Over the course of almost three decades, I have seen the telltale reasons that shows have really great or really poor turnout and attendance. These reasons have become textbook at this point and as business models in this industry favor artists less and less, more and more inexperienced people are entering this industry and the artists of today have serious misconceptions about how everything works.
Keep in mind while reading these 6 reasons that your reputation precedes you and that the worst enemy you have in this industry is the asshole that stares back at you from the mirror.
1. You don’t promote.
The show is booked, so now I’m gonna tell a few people and word will get around and it’s going to be an awesome night!
No asshole, this isn’t how it works. Waiting for someone else to your job will get it done as quick as if you were waiting for someone else to do your job. You are the number one marketing driver for your live event. If you aren’t actively doing this, or have a professional hired hand to do this for you, you will have an audience that consists of the bartender, the security guard and the sound guy.
I come from an era where hand drawn flyers were run off of ditto machines and phones were tethered to the wall with a cord. This was prior to cell phones, prior to beepers, and long before the internet; yet, show attendance was always seemed to meet or exceed expectations.
The internet should be making your promotions easier, but it may actually be leading to a new kind of laziness where people are so detached from human engagement that they will live vicariously through their friends’ Facebook timelines instead of going out and actually being around other people. If this is the case, then you had better damn well be doing something interesting enough to convince myself and others to spend my Friday night with you.
With all of the tools, platforms and apps available to you online, along with all the live events that you should be attending in the summer months, there is really no reason that you shouldn’t be able to create awareness for your event.
Get off your ass dude, and take your career into your own hands before you wake up on your 50th birthday and wonder why you are still living in your mom’s basement.
2. You have a history of backing out of shows.
You have been booked on several gigs that had printed advertising in local publications and could have gotten your band some decent press, but before the night of the show something always seems to come up that prevents you from playing. Whichever one of your many bullshit excuses that you use for backing out is irrelevant because oftentimes you don’t even have the courtesy of letting the promoter know that you are canceling. Your local promoters and what’s left of your fanbase has realized that your time has come and passed and that it’s easier and more rewarding to get emotionally involved with a re-run of Steel Magnolias and some bon-bon’s than it is to remain an emotionally involved fan of your bands dead end career.
Your habit of backing out of shows has become just about as commonplace as the news of all the other bands in your network getting better gigs than you.
3. You have no fucking fans, dude.
You’re so big-headed and convinced that you are destined to become famous that your personal feeling of self-worth has made you unapproachable to the point that even Bambi couldn’t walk up to you and get an autograph.
You have convinced yourself that because you paid for 20,000 YouTube views, Twitter followers and Facebook Likes that people will see that other people are paying attention to you and therefore must become one of your minions.
You have committed a large amount of money towards your image and your deceptive digital metrics and feel that since you have been “investing” into your career that the music industry owes you something. Yet you have not made a genuine attempt to make friends or bond with anyone that you meet at live music events including the other bands or die hard members of the scene. You can’t grasp the concept of networking and remain against the wall of a club as if you are from the outside looking in.
You have an air of arrogance about you that turns people off and your screen name should be “douchebag.”
Until you can acquire some people skills nobody is going to give a fuck when you are performing.
Keep this in mind because if you don’t have a following, no amount of large scale planning can help you pack a venue.
4. You sound absolutely horrible live.
That reverb on your guitar sounds great in that tight room with 8 foot ceilings and carpets hanging on the walls in your Mom’s basement; but when you are playing in a wide open space the over saturation of this effect is really, really making my ears ring like I have tinnitus. You need to adjust your effects parameters to be appropriate for the room you are in otherwise you will sound like shit.
As a band you also need to get in the practice of creating your own live mix. Now this has nothing to do with a soundboard. What I am talking about is the ability and the skill for you to adjust all of your volumes appropriately so you can hear every instrument clearly. If you can step onto a stage like this and sound good, you will be giving the sound guy a much easier job and he will make you sound better. Sound like shit and it doesn’t matter, because you will alienate people.
If you are rapping and are spitting over your pre-recorded CD complete with vocals, chances are that you are clipping the signal with your vocals or just performing karaoke.
If the CD that you are using is a finished product then the vocals are already at an optimum level and if you are singing over it there is no headroom left for your live vocals. This means that your microphone will need to be turned way down or it will clip and/or overpower the mix and that sounds like shit. Keep this in mind because no sound guy is going to push the meters into the red and risk damaging the house equipment.
5. You don’t allow yourself adequate time for preparation and planning. (ie, no lead time)
Your last minute, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants planning has allowed zero time to get the word out about this event. You have convinced yourself that paying out the big dollars for radio advertising will make this event go over big in the 11th hour.
Your complete lack of understanding on advertising conversion rates means that the few thousand dollars that you have spent on big media advertising will dry up before you are able to make a memorable impact through repetition on this platform.
Had you allocated this capital into more organic and direct forms of targeted advertising and marketing, you would have stretched your budget further and reached your target consumer more easily and much more effectively.
Due to last minute planning (or complete lack thereof) you have missed all of the print deadlines for advertising in local zines which is usually 2 or 3 weeks prior to the date of publication. It takes time to arrange the layout for these magazines and newspapers along with the actual printing itself. After being manufactured, they still need to be distributed ahead of time so they can get to their destinations by the publication date.
You have completely failed to realize that each weekend prior to your event is a marketing opportunity. You are out, your friends are out, and every social gathering that you attend from barbeques to live music events are all opportunities to create awareness for your event.
Perhaps one day you may realize why people have been telling you all of your life to plan in advance if you want to be successful.
6. You are in this strictly for financial gain and it shows in your event organizing.
You have devised the framework for a huge event and have covered every possible way to create revenue from it. You have created multi-tier passes that range in price for your audience with different perks at each pricing point and are charging the artists to perform or requiring them to sell tickets in advance. You have gone as far as to charge artists an additional stipend for radio mentions and are allowing them to purchase better time slots on the show bill. You have even imposed and extra charge on the artists for name and logo placement on the event flyer.
You have successfully stretched every dollar until ol’ George’s wooden dentures have fallen out of his mouth, squeezed every quarter until the eagle screams and pinched every nickel until the buffalo shits in your eye, yet due to your lack of ties to the local music community you have completely failed to address to core things that will make this event run successfully. Local supporting promoters and talent can clearly identify that your entire event strategy is rushed, haphazard, and that it serves no other purpose than your personal financial gain; and won’t touch it with a ten foot pole because it does nothing for the music community as a whole other to drain its lifeblood into another corporate business model.
For more of my music industry career advice please check out my book, The Music Industry Self Help Guide.
Image by ‘penguino k,’ licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.