So your band has snagged a live performance. Now what? Do you sit back and relax, having already accomplished the “hard part?” No! You have to promote the heck out of it. The music business is just that, a business, and you can’t assume someone will do your job for you. Soon you may discover that the venue/promoter put zero effort into advertising your show, or worse, that they have advertised you in a way that you fell is detrimental to your image. Even though you are musicians and not PR reps there are many simple ways to advertise shows.
The first, and most basic, is word of mouth promotion. It is absolutely free and besides if you don’t hype up your performance who will? Avoid being overbearing but make sure that everyone you have regular contact with knows about the show. If you have an answering machine be sure to include information about your next gig in your greeting so all callers will also know about it. Try to maintain a mailing list of friends, music business contacts, and any fans you may have. Put a postcard in the mail telling them about the upcoming performance or better yet make a flyer that is mailable and easy to distribute by hand.
Quite often the flyer is the public’s only notification or reminder of an upcoming performance, and since flyers are both easy and affordable it may be the most important step in the promotion process. It is therefore shocking that much of the time people leave out vital information. The essentials include the following:
- Your name. It is also helpful to include the names of the other artists who will be opening/headlining because they may have a separate fan base that will see the flyer and attend the show.
- The name of the venue. People can only attend a show if they know where it will be! Equally important is any peripheral information about the venue–the address, directions, the venue phone number, and age requirements for patrons.
- When the show will occur. The date of the performance is a must, and the time the performance will begin is helpful, as well as the “door time” (when the venue will allow people in).
- The cost. Is it a free performance or is there a door charge? If so what is it? Are tickets available in advance? Are there any discounts?
- Benefits of attendance. This can include product giveaways (see below), free parking, easy access to public transportation, an open kitchen during the performance, and drink specials. Ask your contact at the venue about these perks, they will be glad to do anything to help pack the house.
The design should also be considered. If you have the time make the flyer as interesting as your songs, but if you are in a rush just stick to being informative. And under no circumstances should you sacrifice the info or the legibility of the flyer for creative purposes. To be cost effective it works best to fit four flyers on a page (nobody can tell you cut and paste after it’s photocopied) and cut them down. This smaller size also makes them easier to hand out as well as easier for people to take with them.
The ideal place for distributing flyers is at a venue during a similar musical performance with the venue’s permission. Leave flyers at places where members of your target audience hang out, again with the permission of the owners if it is a place of business. Also make sure that the venue you are performing at receives some copies to distribute. They are often too busy promoting all of their shows to devote an entire flyer just to yours alone and it also shows them you are putting some effort into getting a crowd (which they may remember when it is time to pay you).
One way to attract a crowd is to arrange for “freebies” to be given away at your performance. This can be anything from products donated by a sponsor down to your band’s posters or bumper stickers. The CD release party always does well because many times audience members can get free or discounted recordings but this only works if you have a new album out. If you don’t have any merchandise to give away or need more you may approach other local bands or local record companies to see if they are interested in contributing. Many times they will be willing to pitch in if they can spread their name while you do all of the work. In the meantime you get the benefit of having their name attached to your advertisements.
When it comes to advertising there are many approaches you can take besides flyers. If you have already designed flyers you may look into getting posters made. All of the general rules for flyers apply to posters but you have more physical room to work with so you may include band photos, album covers, etc. Before plastering them all over town you will want to check local ordinances about posting bills. Next you can look into store displays which range from simple counter-top flyer holders to posters and even large window displays.
Arrange to talk with the store manager–you will find they are approachable and cooperative if you call ahead and are professional about it. Newspapers are also a good place to advertise, particularly student papers and any publications covering local music happenings. Aside from buying ad space, you can often get a write up by sending in a promo kit with a statement covering all the pertinent details of the gig. You may even get a review or interview, both of which are great publicity for a show. Also, try to find local radio stations with programming similar to your style and ask about commercial rates. Even in major markets spots can cost as little as $25 during off-hours, and in the off-seasons, the better slots will be discounted.
While you are at it check with the station about potential sponsorship. You may be able to purchase sponsorship of a certain segment or show which would include the DJs saying “brought to you by [insert your name here]” with mention of the upcoming performance. Alternatively they may be interested in sponsoring you which would give you stronger advertising by having the station’s name attached. If performing in a college town you can seek sponsorship from the college through the National Association For Campus Activities.
Local record companies may also be interested in sponsoring an event but most likely they will want one of their artists to perform at the show as well. Possibly the most difficult endorsement to attain but also potentially the most beneficial is the corporate sponsorship. Having a name brand attached to your show can do wonders for crowd attendance. Combining any of these may be more likely to succeed as many companies are more willing to opt for “co-sponsorship” with another company.
Whether you are new or established, whether you have no time to promote or all the time in the world, just incorporating a few of these publicity techniques into your band’s efforts will increase public awareness of the the upcoming event. Even if it does not pay off the first time people will remember your name the next time around and the cumulative effects of your efforts will pay off.
Always remember that the important thing is to creatively pursue all forms of publicity for your performance with a professional attitude. This means organizing a plan as soon as you have secured the gig and carrying out that plan–even up to the day of the show. The last few days can be the most important.Always remember