Nearly every fledgling artist has the issues getting people out to shows. It's something of a challenge, especially in this day and age – Netflix, games, and even our phones compete for our attention. Frankly, most people would rather stay in and binge their favorite TV show than go to a live show.
But all is not lost. Here are four ways to increase turnout at your gigs!
1. Promote your show
This might seem like a “duh” thing, but a surprising amount of bands don't bother to do this. Even when I was starting out myself, it didn't occur to me – I just assumed the venue would provide the crowd. Spoiler alert: That never happens.
You should be on every social media platform you can think of talking up the gig. I know a band whose bass player was very active in an internet forum for chemistry. They always had a great turnout because he reached out to that group.
Think about communities you're part of, whether it's a church, a college campus group, or even co-workers. These are great avenues to mine for potential fans. Don't forget to sincerely thank them for coming and mingle afterwards.
2. Team up
Find out who else is playing. Are they local? If so, your job might have gotten even easier – just reach out and see if they need any help promoting the gig. If they're not, it might be wise to reach out to a local band and see if they want to share the stage. Make sure they have a strong following and overlap with your musical style. It's no good to get a local act if they don't have a draw or their fans won't like your sound.
This is especially critical for out-of-town gigs. I've played out-of-town shows where we had a well-known local band open for us and attracted a great crowd. I've also played shows were we didn't have that option, and the venue was a ghost town.
3. Make flyers
It never hurts to paper the town (or an area where your target fanbase hangs out). Make sure the flyers are easy to read with large print. It's great if they look cool too (and they probably should), but nobody's going to stand in front of it and squint to figure out what it says.
It's not a bad idea to partner with a local business – maybe a coffee shop, bookstore, or record store, and see if they'll let you hang up your flyer. Better yet, see if they'll partner with you to promote your show; some businesses may be willing in exchange for a shoutout from the stage.
4. Have a mailing list
This one should be obvious, but again, it just doesn't occur to everyone. Try to get everyone at your shows to sign up for your email list. It doesn't hurt to offer an incentive either – perhaps 10 percent off your merch table for signing up or a free sticker or download.
It's very important that you encourage sign-ups both from the stage and when you're mingling with the fans. Once you have that, you've got a ready-made list of people who like you enough to want to know when you're playing next. All you need to do is send out an email blast. Just be sure that the email is timely – don't do it the day before the gig.
Building a fanbase is one of the hardest parts of being an artist, and possibly one of the most uncomfortable. Many creatives find difficulty self-promoting on one level or another. They feel fake and even dirty “selling” their product.
The truth is, though, no one is going to do it for you and you need to buckle down and make it happen. With persistence, hard work, and ingenuity, you can get people to your shows and create a buzz.
Daniel Reifsnyder is a Nashville-based, Grammy-nominated songwriter, having started his musical journey at the age of three. In addition to being an accomplished commercial actor, his voice can be heard on The Magic School Bus theme song and in Home Alone 2. Throughout his career, he has had the honor of working with the likes of Michael Jackson and Little Richard among many others. He is a regular contributor to several music-related blogs, including his own.