Be Bigger Than the Venue

Part of being a DIY musician is about managing impressions. No matter how much you want to play at the hippest venue or be on a big stage, playing to half-empty clubs is bad for business. Instead, book yourself in a venue that is too small for you and your fans.

Whether you’ve brought out 300 people to a 600-seat theater or sold 5,000 tickets in a 10,000-capacity arena, those vacant chairs are going to weigh on you and your audience. You’ll feel like crap and wonder why you’re not more popular, and your fans will feel bad for you too. But you don’t want their pity. You want their enthusiasm and cheers.

Think smaller.

A concert promoter or talent buyer is not going to pat you on the back for bringing in enough fans to fill a venue halfway. They’re only going to see those empty seats. The dead dance floor. The vacant bar. The missed opportunities. The wasted money.

But conversely, “SOLD OUT” has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? And even if you’ve only “sold out” a coffee shop that holds 30 people, the venue will want to have you back! And more importantly, word will spread to other bookers, bands, music fans, and media that you “packed the place out.” Sure, there were only 30 people there. But a tiny room that’s full of fans can sometimes seem more impressive than a big room that isn’t.

Be realistic about your estimated draw. Don’t get lost in delusions of grandeur. Then approach the venues that will accommodate just UNDER that number. Yes, I know it sounds counterintuitive when you want to build a fan base and make money. While you shouldn’t adopt this strategy in every case, when you’re first starting out, some well-placed “sold-out” shows can go a long way.

-Chris R. at CD Baby

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