You must first pick the right gig. Too often artists do everything they can to book a gig at a club, only to find themselves playing to two men and a dog on a Monday night. This is counterproductive. Chances are you will not be invited back to this club to play a second time.
So it makes sense to build up a following in a more organic manner. Look to alternative venues — house parties, college gigs, churches, even open-mics — to not only refine your live show, but to begin building a fan base. To this end, it's essential that you collect information (email and snail mail) from those who attend your shows. It's often not enough to simply pass around a mailing list. You may want to consider burning a three-song CD to give out to people only if they sign your mailing list. In this way, you're not only giving them an incentive to sign your mailing list, but more importantly, you're giving them a tangible souvenir of your gig (encourage them to burn copies for their friends).
Once you've played enough of these non-traditional (i.e. non club) gigs and have developed a decent mailing list, you can begin thinking about booking a "professional" gig - that is, a gig in a club.
Once you book this gig, your work really begins. You have to not only notify all of those people whose names and emails you've collected about the upcoming gig, but you must also try to maximize the gig in other ways. It's imperative, for instance, that you notify the local media (press and radio) of your upcoming gig, and try and get whatever coverage for the gig you can. This may very well be just a listing in the paper or an announcement on the college radio station, but in addition to being a reminder to those who know your music, it also serves the purpose of putting your (or your band's) name in front of those in the media. Doing this repeatedly will cause them to take notice, and eventually lead to more substantive press and radio coverage.
Of course, you should use the new tools as well. MySpace, Facebook and other social networking sites are effective ways to alert people of your upcoming gigs. My only caution regarding these new tools is that you must do the core things (build a following organically, have great songs, etc.) before you will see any sustained long-term benefit from tools like MySpace.
Once you've successfully played a few club gigs, you have to begin timing your gigs. Too often bands over-play their home market. You really shouldn't play your home market (unless you're a GB band, of course) more than once a month (I'd advise once every three months or so). You have to make every gig an event. If you're playing every weekend, it can't be too eventful. What should you be doing during the time between home-town gigs? Get out and play in other cities of course. Repeat what you've done in your home town in the cities within driving distance to you. One way to accelerate this is to find an artist (or band) who is in a similar career place and musical style as you are, and trade opening slots. That is, if you can draw 150 people in your home town, and there's an artist a town over who is stylistically similar to you and can also draw 150 people, you go open for him in his town, and let him open for you in your home town. In this way you can speed the process of developing a following in nearby towns. Keep doing this, in ever expanding circles away from your home base, and pretty soon you'll be touring.
I'll leave you with the one fail-safe way to get more people to your gig: make an emotional connection with them when you play. If you do this, and follow the other guidelines I've listed above, you'll build a real and committed fan base.
Published: Fri, 25/08/2006 - 03:30