This is an updated version of a post that originally appeared on Indie Band Coach’s Indie Band Blog
While I’m a huge fan of “all you can eat” buffets, sometimes less is absolutely more. And that’s the concept I want to focus on right now in terms of marketing your live shows.
There are hundreds of tactics, strategies, tools, and ideas on how to grow your fanbase, but the best plans are simple and easy to execute.
So in the spirit of today being March 3rd, this blog is going to cover the 3 Tactics We Used At Every Gig to Grow Our Fanbase.
These strategies are ones I’ve used personally and have seen work really well with other bands. They can be crazy successful when used together on a consistent basis and that’s what I want to help you get set up: a plan for ongoing success.
But first a little context…
The band I fronted with my wife, managed, and booked was an 8-piece party band that performed 125 shows a year. Very few weekends off. In the slow months, we’d have 8 gigs (Fridays & Saturdays every weekend) and in the busy Summer months we’d clock in at 15–20 shows.
Now, you don’t have to have 8 people in your band (I might even discourage it), nor do you have to have shows every single weekend. But if you have a few shows a month on average and are trying to build a more consistent following, these steps will lead you down that path.
So the easy equation again? Postcards, emails, and pics. Another way to look at it is connecting with people in more than one place. We didn’t plan this when we started doing it, but realized later that it was effective because we were connecting with people in three different places – offline, online, and in their inbox.
Let’s break each one down.
GETTING YOUR NAME IN THEIR HANDS (OFFLINE)
Our Postcards (or “Gig Cards”) as we called them, were a staple at every one of our shows. They’re basically an 8.5×11 piece of paper cut into 1/4ths (i.e. 4up cards) that listed our upcoming gigs, the main social channels, and our logo.
Here’s an example of one we used for our band…
Don’t put too much time or effort into designing these or making them so fancy that they can’t be read. These will be cards people get from you at your show and unfortunately, some will end up in the trash. But that’s ok, it’s a numbers game.
We didn’t do anything special, didn’t have a huge budget, and spent very little time producing them.
One of the huge benefits of gig cards is using them as conversation starters before and after the show. It gave us a chance to give a simple call to action without promoting a club other than where we were:
For example: “Hey, if you’re on the dancefloor, be sure to pick up one of our gig cards so you can see where we’re playing next.”
Our goal was to side step some of the 5000 ads people see online each day and spread our info, our dates, our logo, etc. physically into their hands after the show.
Fans and family told us countless times how they were great refrigerator swag and office desk reminders and would plan their weekends based on the dates on our card.
GETTING YOUR NAME IN THEIR EMAIL (INBOX)
Conveniently, when people would come up to snag a gig card, right next to them was our email list sign up.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit, we didn’t have an awesome introductory email sequence planned out when we first started. We only had 1 automated response that introduced the band and had a link to the website. But that almost didn’t matter.
What we were REALLY doing was developing a more one-on-one relationship with people when we emailed them. We used it more as a broadcast tool at the time — here’s some news about our upcoming shows, here’s some behind the scenes videos of us making our cd, etc.
But. It. Worked.
Eventually, we got smart and started looking for more electronic ways to get people on our list. MailChimp is great for being able to have people input their email with the use of an iPad. It even works without having to be on WiFi and you can get started for free.
You can also use a paid service like Join By Text (or many others) which is an integration that allows fans to join via text message directly from their smartphone.
We grew our list to over 2500 people and took the time to segment. We didn’t travel a ton, but when we did, we made sure that all emails were tagged with the venue and city. Then, if we didn’t want to send out a mass email for a specific gig, we could literally target it to fans who had caught us at that venue before.
Recipients are 75% more likely to click on emails from segmented campaigns than non-segmented campaigns. (MailChimp, 2017) (Source)
EMAIL PROVIDER OPTIONS
I’ve used several email providers at different times for different reasons. It seems I always end up back at MailChimp.
But don’t take my word for it. Other providers you can check out include:
- Constant Contact
In fact, here’s a comparison list from WPBeginner.com you can browse to see which email marketing platform might suit you best.
Regardless of who you choose to go with, one of the best things you can include in your emails is the third step of the plan — pictures of fans.
GETTING FANS TO SHARE ON SOCIAL (ONLINE)
We’re musicians. And who doesn’t like — even a little bit — to see themselves in an awesome rockstar post with lights blasting their silhouette onto the crowd as the haze creates a crazy rockstar presence on stage.
Yeh…. but once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all.
And so have your fans.
What we found that really gets shared by our fans the next day on social media is the pictures of THEM. They want to be the rockstars that night.
They want to show how fun their weekend was and chances are you’re going to have the best vantage point to help make that happen.
PHOTOS DO’S AND DONT’S
- Do make sure to have a camera (or phone) available on stage. One of the best “behind the scenes” type shots is letting your fans see the gig from your perspective.
- Do take pictures when the energy is “up” if at all possible. If you’re a dance band, there’s probably a song or two that have a built-in hand raising call to action. If not, find them and incorporate them and yes, by all means, be ready to capture those moments.
There’s NOTHING that translates better to fun than people who are so carefree that they’re just out in public in a bar or at a wedding with their hands in the air!
One of the bands I had the pleasure of working with for many years still uses this strategy today. Go visit the My Yellow Rickshaw facebook page and pretend you were a club owner or potential bride.
There timeline and photo albums are filled with clubs, festivals, weddings, and private events with one thing in common: everyone is having a blast.
Think of it like this: every picture on your socials and your website is an ad. What are you advertising to potential new fans?
Now, those are a couple of “do’s” and here are a few “dont’s” to keep in mind.
- Don’t take too many. You don’t want this to be time-consuming for you or for your fans to scroll through them. Create an album of 10-20 pics.
- Don’t take pics of an empty dancefloor. Nobody knows it was the first song of the night. They see what they see and you want every pic in some way to make people think — “I wish I was there.”
- Don’t be creepy. Make it obvious you’re taking pics and let people know to check your Facebook page (or wherever you’ll post them). The last thing you want is to zoom in on a random couple making out who aren’t even engaged in your show.
Obviously, all gigs are different.
These strategies might not work for some of your gigs or it may not seem like you have enough shows to make this work. But let me encourage you to never think about a gig as just one gig.
The best marketing tool you have for your show is your live show itself. It’s the one point in time people can hear, see, and FEEL your vibe, so be ready to connect with people in attendance and turn that experience into another loyal fan.
Leonard Patterson is an avid fan of all things New Edition, an indie-focused booking agent, a frequent hi-fiver, and a certified digital marketer. Since stepping off stage as a band manager/front man of a 6-figure party band, he launched Indie Band Coach with a mission to help indie bands reach more fans and book more gigs. When he’s not working, he’s most likely at a live music event, analyzing Marvel movies, or soaking up vitamin D at the beach with his wife and son.
Want more social media tips for bands? Subscribe to the Indie Band Coach YouTube Channel and keep your eye out for “The Weekly Social” series starting in March.