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.
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.
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 StoryAmpand 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.
To help build your media database and keep track of your progress, download thisSample Media Progress Spreadsheet
For some great tips on approaching journalists, I highly recommend reading 5 Tips for Approaching Music Journalists from MusicianCoaching.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.