1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Building a following

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by mactac, Apr 14, 2006.

  1. mactac

    mactac Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Victoria, BC, Canada
    ok, so this thread is about building a following.

    The nad I am in is just starting out. It's a good band with good players. the problem is, of course nobody knows us (as we are just starting out!). I've played in many other bands, most were already established, so this was not a problem.

    We plan to play in pubs & bars & festivals. Now, as a booker, your primary concern is DRAW. we have spoken to a few bookers & their #1 question is usually "how many people can you bring in". Of course the only people we can bring is is our friends (& as we get older it's harder & harder to get friends out!) , and than diminishes over time...i mean, how many friends will come out to see EVERY show you do?

    Anyways, I've done a lot of reading o the net about building a following, and there is very little info i can find. Can anyone offer any practical tips on how to get more & more people out to your shows? (excluding just being a good band of course)?

    The shows we've played have all been very weak as far as attendance (mostly battle -of-the-bands type of thing, that I really hate, but hey, you need to start somewhere, don't you?), so word-of-mouth isn't getitng us very far.

    any thoughts? ideas? stories from experience?

  2. jwl


    Jan 25, 2005
    i don't mean this in a condesending way, but a band is a business and in business you only need one thing to be successful: common sense. if a company has a new product and they want to sell it, they advertise. this is what you need to do. it would help if you had a product to sell like a cd of originals/covers besides just the services of your live show. a bio package to mail out including a cd of your band is a must. your live show should be entertaining as well. you have to make yourself valuable to the owners of the clubs you want to play. the only way employees stay employed is because they are valuable to the boss. employees/bands are hired to solve problems and in a bands case the problem you are solving is how to make more money for the club owner. peace, jeff
  3. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta (Grant Park!)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    Psst, hey kid, c'mere. Wanna build a following, eh? Here's what you do, get a van, buy a cooler, hit the road. Fun times!
  4. mactac

    mactac Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Victoria, BC, Canada
    right, but you didn't really offer any practical tips.

    I undertsnad marketing very well (that's what I do for a living). I need some practical tips on how to help build a following for a band.

    We have a bio package, etc, etc & mail that out to prospective gig opportunities... this doesn't directly get more people in the door...

    an example of an idea would be:

    print up some stickers for the band & give them away free to anyone who wants to join your email list. email everyone that has signed up every time you have a gig.

    thanks, but perhasp in my post i should have said that I understand the concept very well but want:

    some practical ideas, stories from experience, etc (oh wait, that's what i did ask! )

    any ideas that you have tried & the results (good & bad) would be muchly appreciated.
  5. DblG


    Apr 27, 2005
    Buffalo, NY
    get the people who are there enjoying the music signed up to a mailing list and mail something out every now and then for them to hang on their fridge. Then when they're looking for something to do, and you happen to be playing that night..

    Get lots of good dance songs, be exciting and hope the all important word of mouth starts spreading the good news. The more dance stuff you play, the more girls like it. The more girls that want to come see you adds up to more guys, and it goes from there.

  6. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    I agree with the post above, but would like to emphasize that you need to entertain. You have to play the music that the people like, not the music that you like. This is very tough with an original band. Sometimes for a band it is more about creating a scene than great music. People will show up to a gig because it is the "place to be" rather than show up because they like the music.

    Good Luck.
  7. It's all about promotion and promotion is all about networking... Here's my 6 month plan: record a real good demo, post it on myspace, abuse the internet, make e-fliers, make myspace friends, post comments to others sites, go to every local show you can, become a part of the scene, make tons of flyers, give your demo away if you have to, talk to everyone you can, play every small crappy gig you can, do coffeeshops, play campuses, play parties, play small places on bad nights, open for other bands, make friends, get some press written, DO ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING YOU CAN to PROMOTE YOURSELF.
  8. jwl


    Jan 25, 2005
    we all do marketing: the definition of marketing is anything the helps facilitate the flow of goods and services from the producer to the user or final consumer. we're all in it one way or another. like i said, common sense. the person who posted about playing dance music to attract the girls is spot on. if you're playing dream theater, they aint gonna show up. if you play sade or the romantics they will. sounds like you're looking for a manager. good luck. peace, jeff
  9. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta (Grant Park!)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    One more suggestion: MySpace.
  10. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    The 'hang on the fridge' part: I think this is a good example of where 'the internet doesn't cut it' - folks are not going to print-out a web page, and put it on their fridge!

    Y'know: that gives me an idea.. it'd be best for the itinerary card to be 'fridge-ready', by having Post-it stuff on the back, or be magnetic or something!

  11. IanStephenson

    IanStephenson UnRegistered User

    Apr 8, 2006
    Some obvious sugguestions:

    Find the worst band in town, with the biggest following and offer to open for them.

    Play the venues where there are people there already! Sounds dumb, but theres a local venue here which is out of town, has no passing trade, and has a cover charge - bands play it, but the audience are the people they've brought in. NOT A GOOD PLACE TO START OUT. Even if it means not getting paid for the first few gigs, play the dive in the centre of town which sells cheap beer.

    Play any gig that gets you in front of an audience other than your friends, and make sure that you tell that audience WHAT YOUR NAME IS, and WHERE YOU'RE PLAYING NEXT. I couldn't tell you how many times I saw a band, but couldn't find out their name.

    And keep at it... It takes time (and then the band folds!)

  12. mactac

    mactac Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Victoria, BC, Canada
    thanks for the practical tips :)

    any more good ones? don't forget, i was asking for PRACTICAL tips other than "playing good music".

    We have the music down, it's just hard finding a gig when you don't have a draw. We need a draw.....

    Every band I've played in (pretty much anyways) has had a good draw & has done fairly decently...my own music has done extremely well & i've been signed to a few different labels. i've never had to "start out" before.... trying to figure out some good ideas on getting people to COME OUT & LISTEN.

    I understand about music format, I understand marketing, I understand branding....i need ideas on how to build a mailing list & get people out.

    Any ideas on how to build a mailing list (other than the one i dea i gave as an example) ? To me, this would be the singlemost best thing for getting people to see you - people who have already seen you! provided the band is good, this should work... if the band isn't any good, well it's going to be a tough road...
  13. Get gigs. Be good. You'll get a following and a draw. I can't imagine a place where every place requires a large draw. Get your friends too bring their friends too bring their friends if you must. I dont know what else you mean. Put an ad out in the news papper? Drop candy from the sky? Build your own venue?
  14. Myspace. Seriously, huge connections between bands and fans, and bands and other bands.
  15. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    Dude, you do marketing for a living and you're asking us what to do? Heck, we should be hiring you to tell us!

    Advertise your band like you would a business. Find something that makes your band unique and create a buzz with that. Get your music into people's hands, get your tshirts on their bodies, get your name out there as much as possible. You know as well as anyone that name recognition is the biggest part of the battle.

    Despite all of this, your biggest draw is going to be the extent to which you can make your audience forget their troubles for a few hours and leave feeling better than when they came in. Then they'll tell their friends and your draw will grow.

    In my experience, you'll have to muddle through for a long time with 7 or 8 people in the audience, and then over the course of a few weeks or so, it'll grow to 50 or more... Exponential and all that jazz. Unless you're a national act or something, I wouldn't expect more than that consistently.

    See if you can't tag onto a local town festival or something. The biggest thing you want to do is get out in front of people and let them see your product. Then sell it to them and make them want some more. Isn't that the basic idea of marketing?

    One final thought: A lot of us will laugh if anybody mentions traditional forms of advertisement like commercials or billboards... A couple years ago, however, one of the clubs around here hired a band called Synergy to be their house band every Friday night. That club then put all sorts of radio and television spots up, each one featuring the name "Synergy". Have I ever heard Synergy? No. Heck, I don't even know if they still exist. But to this day, my initial reaction is that they're the best band in town... all because of name recognition due to the commercials.

    So don't rule out traditional advertising, especially if you can afford it. I've been thinking about buying one of those promo slides at the movie theater - you know, the ones that they show before the feature?

    Good luck!
  16. Mailing lists, email lists, web site, both with your schedule. make sure everyone that sees you has access, has a way to sign up (table tents with schedule, or band website).

    Play regularly, so people can get in the habit of you being their entertainment on the weekends.

    Get the girls to come, the guys will follow. But if you get a house gig, be careful. If you guys go through all the girls in the crowd quickly, then dump them, they go elsewhere. And there goes the crowd.

    But you're in marketing, its a numbers/percentage game. Leverage everyone in every gig to get more people for the next one. If 10% of the people like you, you need to get 1000 people to like you enough to show up on a regular basis, 2000 people semi-regularly. Etc. Lots of exposure, and make sure everyone there can easily contact you to find the next gig.

  17. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    (1) Massive mailing list. If you have a mailing list of 500, maybe 30 will show up to an actual gig. If you can improve that ratio, great, but that's what you can expect unless you start building cred as a great live act. Mailing list addresses conventionally will come from your website guestbook or a paper-n-pen list that gets distributed at your gigs. You can also spam everyone in your contacts list, but that might not be appreciated. Start with a few close friends, and gauge the appropriate level of interest.

    (2) Rotating setlist (or large repertoire). If you want to bring people back, you have to give them new stuff to listen to, whether you're an original or a cover band. One of the saddest things is to get a huge aud at the debut gig and watch it dwindle when the returning fans realize that you don't know more than 8 freaking songs.

    (3) Hot, hot chicks. Seriously, either in the band or in the audience. With the exception of G3, Rush or other nerd rock events, people don't go to live music sausagefests. If you don't have a hot chick in the band, invite some to seed the audience. Sorry to be sexist, but there it is, and it works.

    (4) Friday and Saturday nights. If you're good, have a decent EPK and/or can guarantee a decent draw, you can bargain with venues for these prime nights, which are likely to draw random people in search of a fun time, rather than Mom and Pop and your sister and roommate. Playing to family on Sunday-Tuesday nights are basically useless for crowd building purposes, and is a recipe for burnout and desertions. Avoid at all costs.

    (5) Promotion. That includes the mailing list, an EPK (or an attractive, non-lame website) and the hot chicks, all mentioned above. College radio, blogs and XM can also be encouraged to play new artists, provided you have something good to show them. Important - don NOT give people an EPK or URL that's a "work in progress." Sh*tty effort is worse than no effort in this game.

    (6) Co Promotion. Very, very important. Make friends with another, more popular act and see if you can share a regular bill with them. Most places have specialty nights where they'll anchor the evening with the most popular local act in that genre. Crash those and ingratiate yourself with the venue, the anchor act and the hot chicks who are there.

    (7) Press: Invite local press to the gig so you can get a writeup in some rag. Less important that the other stuff if you're a new act, unless you know someone important at someplace importnat who will give you a decent amount of blurbspace. A two-line thing in the Ridgefield Clip-N-Sav or whatever won't lead anywhere.

    Myspace? I guess it's requisite at this point, but recognize that 100,000 other crappy bands are getting lost in there - don't depend on it for promotion.
  18. Have a cool interactive website with personality, humor and fun.

    Prime example? http://www.getvanstoned.com/

    Have a guestbook on your site. Promote your site and plug the guestbook during your shows. That gets you names and email addresses.

    Sell merchandise (ie. Tshirts) at every show - and include your website on the shirts. People will happily wear free advertising for you and pay you for the vehicle (shirt) by which to display it.

    Put your site in vinyl letters on your vehicle's back window. Keep a blog on your site or some other way to keep people interested and keep it fresh.

    Have a website OTHER than myspace.com, but have a good myspace site. Solicit friends from other popular local band myspacers and their friends will see your connection and visit yours.

    GOOD photography. I'm a photographer, so I really pick apart bad band photography. Too many people totally skimp on this part, but you can really sell yourself on flyers and other promo materials better if you LOOK GOOD on them.

    Get to know musicians in your local scene and some of the dudes who work at the local geetaw stores. Connections begat connections. In a word, networking. The more people you know, the more people who are exposed to you. The more people who are exposed to you, the more who sign your guestbook or request friendship on myspace or whatever.

    There's no magic bullet. It takes time to build any of this stuff.

    Send press releases and photos to local newspapers and entertainment publications when you are playing somewhere. Sometimes they'll use it, and sometimes they won't. This last week I sent a press release to a medium size daily paper who used it word for word along with a 4x6 photo in the paper promoting our show. Now, while that helped get people to the show, it also helped get them to our website and made them aware of us.
  19. fastplant


    Sep 26, 2002
    To get a good following going you need to be able to offer something that no other bands are offering, be it an interesting stage show, catchy songs, etc. You have to give people a REASON to go see your band over any other band or any other activity that they might do on a given night.

    Once you figure that out, you'll be all set.
  20. I just skimmed through some of the posts, but everyone is telling you what they do to get people to their bands' shows.

    The boyfriend and I are total music junkies and GO to a ton of shows, so I thought I'd tell you some things that get us there, and get us to come back.

    1. If you're our friend, we'll come out a few times a year. UNLESS you totally kick ass, and then we make as many shows as possible. I know a lot of musicians, and they're super-talented, but that doesn't mean that in all of their band situations they are the best thing since peanut butter. Your friends will support you- but only so much.

    2. Energy/Interaction - not exactly sure how to word this, but I think you know what I mean. There are some bands that have that vibe going with 10 people or 1000 in the audience - they're entertaining - they are as aware of the crowd as they are of each other. If you're an originals band, you still need to play some covers - people love them - and it gives you some common ground with the people who are seeing/hearing you for the first time.

    3. Venue - there are some venues we love, and some we hate. Places have reputations with bands, but also with their patrons. One of my favorite bars has dropped on my list because they refuse to enforce our city-wide smoking band. Even though I really dig some of the bands, I don't enjoy going out to see them as much and when I do go I leave early because of the smoke. Everyone loses except the 2-3 smokers in the place every night.

    4. Cost - seeing bands can get expensive. Being a musician, I obviously think the band deserves to get paid. I'm not against paying cover charges. But if your cover is consistently $10 higher than other covers around town we can't afford to come see you as often. [Or, if your friends shell out a lot of $$$ to come to see you, they may not be shelling out as much cash at the bar, so the venue may not see you as a big money maker].

    5. The boyfriend and I are younger and don't have kids. It's a lot easier for us to go out for a few hours on Wed night than our friends who do have kids, who have to get babysitters, and get home early, etc. etc. That being said, know your audience. Advertise around local college campuses. These are people who have the time and energy to see you, and they're the people who are likely to adore your band and tell all of their friends on IM and text message them, etc. etc.

    6. I'm a fan of "tape-trading" - letting your fans tape your shows. Then they distribute your music freely amongst their friends. Who pass it along to their friends.... There's a band that I heard mention of on a trading forum, and I've seen them live about 7 times, purchased all their albums and some other merch, and traveled 3 hours in part to see them perform.

    That band I just mentioned is Carbon Leaf. After one show we were chatting with the [phenomenol] bass player, Jordan Medas. He told us that they used Dave Matthews Band as a business model for what they're doing. You may all have day jobs and can't/don't want to tour like crazy. But find other local or regional bands that have a successful following and model your band's business model like theirs.

    After every show take time to talk to EVERYONE in the audience that wants to say hello, take a photo, get an autograph, etc. It might mean an hour less of sleep for you, but it means something to them, and they will tell their friends.

    Hope that gave you some perspective. I had no intention of writing so much. Sometimes as musicians it's easy to think that you've sent out your emails and played good music, so people will just show up. Here in Columbus there are tons of really great bands, and a lot of those musicians suck at showing up to support other local artists. So you can imagine how difficult it is to get non-musicians/casual music fans to get out to shows on a semi-regular basis.

    Good luck!

Share This Page