Posted: Nov 9, 2020
"11. Take care of your fans. I grew up in Texas and cut my teeth in honky-tonks and clubs all around the Lone Star State. One thing I learned from Texas superstars like Pat Green, Eli Young Band, and Cory Morrow was how to take care of your fans. After their show ended, these guys came out to the merch booth and met every single fan, took a photo with them, and signed autographs until the place was empty. That really stuck with me. Not only does this increase your merch sales and your bottom line, it creates meaningful connections with your fans that last a lifetime.
For years now, I have met every single person who wants to meet me after my shows, whether it takes 20 minutes or two hours. I know most of my fans by their first name and I love seeing them every time I come to their city. I feel like we have a genuine connection with each other. I fully realize someday your career might be so big that you don’t have time to physically meet everyone, but until then, take the time to meet all of your fans, give them a hug, shake their hand, look them in the eyes and tell them thank you. It goes a long way.
12. Take care of your band. Touring is a grueling experience, as you know. In the beginning, everyone is excited and full of energy, but as the tour goes on, the energy and morale of the group can fall. We all get homesick, we get tired of being in confined spaces, we get tired of eating fast food, we get tired of traveling. So anything you can do to make the experience more enjoyable for your band will pay dividends. Take the band out for a movie night on a night off. Treat the band to pizza or breakfast once in a while. Hand out waters to everyone upon arriving at the venue. These little acts of kindness go a long way and let the band know you appreciate them. As you show your love and appreciation for your crew, they will work that much harder for you.
13. Record each show. This one is a real game-changer. My tour manager and FOH engineer, Jojo, started recording each of our shows in 2019. As we would drive to our next show in the van, we made a routine of listening to our show from the night before. It’s just like watching game tape in football. You record your show, listen back to it, make notes of what you did well and what you could have done better, and then make adjustments. This holds everyone accountable, knowing that what you played will be heard by the entire band. Not only does this dramatically improve your tightness as a band, but you will also have detailed recordings of your live show that you can send out to substitute musicians should you ever have anyone in your band fall sick, become unavailable, etc. Live show recordings are a great asset to have.
14. Collect emails. Now the emphasis is shifting to collecting cell phone numbers, but regardless – this is a big one. At the merch table, have an iPad or a few sheets of paper printed out with a pen for people to write down their name, email address, and cell phone number. Add some kind of incentive for the fans to give you their email. (“Enter to win a signed guitar”) etc. Next time you release a new single or go on tour, you’ll have a direct line to all of your biggest fans.
15. Get to know the promoter. No matter how big or small the show is, be sure to seek out the promoter or club owner, introduce yourself, and thank them for hosting you. Having a good relationship with these guys goes a long way. Next time they’re promoting a festival in town and they need an artist for the lineup or an opener for their huge show, you want to be at the top of their mind. Always take the time to seek out the promoter, introduce yourself, thank them, and develop a personal relationship.
16. Be kind to the venue staff. I’m fortunate to travel with a FOH engineer (who is also my tour manager), but most upcoming artists and bands do not travel with a mixing engineer. So your entire sound is left up to the venue engineer. Be sure to introduce yourself to the venue staff upon arrival – bartenders, door guys, audio guys, lighting, and be kind to everyone. These guys are often overworked, underpaid, and a little grumpy. You really want to get on their good side, and being nice goes a long way. Any specifics you can provide them on your sound will help them provide the best mix for you.
The same goes for lighting and production guys as well. Most clubs will have a house LD (lighting director) who can help light your show. Unfortunately, there are a lot of LD’s who do not engage or give much of an effort, but there are some great ones as well. Introducing yourself, and letting them know you want them to play a key role in your show will give them the motivation to do a great job for you. The more clear and articulate you can be about the look you’re going for and what you, the better your show will look. I have an “LD Notes” setlist that I print out for each show that I give to every house LD at soundcheck. Make it easy for them. Provide simple notes like (song title – uptempo – RED. song title – ballad – BLUE). These simple notes are extremely helpful and can take your show from good to great. Getting the venue staff on your side and empowering them to use their skills will dramatically improve your show.
17. Book a great local opener. This is a very underlooked tip. If it’s your first time playing a city, try to book a local artist or band who can draw 40-60 people (or more) to open for you. Even an extra 20-40 people are better than nothing. In short, try to find a local artist or band who fits your vibe, musically, who can draw a decent crowd on their own. It will help fill the room and expose you to new potential fans.
18. Use front fills. Your sound is arguably the most important factor in your live show. Oftentimes, in these little clubs, the PA is not great, to begin with, and the speakers are spread so far apart that the fans near the front of the stage can’t hear your vocals at all. One trick to fix this is to take one, or preferably two, of the wedges and ask your FOH engineer (or the house sound guy) to use them as “front fills”. That way, the wedges will serve as an extension of the PA. I recommend putting each one next to the PA, angling them in towards the center of the crowd, or putting them to the left and right of the center vocalist, pointing out at the crowd. You can also ask the sound engineer to just put your vocals and higher-frequency instruments in the front fills, like acoustic guitar, keys, and electric guitar, so your mix doesn’t sound muddy with too much low end in the wedges. This makes a huge difference in your sound.
19. Know the market. Have you ever played a show in a big city at the same exact time as a huge artist in your genre? I know I have. This kind of competition can kill your attendance – but it happens to everyone. Try to understand what else is going on in the market before you book your show. If it’s out of your control, talk to the promoter ahead of time and try to move your set back to a later start time (after the competing show is over) that way you can take advantage of the extra foot traffic in the area. Sometimes this can actually be a blessing in disguise and you get more people in the room than you would have otherwise. It’s all about timing. Know who is playing around you, and if need be, adjust your show to make it a success.
20. Have fun. This is arguably the most important one of all. At the end of the day, you spend your valuable time out on the road, away from family and friends, making huge sacrifices to be there. You miss weddings, birthdays, major life events. You spend countless hours practicing your craft, writing songs, recording music, shooting videos and photos, creating merch, creating websites, booking tours, building your social media, etc. After all the time and hard work you put into this, you might as well have fun and enjoy the process. If you have an hour of space in your schedule, stop at the beach and jump in the ocean. Throw the football with the band in the truck stop parking lot when you stop for gas. Stop at a national park and see the sights in between shows. Seek out a great local restaurant rather than going to the same fast food place you’ve eaten at a million times. Watch comedy films in the van. Goof around with your band. Touring is tough work, but it can also be extremely rewarding. Prepare for it and put the work in on the front end so that you can have fun, enjoy the ride, and make amazing memories during the moment."
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