Do your concerts ever seem like the photo above? Here are a few areas you might be able to improve:
1. You’ve over-saturated your market with too many gigs too close to one another.
Read my post titled “Don’t Kill Your Hometown Crowd”
2. You are promoting to the wrong people.
Friends don’t necessarily equal fans. They may support you even if they don’t care for your music but only to a certain extent.
3. You are playing venues that your fans don’t like.
Are they too far away? Hard to get to by public transit?
4. You are sharing a bill with bands that aren’t a good match.
A $10 cover is harder to justify if your fans won’t enjoy any of the other music and will only be sticking around for your 45 minute set. You will also be unlikely to turn people that came to see the wildly different artists into new fans.
5. You Aren’t Collecting Emails
Imagine if you collect at least 1 email at each show you play. After 100 shows you’d have 100 people (likely many more) that you can target specifically about future concerts and releases. People that are willing to give you their email and risk getting spammed really like you (possibly more than the person that bought a CD). It’s scary how few bands take the minute to write “Mailing List” on the top of a piece of paper and leave a pen next to it. Don’t be one of them. Collect emails online too.
Conventional marketing wisdom tells us to put our videos on YouTube, news feed on Twitter, audio on SoundCloud, and photos on Instagram. After all, that’s where the audience is.
There is one problem: that’s also where all of the clutter is.
Unless someone searches specifically for you or your content the chances of you being found are slim. Your one hope of expanding past the users that are looking specifically for you is that they share with the people in their network. That can work well if you currently have a large following. If you are a startup, band, or other business in your infancy you do not have the luxury of this strategy. If you are in this position, posting content online can be disappointing when you do not reach a desired amount of YouTube views or retweets.
Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, try something new.
I saw Dharmesh Shah, founder and CTO of HubSpot, speak yesterday at Intelligent.ly. One of the most powerful ideas he imparted to the audience was how important it was for your website to be on the front page of Google search results. 95% of the clicks for a search are on the first page.
Seek out the newest websites and online platforms that fit what you do. Become an early adopter and start posting content. While there will be fewer eyes there will be even less content to distract them from you. Getting on the front page of Google is hard but getting to the front page of a new site with little content should be fairly easy.
The first users on these sites are also early adopters; people that are excited about discovering the coolest new thing even if it may be rough around the edges. These are exactly the type of people you want to have viewing your content. They enjoy being the first to hear about the next big thing.
It would be silly to suggest abandoning places like YouTube or Twitter entirely. These new websites could become the next big thing or they could close up shop in a few months. Experiment with new sites that interest you and use Google analytics to see which of them drive the most visitors back to your own website and devote your time to them appropriately.
Images of the printed text speak to us for some reason. Perhaps the playful nature of reproducing the printed word into digital media with analog filters is what makes it such a pleasure to read inside these digitized capsules. The beauty of Instagram will do very little to quell the frustration an artist should feel after reading the photographed segment of text. This impudent paragraph was clipped from a press kit rubric distributed at a Professional Development Seminar.
It takes an audacious institution to hold a seminar devoted to professional development that encourages its students to dress “like hippies on pot,” or “look dark and dirty,” based on the kind of music they play. This sort of thinking creates clone artists and focuses too much on the incorrect link between visual and aural.
The way artists look and present themselves is important to success but that is not the trouble with what this paragraph suggests. The implication is that you need to dress a certain way so people can identify you and consequently lump you in with the other “trouble-making rock & rollers.” The danger of being lumped in is very real and potentially deadly. An artist and their work MUST be able to stand on their own and be identifiable if they wish to cut through the glut of music saturating the Internet and other distribution channels.
Not only do people judge others by how they dress, what a person is wearing can actually influence their performance and self-confidence. Artists should get dressed up for performances, wearing something that makes them comfortable while also taking into consideration how they want themselves to be perceived by the audience.
Perception is more important than reality on the concert stage. New artists should remember that many of the most popular performers such as Madonna and Lady Gaga dress completely differently in concert than they do on a Monday afternoon. A concert can be like a play in the sense that some musicians “act” out a character. It should be noted that none of these characters are other musicians and that is why these artists still stand on their own. You will never see Beyoncé dressing up like Lady Gaga or vice versa.
It is baffling that someone would suggest a young artist dress like an already established and successful one. Is this now considered normal and strategically intelligent marketing behavior? Mick Jagger did not co-opt his on-stage fashion and persona from other performers so why should a new artist take his? This sort of thinking creates derivative-looking artists and the music that follows seems to continue the trend.
What a person wears will never be as important as the music they make but it remains a critical element of their live performance. Everyone that attends the concert will judge an artist more on their music than the image they give off, but the next morning when the blog posts start going up there will be no sound, only text and images of what the artist looked like when performing. Outside of the possible YouTube videos, the collective archived memory of a performance will be more visual than aural and that is more than enough reason for an artist to dress in a way that represents who they are and what they do.
Artists, if you aren’t one of the “hippies on pot” or one of those “trouble-making rock & rollers,” it is not sensible to dress like one. You will risk being labeled as inauthentic and that is worse than anything else. Remember that there is only one of you and thousands of people trying to look like a young Bob Dylan. Embrace your musical style and look like you while doing it, not someone else.
The emergence of social media as a key strategy in the promotion and marketing of music has forever changed how artists interact with fans. Gone are the barriers that caused the broadcast > consume culture we have experienced for decades. The emergence of conversation as a means of strengthening the bond between artist and those that support them has become critically important to growth.
Other than your artistic output, there is nothing that matters more than the relationship you have with your fans. Being genuine is heralded and being fake is entirely obvious. The expression, “their music spoke to me,” has changed to, “I spoke with them and realized why I connect so deeply with their music.”
You need to send the love and excitement your fans have for you directly back at them. You need to let them know how much they matter and how much they have helped you grow both creatively and professionally. Remember that a fan is never exclusively your fan; they love other artists too.
You need to be their biggest fan.
You (should) have been keeping a mailing list since the moment you formed the group so you could stay in touch with those that liked your music enough to risk being emailed far too often. If you were really on top of things you should know where and when each person signed up for your mailing list. If you have not been doing this it is never too late to start. I think one of the most powerful emails you can send a fan is the following:
We wanted to thank you for supporting us by sharing our music with friends and attending our shows. It may feel like yesterday but on this day one year ago we played at the Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge, MA where you came out to hear us and signed up for our mailing list. In the last year we have grown as a band and it is largely due to people like you. One year ago today we were opening a show at the Middle East Upstairs and now in a week we will be coming back to Cambridge and headlining at TT the Bears. We hope to see you there and that you come say hello before or after our set.
Please refrain from copying the above email verbatim. You must make the email to your fans personal and my voice is not your own. While you should not copy directly there are a few concepts that are important for an email like this:
- Sincerity. If you don’t mean it, don’t say it. Write about how and why you are grateful.
- Nostalgia. Trigger memories that they can relive in their mind.
- A call to action. Do you have an upcoming show near where they first saw you? Are you running an Indiegogo campaign? Be selective in what you ask of your fans.
- Encourage further interaction. Getting someone to attend your show or buy your record is nice but encouraging them to talk to you and build a relationship is just as important.
When I shared a draft of this post with some artists their feedback was that they felt this strategy might be tough to scale for a band with hundreds or thousands of fans on their mailing list. Many mailing list managers such as MailChimp allow you to place fans into groups so you can keep track of where and when they signed up for your mailing list. By doing this, these messages can be largely automated yet still highly personalized.
There are many ways you can engage your fans to show them that you care. Consider attaching an exclusive mp3 to the email or a special photo. If you know a particular fan has been very important to your success you can offer to put them on your guest list for the next show in their town. Small yet sincere gestures like these can go a long way towards strengthening the bond with your fans and creating more evangelists.