience. Be sure that you are exuding that positive energy the whole time you're up on stage and talking to any new potential fans, because they're gonna be so much more likely to connect with you.
If you are happy and high energy, then if you're just glum and sad and [00:15:00] Moy, and that's not to say, you know, if you're playing a sad song, don't look super happy. Like that's, that's not good, but you should go out there and present the energy that the audience is gonna expect.
And then when you're at the merch table, you don't want to act miserable when you're meeting someone, like what kind of vibe does that send like, oh man, he was not happy to meet me. Like she was miserable. Like that was rude. Like what's going on. The drummer was just like on his phone the whole time. I guess he doesn't care about his fans.
That's not what you want to do. So be there, be genuine, be happy and above all have fun
That does it for this episode of the Bandha podcast. Thank you so much for tuning and listening. I really appreciate it. And I hope that this episode has given you some new thoughts on how you can bring more people to your shows, whether you're playing in your hometown or further away. if you have any questions, we have a dedicated discussion thread for every single episode in the Bandhive community. You can find that by searching for Bandhive on Facebook or going to [00:16:00] Bandhive.rocks/group. Again, that's Bandhive.rocks/group, which will automatically redirect you to our Facebook group. We hope to see you there. And like I said, if you have questions, just drop 'em on the thread for this episode, or if it's not related to this episode, start your own thread. You know, I love to see people asking questions in the group. It's always really cool. Whether I can help answer it or not. We see some people chiming in and sharing their thoughts.
And that's one of my favorite parts about the Bandhive group. So join us over there. Again, you can search Bandhive on Facebook or you can be automatically redirected by going to Bandhive.rocks/group. We'll be back with another brand new episode next Tuesday at 6:00 AM Eastern right here in your favorite podcast app until then I hope you have a great week, stay safe.
And of course, as always keep rock.
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