This guest post is by Chris “Seth” Jackson, a bass guitarist and composer in pursuit of fulfilling his life’s dream of being a self-sufficient musician. He blogs his progress over at Howtorunaband.com to share the ups and downs of his adventure and to share techniques that all artists can use to achieve success. This is a great post about taking personal responsibility for the promotion of your live shows. Enjoy!
How to Promote a Show: Don’t Rely on Anyone Else
After having a poorly attended show, it’s easy to point the fingers at everyone else. The bottom line: the turn-out is entirely your responsibility.
When trying to promote your show, you would expect there to be a team of people to help out: the club, the booker, the other bands, and the promoter. And, yes, they sometimes do help out. However, more times than not, that level of support just isn’t there.
“How about the other bands on the bill? Can’t we get them to help flier and promote?”
Sadly, no. You can’t rely on other bands to promote the show. However, you can rely on them to make outrageous demands at the show, despite having done no promotional work whatsoever.
The bands that actually do help out, you want to work with them forever. Treat them like gold, pitch their shows, and always keep in contact with them. Those are the contacts you need in this industry.
Also, what if the other bands are from out-of-town? They can’t physically promote at all in your city. They rely on YOU. If the band is new, they may not know how to promote. Again, they need to see how you do it!
“How about the booker and the club? Aren’t they supposed to promote this?”
No. The booker has done her job by booking the show. She, now, has to book the other four months worth of shows, all the while dealing with cancellations and flakey bands.
The club itself is usually in the business of selling alcohol and trying desperately to keep its doors open. Most clubs I’ve seen at least run ads in the local papers. That’s about all you’re getting with the club dealing with shows just about every night of the year.
“Well, the promoter for this show is going to promote this, right?”
No. The promoter does drugs and steals your money from the door. So far, all the people I’ve seen that have the title “promoter” are the least capable of promoting. Not to say good promoters don’t exist; just don’t bet on it and protect your ass.
Rely on Yourself
In this biz, you are the only one you can rely on. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t build a team. As your band grows, you will need to bring in others to help you out. However, this doesn’t mean trusting them implicitly. In the software testing field, we have a saying: “Trust, but Verify.”
Just because you have an entertainment lawyer doesn’t absolve you of double checking what the lawyer has written up for you. Just because you have an accountant doesn’t mean that accountant is handling your money correctly. Having a manager doesn’t mean your career is being handled appropriately.
And with promoting a show, you need to verify that those also “helping” promote are doing their job. For this very reason, starting your show promotion as early as possible will help you identify the slackers or the scammers.
If you do rely on someone else to help out your band, make sure to have a backup plan. Just like bringing an extra guitar and drum sticks to your gig, you should have a backup plan in case someone falls through. And in the music biz, people fall through a lot. Though this post sounds a bit negative, I’m only trying to make you aware of the reality of the situation. Sometimes you have great shows where everyone promotes, and you don’t have to worry about all the other people. Then, you have shows where you can’t even rely on your own bandmates to help with anything.
That’s just how the biz goes. If you plan for the worst, you will be prepared against most surprises. Your show will still get promoted, even if it’s only you.
The alternative when relying on everyone else? No promotion occurs, and you have zero people at your show.
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