Last month I started out saying "Happy New Year!
I've been sending out wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous new
year." With the inauguration of a new president, with a new agenda,
we seem to have hope for a more prosperous new year.
But, we're still in a recession and it will take some time to get that
turned around. People aren't spending as much money because they don't
have it to spend. Clubs are going out of business, or they're cutting
back on the number of nights per week that they hire musicians, or they're
paying musicians less money, or the tips jar gleans less money.
We're finding ourselves with more down time. How do we turn that around?
- Work with the clubs where you play to improve the number of people
who come to see your show. I recently spoke with a club owner acknowledged
that the regulars have a lot to do with who they hire, but that they
also expect the bands to draw enough people in to at least cover the
cost of the band. That seems reasonable. Don't expect the club to
provide you with an audience. That means keeping in touch with your
fans, notifying them of your club dates, encouraging them—no,
make that inspiring them to come see you.
- Learn about marketing (see #1) and publicity. Keep your old fans
and reach out to new ones. Make them want to see you. Check out ideas
in these columns:
2008, "Performing: The Reality Part 1"
2008, "Performing: The Reality Part 2"
June, 2008, "Performing:
The Reality Part 3"
Look for more ways to publicize your band and let people know about
you. The internet provides a lot of avenues for promotion.
- Check out the competition. Go see the bands in your genre that keep
getting gigs. What are they doing that you don't do? What can you
add to your show to be more successful?
- Check out new clubs and get to know the owners. What are they looking
for? What will it take to get a chance for you to play in their club?
Some clubs require bands to audition, e.g. play one night for free,
to see how many people will come to see them. If they're going to
pay for a band, they want to know the band will draw people. And,
those people have to do more than sit and listen. They have to buy
drinks, spend money in the club.
- Freshen up your act. Learn some new tunes and rework old ones to
give them a new and/or more polished feel. Add some schtick. It isn't
enough to stand there and play tunes. Amuse the audience. Get them
laughing and dancing and singing along. Work on your chops. Take the
time to practice and learn some new licks, while you're at it. Write
- Explore new opportunities. Add another band with other musicians
to your list of options. Find new people to co-write songs. Record
a CD to have new product to sell at gigs. Anyone with a digital camera
and home computer can make videos for YouTube. Don't know how? Check
out classes at a local community college or rec. center.
- Look for other music-related ways to make money that will enhance
your performing, like teaching classes or private lessons. Get to
know the recording studios in your area and let them know you're available
for studio work.
- Expand your performance opportunities: volunteer to play music at
senior centers and recreation centers and libraries. If they like
you, they'll find a way to put you in their budget. Be willing to
travel farther. Consider house concerts in new areas.
- Network. Be charming and likable. Find ways to give something back
to the community. Become a worthwhile part of it. It will help expand
your fan base and will put you in the right place for gig opportunities.
Help your favorite club with publicity even if you aren't playing
at that gig. They'll remember you when the time comes.
- Work toward the future. You might not see results right away, but
don't let that discourage you. Plant the seeds now and something will
grow. Give it time.
This article was inspired by "Don't Get Derailed by Downtime /
10 Ways to Keep Your Momentum Going" by Mindy Charski, published
in the January/February NASE Self-Employed magazine.
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