The Million Dollar Question, right? If you want to be playing original music full time, it’s a question that really needs answering. The short answer: find new fans, keep them and believe in the value of what you do. This is a VERY short list of just some things you can do today that may be of value to the many of us who are not yet consistently selling 200+ tickets/show. I will revisit this topic in the near future and would love to hear your ideas as well.
1. Your Fans. If you’re performing original music you need fans to support you; whether by ticket sales or music & merch sales or subscriptions to your content. So, it's critical to spend some time & effort finding and keeping new fans. Assuming you are already putting on an amazing, life changing show, your next step should be to consider these things: Your mailing list and social media are crucial to keeping in touch with your fans. Apps like mailchimp.com are excellent tools to manage your mailing list. Always have a sign up sheet available at shows and make sure your listeners know it’s there. You can even put sign up slips on the venue tables and offer a giveaway of some kind to the folks that sign up. Post a sign up form on your website. Use apps like Tunecore.com that trade email addresses for free downloads. Print a QR code on your swag. If you hate the tech stuff, check out fiverr.com or find an intern.
2. Festivals. My favorite way to find new fans is by playing festivals & outdoor concert series. Just about very state, city & county government has something going on. Commercial Town Centers have become a popular place for live concert series as well. These presenters are generally a pleasure to work with because, unlike clubs & venues, they are more concerned with the type and quality of your performance and they aren't restricted by booking only those acts with the highest ticket sales. Many have a decent budget as well. Placement of your mailing list and merch table are important at these events. A lot of people will want your music, but may not want to approach the stage. Have the table in a high traffic and easy to access area and bring someone with you to take care of customers/fans at the table. Visit the table when you’re not playing so you get to meet and chat with folks & sign CDs.
3. Booking Strategy. If you book a festival in a new town, book a follow up show for a month later at a nearby venue. Bring flyers for the venue show to the festival and promote the hell out of it while you’re there in town. Do an open mic in town the night of the festival to promote your next show even more. Having the festival date booked will also help you when you’re trying to get the venue to lock in a date for you. Got a night off? Go see other people play. Support the scene & make some new friends. Also worth mentioning – if you are trying to establish and keep a new region, plan on playing there at least every 4 months.
4. Confidence in Negotiating. This can be a tough one for some of us. We love to play and it can be difficult to put a price on something we enjoy so much, in and of itself. The bottom line is that you need to make a living. I would personally like to forget what Nancy Pelosi once said (so wrong in so many ways – isn’t this a job?) about leaving work and ‘focusing on talent’. A while back, I went through a year of serious gigging burnout. When we would get calls for gigs, I doubled our price because I really didn’t want to play. I picked a number that would make it worthwhile to me at that time. I was very surprised at how many presenters accepted my price without flinching. That was a MAJOR lesson for me. Take the time to consider what is a fair price that enables you to continue to deliver great music and a quality performance… and then ask for it. - Jen Smith, Naked Blue