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First thing that comes to mind when thinking about promoting your music is probably social media, right?
Social media breaks down so many barriers for indie musicians to reach and communicate with an audience – and that’s awesome! But sometimes it’s easy to forget about the in-person, experiential facet of music. That face-to-face connection will always be a powerful way to grow an audience, even in the face of technology advances.
With that in mind, don’t limit your efforts to strictly online music promotion. Playing live shows is a great way for musicians early in their career to gain new fans.
Obviously, the first step is booking a great gig, but here are some easy and creative ways to sell out your gigs to get you started.
Got some gigs? Here’s how to sell tons of merch:
1. Play Some (very few) Shows for Free
Not all free shows are bad. The simple fact is that no matter where you are in your career, you need to weigh the benefits vs the downsides of performing for free. You need to assess the opportunity.
Here are some questions you can ask a promoter when you’re asked to play without pay:
- What other artists are playing?
- When do we play in relation to other artists?
- How many people will be at the show during our set? (it’s important to specifically ask about the expected audience size during your set. Many promoters will give totals when asked otherwise, but many people will show up later in the day.)
- Will we be able to sell merchandise?
If the opportunity really is going to provide a huge leap in the size of your fanbase, it’s for a cause you believe in, or it’s for a huge conference or event – go for it.
If you’re a new musician or band and don’t have much experience playing live, it might be a good idea to take what you can get for practice and even small amounts of exposure.
In the extremely early stages, any amount of free exposure is good. It gives you a chance to figure out who your target fanbase might be so you can figure out how to get in front of more of these people using targeted music marketing strategies. So pay close attention to the type of people who dig your music during any performance. Better yet – go talk to them after the show!
So, if someone does ask you to play for free and you’re early in your career, don’t be so quick to jump on it. Alternatively, if you’re a bit more established, don’t be so quick to say no. Assess, figure out what you stand to gain, and make your decision from there.
2. Play with Established Artists in Your Scene
If you play a show by yourself, it’s going to be hard to draw a new audience, and if you’re new to the scene, it’s going to be hard to get anyone to show up at all.
A great way to add a jumpstart to your fanbase and sell out your gigs is to play with musicians who have a more established fanbase than you. So network with local artists in your area, or in cities you’re touring to – check out their social media followings (both in size and engagement), and reach out to new artists who you’d like to play a show with.
If you’re not sure where to start, Facebook is a great way to find new musicians of a similar size and genre to yours. Here is an easy way to do that:
Go to the Facebook page of an artist in your niche and targeted city, like the page, then you’ll see a whole list of recommended pages based on what that artist’s fans have liked.
These recommendations can be great ways to find new musicians, especially if you’re using this method from your own page because that means there’s some fanbase overlap and you can increase the perceived value of the event among ticket buyers.
If you already like the artist’s page, unlike it, leave the page, come back again, and like the page again to see the recommendations.
Granted, this is just the first step. After that, it’s on you to put on your networking hat and actually form a relationship with them. Start by leaving valuable comments on their posts and engaging to get on their radar and then try messaging them and proposing a joint gig or a headline swap. Have a plan in mind that will benefit you both.
3. Don’t Gig Too Often (So You Can Sell Out Your Gigs That Matter)
If you play every weekend in the same city or town, your shows will lose their value.
Think about it like this – if your favorite band played in your city every weekend, how likely are you to go this Saturday? How likely are you to spend a good amount of money on the ticket? After all, you could always catch them next weekend, right?
Chances are, you’ll put it off.
Separating your shows increases the urgency of each event. Your fans are less likely to put it off, more people will show up, and it’s a better show for everyone involved.
Now, of course there’s a balancing act here. If you’re a relatively new band you’re going to want to play any opportunity you get to work up your performance chops, but as you start developing a local following, start spacing them out.
Another option is to play smaller gigs regularly and do a big, almost event-like gig every few months. Try to make these bigger gigs something your fans won’t want to miss. Maybe it’s a cool collaboration, an interesting theme, or a new release.
4. List Your Shows on Bandsintown and Songkick
Both Bandsintown and Songkick use various databases to find local events, but you can sign up for Bandsintown as an artist to ensure all the information about your events is correct. For Songkick, you can sign up for Tourbox.
5. Send Emails to Local Mailing List Subscribers
When you create your email list, make sure you segment subscribers by location so you can send them relevant links to buy tickets. Just add a form field to your email signup forms for zip code and let them know it’s to send them info about your local gigs.
Sending gig emails to only relevant fans who will actually be able to come is much more effective than simply sending the entire tour dates list to every subscriber and results in less people unsubscribing from your mailing list.
6. Create an Event on Facebook
7. Publish the Event in Local Event Calendars
Check the websites of local churches, newspapers, and other media outlets in your area to see if they have event calendars. If they do, look into how you can be included in the calendar.
This article was written by Nicholas Rubright of Dozmia.