Think you’re doing everything you need to do for your next show by creating a Facebook event invite? Close your laptop and think again. While the internet is a powerful tool for promoting your band, traditional marketing tricks for promoting your shows still work wonders, especially for creating real fans with a real interest in your music.
It’s not really that surprising. You probably know from experience that while the digital world can be immersive, providing easy access to a wide range of popular and obscure bands, a face-to-face meeting or interesting, creative flyer is infinitely more memorable than a spammy message from a seemingly random band.
Besides getting over obvious issues like being open to meeting new people, talking articulately without sounding like you’re selling something, and being creative with your propositions, it can be a challenge to come up with interesting ways to promote outside of the internet. Lucky for you, here are five old-school marketing tricks to inspire you for your next show:
1. Flyer after a similar show
It might seem like stalking, but swallow your pride: no one will care that you're there handing out flyers after a show you carefully selected to attend. What they probably will care about, however, is what your flyers are saying. Do your research or follow your heart to a show that features music similar to your own. Stick around for the whole thing and hand out flyers when appropriate. After the show is over, hang out around the exit or the merch table and make sure anyone who walks by gets a flyer. A polite, "Check this awesome show out next week" is often enough to get your flyer into interested hands.
2. Book a bill stacked with talent
This might seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many bands subject themselves and their audience to lackluster or downright awful shows. Don’t be too eager; choose your shows wisely, based not just on what day of the week it is or what club it is, but who's on the bill. If you can, offer whoever's booking the show some names of musicians you’d like to play with. If you want to go full-on gonzo, offer to book the entire show. It can be risky, but if you stack the bill and fill the place, you'll be able to influence future bills later, or even book shows independent of your own pursuits.
3. Distribute flyers during rush hour
Independent of handing out flyers at shows, handing out flyers on the street can be incredibly effective, but not if you’re just standing by yourself on some lowly thoroughfare. Just like real estate, flyering is all about location, location, location. The best location for flyering will combine a heavily trafficked area with a steady and constant flow of people walking by. Find a busy corner and hand out flyers the day of the show during rush hour, or stand near a heavily used public transportation stop and witness as bored people looking for distractions on their long commute snatch up your flyers (if not out of interest, at least for something to read). It’s a win-win situation for you!
4. Allow attendees to "redeem" something at the show
A clever way to get people to attend your shows taps into the dark side of human nature we just can’t avoid in any aspect of the music business: greed. Make a space on your flyer for a coupon that redeems something you can only obtain at the show you’re advertising. Maybe it’s a copy of your newest release, limited-edition swag, food or drink tickets, or an interesting gift. Be creative, but be prepared: you might be surprised at how many people wind up at your show depending on what’s offered. Did someone say "free beer"?
5. Create a special event by accepting donations for charity
Playing a great show doesn’t just have to be about yourself or your fellow performers. With a little creativity and communication, you can turn an average show on a normal night into a charity event to benefit the organization of your choice. Not only will you help spread their message by allying your show with the group, you can also directly impact their efforts by having a clothing and food drive or accepting donations. If so compelled, you might even offer a charity leader a chance to share their cause onstage in front of your audience. However you choose to officiate the proceedings, you'll have contributed a greater cause than just music while introducing your audience to a cause you care deeply about.
Christopher DeArcangelis is an active musician and copywriter from Chicago. He writes songs, plays guitar, and sings vocals for the rock and roll band MAMA and is the founder of the creative agency Static Free Industries.