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Making a good impression at gigs

Guest post by Jonathan Sexton | CEO Bandposters

Before I ran a company, I played hundreds if not thousands of gigs all over the US. I’ve played to 10,000 people (2 or 3 times) and I’ve played to 10 people (more than 2 or 3 times). As important as learning how to book gigs, I’ve learned 8 things NOT to do when showing up for gigs, especially to a new venue in a new town.

Everyone of these tips come from cringe worthy personal experience. Here are some great ways to make a good impression on your next show or tour.

1. Don’t Be Late for Your Gigs

Everybody is late, be different. This is the baseline of professionalism, if you show up on time, are professional and easy to work with and don’t have a huge crowd your first time out, it is more than likely you’ll get a few more shots at it. Venues and sound teams have a million better things to do than come and find you. If something happens that you can’t help (van breaks down etc.), then call as soon as you can. Then be on time next show.

2. Don’t Hangout in the Green Room All Night­

Your show and your career completely hinges on how many fans you can earn. Fans love your music and they want to know you. If you are new to the market, you need to get to know the sound guy, the bartenders, the regulars; you’re playing gigs to earn fans and build a business.
Don’t hide, get out and talk to everyone, be friendly. Relationships are the key to the music industry and this where those relationships are made. Don’t hide. Get out there with the people

3. Master Stage Volume­

If you play a show, and the crowd can’t hear the vocals, you’ve lost (this includes punk and metal). There are a million scientific reasons that the human vocal cords cannot compete with drums and amps. Some big clubs have the power to get the vocals up over anything, but most small clubs do not. In my opinion, it starts with the drums, you can play great without playing as hard as you can. Then guitars have to get over the drums, and the vocalist is generally screwed, let the PA do the work, so you don’t have too.

4. Talk to the Crowd

­You may have played your songs 1000 times, but that new person in the crowd or in a new city has no idea who you are, what your songs are called, and what your twitter handle is. Tell them, thank them for being there, introduce the band, say something funny. You have to engage the audience. It’s a show and you are earning their interest. The best bands plan when they are going to say something in the set, and what they are going to say. Not scripted, but at least a general idea.

5. But Don’t Talk too Much­

Don’t ramble on before every single song, also, my pet peeve is when people say “this is a new one” it’s like a reverse apology. 9 times outta 10­­ they are all new ones, even the old ones, because most people haven’t heard you before. I prefer to play 3 songs, then say a little something, then play 3 more. It seems to be the right mix. Find what works for you and your audience. In the end it’s a music show, engage your audience, but don’t monologue.

6. Don’t Get Wasted­

This screams amateur hour. It’s not even about acting like a fool, you also lose awareness of how you are performing. No one in the industry wants to babysit you. Have fun, but don’t fall off the stage.

7. Thank the Crowd (even if it’s just the sound guy)

The first 15 minutes after your gigs are your best opportunity to collect new emails, thank fans and sell merch, especially if you are the opening band. Once the next band starts, it’s harder to talk because it’s loud and people’s attention is elsewhere. In my band, we had a deal that we’d divide and conquer. 3 bandmates would get the gear taken care of and 2 of us would immediately hit the crowd or get to the merch booth. That way we could maximize the small window of opportunity and have contact info for the people that we would reach out to when we return.

8. Thank the Venue­

Taking 5 minutes to find the manager or head bartender after your gigs, look them in the eye, and thank them for having you can do wonders for your career. You are building relationships and it’s something that most people do not do. It’s a great way to stand out from the hundreds of other bands that play at the venue around the year. Same with being on time and professional, venues will remember it the next time that you want to play at their spot.

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Pomplamoose just finished a four week tour, hitting 23 cities around the US. They sold just under $100,000 in tickets – pretty good for a duo with no label support. They may not be the biggest name in the music industry, but Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn know what it takes to be independent musicians in today’s industry – a lot of dedication and constant hard work. They just don’t seem to know how to make money at it.

Jack Conte published their tour’s expenses and profits dollar-for-dollar to shine some light on exactly what goes into planning tours as an independent artist. You can check out the whole article here, but below is a quick run down of the expenses and income. I have to say that they did not optimize for profit, they seem to have optimized to have fun and make as big an impact as they could on their audience. This tour seems to be more of a long term audience and reputation builder as opposed to a tour that makes a profit. Check out an alternate view on touring as an independent band here from Nick Woods if you are interested in making some money on the road.

This is from Jack’s post:

Being in an indie band is running a never-ending, rewarding, scary, low-margin small business. In order to plan and execute our Fall tour, we had to prepare for months, slowly gathering risk and debt before selling a single ticket. We had to rent lights. And book hotel rooms. And rent a van. And assemble a crew. And buy road cases for our instruments. And rent a trailer. And all of that required an upfront investment from Nataly and me. We don’t have a label lending us “tour support.” We put those expenses right on our credit cards. $17,000 on one credit card and $7,000 on the other, to be more specific. And then we planned (or hoped) to make that back in ticket sales.

Where did all those expenses come from? I’m glad you asked:

Expenses

$26,450 – Production expenses: equipment rental, lights, lighting board, van rental, trailer rental, road cases, backline.

$17,589 – Hotels, and food. Two people per room, 4 rooms per night. Best Western level hotels, nothing fancy. 28 nights for the tour, plus a week of rehearsals.

$11,816 – Gas, airfare, parking tolls. 

$5445 – Insurance.

$48,094 – Salaries and per diems.

$21,945 – Manufacturing merchandise, publicity (a radio ad in SF, Facebook ads, venue specific advertising), supplies, shipping.

$16,463 – Commissions. Our awesome booking agency, High Road Touring, takes a commission for booking the tour. They deserve every penny and more: booking a four week tour is a huge job. Our business management takes a commission as well to do payroll, keep our finances in order, and produce the awesome report that lead to this analysis. Our lawyer, Kia Kamran, declined his commission because he knew how much the tour was costing us.

Income

$97,519 – Our cut of ticket sales. Dear fans, you are awesome. 72% of our tour income.

$29,714 – Merch sales. Hats, t-shirts, CDs, posters. 22% of our tour income.

$8750 – Sponsorship from Lenovo. Thank goodness for Lenovo! They gave us three laptops (to run our light show) and a nice chunk of cash. We thanked them on stage for saving our asses and supporting indie music. Some people think of brand deals as “selling out.” My guess is that most of those people are hobby musicians, not making a living from their music, or they’re rich and famous musicians who don’t need the income. If you’re making a living as an indie band, a tour sponsor is a shining beacon of financial light at the end of a dark tunnel of certain bankruptcy.

Add it up, and that’s $135,983 in total income for our tour. And we had $147,802 in expenses. We lost $11,819.

The point of publishing all the scary stats is not to dissuade people from being professional musicians. It’s simply an attempt to shine light on a new paradigm for professional artistry.

We’re entering a new era in history: the space between “starving artist” and “rich and famous” is beginning to collapse. YouTube has signed up over a million partners (people who agree to run ads over their videos to make money from their content). The “creative class” is no longer emerging: it’s here, now.

We, the creative class, are finding ways to make a living making music, drawing webcomics, writing articles, coding games, recording podcasts. Most people don’t know our names or faces. We are not on magazine covers at the grocery store. We are not rich, and we are not famous.

We are the mom and pop corner store version of “the dream.” If Lady Gaga is McDonald’s, we’re Betty’s Diner. And we’re open 24/7.

We have not “made it.” We’re making it.

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Article by  of CyberPR. Check out the full article here

Newsletter

Before the internet, newsletters were used as a way to connect a world-wide community of fans. However, even now with the existence of social networks, newsletters are a personal and direct interaction that can connect not just you to your fans, but your fans to each other.

One excellent examples of community newsletters are the Grateful Dead’s ‘Almanac.’ What made this newsletter work so well is that it covered more than the music; it covered the scene as a whole.

The ‘Almanac’, typically spanning 5 or 6 pages in length, spent much of the first few pages showcasing original (and exclusive!!) artwork, discussing side projects and music as a whole that the community would be interested in, as well as updating the community about the charitable foundations started by band members (more on sharing passions below). The second half would be band news, announcements of upcoming tours or album releases and finally, mail order music/ merch and tickets.

Video Tour Diary

A concert is more than just music. It is an event. An experience.

A well-delivered concert experience is THE best way to connect with your fans on an emotional level. Because of this, video tour diaries are an extremely effective way to increase that emotional connected established through the concert experience, by giving the attendee’s a deeper look into the behind the scenes happenings before, during and after the concert. Ultimately this gives attendees the chance to grab on to, and re-live the event any time they want to.

The idea of a video tour diary has become quite popular in the emerging hip-hop world, as many of these upcoming artists give their music away for free through mixtapes and focus on making money from the live show; a business model similar to that made famous by the Grateful Dead and Phish.

These videos not only act as a way to offer additional value to those who attended the event, increasing the emotional connection within, but can function as an emotional marketing tool as well. Giving your fan base the opportunity to take a sneak peek of your recent live shows is a fantastic way to drive further ticket sales…

Always remember that a concert is more than just the music. It is an event. If you can convey that your shows are a must-see experience, then you’ve already begun to establish an emotional connection with fans before they’ve even bought the ticket.

Name Your Fans

This is THE first step to creating a tribe, which is the most ultimate form of emotionally connected fan base you could have. This gives your fans away of identifying themselves as apart of a group, and ultimately this creates insiders and outsiders which helps to strengthen the loyalty of those within.

Like her or not, Lady Gaga has done an incredible job labeling her fans as her ‘Little Monsters’.

Even emerging hip-hop artists are starting to understand the power of naming the fan base, such as CT-based Chris Webby, whose ‘Ninjas’ (Webby is an avid Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan) have lead to the over 13 Million youtube views. His latest mixtape  garnered over 23,000 downloads in under 24 hours.

How have you built an emotional connection with your super fans? 

If you’re ready to take your music career to the next level, check out the New Artist Model online music business classes. You can also sign up for access to free lessons.

As a musician in the 21st century, you need to learn how to define your expectations. Otherwise, how will you know when you have achieved your goal, or even what to aim for? For a project, for a tour, for your career, and for your life – what are you trying to accomplish?

Most people in the music business want to “make it,” but what does that really mean? What is making it for you? What does the finish line look like? How would you recognize making it? Do you want a record deal? What does that record deal look like? Do you want to sell a million CDs? Do you want a publishing deal? What does that publishing deal look like? Do you want your music played on Grey’s Anatomy or your songbook published by Hal Leonard?

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1bNKUE5

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1bNKUE5

Once you know what your expectations are, then you can plan accordingly and know what to shoot for. Is success for you playing huge stadiums? That would mean you have to make a plan and probably dedicate yourself to work full-time for many years to get there.

Or, is success for you to have a steady gig on weekends? This is more achievable and something you can do on a local level and perhaps as a part-time endeavor. Is recording a CD and selling 10,000 copies your definition of success? If so, you can create a plan to achieve that perhaps on a regional level.

Or, is success for you writing songs that other people play? That would require you to network with other musicians and focus on writing, publishing, and placing your songs. Or, is success for you recording an EP and playing it for your family?

What do you want to be? What does success look like for you? Be as specific as possible when setting your expectations. Don’t be vague because it won’t lead you anywhere and just breeds sloppy thinking. First, define exactly what you want to do, and then you can break it down and make a plan to do it.

The music industry is being reinvented before our very eyes. Learn how it is developing from today’s entrepreneurs including Ian Rogers from TopSpin, Steve Schnur from EA, and Derek Sivers and how you can capitalize on the changing opportunities.

MPN is my latest project and an online service for music business people and music and artist managers creating the future of the industry. MPN provides online music business lessons, exclusive video interviews and advice, career and business planning tools and thousands of specially selected resources designed to help you achieve success in this ever changing industry. MPN gives you the tools, expertise and guidance to help you get organized and take your music career to the next level. Learn from industry experts, set your goals and realize your vision.