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When Promoting Your Show Don’t Forget About Humans

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Most bands direct 100% of their promo efforts online. They don’t understand why 228 people Joined their show’s Facebook Event but only 17 actually showed up. Well, for one, Facebook has gotten so overwhelming and people have nearly reached their tipping point of friend saturation. Even if they join your Facebook Event, it’s so far down on their priority list that just the event isn’t going to get them out to the show.

They need a few more nudges. If they can get those nudges from their existence in the physical world, in their daily lives, they will much more likely come out to the show. Don’t forget that we humans exist off the internet (occasionally) too! Just step outside, pocket that phone and take a look at all the pedestrians ogling the trees!

The way I got 250 people to my debut CD release show was by exhausting every non-digital promotional outlet FIRST. Because most bands in your scene aren’t doing this, you will stand out!

Building a performing music career in this day and age is (unfortunately) much more than just about how great your music is. If you want to get noticed by anyone you have to make sure people come to your shows. And to get people to come to your shows there are many more ways to get them there than just a Facebook invite.

Posters
The physical kind. Put them on display boards, in coffee shop windows, light polls, back car windows, and anywhere else that you can get them up. Why do you think physical billboards still exist in the era of social media? Because they are effective! The more times people walk by and see the poster, the more times they will be reminded of your show. If you’re just starting off, round up some friends, buy them pizza and beer and hit the town with staple guns and tape. If you have a good fan base, for every show in every city, get a street team to get the posters up in exchange for free tickets.

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Have them take photos of their escapades and post them on your Facebook Page – you’ll build quite the buzz leading up to the show.

Flyers
For every big show, print out hundreds (or thousands) of professional looking flyers (this can be done super cheaply online at nextdayflyers.com). Hand them out to everyone you meet and have an interaction with. Don’t just stand on a corner and pass them out arbitrarily (like strip club promoters). Those will get thrown away. But if you meet someone at a show, in a bar, in class, at work, your server at the restaurant (after you leave a big tip), hand them a flyer and invite them to the show.

Having nice looking flyers and posters (with the same image being reinforced) legitimizes the show more than just your Facebook Event.

Promo CDs/Flashdrives
Even though the new MacBook Pros don’t come with disc drives (whhaaaaa?!), people still know how to play CDs and handle them more valuably than just a paper/cardstock flyer. There was an incredibly successful band in the Midwest (around the time I started my career) that arrived in town a couple days early in every city and passed out about 1,000 demo CDs (that they burned themselves and put labels on) with their best two songs attached to a flyer for the show. At the end of two years they were selling out the 1,200 person theater in their hometown and pulling 200-300 in nearly every other city they played. I think they told me that they had given out over 40,000 demos over the course of about 3 years.

Staple the promo CD (or flash drive) to the flyer and pass them out after big shows in your town leading up to your show (of bands similar in genre to you). Again, why do the biggest promoters in your town do this as you’re leaving the show? Because it’s effective.

Figure out if it’s more cost effective to give out flash drives or CDs and go that route. Flash drives with mp3s can be played in the newer cars so they can listen to it on the way home.

Bar Talk
Whenever I have a big show coming up I make sure to go out much more leading up to the show. Invariably I will talk to many people and after I get their story, they’ll ask me mine (or if we know each other they’ll ask me when my next show is) and I’ll whip out a flyer and talk up my next show because it’s a big event. Having a personal, one on one physical experience with someone is 100 times more influential than a Facebook invite or a tweet.

No social network or YouTube video can change the electrifying energy of a physical experience.

People will not come out to your show based on getting 1 Facebook invite or seeing 1 poster 1 time or getting 1 flyer or 1 promo CD or being told about your show once from meeting you at a bar. BUT if they see your poster every morning while getting their morning coffee, get handed your flyer/CD after the Kings of Leon concert, meet you at another local band’s concert (and get handed the same flyer) and then get a Facebook invite, they will definitely at least listen to your music and then most likely come out to the show.

Show promo ain’t easy, but if you’re serious enough about your music career you’ll do what it takes to get it off the ground.

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles DIY musician and the creator of Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

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Comments (13)
  1. DJ

    Good advice – as always, Ari. I hope people appreciate the FREE education and advice they are getting.


    Reply
  2. Brendan

    Solid! Too many people just use Facebook and wonder why no one came out to see them.


    Reply
  3. makes sense

    Facebook actually costs much more in working hours than printing posters and putting them up in good areas.


    Reply
    1. FarePlay

      Ari, you’re winning me over, couldn’t agree with you more. Building a “committed” fan base takes direct contact, preferably offline. Printed collateral like posters, flyers and post cards have tremendous value, especially now that they are used less frequently.

      Same for Cds and LPs. As an artist you stand out when someone actually has your physical product. While digital may be a great way to discover music, if you really want to connect with a fan get physical product into their hands. I may be old school, but I know a great deal about the bands I follow and that would never happen without the liner notes that come with physical product.

      If you love a band or performer it gives you something to talk about.


      Reply
  4. Old Guy

    I disagree with this article completely. There are only ever two reasons to go to a gig. The band or the venue. If i like a certain club I might be there regardless of who is playing. The idea that someone would go to a gig based on some poster they saw is nonsensical. I have either heard the band by recommendation from a friend, or I am already a fan . Then comes the: can I afford this and do I have time ? if the answer to both is yes, you have a potential customer. The single most effective way to remind me that you are even playing is the FB invite. once I say yes to this I will get reminders that I will see , so the only thing left then is: do I really want to go when the day/evening rolls up. Sometimes yes, but mostly no. No poster will change that.


    Reply
    1. FarePlay

      Are you the “Old Guy”? Cause you certainly sound like a young guy whose primary connection with the outside world is the Internet. I will always push back on statements like these. I don’t want my world to shrink and disappear into a computer screen.


      Reply
    2. GGG

      I don’t know where you live or where you’ve toured, if anywhere, but I have seen first hand the difference a little random poster/listing promo can do in smaller markets versus cities. Especially down south and in the midwest, city people can be as jaded as NYCers like myself with a similar glut of music. But go 30-45 mins outside and the exact same promo can actually get asses in doors. I talk to people and I’m often surprised how many tell me they saw the poster or listing in a newspaper and just came and/or saw one of those, googled the band and came. Even the difference between Nashville and Memphis with the same promotion is significant. Sometimes it does nothing, other times it can work.


      Reply
    3. Lisa

      Glad your method works for you Old Guy. I personally hate FB invites – I’m bombarded by them everyday so I just don’t check them anymore. And coz I’m easily distracted, I like to be reminded about gigs as many ways as possible, online and off. The personal touch will get me more than anything :)


      Reply
  5. FarePlay

    Ari, you’re winning me over, couldn’t agree with you more. Building a “committed” fan base takes direct contact, preferably offline. Printed collateral like posters, flyers and post cards have tremendous value, especially now that they are used less frequently.

    Same for Cds and LPs. As an artist you stand out when someone actually has your physical product. While digital may be a great way to discover music, if you really want to connect with a fan get physical product into their hands. I may be old school, but I know a great deal about the bands I follow and that would never happen without the liner notes that come with physical product.

    If you love a band or performer it gives you something to talk about.

    Thanks Ari.


    Reply
  6. Veteran Talent Buyer / Promoter

    BRAVO!! Seriously. Well stated, and accurate.


    Reply
  7. Versus

    As for posters (and their hell-spawn cousin, stickers), be sure you are only placing them on legal surfaces. I become a non-fan of any musician whose spam I see on neighborhood phone booths, light poles, mailboxes, and other illegal areas. That just constitutes vandalism, and I won’t support any musician who promotes in these ways.


    Reply
    1. FarePlay

      The good poster services send workers out after the shows to remove posters from public places. And yes it can be problematic. Especially finding a telephone booth.


      Reply
  8. FarePlay

    Disclaimer. I don’t think the Internet was ever meant to be the sole interface between artists and their fans. Having said that, the Internet is an incredible addition to connecting with fans. While I have serious concerns about some of the directions music discovery, distribution and sales are moving, I would be a fool not to acknowledge the power and reach it has.


    Reply

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