In the world of live music, there has been a longstanding process which lays out the business behind the performances of your favorite artists. Talent buyers realistically evaluate potential acts, promoters use marketing tactics to garner an audience, and musicians provide the entertainment. This system has worked effectively for decades upon decades, but not without its fair share of frustrations. While there are many professionals who are experts at the art of booking shows, it's quite common to come across unsavory characters with monetary motives who have no interest in mutually growing with the artists they work with.
Unfortunately, some artists still have the outdated mindset that they're at the sole mercy of these people. But luckily, times have changed. Due to the power of social media and the "connected" age in which we live, artists have the ability to hold the reigns in all aspects of their careers, including the details of live showcases in their areas. Whether you have an interest in playing a prominent role as a performer or are looking to build with other musicians or tastemakers behind the scenes, here are five reasons why you should consider taking the initiative and put together your own showcase.
1. Artistic collaboration
By throwing your own showcase, you automatically gain the creative freedom of selecting which of your peers you'd like to invite to the stage. From popular local acts who will ensure a devoted crowd is present, to buzzing out-of-state artists who may never travel to your city otherwise, the theme and style of the show is entirely yours to decide. This brings about a strong, unique bond in regards to artistic collaboration.
We see unwanted and forced messages of, "Hey, we should work together!" on social media every day. But when you put the proper amount of time and effort into working with different artists on a mutually rewarding live show, an organic relationship is developed naturally. Respect is a two-way street, and if you successfully execute your showcase on all fronts, the chances of achieving a genuine musical collaboration are bound to increase.
2. Tight media or blog relationships
From a promotional perspective, it's pretty difficult to organize a showcase on your own without the power of a promoter behind you. The most efficient way of making sure your event receives enough buzz and attention is by partnering with a trustworthy and well-established blog or media outlet. If you're an artist who has a disdain for blogs due to their lack of response to your latest song or video, it's time to swallow that pride. Blog email inboxes get flooded on a daily basis for music requests, but it isn't every day that an artist reaches out about a potential showcase collaboration. The editors of these websites are likely to be interested in this sort of opportunity if you present an intelligently laid-out plan. Ultimately, these outlets will provide content before, during, and after the show on their own social media platforms, which will only add to the legitimacy of your event. Great things can happen when like-minded musicians/writers/marketers create a team, and you can count on your music being covered by the desired blogs when all of these pieces come together.
3. Your money, your rewards
Okay, so here's the scary part. If you decide to throw your own showcase, the investment will likely be coming out of your wallet. However, this also means there is no need to deal with financial fees from booking agents or whoever else would normally want a slice of the action. Don't pretend that you're a master event organizer right off the bat. Quantify the expenses in regard to artist fees and reservation of venue space in order to judge what the ticket price should be. While you may not see huge financial returns in the beginning phases, breaking even or a slight profit should be considered a success from an independent perspective. Artists who have a management team around them certainly have an advantage in this respect, but don't let the money aspect scare you off from this exciting prospect. Start off small, learn the basics. After a few showcases and some much needed experience, you should be able to earn a solid payday that you can reinvest back into what matters most – your music!
4. Cross-fanbase building
Having a core set of fans is a great feeling as an artist. However, it can get depressing when the same 10 or 20 people are liking your Instagram pictures or retweeting your music. Taking charge of your own live show is a great way of expanding your fanbase. After wisely selecting your group of performers (see number one), a diverse audience is likely to be in attendance and every person watching you on that stage has the potential to be a lifelong fan. Putting forth your best effort during your set should go without saying, but don't let the reach of your music stop there. Get out in the crowd and interact with people. Introduce yourself, ask them if they're enjoying the show and who/what they would like to see next time around. If you're thoughtful, even the shortest of conversations can have a lasting impact on a fan who lives for music. Aim to leave a positive impression on every new face you come across. When the time comes to release your new album, it'll be much more likely that these previous strangers will share and support your music.
5. Expanding your personal brand
While music should always be at the forefront of the artistic mind, the well-being of a musician is becoming increasingly reliant on the strength of his or her "personal brand." Running your own showcase is an efficient way of doing this, because it creates access to numerous business opportunities. From working with well-known sponsors to connecting with local media outlets and apparel stores, taking a leadership role in these areas will enhance your reputation as an influential artist in your local community.
These partnerships may start off on a small scale initially, but laying the groundwork of these relationships will pay off as each side experiences growth. As your personal brand expands, so does the reach of your music into new, fresh, and meaningful markets.
Eric Bernsen is a marketing/public relations professional and music journalist who specializes in the genre of hip-hop. You can find more of his work at HITPmusic.com (where he is an editor/writer) as well as HipHop-N-More.com, where he contributes album reviews. Follow Eric on Twitter @ebernsen.