Dave Cool

The Four P’s of Playing Live Shows: Promotion

The “Four P’s” is a term used to describe the traditional Marketing Mix: Product, Price, Placement, and Promotion. Well, I’m going to borrow from that expression and talk about the Four P’s of Playing Live Shows: Preparation, Promotion, Performance, and Post-Show. This series of blog posts will cover the things that you can be doing as a live performer to maximize each show. Part 1 was all about preparing for your show, and in now in Part 2 we focus on promotion:


The Four P’s of Playing Live Shows: Promotion

Before getting started, the first thing you need to do is take personal responsibility for the promotion of your show. Chris “Seth” Jackson wrote a great blog post called “How to Promote a Show: Don’t Rely on Anyone Else”. I highly recommend reading it. You really can’t rely on anybody else to promote your show; not the other bands, not the venue, not the booker, not your manager, and not even an outside promoter. To really get the best possible result, you need to do everything you can as a band to get the word out to your fans. Here are some of the ways you can do that:

List the show

Start with the basics: list the show on your website, your ReverbNation page, Facebook page, Bandcamp, and yes, even your Myspace page. Anywhere that you have a profile online, make sure the show is listed. You never know what site your fans are going to look at for details about your next show. You can use ArtistData to save time doing this.

You should also list the show in weekly newspapers, music blogs, and news/entertainment websites that feature event listings.

Blogging

One thing you can do as soon as the show is booked is start blogging about it. You can blog about booking the show, about the other bands performing, interview the other bands, talk about rehearsals, putting together your set list, how the promotion is going, any media you’ve received leading up to the show, and so on. This will not only create awareness about your show, but also drive people to your website, which is always important.

Newsletter

With Facebook’s use of complex algorithms to determine if/when updates are shown to your fans, and the short lifespan of Tweets, your mailing list remains the most reliable way to reach your fans. So be sure to send an update to your mailing list subscribers with details about the show. If you send the newsletter about a month in advance, you could then send a reminder a few days before featuring new content promoting your show (a blog post, video trailer, etc.)

Media & Publicity

If you have a budget, you can hire a publicist to handle outreach to the media, but that could cost anywhere from $500 to over $2000. There are online services like StoryAmp and StereoGrid that can also help you connect directly with the media. But if you’re like most bands, you’ll probably end up doing your own media and publicity. You can use resources like the Indie Bible or Musician’s Atlas to find media contacts.

You’ll want to start contacting media at least 6-8 weeks before your show. Journalists are extremely busy people, and receive dozens if not hundreds of press releases daily, so it usually takes several follow-ups to get a response, if you get one at all. Give yourself enough time to do the proper following up, and in turn, show journalists respect by giving them enough lead time to consider your story.

Facebook

Entire blog posts have been written about Facebook promotion alone, but be sure to cover the basics:

  • Facebook Events: Create an event for your show and post regular updates on the event’s wall (blog posts, photos, videos, press articles, etc.)
  • Regular updates on your fan page: Post the event on your wall, share photos from rehearsals, blog posts, and videos on a regular basis in the weeks leading up to your show to help create some buzz about it
  • Ads: Facebook Ads can help create awareness about shows and remind your fans that you have a show coming up. ReverbNation has a great new tool called "Promote It" which makes creating Facebook ads way easier. If you do create ads, set a budget and stick to it, it can be easy to get carried away and spend a lot of money.

Twitter

Once again, entire blog posts have been written about Twitter promotion, but use Twitter to post regular updates on your preparation for the show. Post info about the other bands performing, links to blog posts, links to any press you’ve received, post photos from rehearsals, links to videos, etc.

Run a contest

One way to get your fans involved and excited about your show is to run a contest. Give away a pair of tickets, a pre-show dinner with your band, backstage access, a post-show party, whatever you feel comfortable with and that you think your fans would enjoy. The more you can get your fans involved in the process and make them feel special, the better.

Photos

Post photos on your website, Facebook page, Twitter, etc. It can be photos from rehearsals, photos of the venue, of the other bands playing the show, a photo of your set list, even photos from soundcheck the night of your show as a last-minute reminder. Try using Instagram to make it even more social (for some great tips on using Instagram, check out Mashable’s 10 Instagram Tips For Bands, By Bands).

Create a video trailer for your show

Another way to get people excited about your show is to create a video trailer for it. It doesn’t have to be the trailer for the movie 300 (i.e. the best movie trailer ever), but it could be a compilation of live footage, a personal message from the bands, a tour of the venue you’ll be playing, etc.

Posters & Flyers

Not too long ago it was standard practice to put up posters in areas around the venue, and some bands still do. But just having a handful of posters to put up inside the venue itself can help create awareness about your show (and some venues still insist on it). As for flyers, besides at music conferences, it’s something I haven’t seen in years, but bands still sometimes hand out flyers at other shows leading up to theirs. If it works for you, go for it, but if you have a tight budget, save the design and printing costs and stick to online promotion.

Email fans individually

Reach out to people on your mailing list individually with a short reminder about the upcoming show. Even if you just do a little bit every day, it all adds up, and this personal touch will no doubt bring a lot of those people through the door.

Pick up the phone

If an artist knows me well enough to have my number and calls to personally invite me to their show, most of the time, I’ll go to that show. It means more to me than a mass email, or a mass invite on Facebook. Part of it is because I probably know that artist well enough for them to have my number, but it also shows a level of dedication to the show’s promotion. It’s always smart to cover your bases.

Image credit: http://poofytoo.com

Send a Hand-Written Note

If you have a person’s mailing address, try sending them a hand-written note (on the back of a promotional postcard is an easy way to do this). For a few album launches I’ve received a personalized, hand-written invitation from the artist, and it’s kind of fun when it happens. So if there are some key people who you want to have at your event, try sending a personal note. Even if they don’t show up, they’ll likely remember the gesture.



You Have LOTS of Competition

I know this sounds like a lot of work, and this blog post was really just an outline of some of the things you can do to promote your show. But here’s the thing: you have more competition now than ever before. Just take a minute to think about all of the other choices people have when it comes to entertainment:

Dozens of other shows

In my home city of Montreal, there are literally dozens of shows happening on any given night. I often get invited to 5 or more different shows per weekend night, it’s a little overwhelming. To get anyone to your show instead of another, you’re going to have to go the extra mile.

The multitude of other entertainment options

Going to the movies, going to see live comedy, going to the theatre, going to a festival, or simply going out for drinks with friends. These are all activities (along with many others) that people can do rather than go see your band play.

Staying Home

And arguably your biggest competition: staying home. People can simply stay home and watch a movie, play video games on their HD TV, have a house party, spend the night watching goofy YouTube videos, or have a quiet night listening to their favorite music while they relax on the couch reading a book. Let’s face it, it’s a lot easier than driving 10 miles, paying for parking, paying the entrance fee, buying a drink, staying out late, and being tired the next day at work, all to see your band perform live.


Even with all of these challenges, if you put in the work and take the time to make your fans feel special, you can pack the venue. Just make sure that when they do come to your show, you give them a great experience, which brings us to the third “P”: Performance. Stay tuned for part 3 of this blog series, which is all about making the most of your live performance.


So what did you guys think of Part 2? Did you find it helpful? Is there anything missing? Please leave your comments below...

Posted by Dave Cool on 02/16/2012 | 34 comments

Comments

Rafa ferrà
Posted by Rafa ferrà on Feb 16 2012 9:34 PM
Just great! you just get better every day. Thanks
Wilton Said...
Posted by Wilton Said... on Feb 16 2012 10:51 PM
It's surprising how many bands don't even do the basics. I've booked bands to play with my band and have found no mention of the gig when I check their website. That tells me the band doesn't care about the gig I'll probably NOT book that band again. Wilton
Abby Feferman Music
Posted by Abby Feferman Music on Feb 17 2012 4:41 PM
Great post! There are so many shows going on every night and promotion is very important! Do you suggest promoting smaller shows as well, like open mic nights for example. Is that something I should promote and add to my Facebook events too? Not sure if open mic nights are considered a real show.
vogelJoy
Posted by vogelJoy on Feb 18 2012 11:50 AM
Wow that is a lot of information! Loving Part 2 :) Keep it up. Yes I will eventually read through all these links! I bet it'll be worth it =D I know for sure that individual emails work much better than the mass email. It take awhile but even adding one thought for each email that makes it about the individual is worth it for them and for you. Communicating is just so much for fun that way. I can't imagine then what a real phone call would do!
vogelJoy
Posted by vogelJoy on Feb 18 2012 11:51 AM
[quote="wiltonsaid"]It's surprising how many bands don't even do the basics. I've booked bands to play with my band and have found no mention of the gig when I check their website. That tells me the band doesn't care about the gig I'll probably NOT book that band again. Wilton[/quote] I agree. You need a team and you need people to work with that care as much as you.
Si Connelly
Posted by Si Connelly on Feb 18 2012 11:12 PM
Big Thanks Dave, very good to see people engaging on these things. I must say though that I am a long sufferer of the "London Scene" here in the uk. The problem I find is that there is a tragic truth of reality behind all these good intentions. In my experience things have declined a huge amount in the last ten years on the live scene. I find most people simply don't want to go out and see bands any more. Most music venues in London are dead and hold a huge lack of excitement and sense on occasion. If 1000 people are told and invited to a gig. Maybe 5-10 people will turn up and thats on a good night. I have tried every angle and the stark truth is that until you have promotion in marketing which costs money you simply cannot build a reliable audience that doesn't consist of family and friends. Promoters and Agents are key in the problem over here and you cannot progress with either unless you have budget in your project. The problem for 99% of the bands fighting for gigs and crowd is that they don't have the budget to pay for a buzz. In my experience of our times it now costs you money to get that buzz that used to be stirred up by peoples desire to find music, sadly new live music has suffered from the modern age.
wave7music
Posted by wave7music on Feb 19 2012 1:41 PM
This is great! I havent performed live for many years (not saying how many) but recently started rehearsing a band for a performance next July playing a lot of exciting new original material. Your blog has really got me thinking about how we can make the performance sensational! Thanks ...keep it coming! Best wishes Laurie wave7
Wilton Said...
Posted by Wilton Said... on Feb 20 2012 5:12 PM
[quote="SiConnelly"]Big Thanks Dave, very good to see people engaging on these things. I must say though that I am a long sufferer of the "London Scene" here in the uk. The problem I find is that there is a tragic truth of reality behind all these good intentions. In my experience things have declined a huge amount in the last ten years on the live scene. I find most people simply don't want to go out and see bands any more. Most music venues in London are dead and hold a huge lack of excitement and sense on occasion. If 1000 people are told and invited to a gig. Maybe 5-10 people will turn up and thats on a good night. I have tried every angle and the stark truth is that until you have promotion in marketing which costs money you simply cannot build a reliable audience that doesn't consist of family and friends. Promoters and Agents are key in the problem over here and you cannot progress with either unless you have budget in your project. The problem for 99% of the bands fighting for gigs and crowd is that they don't have the budget to pay for a buzz. In my experience of our times it now costs you money to get that buzz that used to be stirred up by peoples desire to find music, sadly new live music has suffered from the modern age. [/quote] It is very difficult for an original Indie artist to consistently draw a good crowd. Most live venues i go into, even on a weekend are only half full if not that, and that's with 3 bands on the bill. I do believe part of the problem is that live music, theater and movie theaters are now competing with stay at home activities like DVD/Blue Rays, Video Games, Chat Rooms, Message Boards, Home Theater Systems. Other aspects of our society are also being affected such as brick and mortar stores and video rental stores. Why go out shopping when you can stay home and order online. Going out, spending money and experiencing the unknown is no longer the thrill it used to be. It is a hard sell.
DevSoulMusic
Posted by DevSoulMusic on Feb 28 2012 4:30 PM
Great advice!! Thank you!! :love:
Dave Cool
Posted by Dave Cool on Feb 28 2012 8:39 PM
@ Rafa Ferrá : Ha! Thank you sir, very kind. @ wiltonsaid: Yup, I felt the same way when booking for a venue @ Abby Feferman: I think for open mics you could just list them on your website/social media profiles and focus on promoting shows where you really need to draw your fans. @ vogeljoy: Thanks! And yeah, when I get an actual phone call from an artist, it blows my mind, it's such a novelty now. @ wave7music: Thanks! @ SiConnelly & @wiltonsaid: Definitely hear what you guys are saying, we have similar issues here in Montreal. But there are constantly bands creating buzz on the emerging artist level, sometimes it is because of spending money on the right press person/promoter, but often it's that their live show is so good people talk about it to everyone they know. There's certainly no easy answer, but yes, if you can put together a budget to spend on marketing & promo, wouldn't hurt. @ DevSoulMusic: Thanks! Thanks for the awesome feedback everyone, glad you enjoyed the post! Cheers, Dave -- Dave Cool (Yes, that's my real name) Community Manager Bandzoogle
METAL 'CUSE
Posted by METAL 'CUSE on Mar 21 2012 12:52 PM
Well done sir. Well done. :)
Dave Cool
Posted by Dave Cool on Mar 21 2012 3:12 PM
@METALCUSE: Why thank you sir :) Cheers, DC
John A Sagoe
Posted by John A Sagoe on Mar 23 2014 7:09 AM
I write plays and promote their performances. Do you four Ps for that. Say I admit I found the piece useful and adaptable but something specific?
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