It can feel like getting fans out to your shows is one of the biggest challenges you face as an emerging musician. And in a way, it’s true. It’s really difficult to get people to come out of their homes and pay money to see 45 minute long sets of bands they’ve either never seen or are just starting to get familiar with. (This is a big part of why I think shows that support 10-15 minute sets where bands just play their top 3 songs and then move along are a great idea for emerging acts but…I digress).
However, as difficult as it may be to get people out and into your shows, it’s not impossible—not by a long shot. Here’s how to get started.
Make sure people actually know when and where you’re playing
Sounds simple right? But I cant’ tell you how many shows I’ve missed because I simply didn’t know they were happening or I couldn’t find the set time or the details kept changing. And these are shows with bands that I actually really wanted to see and would have made the effort to come out to.
Now truthfully, I find that usually the opposite is true—usually bands are blasting their fans TOO much with news of their events, and so when I say “tell your fans about the show” this is not what I mean. I don’t mean just blast them about it on social media every other day and hope for a reaction. I mean, find a way to tell them that makes them actually want to read the post in the first place, because if they don’t even want to read the post, the odds of them coming out aren’t very strong.
How do you do this? Get creative with your copy and with your photo. A flyer for the show is great maybe the first and last time, but all the times in between that you’re promoting this show, try something different. Mix it up with a band photo or a custom graphic that includes your favorite superhero on it and some funny content about how Batman may or may not show up to this show, but you don’t want to miss it and never find out. Just have fun with it, be creative, and show your personality a little bit.
Make it an experience
While you probably can’t actually get Batman to show up, you want to make your show an experience to remember—every single time. Part of this is just putting on a strong performance and making your fans feel like there’s a reason to actually be there—that means sounding good, moving around on stage, interacting with and involving the audience— “clap your hands!” “turn to your neighbor and introduce yourself” “come hang out at the merch table after our set and get a free sticker”—etc, but it also means occasionally splurging for an experience that truly is one of a kind.
This could be making your album release show a chance to dress up as your favorite TV show character (maybe your album came out the same weekend as your favorite TV show and so you have fans of the show dress up as their favorite character for free entry) or maybe you just love Halloween so you rent a fog machine and have your best friends dress up as monsters and walk the audience. Whatever you do, make it memorable.
Share plenty of photos & video
Once you’ve gone through the effort to make your show something to remember, make sure to share tons of photos and videos documenting the night! The more you can show people what they’ve missed out on, the more they’ll regret missing it and make plans to catch the next show.
Stay on top of sharing photos and videos throughout the night but also throughout the days and weeks that follow. Ask fans to tag you in their own photos and video and be sure to share (and credit) them.
Collaborating with other bands that have a stronger following than you do is a really smart way to not only build your relationships within the music scene, but get more people out to your shows. There’s no shame in opening for a larger band or asking for their help in getting tons of people out to this show. Even if the band isn’t on the bill with you, you can still ask if they can help you out by sharing the tour poster/event details with their own fans, and writing an honest message about why their fans should check you out and how they’ll be right there in the audience supporting you. That kind of kinship goes a long way.
Last but certainly not least, be selective. If you’re playing a show every week in your home city and wondering why the audience size is slowly dwindling, you might have your answer in the frequency. You want to play out a lot, but not so much that people feel like if they miss you today they can just catch you tomorrow.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placement on Alternative Press, Noisey, Substream, and more, as well as the Co-Founder and Director of Community and Events for Music Launch Co. She’s also the owner of music blog Infectious Magazine. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.