Any ideas on building an audience?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Axtman, Jan 12, 2018.

  1. Axtman

    Axtman Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    I currently play in a small jazz combo. We are pretty good and are getting better everytime we perform. The problem is that we have a terrible time getting people to come out and hear us play (for free!). Do you have any ideas on how to build an audience? Thanks.
  2. HauntedDave


    Mar 7, 2016
    Houston, TX
    Dude, that's the 86 million dollar question. So many variables involved. People are easily persuaded to like something, but they usually won't support it. Good luck.
  3. Axtman

    Axtman Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    I thought it was the $64,000 question. I guess your are accounting for inflation. ;-)
  4. Carl Hillman

    Carl Hillman

    Jan 1, 2010
    Move to Europe/Japan.
    (only partially kidding)
    Lee Moses likes this.
  5. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Regardless of the style of music, here's what is needed to fill your gigs:

    1. Word of mouth.
    2. Word of mouth.
    3. Word of mouth.


    On your breaks, chat up the audience members. If they have a good time they will tell their friends, some of whom might come next time.

    Use social cell phone photos (esp. with you and smiling audience members) and videos. Tell your audience to friend you. Then try posting during your gigs with a message like "come on down, it's a party!". Mention the people in your photo posts: "Sue, Debbie and Jane are here and having a ball with us", etc. Encourage your audience to post, too. Create Facebook events. Etc.

    I know a singer who is a retired salesman and he packs his gigs by using his gift of gab and Facebook postings.
  6. Oddly


    Jan 17, 2014
    Dublin, Ireland.
    Stop playing jazz.

    Sorry, couldn't resist.:D

    Seriously though, if you check out the 'band management' forum over on the bass guitar side of TB there's been a few threads on the subject with some helpful advice given.
  7. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    I had success getting 35 to 70 people out to my events for a while, but grew tired of how much work it was. So I stopped and focused on corporate and wedding and festival work.

    Here was my formula:

    1. Get onto a Jazz meetup group on, or start one. Post your gigs there.
    2. Print up 1/4 size flyers (even black and white, and cut them to 1/4 page). Pass them out to everyone you know. Get the band to do it as well.
    3. Bill the event as a social, and get the owner of the venue to give away a bottle of wine or a gift certificate as a raffle -- build an email list with the raffle entrants (they write out their name and email address on it for the draw).
    4. Look for ways to tap into divorcee, singles, and other groups in the appropriate age bracket.
    5. Get there early and facilitate introductions among people -- make sure they can sit together and get to know each other. Build a community. Get to know people and be friends with them. I held ice-breaker activities like 2 truths and a lie, for example. People will start to come because of YOU.
    6. Get your events up on Eventbrite, eventful, yelp, and any local, free facebook page. You can build your own facebook page. but it's a ton of work. I never bothered, preferring to build my own email list, and partnering with other people who already had one.
    7. Cut deals with people who have big mailing lists to put your gigs into their newsletter or help them in some way so they will promote your gigs -- maybe by offering your band at a discount for one of their events. Look for a Main Street program in your area or a chamber of commerce.
    8. Make sure the owner of the venue does his own promotion -- we put postcards on his tables for the event, posters up, and sometimes the 1/4 size flyers in the check wallets for his existing clientelle leading up to the vent. We're on his facebook and web page. One venue owner pays the postcards -- we get them cheap at
    9. Partner with a music teacher -- get one on your band, and have them hold a music recital at the restaurant. The owner won't charge to use the space if you bring people. The kids and parents will come to see the event, and then your band plays afterwards for pay. You hit your quota; get the music teacher to encourage the parents and kids to buy dinner for their family as thanks to the venue owner for letting you use the facility.
    10. Support the place personally with your own personal spending, your own birthday party, family gatherings, business meetings, and ask the owner to include it in your numbers. Refer people to the venue for their own events.
    11. Go to events already attracting jazz lovers and promote your own gigs there. But be careful if it's a competing band. A jazz festival is a good place because the event organizer doesn't compete with you. Another band's event, well attended, is touchy as it might tick them off. Be careful with it.
    12. Invite people to jam in the last hour as an open mike. Even teenagers who will bring their parents. If the place is decent and not a dive or a place that looks like its a deleterious influence on teens and others.

    I had a table of 8 once visiting from town. We ate lunch and I asked the owner to include that revenue in my numbers for the band performance in a couple weeks. He's not buying music -- he's buying clients...let him know, implicitly, he gets your business if he hires your band.

    Good luck...those are a few suggestions. It's a long haul, believe me, but fun at first. I just got tired of it after about 3-4 years.
  8. filmtex


    May 29, 2011
    Play. Your. @ss. Off. All. The. Time. Your audience will spread the word. Rinse, repeat.
  9. Axtman

    Axtman Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    PaulFerro, those are GREAT ideas! Thanks!

    We do have postcards that we give out and sometimes mail to friends.
    We do post on Facebook.
    We do email announcements to friends.
    PauFerro likes this.
  10. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    As you can see, it can take more than that to get large crowds to come see you -- but it's a start. Strange, although social media is everywhere, and people seem to want to use it IN PLACE of hard copy distribution, people are inundated with information. There is too much digital information. When I give someone a postcard, I know they saw it! Unlike Facebook where my post gets pushed off the first page in a matter of minutes sometimes...

    Regarding social media -- a couple tips from a workshop I attended.

    1. You have to know when your following is online. Most of the time Facebook goes crazy on Friday afternoon and evening. That's why I post my digital flyers.

    2. You need cronies -- people in your band willing to go and bump your post and ask questions about it to keep it active on Facebook in particular. Particularly if you are on other people's sites like I was.

    3. Also, consider using Vertical Response as your email software. You only pay per email, not by the month and it was dirt cheap when I had less than 1000 subscribers to my list.

    Also, you need a good flyer -- right? I signed up with Shutterstock and other online crowdsourcing places for images. Sometimes I'd buy a graphic for $12, but often those places would offer me free downloads, so I'd download as much as I could on their free deal....

    Regarding postcards -- I bought this really cheap graphics design software to do it since I couldn't afford the industry strength ones everyone uses (Photoshop, for example), and, the free one was a nightmare to learn fast (me again, tired of learning so much all the time; I wantd fast results).

    Here are two cheap graphic design programs where you can alter graphics to the right resolution for postcard printers (I think it was 300 DPI). For some reason they rejected my JPG's when I created the flyer in word.

    Logo Design Studio Pro | #1 Selling Logo Software for over 15 years | Summitsoft ($39 at this time; for logos but works for postcards and even banners)

    And this one....

    Easily Design, Paint and Edit Graphic Images with DrawPad

    (currently only $20).

    You said you were doing postcards already, but others might be interested.
    Sub41 and Groove Doctor like this.
  11. Short sets and good beer.
    Jason Hollar and Tom Lane like this.
  12. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Stop hiring old geezers and add a beautiful woman to the band....
    Jason Hollar and Tom Lane like this.
  13. Jeremy Darrow

    Jeremy Darrow

    Apr 6, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    Endorsing Artist: Fishman Transducers, Aguilar Amplifiers, Ear Trumpet Labs
    Facbook ads offer a lot of bang for the buck. The targeting can be pretty granular, and $20 or so spent on a gig can have a real impact. Also, consider not playing for free. People tend to assume that if something is free, it isn't any good.
  14. Also, don't compromise. Play the way you want to play. I have had good audiences for very experimental music for decades. If you feature nights or sets around your favorite jazz composers or even original music with a strong concept you will be surprised at how people respond. Splitting bills with more experienced groups or asking more known players to guest with you will make you better and bring more people out.
    Also, play well and take yourself and your music seriously - people respond to that.
    james condino likes this.
  15. Before you follow any of the lengthy and appropriate advice above about word of mouth, networking, and advertising, allow me to mention the single most overlooked first prerequisite to getting any of them to work: Be good.

    OK, carry on...
  16. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Where I live, everyone is great. It is not enough to just have great chops and be a bunch of dorks staring at the ground in their favorite dirty t shirt and flip flops. It is performance art for the audience- make it fun and dynamic and exciting and capture the audience with a good show not just good tunes....and hire the beautiful girl to be your front person.

    A few years back I played in a quintet- four dudes and a beautiful woman who could sing in three different languages. On the nights she could not make the show, we played twice as fast and blew the doors off the place... the tip jar would be maybe $70 for the whole night. We would play the exact same set the next night at the same place when she would show up and the tip jar would be $400-500 in a small club with maybee 75 people!