How to Promote Your Shows

[This article was written by guest contributor 

This is the final part of the three-article series A Guide to Getting Gigs.

As the title suggests, in What to Do Before Looking for Gigs I talked about what indie musicians should do before trying to get booked.

In How to Look for Gigs, on the other hand, I went over some of the tools you can use if you have decided to look for gigs by yourself.

This post is all about what you should think about and do once your show dates have been confirmed.

Take care of logistics, transportation, and accommodations

This is kind of a no-brainer, but make sure to take care of the bureaucratic things if you are performing abroad. Are you set to perform in a country and you require a visa? Sort that out as soon as possible so that you won’t have to worry about it anymore.

The next step is thinking about transportation and accommodations. If you’ll be flying, websites like SkyScanner, Kayak and Hipmunk can help you find offers and get an overview of different ticket prices.

Guitar Case

Once you have found what works for you, purchase the ticket from the airline’s site (to avoid paying any additional fee). In case you are wondering how to pack your guitar for the flight, you may want to take a look at Flying With Guitars. And remember that you are allowed to carry your guitar on the plane!

If you are touring nationally, you way want to consider whether you are going to travel by plane, train or you going to hit the road with your band van (in case you are going to tour abroad, you probably want to rent a vehicle). If you decide that you are going to drive, you may want to check Touring Tips for Musicians: How to Avoid Traffic Jams, Speeding Tickets and Accidents on the Road.

As for your accommodations, there are plenty of of options. The one I recommend, though, is What I like about is that it gives users different payment options (usually you have to pay a 10% deposit upon booking) and it works with Passbook. This means that you don’t have to carry all of your reservation paper around (though you will receive a booking confirmation by email), but you can store them in your smartphone instead.

Merchandise? Yeah!

In Different Ways Musicians Can Make Money, Dave Cool and I talked about several ways to monetize as an artist. Guess what? Merchandise was part of the conversation (I know, right?)!

Think about it for a second: who doesn’t like a memorabilia from a great gig? This is what you should keep in mind. Fans love to go home with a reminder of the great time they had at a show.

Here are some of the items you should have at your live performances:

* CDs: true, CD sales are declining, but you still want to have physical copies of your music on sale at your merch table. Choosing the right CD packaging for your record can save you fees for overweight luggage. I recommend you check this post about different types of CD cases.

* T-Shirts: tees are one of the most popular and travel-friendly items. T-Shirts won’t break, but may be very wrinkled. To minimize wrinkles, you should fold tees well before packing and consider placing several tees together in a plastic bag. If you can’t stand wrinkled T-Shirts, you can even bring a lightweight and inexpensive travel iron for quick touch-ups before displaying.

* Other clothing items: hats and sweaters are some other merch you could sell at your shows, depending on your audience and genre.

* Small merch: pins and stickers are small and cheap memorabilia you can easily carry and sell when on the road. Again, this changes from musician to musician and their fans.

* Digital Merch: who said that you have to carry all of your merchandise with you?

 Time to Promote Your Shows!

After all this, it is time to promote your gigs. But wait, hold your horses. Close that Facebook window you have just opened!


You have to ask yourself this first: How am I going to promote my gigs? The answer to is simple: be memorable!

By now, you probably know that social media posts and tweets that include photos and videos are more engaging and are more likely to be shared by others. This is why, I suggest you create some virtual posters, flyers and video teasers that your fans will love and that promote your gigs.

When it comes to pictures, you can outsource the work to professional designers or create awesome design yourself. In Tools for Creating Amazing Visual Content I talked about free tools you can use to touch up your photos and craft killer designs without sweating (too much).

More info can be found in the article, but here’s a breakdown of some of the tools:

* Canva: easily craft designs and visual content optimized for various platforms

* PicMonkey: a free alternative to Photoshop, which lets you do pretty much anything you can think of with your pictures. Edit, apply filters, add text, all for free, no sign up required!

* Word Swag: add cool typography to your photos and create visual quotes people love

* Instagram: turn your pictures into visual masterpieces and share them on the most popular social media

Some of the things you can do to promote your upcoming shows through visual content are: craft special Facebook, Twitter and Google+  covers and profile pictures, create virtual flyers and posters, share images about the venues you will perform at.

Videos are another excellent type of content you can use to promote your shows. Videos that build momentum and anticipation works very well.

In terms of platforms, you definitely want to upload and promote your videos on YouTube – which is the #1 engine search when it comes to music (and the #2 overall) – and Vimeo.

Contests & GiveawaysContests and giveaways are other ways to build engagement and promote your upcoming concerts. Get creative and come up with ideas that will build momentum and turn your fans into your “ground crew.” In Must-Have Online Tools for Independent Musicians, Andrew Hall talked about how powerful it is to have your fans do promotion for you. On that podcast episode, Andrew and I also mentioned additional tools you can use to showcase your gigs to your fans: Songkick, Bandsintown and JamBase.

When it comes to promoting your gigs, you can create Facebook events (take a look at this post for some great tips on how to use them to get more people to your shows) but don’t ignore your website. After all, it is your online headquarter, right?

Make sure to have your upcoming dates visible somewhere on your homepage and reach out to your email list subscribers. My advice here is to send out a broadcast (perhaps featuring a cool virtual flyer you have created) to all of your subscribers – because people travel and you never know where your fans may be traveling to – and an email that targets fans living close to where you are going to perform.

Promoting yourself online is fine, but you don’t want to limit yourself to that. In a recent interview, indie musician and music biz writer Ari Herstand mentioned a great, “old school” promotion tactic many musicians aren’t using: putting up posters and handying out flyers.

Ari has also written about Bandposters, a company that prints, labels and ships your tour posters.

Network and get press coverage

 In Touring the World, saxophonist Ezra Brown discussed the importance of connecting with local musicians and fans, when performing around the world.

The easiest way  do this is probably through Twitter. Start following the venues you are going to perform at and bands that will perform around the same period. Look for fans who interact with the venue and interact with those that seem interested in the music genre you play.


And don’t forget about those who are already following you! Browse through your Facebook and Twitter followers, check out the geographic locations of your email list subscribers and look for them on social media. Connect. Be genuine, don’t be spammy.

Don’t let your communication be about you, let it be about them first. Mention the venue in a tweet, share a cool picture or video of it on social media. Send out #ThrowbackThursday and #FollowFriday tweets and mention them in those.

I am going to repeat myself: don’t let your communication be about you, let it be about THEM first. If you do this the smart way, those people will engage with you and will definitely help spreading your messages and buzz about your upcoming gigs. This is something that can help you stand out from the crowd, especially from the music venues’ point of view. Promoters will remember your help in promoting the club and are going to welcome you with open arms the next time you are back in town and are looking for a gig.

You can also create ad hoc hashtags for your gigs and use them on Twitter, Instagram and all the other social media you are using. Indie rock group The National is a great example of a band that comes up with its own #hashtags pretty much for each show:

tweets the National

Once you have started connecting with locals, it is time to start thinking about press coverage.

If you are an independent musician, you will have to take care of your PR yourself. Ari Herstand and I talked about the topic in How to Write a Press Release and Get Press, so you may want to check that out. But simply put, you want the press release you will send out to have this structure:

* 1st paragraph: the facts. The who, what, where, when and why

* 2nd paragraph: background & accolades. Here is where you write 2-3 sentences about the band’s background and achievements (e.g. important venues you have performed at or big names you have played with)

* 3rd paragraph: info about the event. Self-explanatory, isn’t it?

* Final paragraph: last sentences. This is your final effort to showcase to the reviewer why she should cover your event or band and to the reader why he should come out to your show

A good piece of advice is to actually do a little research before you get in touch with newspapers and other media to promote your shows. This way, you know if they are the right publications for you, what their style is and so forth. My advice here is not to go only after for the big outlets, but also for smaller local newspapers, magazines and blogs.

Maybe now you are asking yourself “When is the right time to send out my press release?” On the podcast, Ari Herstand recommended to send your press release at least a few weeks or even a month before your gig. Keep in mind that most newspapers, magazines and sites plan their content days in advance, so sending your press release a couple of days before your show may be too late for their publishing schedule.

Obviously, everyone is different and that are other things you can do to promote your gigs. Hopefully, though, this post has given you some ideas on what to think about when you get gigs and how to promote your shows.

Do you have other suggestions? Leave your comments below.

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