[This article was written by Cristof Ensslin, cellist and manager of The Wilhelm Brothers, a cello-infused folk rock band from Asheville NC.]
Are you doing the booking for an indie band? Have you ever come across a venue that didn’t want you to book another show within a certain radius and time span? Chances are, you have.
For example: you aim to play in a city on your tour route. One venue wants to book you Wednesday night, the other Thursday. There’s a good chance one (or both) of the venues may not like that arrangement. This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it tends to occur in big cities like Boston, NYC, Atlanta.
It’s understandable why venues think this way. Clearly, the feared downside is that your draw may be split up between the two (or more) venues and dates. This is especially true when it comes to the part of your crowd that’s comprised of your friends. You may be able to cajole them to one show, but not necessarily two. And if your crowd gets split between two events, both venues will feel like you’ve lost them revenue. Rents and other costs are high and tending higher, especially in the big cities. So every penny counts. Understood.
If you read self-help, business, and success literature, you’ll know that fear-based behavior and decision-making should be avoided. Opportunity thinking (based around the question “how can we make things happen”) should be favored. This is true in general, and also in this specific case of the touring band trying to make the most of their gas money. So let’s look at this as an opportunity:
Who is your draw?
1. Your friends.
As mentioned above, you may not get them to come to both shows, but you could probably cajole them to one. Here’s the catch: some of your friends have a work assignment due on Thursday morning, so they can’t come out Wednesday night. But the day after they would love to come to a show.
And it works the other way around too. Some folks can make it Wednesday, but not on Thursday because their kids have piano lessons. At the same time, your friends will tell their friends and send them to your performance. Either way, the likelihood of your friends (or your friends’ friends) coming out to a show increases the more shows you have in town.
This happens to us all the time. Okay, maybe not always, but a lot of times. A lot more often than you’d think if you subscribed to the venues’ fears around diluting your draw.
2. Your fans.
Your fans will choose the show that fits their schedule best, and the venue they like better (they’re usually not so price sensitive, especially if they can hear you for $8 or $12 in a listening room vs. for free in a noisy bar).
Superfans will come to both shows. They will bring their friends, or at least tell them that you’re in town. So the fan endorsement (which is the most powerful since it’s authentic and from a third party) will increase your overall draw, likely helping both shows and both venues.
3. The venues’ built-in crowds.
The built-in folks (depending on the venue’s model and history) are regulars, semi-regulars or non-regulars of the venue. They may or may not care who’s coming to play. They just like that there’s the vibe of live music (or they like the food or the bartender). They may even like the idea of supporting local and independent music. They may even tip you well and buy a CD. But they would in most cases not change the place they go to. That’s because they are creatures of habit.
So, if they are Wednesday-kind-of-people and like venue A, they will go on Wednesday to venue A and maybe decide to stay for another round of drinks if the band is good. They don’t care whether that band plays another gig the next day two blocks down the road.
We know this first hand. We could play the same town one month at venue A, folks love us, buy CDs, cheer and go the all out, and like us on Facebook. When we come the next month (notice: 4-6 weeks gap that the venue asked for was complied with) to venue B, these folks still rave about us, but hang out at venue A.
4. Local concert-goers.
Our favorites. These guys and girls comb through the local event listings to see what’s going on in the local world of music. As they go up and down the pages, they see three dozen band names they have never heard about. Then they read another unknown band name, i.e. yours. Twice. Back-to-back. Wednesday at venue A, Thursday at venue B.
This stands out, so chances are, the concert goers will check you out just because they’ve seen your name twice Marketing 101. Meaning, they wouldn’t come see you if you only played one show. They wouldn’t even think about it, because you’d have gone unnoticed.
Now that you do stand out though, these music lovers will see what combination of date, time, price and venue fits them best. If they can make it to the first show (good for venue A) and like it, there’s a good chance that they’ll promote your second show for you and bring a bunch of friends (good for venue B).
For all four sub-groups of your draw, playing twice in a row in the same town either doesn’t hurt or can even be beneficiary! So, please, dear venues, embrace your touring acts (and with it your fellow local venues) and make it a Win-Win for all.
While yes, there’s a chance you’ll lose a little business one week (it’s an outside chance), things will even out in the end, and the music scene will glow and grow and attract great touring acts, ensuring that locals will come out and patronize your business for a long time to come.
And what if the venue insists on just one show? Dear touring act, please respect them. You’re not in their shoes, and they have their reasons. Especially if they tell you in advance during the booking process. If you don’t want to comply with their request, openly communicate it, tell them your reasons, and simply skip the opportunity if necessary and move on. There are plenty of other venues out there. Sometimes it’s better to agree to disagree, as long as it’s all talked about ahead of time.
What are your thoughts on playing two or more gigs in the same market in the same 2 week period? Let us know in the comments below.
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[Calendar picture from Shutterstock.]