Sunday Thought Series: Getting More People to Your Shows

Over the past few weeks, Lehigh Valley Underground has been involved in a number of unique events. In that time, I’ve found myself discussing a topic of interest to, I think, anyone who wants to grow within (and beyond) his or her music scene.

The question: How do you get more people to come out to your shows?

There are a few ways to answer this question, in terms of what you can do. I’ll get to those. However, in my time out here on the scene, I have identified something that you definitely should not do, and that is make your shows feel just like everyone else’s.

Please take this constructively. We’re all guilty of it from time to time (myself included). How many Facebook events have you seen where the description reads something like…

“*Artist* will be playing at *venue* from 8-11 p.m. Come hang out, get some drinks, and hear some music.”

Now, think about this: How many other acts, on a given night, are playing nearby from 8-11 p.m.? People can go to plenty of places for drinks and music. What sets your show apart as the place to be that night?

One band with whom we’ve worked closely recently, who does an excellent job of making every show feel special, is VICTIM. They make a point to establish each time out that, when you come to see them play, you aren’t just coming out to hear your friend’s band again. You are coming out for a full-blown, rock and roll experience. And, because they’re a band who thrives on unpredictability, their fans and friends treat each show as a “blink and you’ll miss it” experience. Moreover, everything that they create around a show – fliers, social media posts, and the like – reflects that you’re in for a night unlike any other.

So, how you brand your shows is important. However, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Here are some other tips to ensure that the next room you play will be a bit fuller than the last.

Promote well – Event promotion isn’t a Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ; you don’t just “set it and forget it.” You need to be on your promotional game with a healthy consistency, and with enough lead time for the word to spread about your event. If you only make a couple of social media posts about your show, that’s not enough. Also, if you’re just getting around to promoting something the week it’s happening, you’re too late. Make sure you come up with interesting and creative ways to promote your event – contests, rehearsal videos, and teasers work well – for the duration of the campaign.
Go to others’ shows – As we’ve said since the dawn of (LVU) time, “it takes a scene to build a scene.” Show support for other musicians on your night off, and there’s a good chance they’ll be happy to do the same for you.
Less is more – When you’re just starting out, there’s plenty of value in getting your name out there by playing out as often as possible. However, once you’ve established a local following, focus on building anticipation toward one show per month. Instead of being the band your friends can catch anytime, make each gig feel like a special event. This will also give you time to write, rehearse, and make your repertoire more dynamic; not to mention, it will make playing out even more exciting for you.
Join forces – Become friends with bands from a circle different from your own. Play a show together as a joint effort, and encourage your fans to support everyone on the bill. Everyone involved stands to gain new fans by the end of the night.

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