I saw on one post you said showcases should require a 25-50 ticket pre-sale, and if you can’t do that don’t bother at all. I would like to think that my band is decent, and we could definitely bring out 25 people to a show but if we booked two shows the same month, I don’t know if we could pull it off for the second show. How do you recommend we build a big enough local fan base to allow us to play multiple shows a month?
Willis–the North Coast
Willis is referring to the Pay To Play article I wrote a few weeks ago, it can be found here: http://wp.me/p10S1O-7
I’ll clarify my point a little, I understand why venues have presale requirements, but I am in no way advocating that every venue start this practice. Every venue and situation is different. I can remember my friends in high school telling me about a show they booked in the middle of no where Pennsylvania. It was a solid four hours from where we lived but they were so stoked that someone wanted them to play out of state that they took the gig. However while they weren’t given a presale number, they knew very few people were going to drive four hours to see them play. They had brought a small group of about 12 people with them made up mostly of parents and siblings. The entire way out there they were worried they were going to show up and be told to go home. The venue turns out to be a small coffee house with a stage in the back. As they start unpacking the guy who owns the place walks in and said “Are all these people here to see you?” and ecstatically began to hug each and every one of them. Turns out they had booked mostly acoustic acts and no one was coming out to see them so 12 people was a big deal.
When I booked bands I was very honest in what I expected them to do. If I was booking at a venue that required ticket presales I made sure that the bands knew what was expected of them. If they didn’t think they could meet the number of presales required, I would tell them not to worry about it and I’ll call them again soon. Honesty can go a long way. Nothing makes a booking manager more angry when you tell them that you sold 50 tickets but when you show up you only really sold 9. That’s a pretty quick way to never get a show at that venue again. Even if the venue doesn’t require a presale, you always want to put your best foot forward. The better relationship you can build with a venue the more opportunities you are going to receive down the road. Always be honest and upfront with the booking manager. Their job depends on how many people you bring through the door. They can tell when a band honestly tried to sell tickets and when they just mailed it in.
It’s hard work building a fan base that will keep coming out to shows. I think that what bands need to keep in mind is that you have to know your limits. I know it’s hard, but you can’t take every show that you are offered. You need to spread out your shows to give you more time to promote them. A smart business will curtail their growth until they are ready to take the next step and I think more inexperienced bands should adopt this strategy.
I’ve seen a lot of really good bands ruined by what I like to call Vampire Bookers. Vampire Bookers like to pray on younger inexperienced bands who have a decent draw at the gate. Vampire Bookers will make all kinds of promises about opening for national acts and headlining local gigs. Most of these promises they will never fulfill, and all the while he is sucking the life out of your band as you struggle to keep your fan base coming out to see you. Vampire Bookers will destroy your band, stay far away.
So to answer Willis’ question, how do you build your fan base to play multiple shows a month? I think you need to book less to let your fan base grow. People get fatigued paying to see the same set week after week. If you take more time off between shows people are more eager to check out your next one.
So what do you do if your band is overbooked? Well the first thing is once the string of overbooking is over, spread your shows out. Give yourself lots of time to promote your next show. While you are playing your string of dates make sure you have flyers and tickets on hand for your up coming gigs. If the venue isn’t cool about you selling or handing stuff out for other shows you can either sell them outside or keep them at your merch table. Don’t get discouraged if people who would normally buy tickets don’t, they will come back maybe they just need to take show off.
I’m sure we will talk more about this later, if you have any questions email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The North Coast