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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.

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

Create an awesome event photo for free with Canva, set up the event on Facebook, and invite everyone you know. You can also promote the event using Facebook ads.

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.

How to book college gigs as an indie musician

Photo credit: musicoomph.com

How to Book College Gigs – Case Study from Indie Musician Mike Sullivan

Musician Mike Sullivan makes his living touring the college circuit.  The Los Angeles-based independent singer-songwriter knows exactly how to book college gigs, playing more than 250 over the past 10 years.

As a college music artist, some of the schools he has played include Hawaii Pacific University, Odessa College, Indiana University, Purdue University, Green Mountain College, Shenandoah University, Embry-Riddle University, Lipscomb University, Spokane Falls Community College and many more.

Mike Sullivan started doing college shows after a record deal fell through.  He had never played a college before and didn’t know how to book college shows. “I was so naive.  I didn’t even know that colleges paid bands,” he says, adding a Chicago Tribune newspaper article opened his eyes to the college market for music.  “When I was in school I went to lots of great concerts and figured that the bands made their money off merch.”

Contrary to what many musicians think, college shows aren’t any less “cool” than traditional gigs. Not only are they a good source of revenue from the booking fee and merch sales, they’re also yet another way to get yourself out of the crowded and competitive gigging market while still getting in front of a very large and potentially relevant audience. Plus, huge artists like John Mayer, Dave Matthews, Sting and Prince all got their start traveling the college circuit.

How to Book College Gigs Step-by-Step

So now the big question: How to book college gigs? Let’s go through a few steps to get you on the road.

1. Use the NACA, APCA, and SGA

There are a few organizations that specifically deal with getting acts booked in schools. There’s not really a “college music booking directory” that you can crack open, send off some emails, and book some gigs. Most colleges prefer to go through trusted agencies – just for ease of use and protection of their students. You’ll have a much easier time getting started if you use these showcases, resources, and connections.

When Mike was first getting started, he got in touch with the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) and the Association for Promotion of Campus Activities (APCA), two agencies that hold “showcases” around the country where college activities directors and students check out talent to book at their schools. To participate in the NACA showcase, you’ll need to be a NACA member, which costs a few hundred dollars per year. But on the plus side, that is a small fee compared to the income potential of college gigs and once you have the connections you need you can ditch the membership.

There are college booking agents that specialize in booking college gigs, and if you work with one they will more often than not cover your NACA fees and showcasing fees. Keep in mind though, you’ll have to give them a cut of every gig they book for you, so it ends up evening out in the end.

It may also be worth looking at is the Student Government Association. While the agencies showcase many different kinds of acts in addition to musicians, it’s still a good place to start to get the connections you need for schools across the country, not just your local area.

As with anything in music, if you want to get a showcase spot and book gigs, you need to have a professional EPK, active social accounts, and a professional look. After submitting a demo, Mike earned a 15 minute set at a national APCA showcase. He nailed that first appearance and got another 25 gigs right away.

2. Your Connections Are Everything

Just like in the gigging world, it’s possible to get college gigs on your own if you have the direct connections. So once you get some gigs from your NACA showcase and the APCA showcase, it’s really all about maintaining those connections.

You also want to keep in mind that students are usually in charge of booking music gigs for their college, so that means you need to make new connections every few years as they graduate. It will be a constant effort of managing your contacts.

At first, Mike Sullivan looked for a good agent to help him get more college gigs. “One college booking agent told me she had 30 or 40 colleges interested and would set up a tour but didn’t follow up,” he said.  “Fortunately, schools started calling me directly and I booked the gigs myself. It was a huge lesson.”

Because most colleges seek out the act, if you take the initiative to make the first contact it can make a big impression. “I was fearless and would pick up the phone,” Mike says.  “It opened a lot of doors that would have otherwise have remained closed.  But today people think that they don’t need to talk with email and social media.”

3. Book Gigs in a Row

When an artist works with NACA or APCA, they can take advantage of their “block booking” system when booking or “routing” their college tours.  This system allows individual schools to work together and get a discount when they book an artist around the same time — and it gives artists the chance to make good money.

“The more gigs you put together in a row, the less you charge and the more school saves.  Everybody wins,” Mike says.  “When it works it’s awesome.  Getting three or five gigs in a row is when you can really make a fantastic profit.”

4. Don’t Just Focus on the Big Schools

Just like with traditional gigs, it’s easy to fall into the mindset of “bigger is better.” But, especially with colleges, that’s not always the case.

“You can make a great living playing colleges. You know every year my price has gone up,” Mike says. When he started out in 2005, he charged $1300 for a gig. Today, he gets $2500. But one of his biggest tips is to avoid overlooking the smaller schools, which is a little counter-intuitive to how we think about traditional gigs.

“Smaller schools sometimes pay more than big ones because it is harder for them to attract acts. A lot of community colleges feel neglected and they have budgets to spend,” Mike says.

5. Be Flexible

Flexibility is key when it comes to getting asked back to play at schools.  “Colleges have good and bad budget years just like any other organization, so be open to being the act the school needs. If you usually bring a band but money is tight, offer to do a solo or duo performance instead. You’ll keep your connection to the school alive and generate lots of goodwill.”

Beyond just the price, the settings of college gigs can vary dramatically. Mike books 20 to 35 college gigs a year for audiences of 50 to 200 people.  His sets run from one to two hours.  He’s played intimate coffee house settings, in theaters and even in a hallway.  “It can be all over the place — a regular concert or a huge party.  One time there was a clown blowing up balloons right beside me while I played.” It’s all about being flexible.

6. Book Traditional Gigs Around College Gigs

College gigs aren’t something you need to dedicate 100% of your gigging efforts to. In fact, you can make even more of a profit if you book traditional gigs en-route to college gigs.

If you take advantage of the block booking method, you’ll have a mini tour route setup in a certain region. Instead of spending your off days just sitting around, get proactive and contact local clubs and venues to book a few gigs. After playing a few college gigs in the area you’ll have a local audience to draw on when you come through. If you don’t quite have the following to book a headliner show, try getting in touch with local bands and getting an opening slot.  

Hopefully now you have a better idea of how to book college gigs as an indie musician. Whether you want to spend all your time gigging the college circuit or you just want to squeeze in a few college show in your tours as little revenue boosters, college gigs can be a big income driver.

Of course, the key to any successful strategy is PLANNING. Click here to download a free career planning guide so you can get more done faster. You can use this guide to plan our any aspect of your music career from gigging to recording and releasing original music. Use this guide as a workbook to organize yourself.

ES4Social

 

For more information on Mike Sullivan visit his website at mikesullivanmusic.com

New Artist Model is an online music business school developed by Dave Kusek, founder of Berklee Online. The online school is a platform for learning practical strategies and techniques for making a living in music. Learn how to carve a unique path for your own career with strategies that are working for indie artists around the world. Learn to think like an entrepreneur, create your own plan and live the life in music you want to live. New Artist Model provides practical college-level music business training at a mere fraction of the cost of a college degree. Programs start at just $29/mo.
For more information visit http://newartistmodel.com

 

New Artist Model member Shannon Curtis

New Artist Model member Shannon Curtis

By Dave Kusek and Lindsay McGrath
Sponsored by the New Artist Model
Turn your passion for music into a rewarding career.

Ask singer songwriter Shannon Curtis about the key to her success as an independent musician, and she’ll tell you — literally — to hit the road.  She’ll encourage you to start touring with the help of your audience.

Shannon knows from experience that touring is the best way to interact with your audience and build your fanbase.  She also knows that performing live can bring in more money than recordings, publishing and merchandise combined.

Each summer, Shannon spends more than four months on the road performing house concerts.  In 2014, the Los Angeles-based artist performed at more than 70 homes around the country for audiences averaging 35 people.  

The idea for an annual house concert tour was born in 2011 when Shannon was struggling to attract new fans.  Her career growth had been “incremental” since she hit the scene in 2006, she says.  So to break through to new audiences, Shannon began working on booking a series of solo club dates in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Portland and Seattle.

Then something unexpected happened.  A fan called and asked if she would come and perform in her living room.  The gig would pay whatever audience members wanted to donate and her fan lived right in the middle of the circuit she was planning on covering.

Shannon said yes.  She had played the occasional house concert through the years, always booking them as “filler dates” between what she considered more important club engagements.  But this concert convinced her that she might have gotten things turned around.

“I had no idea what kind of success it would be,” Shannon says, adding that she didn’t use a microphone or amplifier.  “In a club you are always competing with noise from the bar or a latte machine or something.  But this show was 100 percent connection.  Someone started crying.  People’s reactions were palpable.”

Palpable and profitable.  By the end of the night, Shannon made more money and sold more merchandise than she would have at a Los Angeles club show. “It was way more than gas money. That was the lightbulb that went off for me.”

Shannon and her husband, music producer Jamie Hill who travels with her when she tours, worked up a financial analysis and realized she could win over more fans and make more money playing houses rather than clubs. Today, they use a simple system to create their annual summer tour.

Shannon typically announces the house tour on her website in March.  She encourages people who want to host a concert to apply on her site and in her emails.  “This year, 85 people signed up within 48 hours of the announcement” says Curtis.  

Requirements for hosting a concert are simple but specific.  Hosts must be able to guarantee an audience of at least 30 people and need to have a backyard, garage, living room or some other space big enough for a “focused listening event.”  “This isn’t a party where there is also some music,” Shannon says.

Once a request for a house concert is accepted, things can fall into place easily if you are organized, according to the artist.  People who host concerts don’t have to worry about having special insurance because their concerts are not open to the public.  Instead, they are gatherings of friends.  Hosts don’t receive any kind of financial compensation for providing the venue or bringing in the audience, Shannon says.  Most often, they simply enjoy the chance to have a fun event and get to know to know the artist better.

“We really leave the structure of things up to the hosts,” Shannon says.  “Lots of times they turn into potlucks.  Our shows become these really connective community events.”

Shannon brings all of her own equipment and only needs “one power source and an extension cord” to put on a show.  She is paid with donations from the audience and merchandise sales.  There are no tickets, no cover charge and no opening act.  Shannon and Jamie often take hosts up on their offer of overnight accommodations.  

“Every house we go to is a brand new market.  It is the living room Tupperware model of music marketing,”  Shannon says, adding that she is continually amazed by the support audiences offer.  “Most musicians feel self doubt sometimes.  But if you show up and give people a vulnerable performance – they are going to support you.  The moment you put down your shield is the moment you find victory.”

Growing her audience using house tours is helping Shannon break through in ways she never imagined possible.  

In 2015, Shannon released a music video for her song entitled “I Know, I Know” that went viral with more than 5 million hits.  Also in October of last year after being contacted by a promoter, she played two opening sets for Shawn Colvin — one at the Raven Theater in Healdsburg, California and the other in Folsom, California.  They were her first large scale public performances in 4 years.

“I definitely want to do more shows like that, Shannon says.  “But I am not ever interested in playing in a traditional club again.”

Shannon Curtis has launched 6 albums in 4 years and was a featured speaker at a TEDx event in Arlington, Va.   She has reached out to her community to successfully crowdfund albums and videos and produced a handbook on how to do house concerts.  Most important of all, Shannon says, she now supports herself one hundred percent with her music.

“I had a talk with myself years ago about what it would take for me to feel like a success as a musician.  It’s never been on my radar to be famous or on top 40 radio  I wanted to make a living making my music — and I’ve made it,” she says.

Shannon uses social media to stay in close touch with her community, noting that Facebook is her most active channel.  She also uses her email list and newsletters to let people know about her new music, crowdfunding projects, tours and more.  During her busy tour season, she contacts fans twice a week.  During quieter times of the year, twice a month.

“The most important skill I’ve learned in my career is to be able to spin a lot of plates all at the same,” Shannon says.  “I juggle a lot of things that require different skills — talking online, planning albums sales, doing business, writing songs.”

“The New Artist Model is such a valuable tool for me.  Before I spent years researching things like ASCAP and BMI on my own.  NAM explains all that we need to know about how to traverse these waters.  That alone is worth the price of admission,” Shannon says.

“When I first met Dave Kusek I expected that the program would be a lot of stuff that I had already learned, you know, the in and outs of building a career.  But I have been pleasantly surprised many times where something I read or a video I watched sparked a new idea for me.”

“One of the things I am starting to learn about in the New Artist Model is sponsorships.  That inspired me to put together a sponsorship application.  I think there may be some companies that would be really interested.  Nothing has happened yet but it will in time — and I want to make sure I am the one who makes the rules.”

As Shannon gets ready for another summer on the road, she says she feels grateful for all the people who love her music enough to come along for the ride.

“I don’t call my supporters fans anymore.  I have a community.  It is a two way street and we support one another.”

 

Learn more about Shannon Curtis here:  http://shannoncurtis.net/

New Artist Model is an online music business school developed by Dave Kusek, founder of Berklee Online. The online school is a platform for learning practical strategies and techniques for making a living in music. Learn how to carve a unique path for your own career with strategies that are working for indie artists around the world. Learn to think like an entrepreneur, create your own plan and live the life in music you want to live. New Artist Model provides practical college-level music business training at a mere fraction of the cost of a college degree. Programs start at just $29/mo. For more info on the New Artist Model visit http://newartistmodel.com

New Artist Model member Eric John Kaiser

New Artist Model member Eric John Kaiser

By Dave Kusek and Lindsay McGrath
Sponsored by the New Artist Model
Turn your passion for music into a career

Eric John Kaiser is the “French Troubadour.”  A native of Paris who lives in Portland, Oregon, this independent artist sings in French and plays guitar music steeped in  American jazz and blues.  He calls his style Parisian Americana.

“I am a songwriter and storyteller. That is what I like to do – to connect with people,” Eric says, adding that he supports himself entirely with his music. “I admire the storytelling tradition of American music, the way it combines with everything from the Delta blues to jazz. Being here in the U.S., I get the chance to live it every day rather than see it at a distance.”

Eric moved to the States in 2006.  He has released four albums and played at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, the de Young Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco, the Blue Nile in New Orleans, the Solidays Festival in Paris and shared the stage with the Welsh super stars the “Stereophonics.”  

Eric has also toured with French star Tété, “The Lost Bayou Ramblers” in Lafayette, Louisiana, and the French band “Revolver.”

Exploring North America on multiple lengthy tours, Eric has gigged his way up through Canada and down through the South, as far as New Orleans and Washington D.C.

“If you want to go the indie route, learning about marketing is really important.  What I like about the New Artist Model (http://newartistmodel.com) is that it teaches you clearly how to get different sources of income from gigging, recording and publishing,” Eric says.  “There is no excuse not to educate yourself and the New Artist Model is the way to go.”

Before emigrating to the U.S., Eric played out part-time in Paris and did other work in the music industry. He was a programmer for the Fun Radio Network, did public relations at Source Records (a division of Virgin) and co-hosted the live music show “Melting Pop” on French television network Direct 8.

“By the time I moved to Portland, I felt like I had enough knowledge to starting playing out full-time,” Eric says, adding that local gigging at French restaurants and coffee shops helped get his career off the ground and build his confidence.

Eric still plays out a lot in Portland but says dates are getting harder to find.

“The local gigging scene is changing. Portland is saturated with musicians and it is getting harder and harder to find gigs to make a living,” Eric says, adding that many small venues are closing as more condominium and office developments spring up.

As the city has evolved, so has Eric’s business strategy.  While the bulk of his income still comes from gigging, Eric also receives money from fan funding to pay for video and recording costs.  Album pre-orders are also a good source of funds. Eric offers French cultural presentations in area schools and workshops on French songwriting.  He also performs at weddings and plays the occasional house concert.

New Artist Model has shown me the value of getting a bunch of different income streams happening.”

Crowdfunding helped Eric complete two 2014 albums.  A Kickstarter campaign for “Idaho” raised just over $7000 while a RocketHub drive for “Outside It’s America” brought in $5000.  “Idaho” enjoyed pre-sales of 400 and its Portland CD release party sold out.

Eric is about to start a new Kickstarter campaign for an album he will complete in Quebec this June. He does one crowdfunding drive every two years.

“One of the most important things to do when crowdfunding is to keep expectations realistic”, Eric says.  “After all, it is a process based on trust, and trust takes time.”

“It only works if people already know you. Success with this didn’t happen in two weeks.  It is trust that was built over the years.” says Eric. “Build a fanbase first. You can’t just post a crowdfunding project and expect people to support you.”

Understanding the kind of crowdfunding your fans will support is important too, Eric adds.  His Patreon page encourages people to donate monthly or for each new creation. So far, it hasn’t brought in much money.

“My audience is a bit older,” he says.  “It scares many people to do it month by month.  They associate it with paying bills.”

Social media is Eric’s primary tool for staying in touch with fans — and he uses it in a way that embraces his unique musical niche.  Copy on his site http://www.ericjohnkaiser.com  appears in both English and French.  

People who give Eric their full name and email address get three free songs when they sign up.  “It is a worthwhile investment”, he says.

“Lots of people don’t believe in email lists but I do,” he says.  “Don’t just depend on Facebook, don’t let it control your contacts.”

Email is the most important channel Eric uses to keep in touch with fans — with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram close behind.  He reaches out to his fans once a day using his social media channels and sends our an email to his list once a month.  There are more than 4000 people on his email list and roughly the same number of friends on his Facebook page. He does not put much work into creating new fans online, opting instead to let it happen organically in person. “The connection with people at my shows is much stronger,” he says.

While Eric uses social media, he also spreads the word about his work in ways that are decidedly low-tech. He uses flyers and posters to announce his shows and asks French bakeries, restaurants and cultural organizations to help him spread the word. He also contacts local media outlets for coverage. “I’ve learned to make things easy for people who want to talk about you,” Eric says, adding that providing well written bios and promotional materials increase your chances of getting covered. “Be concise, precise and provide links that work.”

Eric spends each day on a combination of creativity and commerce. He rises early, checks his email and then reads marketing articles from the New Artist Model and other sources. He works on songwriting for a couple of hours. In the afternoon he works on booking gigs. Evenings are often spent playing out.

Some of his current projects include beefing up his YouTube channel with more cover songs and booking more house tours — both efforts inspired by the New Artist Model.

“People don’t realize how much work it is.  A labor of love that is almost 7 days a week.  If I don’t work, there is nothing that is going to be handed to me”, he says.  “Art and business have to cohabitate together. Like a brother you kind of get along with but not really — hey it’s your brother!”

Eric finds time to give back to the community in spite of his heavy workload. In the wake of the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, Eric organized a benefit concert in Portland to raise funds to aid victims.  Eric and his musician friends raised more than $1800 for the French nonprofit organization IMAD which battles racism.

Eric says he will continue his musical journey through America this year with more dates in Vancouver, San Francisco, Portland, Idaho, Utah and Montana.

Learn more about Eric here: http://www.ericjohnkaiser.com/

New Artist Model is an online music business school developed by Dave Kusek, founder of Berklee Online. The online school is a platform for learning practical strategies and techniques for making a living in music. Learn how to carve a unique path for your own career with strategies that are working for indie artists around the world. Learn to think like an entrepreneur, create your own plan and live the life in music you want to live. New Artist Model provides practical college-level music business training at a mere fraction of the cost of a college degree. Programs start at just $29/mo. For more information visit http://newartistmodel.com