How to promote your (first) gig

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How to promote your next showYou’ve booked a gig. Congrats. Now it’s time to make sure your audience will consist of more than just the bartender.

Here’s a checklist of simple things you can do to get the most people possible out to your show:

1. Ask the venue what they’ll be doing to promote — You don’t want to double your efforts. Sometimes venues will take out adds in the local weeklies, advertise on the radio, and even make posters for you. If so, great! If not, at least you know where you stand.

2. Get a media list from the venue — If you’re just getting started performing live, you probably don’t have an extensive list of contacts in the local press. The venue booker will often have a list ready to send to bands who are touring from out of town, but they can just as easily send that list to you too. It normally contains email and/or phone numbers for local music journalists, editors, bloggers, podcasters, radio show hosts, and more.

3. Contact the press — You want to make sure that your gig is listed in all the local concert calendars, but you also want to see if you can get other kinds of coverage: show previews in the newspaper, interviews on blogs, a spotlight on a locally focused radio show, etc. If you contact them 2-3 months in advance of your show, you’ll greatly increase your chances of getting some media attention. You’ll also have an easier time getting big exposure in the press by following this simple advice about quality press shots.

For a list of local media people that’d be interested in covering your music, and some tips on how to get in touch with them, check out “How to get the media’s attention.”

4. Create a concert poster — Yes, concert posters still matter, even in the Internet age. In fact, the Internet has given a second life to the art form. Here’s an article about why you should create concert posters, how to create them, and what to do with them once they’re made.

Send the poster to the other bands on the bill and to the venue (in case they want to use it in their online of offline promotion). If the file is large, upload it to a cloud-storage site like DropBox and share it from there. Otherwise, just send as an email attachment.

5. Put up posters around town — To be honest, blanketing the neighborhood in posters won’t guarantee a big audience for your show. But it does do two things: gives you a start on visual branding, which will help with name recognition later on; and reinforces in the minds of people who’ve already considered going to your show that this is an event they won’t want to miss. Just be sure to follow any local laws regarding hanging posters/fliers in public places. If you can’t put them on telephone polls, ask the staff about bulletin board or window space in coffee shops, music stores, etc.

6. Use your poster online — It’s time to put that poster on your website, in a blog post about your upcoming show, in a photo gallery for show posters, and on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or whatever other social media platforms you use.

7. Create a Facebook event — Despite the declining popularity of Facebook amongst musicians, Facebook Events are still one of your best promotion tools. Create an event and use elements of your show poster for the header image; then invite all your Facebook friends that live within an hour or two of the concert venue. Be sure to share admin privileges with the other bands on the bill. Also, a single Facebook Event for the night is always preferable to each band creating their own separate Facebook events; it keeps things simple and helps you build momentum and buzz by cross-promoting to one another’s fans.

For more information on how to set up an effective Facebook Event, check out “Use Facebook Events to get more people to your next show.”

8. Send out an email — If you’re a brand new band, you might not’ve built your email list yet, but go ahead and have your band members compile a list of all the email contacts for people they know that might want to come to the show. Start there! Send those folks an announcement about the show, tell them how psyched you are, and that you really hope they’ll attend.

9. Tell all your family and friends — Despite your best efforts, the majority of your audience for your first show will probably be folks you already know. Instead of getting discouraged, use this to your advantage; get as many people out as you can. Tell them that it’s really important to have a good crowd for your first show in order to prove to the other bands and the venue that you’re worth working with again in the future.

Start with your close family and friends; but don’t forget to talk your show up to co-workers, players on your softball team, church members, etc.

10. Give away a few spots on your guest list — People love contests and prizes. In the weeks leading up to your show, do a handful of social media or email giveaways for free entrance to your show. The winners will be thrilled, and you’ll have multiple chances to remind your online network about the show in an exciting way.

What else are you going to do to promote and get people out to your next show? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • Notorious_NIC

    Great read!

  • Thanks. Glad you liked.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Chance-Erica Williams

    Where can I get more information on Organic SEO? Are there any good guides on the DIY? Or a good source of information?

  • I’m sure there are some good PDF guides out there you can download, but here’s a place to start: http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/2012/08/seo-for-musicians-who-feel-like-theyve-been-left-behind/

    @ChrisRobley

  • capthiltz

    I question the poster idea. Sorry, but I think it’s a relic concept. I generally don’t look at things that are posted in public unless it has a picture of a possible lost pet and I thnk most people do the same. Even if it’s a huge poster it doesn’t make me want to see the band. Maybe it works with the 20 year old crowd but beyond that, no and even then. I play in a band and realize how hard it is to a) build an audience and b) keep them coming time after time especially family and close friends. Maybe it’s the venues themselves that are a problem. Most people I know want to see a band in a concert like atmosphere. Almost of the places a local band plays is still a bar. Many owners have music but don’t make an effort to make it an event.