Here are 5 tips to help you bring a crowd to your next out-of-town show:
[Note: These same tips can help you build a following in your own town if you're new to performing, or returning after a long hiatus.]
1. Forge relationships with bands in other cities- Opening for established acts in other towns is the best way to build your out-of-town draw. Befriend them on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter. Repost their content. Once you’ve become chummy (and I don’t mean the ground up bait-fish, although some people might feel that way about networking) with other bands, it’s time to write them and see if you can swap gigs; you open for them in their town– they open for you in your town. For more information on gig-swapping, see our article “Touring: Friends, Favors, and Fun.”
2. Look for the smaller, quality venues- Bands that can consistently draw 300 people in their hometown are lucky if they can draw 30 people in a different market. You may be a hometown hero, but check your ego at the city limits. While you’re not entitled to play at the best club in every town, you shouldn’t have to play the crap-dive with the busted 80′s Peavy PA either. Most bigger music towns have small, intimate clubs that host quality music and treat bands professionally. Try to book yourself in those clubs. An added bonus to smaller rooms is that when you DO bring out 30-50 people, the room looks PACKED! And a tiny club that is sold out will seem way cooler than a deserted mid-sizer. For more info on this approach, check out our article “Touring Tip: How to Book Your Band So You’ll Sell Out Every Show.”
3. Advertise your show on Facebook- Facebook ads are cheap and effective if done correctly. Target these ads for people who live in or near the zip codes for the clubs you want to play, AND limit them to people who are interested in your genre of music. Depending on your approach, you can use these ads to simply get your band name out there and garner Facebook “likes,” or you can specifically advertise your events. For more information on Facebook ads, check out our article “How to Promote Your Music with Facebook Ads.” (Note: some details may’ve changed since Facebook Band Pages were updated to Timeline, but the principles still apply.)
4. Be active on blogs and forums that focus on your target market- Yes, I just said “target market,” and my copy of Radiohead’s Meeting People is Easy just self-destructed. But seriously, whether your target is professional contacts in a town (bookers, promoters, bands, etc.) or the music fans in that town who you hope will attend your show, locally-based music forums and blogs are a great way to get a conversation started. As with all things, don’t be pushy or spammy!
5. Don’t forget the usual promo stuff- We focus so much of our efforts on social media these days that it’s easy to forget the basics. Remember to send a press release about your tour-stop to the local newspapers, weeklies, and radio stations at least 6 weeks before your appearance. Offer an interview, concert tickets for giveaways, and anything else you think will help spread the promo love. Send posters to the venue and local record stores well in advance. Inquire about in-store and in-studio performance opportunities at record stores, radio stations, and on local TV news shows. Also, call everyone you know in that city and beg them to come out to your show; bribe them with promises of magic beyond their wildest imagining; let them know tardiness and absenteeism will be rewarded with dire consequences. For more information on approaching local radio stations and podcasts, check out our guide “Getting Radio Airplay.”
Do you have any tips of your own to add? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments section below.
Lastly, thanks to Chris Seth Jackson of How To Run a Band for sparking a few of these ideas.