Let's talk about what never seems to get talked about. I get asked to tell bands how to do things, tell them if their music is any good, or tell them all the secrets. Fact is, there are none. There are no secrets to getting heard, getting gigs, or making music.
The first step is to make the attempt. Now, this means different things to different people. Some don't care about playing clubs, or getting radio airplay, and like their recordings to sound as unproduced as possible. Others just want to make music and play it to their friends. If that is you, then you don't need me. Go do that. That's cool. To the others who're are wondering "why is it not happening for us?" It - whatever it is to you - could be due to a number of things. I don't know everything. I know what I experience and I know what I am looking for. I will tell you what I hear and what is talked about among the people I talk to.
I shared an old story a few days ago. It was a relevant one called "7 Reasons Why No One Is Coming To Your Shows." I liked it. I agreed with it. Here's why. Let's talk about it.
1] Not all bands are good. Many are very good. I hear them and play them. Some, with a little TLC, are on their way to being great. Some bands are mediocre at best and think they are Led Fucking Zeppelin. Maybe you're okay but someone in your band is a giant ass wipe. Look into it. All that aside, are your songs good? People want good songs.
2] You Play Out Too Much. Bands wonder why local bookers ask so many questions? Because a lot of bands are not aware of how to set up and promote a show. If you are asked to do a show, don't take it if you have a show in the area within two to three weeks and can put some real promotional effort into it. Posting on Facebook on Friday at 6 saying, "Got a gig at TT's tonight" is not promotion. Bookers, promoters, club owners, and event producers like myself will not want to work with you again. If you flop and do nothing, don't show up at the bar with your hand open. I had a very seasoned musician in a touring band say, "if a band is new, they shouldn't get paid." They make a very valid point. I agree. Earn it.
3] It's Not An Event. Don't bother us with invites that say Rock Show on Friday. Make your show a thing. Consider a theme with special guests, consider some special tunes. Come To This Punk Show is awesome but what compels someone to make this show a priority? You know how bands get written about by the press? They have a "thing" - a hook that pulls the writer in to want to write about it.
4] Set Up Advance Ticket Sales. This does not mean pay-to-play. No. I despise that practice and we should frown upon any promoter who pulls this shit move. Advance ticket sales are run through the venue's site. This offers incentive for fans and friends to buy in. Provide a special early sale price. Consider ticket fees and make it worth their while and promote it as such. Some bands like to get some hard copy tickets. Any venue will provide these if you have a plan in place.
5] You Think The Venue Is Going To Promote The Shit Out Of You. This is a long-standing sore spot for bands and venues. Talk to your booker. Know your deal. Know what is expected of each of you. If bands do nothing, expecting a packed house, but show up to the sound person, the bartenders, and the other bands, the booker will get pissed at you. Most venues make an effort to promote each night's show, but if they are hosting live music and events 6 or 7 nights a week, they cannot concentrate on your show only. Here, this pissed bands off: Venues need to make money. They are in business. It is also worth noting you aren't going to get Saturday nights if you can't bring some people out on a Wednesday. What you can do:
a) Know and be aware of who the other bands are on your bill
b) Coordinate a show flyer with the other bands and hang it at the venue, in rehearsal spaces, and places who're flyer friendly.
c) Reach out to your radio shows and blogs. Every single one has submission info posted.
d) Reach out to your email list, or start an email list. Schedule emails to go out a certain times. Please don't send us 6 per day (I'm only partly joking).
e) hit up all your social media platforms for at least two weeks out from the show. To get people out, you have to talk about it a lot - on your band pages, by your bandmates on their pages, and the other bands who're playing with you. If bands won't promote, stop playing with them.
6] You Only Rely On Facebook. Oh, This. I gave a rundown of some of the things that should be getting done in advance of every show you play. So, if you are playing every 3 days, how are you doing this at all? I am a believer in Facebook events - well-prepared ones, with every detail included, all bands on the bill, with streaming music links. Make one. So there is only one. Those shows with 3 event pages are a mess.
Don't expect everyone to see your posts. Post at different times each time you make a post. Side note: If you are that band that only posts when you have a show and your pages have tumbleweeds rolling through them, no one is likely to see anything you post at all. Make a plan and roll it out.
7] Leave The House. If no one knows you or your band, they won't come see you. If you don't go out to other gigs, why would someone go to yours? This is the first thing I tell someone who asks me how to "break in" to the music scene. Leave the house. Meet people. Say hello. Have a conversation. Be friendly. No one wants some shady dude working them all night. Be cool, and learn about and introduce yourself to the people who book rooms, do radio shows, host podcasts, write about music. This is how you create relationships within the community.
Am I essentially repeating what was written in that piece from 2014? Yes, but I get asked these questions a lot. I work with bands as a consultant but I am not really interested in wasting my time with bands who're not prepared to do some work. Also, as a consultant, I am not free. I get paid for my time.
It is really disappointing to find a great band that does nothing. Or one that is unresponsive to emails or messages. You write a cool post about a band and they don't share it or mention it once. Bummer. I remember.
You've heard running a band is like a business. It is 100% true. Invest some time and energy into it. The second thing we hear is, "Don't Be A Dick." Seems so simple, right? So ridiculous. But it so often happens. Those of us who're involved in putting on events, hosting shows, doing things in the community, we talk to each other and we figure it out.
Will we ever get to the bottom of why clubs and bands seem to have this huge disconnect? I don't know. What I do know is that the idea that everyone is entitled to whatever they want has got to go. Venues and bands need to work together. At no time should we be at odds with one another. Bands and patrons are a club's clientele. By all means, venues should treat bands and patrons well. Make it sound good, have friendly bar staff. Let's reel in our expectations.
Once upon a time, as I am reminded of the "good old days of the Boston music scene" and how venues helped bands grow a draw. There are very few independent clubs with a booker creating the feel of the room.
I leave you with this question: Are we outsourcing our music scene?
There is a Music Meeting Facebook group. I will add you if you request to join it.