Getting people to your gigs can feel like a had task, especially when you’re first starting out. But once you’ve been in the game a while, it’s almost just as frustrating to feel your audience isn’t growing.
Here are my top 6 steps to cultivate a live audience beyond your friends and family!
Step 0: Ensure you’re actually good live
This is step zero as it’s already assumed that you have a killer live show before continuing onto the other steps. This means your songs are note-for-note tight, your interludes and banter between tunes are meticulous, the performance aspect is entertaining as hell and you can set up and pack down in a flash.
Why is the set up/pack down important? Well if you’re too damn slow no one is going to want to play with you and you won’t get exposure to any audience if this is the case.
Step 1: Cultivate a scene
The most important thing a band can do when starting out is to cultivate a scene. This means networking, partying (sic) and forming close bonds with a handful of bands in a similar genre. You attend every show they play, they attend yours and you often play together on the same lineup. Over time more and more bands are added to this close-knit ‘scene’ and gradually it expands.
Step 2: Expand out of that scene
Step 1 is absolutely essential in establishing your band at the beginning. However many bands actually get stuck on this and stall. If you’ve been playing with the same handful of local bands for more than 2 years it’s time to move on. Likely by this point – and again assuming that people genuinely like your live show – you can pull a decent crowd on your own and should be headlining your own local shows.
Once you’re at this stage it’s time to introduce other bands outside your scene that you know can pull in your city. If you’re a rock band this means starting to incorporate punk bands to your lineups. If you’re a metalcore band, look at some pop-punk bands to play with. This will then expose your band to a different audience – who will likely also be interested in what you have going on – and significantly expand your fanbase.
Step 3: Ensure you’re not playing too often and that you’re marketing effectively
In Melbourne, bands can play more often than any other city. We have a heap of high-quality venues and hell, performing is fun AF so it’s tempting to want to play every month. A lot of bands can use the excuse that they are wanting to play often to hone their live show. Or worse, to get ‘exposure.’
If you want to hone your live show, you can get in a rehearsal room and film yourself. If you want exposure, consider putting more budget towards social media. Playing too often is one of the fastest ways to stop people coming to your gigs and I have a whole blog post about it HERE.
Step 4: Utilise PR campaigns
Every gig you do needs to have a purpose. Let that sink in for a sec…Either the show is going to expose you to more people or you’re playing it to promote a release. Never just for the hell of it. In both these instances mentioned, PR campaign should be engaged (DIY or paid depending on your skill set and goals). This is of course unless you’re supporting a large Aussie or International act which in that case they’ll already have a PR campaign running so you’ll just need to work hard on your socials to sell those tickets yo!
Step 5: Competitions and pre-sale tickets
This is more like a bonus step to get bodies through the door and generate hype. I wouldn’t suggest either for every single show but definitely a couple of select gigs each year. Pre-sales lock people in and competitions are awesome for enticing people to get to your show as well as brilliant social media content.
Step 6: Elevate Yourself
Perception is everything and when a band has been playing the same venues and set for more than a few years, well, sometimes that can damage your cred.
There’s a lot to be said about making the conscious decision within your band that you will no longer be accepting the same types of shows you were playing when the band first started or doing gigs as ‘favours’ to other bands in your scene.
After a reasonable period of time, you should no longer be accepting opening slots unless it’s for a band that is significantly bigger than you are and will, therefore, expose you to a new or bigger audience. Now is the time to start applying for support slots for internationals and large local acts and you’ll find once you start getting those slots, you’ll find things will snowball.