January 27, 2011

Week 19: Come To My Show

Come To My Show... Please?

So, a friend of mine, Ben Mills, who’s been in a number of bands in the Austin area in past years (including Nooner, She Craves, and presently Waiting for August) and runs Rockshow Promotions posed a question on his Facebook page today. The question?

“Lets say that I can't adjust cover for a show but it wont be expensive ($5-7). What can I, we, the venue, other bands,etc do to get you to the show? What’s important in your choice to go out to see a band?”

In about 2-3 hours, he got some pretty good responses. But I believe his sample was skewed. He got answers from people in other bands and people who are really, really excited about music and the Austin Music scene. I don’t believe the question was posed to the casual music fan.

Sure, to get folks who are already supportive of live music down to the club it largely depends on the quality of the band and if they know anyone in said band. A few mentioned some concerns like being able to smoke in the bar (or having an outdoor smoking deck for non-smoking venues), having safe parking near, and time of show (late isn’t always great).

Really good responses. But, these are all assuming one thing – the person already sees value in supporting live music. I think these folks walk through the door of your show for one of three reasons:
1. Just happen to be headed to a favorite bar and you’re there.
2. They are celebrating with friends and you’re the next stop.
3. They have heard about your band enough that they want to check you out.
Ready? Here we go.

Or, the choice is made regardless of the band. Some folks go to a certain theme club. It doesn’t matter who’s playing, the style of music fits what you’re interested in, and more than one band can provide. In Austin, there are several clubs who will most likely be playing a set genre on any given night. I reserve the right to be wrong, but I’ll bet if you went to the club listings of these clubs you’re going to find Hardcore at Red7, Rockabilly at Continental Club, Blues at Antone’s, Rock and Metal at Red Eyed Fly, Reggae at Flamingo Cantina, Radio-friendly rock and travelling shows at Stubb’s, The Parish and Emo’s, as well as Emo/Goth at Elysium.
How to get these folks in: Make sure the bar is postered with your show information. Spend a little time AT the bar and get to know some of the folks, invite them in person. Give out free CD samplers at the bar.

These are the folks who are part of a girls-night-out, or bachelor party, hanging with a few friends, or are in town on business and want to blow off steam. These are the non-party types who are going along with a pack of people. How do you get these folks into the club for your show? It’s probably unlikely you will...especially if there’s a cover. 10 people at $5 a head gets pretty expensive. A smart bar owner will see the big group and say… “Hey, you guys look thirsty..come on… $2.50 longnecks…and if you like the band, tip ‘em.” Chances are, if they come in.. they’ll stay for a beer or two, maybe throw some green in your tip jar, and vacate. Unless you can turn them into fans, pronto.
How to get these folks in: There isn’t much you can do. Drink specials for walk-by, street flier for a free beer with cover, maybe work a deal with a taxi driver/hotel manager to promote the band.

The average person doesn’t go to save a “scene” or support a “movement.” They go check a band out because someone told them about said band. There was some contact where they heard of your band in some context. Your band’s name was out there on Facebook, or on the radio, on twitter, a friend who saw your band talked about it to them… something that you had some control over at some point. Some kind of promotion you did that either reached them directly or on the peripheral.

Think about it. How did you hear about your favorite band? Did Cesar Rosas come up to you when you were 12 and say, “Hey kid…. Listen to my band, Los Lobos”? Probably not. You heard them on the radio or on TV or a buddy of yours introduced you to them while you were sneaking a cigarette back in their shed (true story). Now think locally. How can you make that impact on a small scale?

How to get these folks in: This is the one you have the most control over. You need to reach their circle of association. You know… the people around them (friends and family) whose opinions are valued. You need to advertise, promote, and work on getting your bands name to be said by people other than your close-knit circle of friends.


I’m not saying any of these scenarios will be easy to reach. You’ve got to be committed to the band and promoting yourselves. It will take time, effort, and money. You will strike out a few times, make sure you’ve got the ability to measure what works and what doesn’t.

So, Ben, this is my answer to your question. I hope you don’t mind me turning it into a blog post.  I’ll return the favor.

Ben Mills is the drummer for Austin’s Waiting for August  (Reverb Nation Link).

They play next at the Ghost Room in Austin  on February 25 with Squint and Matches for Memories. Then at Hanovers in Pflugerville on February 26 with Radio Fallout and Freebleeder. See them. They’re a fun band. Tell them Sean Sent you.

Here’s a poster:

And just FYI… in keeping with the article... I will be there because I know the band, and have seen all of these bands play before and am impressed by all of them (really)… I’ll go to the Austin one because I live south of Austin.. and I’ve never been to the Ghost Room before, so I’m looking forward to it.

Don’t you wish all of your fans would give you information like that?

1 comment:

Anthony Erickson said...

great post Sean...always looking out for musicians and our music scene.
You should enjoy Ghost Room...its a solid space.