There are times when a show is of particular importance to your career, like your band's debut, a release of a video, or your first full-length LP. It's landmarks like these when you might want to add a little something extra to a local show, something to set it apart from all the others. Even if you've got nothing special to celebrate, you still might want to spice up a streak of typical gigs by arranging an atypical event. Playing a regular gig, of course, is not inherently boring: if you're playing well, then it shouldn't be dull, and local shows especially are a boon to your growth as a band. But every once in a while, it's fun to boost that tried-and-true formula by offering something beyond the expected.
As a DIY musician, you've got both the resolve and the freedom to make your shows practically anything you want them to be. We've broken up the nontraditional show into five facets that we hope will inspire you to try something new. Incorporating even just one will give your event some extra oomph, and factoring in several can make for a truly spectacular shindig.
1. The venue
Changing up the setting can make a drastic impact on the experience of your show. If everyone's used to watching you play at the same few spots, then any alternative besides that has the potential to be unforgettable for your fans. Arcades, bowling alleys, outdoor parks, a farm outside the city, a warehouse – the possibilities are limitless. You'll have to convince whoever owns the space, of course, to give you permission. And if they don't already have the appropriate live music or alcohol permits, then work together on ensuring you're in compliance with the law. Details and applications for one-time-only versions of those permits for specific special events are often available online, so do a little research about the rules in your city to be sure the spot you want is feasible.
2. The entertainment
An obvious way to a veer a show from the usual is to include other types of entertainment besides bands. Know a local sideshow performer? A burlesque dancer? A fab drag queen? Get creative in deciding who to reach out to, but make sure whatever you're mixing in will mesh well within the overall lineup, both in style and in placement. And, of course, negotiate a fee ahead of time like you would with a musician or group.
3. The decor
You've probably been to a show with cool projections, right? Have you tried it yourself? Any altering of the decor by way of a visual artist is a stellar method of deviating from the traditional show backdrop, whether that's projections directed onstage or an installation elsewhere in the venue. If you can't find an artist interested in collaborating or just aren't into the idea at all, you can decorate yourself. Take it seriously or come up with a kitschy theme – the choice is yours.
4. Besides the performance, there's...
Adding local vendors, be they craftmakers or painters or cooks, can actually help you draw a bigger crowd than you would have on your own. The more people you involve in an event, the more that event is publicized, and to a wider variety of people. It's basically collective promotion – a strength in numbers sort of thing. For any party involved, when more activity is offered, there's even more reason for their fans and followers to come out.
5. Give your event a purpose (beyond the music)
Ever thought about hosting a benefit concert? Sharing your advocacy for a particular issue or organization can be doubly rewarding. Not only will you be financially contributing to a cause you feel is worthy, but also, you're helping spread awareness to your fans. Be sure to contact the organization beforehand to get them on board from the get-go.
Even if you don't work with a specific group, you can still give your show a purpose. A show featuring brand-new bands, for example, is a way of showing support for your local scene. Similarly, convincing a legendary local band that rarely plays anymore to headline could be a show of gratitude for the groups who helped clear the path for you. A benefit for a friend, family member, or player in the local scene who needs it is also a great way to give meaning – both as a gesture and tangibly – to a show. Any event organized with a goal or pointed statement in mind will be distinguishable from a typical gig – and because it bears a bigger purpose, it will likely be more rewarding.
Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music journalist currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she juggles owning a venue called Club 77, freelance writing and, of course, going to the beach as often as possible.