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What should we do? Building a following

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by mettec, May 15, 2006.


  1. mettec

    mettec

    Aug 22, 2005
    Minneapolis
    I have been in this coverband for almost 8 months. We play between 5-8 nights per month (mostly weekends) but are having trouble getting a following again. I mean again because this group has been around for almost 15+ years and used to be one of the top groups and top payed in my area. The group has gone through numerous member changes (I'm their 6th bass player) and the drummer being the longest running member of 10 years took over the band name and continued to perform. We play mostly modern hard rock/metal with a few 80's and college rock. All the club owners and people who see the band (bar regulars) say we are an excellent sounding and enteraining band but for some reason just can't get those people to follow us to other clubs. There are many bands like us and a few have been around just as long as we have but will pack every place they play. We are friendly, outgoing, professional, and funny but just can't get people to come and see us. We advertise in the local music paper and the bar does their own advertising. I do know one thing that people say and that is our drummer is old, stoned, and stuck in the 80's. Also the band has a tainted past but none of those members other then the drummer are in this group. What advise can someone give? Should we boot the drummer and start over? Or should we form a new group with a different name and drummer and take over the shows that are booked till the end of the year?
     
  2. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Band's been around a long time, yet you have no following?

    Hmmm, what's your set list like?

    The band I'm in now has been around for over 12 years and is immensely popular with a huge following.

    We're a cover band and one thing we do (that they've always done) is to play what the crowds want to hear. We make a concious effort to play a mix of classics as well as newer songs that are still getting airplay on contemporary stations. Our only criteria for new music is that aside from being a top playlist song, it has to have been out for about a year (thereabouts), so that it's not too new (and possibly unfamiliar).

    Most people in the crowd don't care as much about the band as individuals as they do what you are playing. Some people in our band go out on karaoke nights to see what people are selecting. Going out and seeing other bands and the kind of reception they get from the crowd is another way to kind of get a pulse on the crowd's favorites.

    Learn as many songs as possible and work the crowd. If you play a static set list, perhaps the crowds don't follow you because they've already heard you and know there isn't going to be anything new. Sometimes different crowds want different songs. If you guys know about 200 songs, you can play to just about anyone. If you play them well, you'll get a following.

    One of the most often heard compliments about us from people in the crowd is that we can play almost anything anyone wants to hear, yet every time they see us, they hear a new one. So while they know what to expect, they can still expect the unexpected from us too.

    One night, we ALL had terrible colds and three had lost their voices almost completely. We turned it into "live" karaoke night with the band. We had about ten people come up and sing songs with the band. It went over great. Instead of cancelling the gig, we turned it into a night a lot of people won't forget. In fact, we still get people asking if we'll do that again.

    I'm just winging it here...Give us more details about the band and maybe we can help more. What are the other bands doing that you guys aren't? I know of one band here that was around longer than us and they lost thier following. They came to our shows and next thing you know, they are practically playing our set list and they got a following again. Copying a copy band I guess, which is kind of funny when you think about it. But that says a lot about how important what you play is when you are doing covers.

    Another thing we do, that no other bands do around here, is we take photos of the band AND people in the crowd...at EVERY SINGLE gig. We post them on our website. People follow us around and end up on our website and we know it helps keep a following because people always tell us that having their picture on our website is like a band family photo album. People in the crowd, who never knew each other before, now are good friends...and it's all because of the band.

    It's about the people in the crowd...not the band. Maybe the other bands are making the crowd feel more like a part of the event, instead of just being played to like a live jukebox. I don't know about your situation...but I do know what's working for us.
     
  3. Dkerwood

    Dkerwood

    Aug 5, 2005
    Midwest
    I'd say that 90% of your following will be grounded in actions OFF the stage, if that makes any sense.

    Talk to the folks between sets and after shows. While another band is opening for you, be out rocking with the crowd. Get your name out there any way possible. Buy 1000 stickers and stick them all over town. Give away CDs, shirts, hats, the inexplicable thong, everything with your name on it.

    Be personable to a fault. Always have a business card with your band info on it. Always have a flier for your next show. Always be mentioning your band to whoever you're talking to. True, you can't have your friends come to every show, but they can help spread the word.

    If you find someone really gung ho about the band, use them. They want to help, so why not hand then a few hundred fliers and ask them to work the streets? They love the opportunity to be involved, and will create an excitement around town for your group. Never underestimate the power of inviting people to your shows. Even if you've invited them to every show and they've always turned you down, people STILL like to be invited.

    Ok, I'll stop there. Like I said, it's 90% about what happens off stage, and MAYBE 10% about the music.
     
  4. mettec

    mettec

    Aug 22, 2005
    Minneapolis
    As far as the songs go we just learned 10 new songs this past month and are doing more each week like the new Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Three days Grace, Big & Rich, Nickelback, Buckcherry etc... All these songs are on the Top 10 Modern Rock charts. Yes the band was playing the same songs for awhile until I told them we need to keep up with what's new and popular. The other thing is that 75% of our list is also being played by the same type of groups that have a huge following. We also have an area in our website that people can request songs that they would like us to learn but most go way off from what we are about. Like I said we do get a huge response from the crowds that we play for and the dance floor is full from the 2nd half of the 2nd set to the end of the night but barely any of those people will see us elsewhere even if it is close. We do go out during the breaks and talk to people also we take as many pics of the crowd as we can and post them.
     
  5. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI

    I wouldn't say 90%. More like 60%. But other than that you are right on with everything else.

    That's another thing we do a lot of...networking. We talk to everybody before and after the gigs and during breaks. We have table tents with our schedule, we hand out business cards, fliers, etc.

    We make it an event that involves the crowd. People come to see us because of the music, but also we are on a first name basis with the people that come to our shows. We introduce ourselves and ask them who they are. We make people in the crowd feel important...because they are important!!!

    They leave feeling like they had a good time, made some new friends and want to come back again and party with us...and usually bring along even more friends.

    Still, if you have a stale set list, all the marketing and amiable personality in the world won't overcome that.
     
  6. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    It's good you got the band to keep the set list fresh.

    One thing you mentioned is that people seem to enjoy the band, but you don't see them at future gigs. Are you sure they know where you are playing?

    If you get out and mingle with them, give them a schedule (we print our own business cards and we keep the schedule updated on the back...and they are of professional quality).

    You want them to see you at other places then you have to make sure they know where those other gigs are, and when. Personally invite them to the next show when you hand them the schedule. You want to make them feel like their not just going out to see a band next time, but they are going out with friends (the band). A good way to make the crowd feel like their more a part of it is to mention them by name between songs too. "This one's going out to (insert person's name here), thanks for being here tonight!" Anything to make them feel special.

    We must have about a hundred people that follow us and at least twenty to thirty of them show up at almost every single gig. It's not always the same people, but it's just insane how they follow us around. Most of the time they bring along someone we've never met before. We always have a built in crowd.
     
  7. Dkerwood

    Dkerwood

    Aug 5, 2005
    Midwest
    Lol. I'll defer to you, because I suspect you have more of a following than we do, but I've seen some awfully lousy musicians with great followings, as well as some awfully talented musicians with lousy followings...

    Our biggest challenge right now is becoming more personable. Our bassist does this no problem, but she's a 17 year old girl. Being personable is in her nature. I'm a bit more introverted, so I have to force it. Our drummer buries himself away from the people sometimes... as soon as the set is over, he's immediately tearing down his set and he's out the door as soon as possible. Maybe we should set up a 15 minute "no tear down" rule on shows where we headline (especially if it's not that late)...

    I dunno. This is just all the stuff that I've observed. I have a hard time putting it all into practice. I think the first step is convincing yourself that a) you're in the greatest band in the world, and b) everyone wants to know about your band.

    Don't ask me how to convince yourself of that, though, because I'm still working on it. :D
     
  8. Our band isn't doing this (yet), but I know one thing a lot of successful bands do is they create an e-mail mailing list for fans, and e-mail them about new shows, etc. Great way to get those people who already like your band coming back for more.
     
  9. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    It's not really about how good the musicians are, as much as it is the selection of the songs you play. I'd agree with you that there are an awful lot of lousy musicians getting good crowds, and that really makes my point. A crowd would rather hear a poorly played "Mustang Sally" than the most talented band playing the best ever rendition of something from Yes or Return to Forever.

    The easiest way is to convince yourself is to think about how you'd be at a party...just mingling with other people at the party. Don't think of yourself as being in the greatest band. Just pretend you are jamming at a private party somewhere and you are just having fun.

    I never have the feeling everyone is there to see us play. I feel more like we're all at this big party together and we just happen to play some music at the party. I think that's part of why the crowd likes us...we're not a bunch of shmucks who think we're better than everyone else. You know the type...the musicians who act like they're on a big tour with security and only the "chosen" few get to meet the band (even though they are just another local cover band).

    We're approachable. I agree that all the musicians should be out there and accessible, and not hiding out somewhere. We never tear down immediately after the gig. We usually wait until most of the crowd is gone before we start the "work" part of the gig. :D Sometimes though, musicians need some quiet space and not everyone in a band is going to be super outgoing. You shouldn't force it, because then it will just appear empty, petty and condescending. I, myself, am pretty introverted off stage. Two other people in the band are way more outgoing than me. It's not like after a set the band swoops down on everyone with promotional material. It's more a matter of saying hi to everyone as you walk past them on the way to the bar or the bathroom...maybe stopping and talking with someone because you can tell they want to talk.

    What is the whole point of playing music for people anyway? Just go out and have fun with everyone there, not just the bandmates.
     
  10. Mettec, what's the name of your band? Just curious if I've ever seen or heard of you guys.

    In the Twin Cities right now, there is such a over saturation of cover bands. I can see how it would be hard to get a following when if they just stay at one bar they'll see another band the next night. I guess I can only say to play to your audiance and look at other means of promotion. I've used places like the KFAN website to promote and I know there are a couple of other bands (Idel Hands, Chris Hawkie) that promote on the message board. Also see if you can get hooked up playing one of the 93X's weekly bar shows. I've heard they get pretty packed.
     
  11. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    There definitely some things that contribute to it being difficult to develop and maintain a following, that are completely out of a band's control...

    Drunk driving laws. People may not be willing to drive too far to hear your band and prefer to stay more on "their end of town".

    A favorite hangout, where people will only go to, no matter what band is playing. "A place where everybody knows their name."

    I have a good friend who is a recovering alcoholic. He'll only come out and see us at a bowling alley we play at because he can enjoy the band and still be away from the bar.

    Some people are following a trend where they don't want to stay out too late (see "drunk driving laws" for part of the reason). The further away you play, the less likely you'll see them follow you too far because leaving early to get home means they'll miss too much of the band's performance, so they only go to closer gigs.

    We don't play in a very large metro area (maybe 100,000 people overall), and we can see which groups of people in our following live on what end of town, because we'll always see basically the same group when we play at places on one end of town, and a totally different group when we play on the other end. Though we still have our hardcore followers that show up everywhere we play.
     
  12. mettec

    mettec

    Aug 22, 2005
    Minneapolis
    Actually we do play the 93X weekly bar shows. We have 2 coming up in the next week. Yes the crowds are pretty huge ($1 tap beer & bar pours all night NO COVER) We have tons of fun at those shows and get compliments up the ying yang but still can't get many people to follow us to other shows.
     
  13. ric1312

    ric1312 Banned

    Apr 16, 2006
    chicago, IL.
    Well the thing about a lot of clubs/bars, is that most people won't go from one to the other just because you sounded good at one.

    People like to go to their regular watering holes, instead of driving across town. At least that's how it works around here.

    You have to advertise at and around the place you are going to play.

    I usually schedule a gig and a month or two prior go to that club every weekend or whenever they have the largest crowds and hand out fliers. That way, that clubs crowd knows you are coming. These people already go to that place. You want to get all the regulars.


    Actually hand them to them, putting them up on the walls is ok, but get's ignored after a while or torn down by other bands. Put them in the bathroom too, drop some on the floor.

    If you are really lucky the door guy/ bar tender will agree to pass out a pile for you every weekend. But, most don't have the sense to realize that this little amount of extra work will bring in more people and get them more tips.

    I've found it's easier to get people to go somewhere that they already do, then try to get them to drive somewhere they would never go otherwise.

    Of course you could go the extreme appoach, rent a bus and get a kegger and pick up all the people so they dont even have to drive and have a party bus. I've known a couple of bands to do this.
     
  14. MakiSupaStar

    MakiSupaStar The Lowdown Diggler

    Apr 12, 2006
    Huntington Beach, CA
    This is all great advice. I really like the idea about going to the venue on a crowded night and handing out flyers. Great idea. I'm totally going to do that. We've done party buses and they kick ass. Well worth it. We can attest to that.:D
     
  15. mettec

    mettec

    Aug 22, 2005
    Minneapolis
    Well I definatly agree about passing out fliers at crowded shows but there is one problem! We play almost every weekend and the weekends or weekend nights that we have off everyone does the family thing since there is not alot a weekend family time. That may seem like an excuse but if we are to play 5-7 nights a month we need to devote time to the family as well. Even then to promote certain shows those clubs need to have good crowds as well and more times then not they don't. All the good clubs that we play are out of the city so still it's not easy getting those people to travel to your next gigs.
     
  16. MakiSupaStar

    MakiSupaStar The Lowdown Diggler

    Apr 12, 2006
    Huntington Beach, CA
    Yeah. I totally know what you're talking about. I'm married with a 2 year old boy. Time away from band is family time. I like to refer to it as "damage control." Still, everyone else in my band is single, so there's no reason they can't do it.
     
  17. mettec

    mettec

    Aug 22, 2005
    Minneapolis
    Our leader who is the drummer is actually single but he will not lift one finger to help this band. He basicly told the rest of us we can do whatever we want as far as promo, songs, stage presentation. etc... but as long as he doesn't have put any time or money into the band he doesn't care what we do. This is from a guy who will not buy anything to drink or eat outside his home or at the club, is at the club exactly 1 1/2 hours before show time to the minute ( No kidding ) for setup and has the same huge 80's dbl bass drum full cage drum kit with hanging cymbals for the last 20 some years and will never buy another kit or downsize unless something happens to it. Doesn't even work a day job.

    Did I mention the he owns a 1980's conversion van with plush carpeting for his drum transporting. This is what we deal with.
     
  18. MakiSupaStar

    MakiSupaStar The Lowdown Diggler

    Apr 12, 2006
    Huntington Beach, CA
    LOL. Oh you got one of those too. That's our guitarist. There must be some factory where they output these clones.:scowl:
     
  19. ric1312

    ric1312 Banned

    Apr 16, 2006
    chicago, IL.
    Well usually I'm the guy who goes to pass out fliers and stuff, because in the past the other two guys were nothing but excuses when it came to that end of it. And this was with me being married and having to get up for work at 6am. I find it really does work nice, provided that the club actually has regulars.

    Unless you are some huge act, people just won't follow you far. I don't live in the city, but somwhere where most of the clubs are fairly far apart.

    Actually had a promoter ask if I could get a sizeable crowd to a place that was over a two hour drive from where I lived. Ya right, all the people I know will drive two hours to see me when they can wait till next month and drive 20 minutes.

    I love it when joints don't promote for their own shows. Around here most places ideas of promotion is putting lame adds in the local entertainment magazines. For christ sake put up some band notices in your club, something.

    The fact is all the work is put on the bands, only way I've found is to try and get the regulars for that club to show up.

    Doesn't work very well when you find that one dive that only gets the same ten people, and only crowds after midnight because it's the last one open.

    Funny, one time, we had a gig at place that was by the then bass players, literally walking distance. So, he promoted the heck out of it during the week and and weekends. We got like 150 or so people into this tiny bar that was really only made for about 75. The prissy female singer in the act after us thought everyone came for her act, she was fuming, when the place emptied out as soon as we were done.
     
  20. Dkerwood

    Dkerwood

    Aug 5, 2005
    Midwest
    Around here, it's a lousy idea to be the headliner of a multiple band show. The audience traditionally leaves after the third band... mainly because it's usually around 9pm or so before the 4th band hits the stage.

    So even if the joint's rockin' for the second and third band, the fourth band plays to their friends and family only.

    That's why I love playing second to last. Best spot for a band trying to play in front of as many people as possible.
     

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