Posted: Nov 16, 2015
**Guest post written by Jonathan Sexton, CEO of Bandposters.
Selling out shows in your hometown isn’t easy. You call your friends, family, co-workers, and spend weeks in advance hanging posters in every coffee shop, passing out handbills, and relentlessly posting online. Having lead time and a local tribe gives you an opportunity to do something special. But what do you do when you go out of town? Or when you have 10 shows in 10 nights in 10 cities and 6 of the shows are markets you’ve never played in before?
It’s no small task, it’s a lot of work, but you have to get creative. Here are a few ideas to get you started building your fanbase in a new place.
It’s not always possible, but if you can show up in the city ahead of time, you can get out and make some friends. Hand out flyers. Hang up posters (hey we’re biased). Meet people, tell them about your music. Busk in the streets to help promote (but follow local regulations). If you can plan ahead, you can book local radio spots, especially on college stations (see below). Find local music writers and photographers, and take them to lunch. And of course, make sure to show up on time for the gig and be nice to the folks at the venue.
Paid advertising works. Sad to say it, but the promise of social media has been diminished by the invention of ads – you can post to Facebook all day long, but your fans probably aren’t seeing it (by some measures as low as 2%!). Fortunately ads on social are relatively inexpensive. With the right targeting and the right message, you can pay just pennies per impression.
Nearly every town has college or indie radio station. Usually these stations are community operated, meaning they have students or volunteers hosting their own shows dedicated to specific genres all through the week. My local college station in Knoxville, WUTK, has hip-hop show, a reggae show, a country show, a jam band show, and so many more. Find the DJ’s of the shows! Don’t bother searching for the program director, the DJs are usually much more hungry for new content and easier to connect with.
If you are willing to get up early, this can be a great one. Every city has multiple early morning TV shows, I used to work for one and every week the show producers are trying to find new programming to keep the show fresh, having new out of town artists is a perfect way to do that. In fact, I got the job at the TV station because I asked “Why don’t you have more music on the show?” The producers replied, “Well, no bands ever reach out!” I was aghast. REACH OUT.
And another tip: make sure fans of the show can find your music after you get the gig because the audience who watch TV at 7am may not be the same audience that come to bar gigs at 10pm, but they are new fans all the same.
Every city has one (or more). The social center of the community. The social mayor of the local music scene. Maybe they are running a hostel for artists in the town, or have a local music blog. This one may be harder to google, so my advice here is to ask around once you get to town about local blogs, or even better, use ReverbNation or another device to find bands similar to you that you can send a message asking who the must-know people in the community. You’d be surprised how excited people can be to help you. It never hurts to ask, and the world is very connected these days.
This is a classic and may go without saying, but don’t book a show in a new market without sharing the bill with a local act. They are easy to find, and they probably want to come to your town and play as well. When I was touring full-time, this almost always worked. The problem I ran into was that I could not offer a show in my hometown to every band I played with on the road, so I had to get creative and throw a festival. Instead of playing a normal hometown show, I partnered with my preferred local venue (shoutout to Preservation Pub) to throw a two night festival (and sometimes three) in which I would headline each night and I would stack out of town bands in the three opening slots before we went on. You also have a lot more to market when you are throwing a festival as opposed to a normal headlining show.
No one knows the local scene like the local tourism bureau. Usually they are called something like “Visit Knoxville,” or “Visit Louisville” and there is normally a visitor’s center you can reach out to for more information. These places know every venue, every blogger, every festival, every radio station, and any other possible resource you could think of. They ALSO (like the rest of the world) have to come up with new stuff to tweet about everyday, and much of their job is promoting local events, it doesn’t have to be complicated, send them a tweet about the show and let the retweeting begin. If that works, ask for an intro to the local music journalist or blogger.
Not only because Bandposters is awesome and saves you a bunch of time, but because most people learn about the next show they want to come to at a show they are already at. Avid concert-goers usually frequent establishments that have a reputation for great music, and they are always looking for the next great show to see. You want them to know you are coming to that venue, and the best way to catch them in the bathroom line is with a super-slick poster. Plus, IOTM members get a 10% discount at www.iotm.getbandposters.com.
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