If you’re an indie musician who plays mostly local and regional gigs, you know that most audiences start getting fatigued if you play too many shows too frequently. And this trend gets amplified if you haven’t yet built up a huge catalog of songs.
So how do you keep your live show fresh and exciting and keep people coming out?
In this article we’re going to go through six cool ideas you can try no matter what level you are at in your gigging career.
No matter which approach you choose, make sure you highlight it when you’re promoting the show! Let fans know how cool and unique this show will be in the emails you send out, the posts you share on social media, and the flyers and posters you put around town.
1. Play with Other Bands and Musicians
This is by far the easiest thing you can do to keep your live shows fresh and interesting. No matter where you are, there are probably other bands and musicians gigging the local scene. Not only will doing a joint show give both your fan bases something new to look forward to, having two audiences to draw from will make booking gigs much easier.
Of course, there’s the typical opener/headliner lineup, where you each perform your own songs separately. But don’t feel like you need to restrict yourself to this traditional format. Try mixing it up to give your fans something really unique. You could cover each others’ songs or do a song or two together between your sets. Another option is to both cover the same song in your unique style so fans can see the contrast of your approach. If you’re both singer/songwriters or duos, you could even do a fully joint set.
Joining up with other bands won’t just help you bring more people out to your shows. The connections you’ll make by playing with other artists on a regular basis will open up more opportunities as your network grows!
2. Use Covers
If you’re playing local gigs and only have an EP or two to draw songs from, live shows can quickly become pretty monotonous. You’ll probably find yourself playing the same songs show after show. Why would someone come out to your gig when they saw you perform the same set a few weeks ago? Adding in a few covers is a great way to mix it up and add interest. Plus hearing a familiar song can make your music more accessible to people who may not know about you yet.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your covers. Try choosing songs that are in a completely different genre and adapting them to your style. Or maybe you could do a one-man cover of a pretty elaborate song with looping.
3. Go Acoustic! (Or Electric)
Sometimes simply changing around the instrumentation of your music can be enough to keep things fresh. If you typically use electric instruments, try going unplugged for a show. And if you’re an acoustic artist, try adapting your music for electronic instruments. These kinds of arrangements may be challenging, but stretching yourself creatively is the only way to grow as an artist. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things with your art.
4. Add in Some House Concerts
House concerts are a great way to still play shows (and make money) without completely fatiguing your local clubs and venues. Plus it’s a great way to develop your relationship with your fans and get to know them individually.
Between your big local shows, schedule a few house concerts. These private shows will only be for the friends and family of fans that choose to host, so there’s less of a risk of overlapping audiences. It will put you in front of new people who may have never heard of you, and if you sell tickets or take donations, and bring some merch to sell, it can be a great driver of revenue.
5. Record Live
If you have the equipment and the live chops to capture a really great sounding live performance, filming a live music video or a live track is a great way to add excitement to a live show. The opportunity to be seen or heard in a live track or video will often be enough to get fans out. Plus, you can sell the resulting live track and use the music video to promote your music on YouTube.
6. Use Giveaways and Contests
Everyone loves a good contest or giveaway! And often, the chance of winning something is enough to get people out to a gig. The possibilities here are literally endless. You can use giveaways to drive ticket pre-orders by giving away merch bundles to everyone who pre-orders a ticket. You could also use freebies as an incentive to get people buying your merch by giving away a CD or EP to everyone who buys a shirt. Or maybe anyone who wears a band shirt to the show will be entered to win a merch bundle.
Contests are a great way to make the live show more of a two-way, inclusive event for your fans. Host a dance-off or a head-banging contest where the winner gets to hang out with the band backstage after the show.
I hope your mind is starting to buzz with cool ideas to make your next gig more interesting. If you’d like to learn more about actually booking and promoting your gigs, you can download my most popular ebook, Hack the Music Business for free here. Or you can join me and over 1000 other indie musicians in the New Artist Model Essential online course, the complete music business program designed especially for indie musicians.