Do you ever feel like time is passing you by? Do holidays sneak up on you, leaving you rushing around to buy gifts at the last minute? Do you realize in September that it’s too late to plan that trip to the beach? Did that cool new restaurant your significant other wanted to go to close down before your date ever happened? Well, it’s time to start planning ahead.
Summertime is a great season for gigs, but they’re likely already booked by now, or it’s too late. The season also offers great opportunities for musicians who take the time to look ahead to the fall and winter. And of course, putting an end to procrastination should happen today. Before Labor Day, roll up your sleeves and take care of these six crucial items.
1. Plan a Black Friday release
Americans spend most of their discretionary income between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now’s the perfect time to start thinking about getting in on that with your own recording or merchandise. It doesn’t need to have a holiday theme, either; it just needs to be well done and be you.
People love giving their loved ones homegrown or homemade presents, from Vermont maple syrup to your Uncle Doug’s home-brewed beer. Your fans would love to share your work with others, so start getting something ready now to promote by Halloween and release by mid-November.
2. Contact colleges for gigs
Every college or university has some sort of activities director or full-time event planner, if not a whole office full of them. These folks generally work 12 months a year, but during the school year, they’re busy all the time with students and events, so they’re hard to reach. In the summer, every day is casual Friday for some of these professionals, and they’re able to look ahead and book shows for the upcoming school year.
You can jump on board by contacting these people now. You stand to gain well-paid gigs with appreciative audiences who are adept with social media, and at larger institutions, you could end up opening up for some major acts. So pick up the phone.
3. Go to a music festival
Want people to come to your shows? Go to theirs. Camp out. Take some friends. Have a bonfire. It might be too late to get your band onstage at the balloon fest or chili cook-off, but you can probably buy tickets at the gate. Go check out some great acts, have a good time, and, if you like the scene, network with the organizers so you can get on next year’s bill. Bring a few demos along – you never know who you might meet.
4. Play on the street
This is the season to spend a little time busking. People are outside enjoying the weather, walking around downtown. They can stop to listen to talented musicians because there’s no snow falling on them, and your hands won’t go numb. Playing outside on the street is the lowest pressure gig imaginable, like an open-air rehearsal, and you’ll improve your chops and your rapport with strangers.
You can also sell a surprising amount of reasonably priced merchandise. But make sure to check with city hall first; a permit is usually required (although it’s often free), and instruments like bagpipes or drum sets may be banned completely.
5. Make the repairs you've been procrastinating on
Okay, what useful item in your music room is gathering dust because you’re procrastinating an easy repair? What broken amps, guitar, or stompbox just needs one cheap part or a new nine-volt battery to be back in service? Is your band vehicle out of inspection because you were too busy to replace the wiper blades?
Use the lazy days of summer to catch up on all this stuff. The winter is when farmers hang out in the barn, fixing their broken tools (and enjoying the beer they brewed in the summer). Let the summertime be that time for you and get all your stuff in tip-top shape.
6. Clean up your online presence
You’ve been avoiding it, but it’s time to do a web search on yourself and see if your social media presence is up to snuff. Change those profile pics. Customize your pages to the greatest extent available. If you’re terrible with computers, get a bandmate, significant other, or buddy to help you out. It’s 2016, and even Ozark fiddle bands have a web guru. Don’t get left behind by having a cheesy website or generic Facebook page.
And while you’re at it, of course, take some time to spruce up your electronic press kit on Sonicbids. When the students come back to school and holiday shoppers pull out their credit cards, you’ll be ready to make some new fans. And when booking agents reach out for bands, you’ll be at the top of their lists.
Jesse Sterling Harrison is an author, recording artist, and part-time farmer. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, three daughters, and a herd of ducks.