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Cover Band With No Followers

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by bluesbass99, Aug 16, 2012.


  1. bluesbass99

    bluesbass99

    Jun 14, 2006
    Atlanta, GA
    Okay, this one is an age-old issue, but I would be interested in hearing any advice that can be offered. I have a band that plays primarily R&B, Blues, some Rock...all covers. The musicians are very good and I really enjoy playing with these people. I also do the the bookings for the band. So far, we have played maybe a dozen gigs since starting in mid-May.

    We have the usual website established, along with Facebook and Reverbnation pages. Some of the places we play have a bulit-in customer base and we love playing those places. Most, however, depend upon the band to bring in additional business. Some clubs will hire us only if we can bring in 50 people (50 seems to be the magic number that everyone keeps using). Only the singer and myself try to get our friends and family to attend our gigs. The other three in the group do not try to promote the gigs, nor have they ever brought anyone in.

    I've come to realize that being a musician also involves being a promoter. That's an aspect that most musicians don't care to get involved in. But, if we want the higher paying gigs, we have to be able to bring in people to make it profitable for the club owner.

    We do all of the normal promoting (posters, using Facebook and Reverbnation to send out notices, etc.), but I think the conclusion I'm coming to is that 1) cover bands really don't attract too many devoted followers, and 2) most younger people really don't want to hear R&B & Blues, 3) we will probably have to drop down our gig prices just to play in the lower paying clubs.

    Any advice from anyone?
     
  2. craig.p

    craig.p

    Sep 28, 2008
    New Hampshire
    I would moderately disagree with point 1.

    I would very strongly agree with point 2.

    No opinion on point 3.

    The "other three" in the band need to be put on notice that they have to start bringing people in.

    You also have to work the rooms you're playing in while you're on your 15 minute set breaks.
     
  3. jonas_24112

    jonas_24112

    Jul 11, 2011
    I will agree with #2.

    There are lots of threads in TB on promotion, crowd participation, and song choices. do a search!

    Bottom line is if you're not happy, try something different and ultimately it takes time To gain a following.

    I just finished a 4 page outline of things my band can do to become better entertainment- image, stage presence, song choices, crowd participation, marketing, promotion, etc. And we will start trying these ideas at our next gig.

    I wish you luck!!
     
  4. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    We have a guitarist in our band that refuses to do any promotion, or even acknowledge our band in his various social media. He's been told that he either joins the promotion effort, or he's out.
     
  5. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    I hear you. It is hard to keep asking your family and friends to come out and see you play all the time. It is not cheap to go out and many just do not go out allot or have the time or interest to do it often.

    I think venue owners and managers think we have ton's of family and friends who follow us to every show but its not like that. Many of these same venues never promote and want you to provide the music to your people while they drink and eat and their place...ah yeah.
    I understand the buisness end of it but it is not like that for most of us and the older the band members the less likey of this happening often enough to get the gigs that demand a following. This is why my band which is originals prefers to book places with a built in crowd and require little of us. Festivals, community concerts etc don't require you to bring anyone. Seak out clubs that don't require a following or much of one. The downside is these clubs might pay a bit less but the pressure of you bringing them their buisness will be gone for the most part.
     
  6. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    Colorado
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    That is one of the lame things about playing in bars ... some bar owners have a lame bar with a lame turnout ... so rather than fix what is lame about their bar they want the band to go and do a bunch of promotional work for the bar.

    The way to get a following is to play out and do good enough to get people to want to see you again. To get a following you need to be entertaining. You need a good lead singer.

    As a band member I don't want to always pressuring my friends to come and see the band.
     
  7. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Also allot of this depends on your market. I don't think any band in my area has a decent following covers or originals. Using facebook and all that to promote has not done allot for us or other bands who's shows I have gone to see.
     
  8. niki z

    niki z Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2011
    Nashville, TN
    Promotion is hard, but there are a couple things I personally have found that helps bring people in the door.

    - Pay an artist do your posters. Me or my band mates in the past have done them, and they just don't compare to someone that is a true visual artist. (unless someone in the band is) We also can get them printed for free by the beer distributors of the club, you just have to have coors or bud light logo on them.

    - Try a "theme" for the show based on the time on time of year, or some pop culture reference. ex: When the whole Charlie Sheen thing was big we did a "Tigers Blood" party and had the club have a special on a Tigers Blood drink (it packed the house!). Ladies nights, or college ID nights are also great too. The facebook invite and posters should all reflect this.

    - Try getting the club to do some kind of drink special, that always helps ME get in the door. :D Also, try getting a local mag to sponsor a night, it's a win win for both (free advertising for your band).

    - Handbill cars and people walking the streets the week before and a day or two before the show. We also pay someone do help us with this. It's allot of work, but it's a great way for people to know what your about.

    - You may also need to change you set depending on your crowd. You mentioned a concern that the younger crowd may not be digging an entire R&B set, I would try to mix in some dance songs that may be R&B influenced like Michael Jackson to try and get the ladies shaking the booty.

    The rest of the band should all be trying to promote, or they should not get paid the same...to me it's that simple. As everyone knows it's extremely time consuming to promote and get people out, if they don't want to contribute, they should not be paid as much as those who do.

    ***This is all IMO and what has worked for ME. Good Luck!
     
  9. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    Colorado
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    I told my wife about this thread ... she was a full time working musician through the 80s. She played 6 nights a week with a house band. She laughed at the idea that a band had to bring in 50 more people.

    A good venue with have people coming there because it is a good venue.

    Also putting up flyers around town does not give you a following.
     
  10. Factor88

    Factor88

    Jun 21, 2011
    Agree with this.

    To the OP, sounds like (a) your market only has crappy venues, (b) your market has some good venues but you have not been able to gain access to them yet. If it is (b) the the problem is either you guys are not very good (yet) or perhaps it is a matter of your choice of music to cover; R&B and blues goes over very well in some markets and not so much in others.
     
  11. ChrisB2

    ChrisB2 Bass... in your fass

    Feb 27, 2008
    TalkBass > Off Topic
    I agree with you. Having great vocals (most important factor IMO) and a great band will create a following without having to browbeat your family and friends or threaten bandmates with being fired if they don't promote and bring customers.

    Once you get this Great Band rolling with some real FANS you will be able to book into the better clubs that have a built-in crowd.

    Great band with its own genuine fans + great venue with its own genuine patrons = best case scenario.
     
  12. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    Genres that draw vary geographically, but younger bar crowds don't want to hear blues and R&B. If the band is 20ish, it helps a little--but not much.

    Putting on a show helps a lot. Part of the problem with selling blues and R&B, I suspect, is that the genres conjure up images of old guys just standing on stage without putting on any show. (Niki z's advice seems built on the idea of promoting a happening; four dudes just standing there playing the blues or rock version of a Real Book gig ain't a happening.)

    Exceptionally good lead vocals are crucial, and harmonies also matter more than most bands credit. (Another strike against run-of-the-mill blues bands--and most run-of-the-mill bar bands, for that matter.)

    Ric5's wife has a point about how venues operated in the 70s and 80s, but those days are pretty much gone.
     
  13. Everybody necessarily views this through the lens of their own experience. I'm doing the weekend-warrior cover/bar band thing. We've been on the "circuit" of bars (restaurant/bars are the norm in Maryland) that have bands on weekends and generally do not have proper stages or house sound. We're in the range of pay from $400 to $800. Some places have natural draw, most don't have too much. Cover charges are rare.

    In talking to one of the owners that I have a pretty good rapport with, it was explained to me that, at minimum, they like to see 60 people in the place to cover $500 for us. Less than 60 or so and we start to become pure expense. For that bar owner, on slower nights, that's an expense that's factored in to the overall operation and something he's willing to accept.

    We do what I believe is fairly typical promotion to friends and coworkers, in person and on facebook, and while we have had a few nights here and there where we brought in 50+ people, that's been rare and far from the norm. On a week-to-week basis or at the drop of a hat, I think bringing in 50 people would be a ridiculous hope.

    People who go out go to the places they go. People who have no connection to your band other than having seen you play someplace may make a special effort to see you at their hangouts, if they really liked you, but having numbers of them follow you around is a bit much to hope for IMO. A handful? Maybe. 50? I don't see it.

    In my opinion, if various places in a given area have no natural draw, xyz cover band is not going to be able to move from one to the next and transform them into hopping hot spots week after week. You might be able to heavily promote a particular gig on the basis of making it a party, but week after week, it's not going to happen. I think at the level I'm talking about, there is a fairly low and finite "drawability" from your friends and co-workers.

    In this area, the bands with the best shows and perfectly honed, party-band set lists (that are the ones who conceivably pull the most people in), by definition, are already playing the best rooms, and those places, again, by definition, have natural draw. They are packed every weekend because they're packed every weekend, regardless of the band.

    In terms of bringing people in, I also think age plays a role. Bands in their 20s and 30s are more likely to have larger pools of friends who get out regularly. Bands with older members are going to increasingly have pools of friends who can't get out or have completely fallen out of the routine..."Friday? No can do, that's the night we watch NCIS and then go to bed."

    It seems to me that the best you can do for yourselves is really focus your efforts on places that have the best natural draw. Trying to regularly be solely (as a band) responsible to get 50 people anywhere is going to be an unwinnable uphill battle, more so for places that are truly dead otherwise.
     
  14. Factor88

    Factor88

    Jun 21, 2011
    I don't know about that. Maybe gone in terms of being a house band 6 nights aweek, but not in terms of not needing a following. I think that many areas around the country have, at least on a seasonal basis, bars that are going to be crowded regardless of the band bringing people. I'm thinking primarily of the places in the Northeast that are down by the ocean or lakefront. People freeze all winter long and come June they are drinkin' by the water, no matter what, as long as the place is cool and known for having good bands. There are also plenty of places in tourist areas like FL that are like that on a seasonal basis as well. I suspect the same think is true in the midwest. This is to say nothing of other venues open to a cover band like fairs, street parties, casinos, resorts, etc. All told, that is a significant amount of gigs availble to the cover band that don't demand a following. The key to cracking that market is to be GOOD and play music the people want to hear.
     
  15. niki z

    niki z Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2011
    Nashville, TN
    Also putting up flyers around town does not give you a following.[/QUOTE]

    It may not directly "give you a following", but I think it does help get the band name out on the streets. People see these and search on their phones to check out the band. Developing a QR code that goes straight to the website is a really easy way for people to do this.

    I think I'm to the point now I'm not trying to "build a following", but instead trying to get as many people to each specific event as possible. I totally agree that the band (and especially the singer) need to be top notch entertainers. I'm just as of late finding more success in putting some kind of twist with each different show. It gives people something else to look forward to than - just come see my band. It's really fun because there are so many possibilities.
     
  16. GET YOUNGER!!!
    I do not mean changing your looks, or your band membership.
    Remember the rule of 8/23.
    The typical demographic in gig-land is 25-40ish. Take these people back to when they were 17. The rule of 8/23 is song age in years. You do not have to mine this territory exclusively, but, you will find that keeping it in mind will serve to engage, retain, and build audience, if you're good.
     
  17. wideload

    wideload

    Apr 15, 2004
    Salinas, CA
    Maybe a little off-topic, but...
    I wonder how many owners would tell their customers, "Sorry, but we will only seat a party of four, or charge you for the food they didn't order" or "You can't drink at my bar unless you bring 3 friends with you"?? I Don't see alot of difference from expecting a band to provide their own crowd, and charging that crowd for admission.
     
  18. grinx

    grinx

    Mar 24, 2003
    Raleighwood, NC
    who follows bands around anymore?

    unless you are a fan of the Dead or Phish, why would you?

    do YOU follow anyone? i don't.
     
  19. I have found that even cover bands who bring in their friends and family are still not where they need to be.

    In short, bring the party. Give people every opportunity to get on the dance floor, have fun, stay, drink, not leave, and develop a fan base outside of your familiars like friends and relatives.

    Once you get strangers on the floor partying with you, encourage them to friend you on facebook or visit your website and leave you an e-mail address for updates on future gigs, etc. I just started playing guitar for a band that had been dormant for a couple of years, not much activity on the facebook page or website. After the first gig, our internet presence started lighting up with patrons who were at the show and had a good time.

    OP may be on to something about the style or song selection they have chosen. Song selection is everything for a cover band.
     
  20. 5StringFool

    5StringFool

    Jun 10, 2011
    Greenup, KY
    One of the most overlooked aspects of marketing imo.
     

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