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February, 2009

"Keep Your Momentum Going"

by Webmaster

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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:
    April, 2008, "Performing: The Reality Part 1"
    May, 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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 new songs.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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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