I started my music career, amidst the local Tri-state music scene of NYC and the surrounding area. I had learned, studied, and played, in my little one-room studio that doubled as my bedroom. Since I was nine years old, I honed my craft as a guitar player and songwriter. I recorded my playing constantly on cassette tapes - organizing and reviewing what worked and what sounded best. However, all of that would have meant nothing, if I didn't, one day, leave that little room and put it all out there for the public. Before I recorded my first demo tape or sold my first recording to anyone, I was an experienced live show performer. When you perform live, every weekend, two or three shows a week, that's when you become a true musician. My hard rock band Ricochet, performed over 300 shows in a 5 year period. We played every major NY area club in the thriving 1980's rock and metal scene.
It's not always easy. Doing live shows is a lot of work. The work involved to get you to that stage is often discouraging, redundant and draining. But once you step out onto that stage, it is quite often, rewarding, exciting and exhilarating. You will most likely learn more about yourself, your abilities and your talents, in a year doing live shows than you will learn in a lifetime closed up in your one-room studio. It is time to pull yourself away from that webcam, shut off your Acid Pro, and forget about your so-called Facebook friends. Don't live life through a micro-cosmic position. Get out there and experience the whole thing!
A while back I had posted a column "10 Tips For Successful Live Shows". Here are some more tips that I think are important for every musician, artist and band, in order to gain a successful live show following.
1) Get together with other bands that are playing the gig and do a joint promotion. Share the costs of advertising, printing flyers and postcards, mailing invites etc. Each band can use their best contacts with local press publications and local radio to help spread the word about the gig. You would be surprised at how cheap advertising on local radio is if you have 3 or 4 bands pitching in for the cost.
2) Phone calls are the best way to get people you know to a gig. Call everyone you know. Leave yourself a little leeway so you can spend some time talking with them. Spread you calls out over a few nights. Try to talk to everyone in person, don't just call and leave a message saying, "I got a gig, please come." Friends and family will come to the gig for you first and foremost, the music secondary. If you expect them to give you a couple of hours attending your gig, you have to try and give them a couple of hours in return - talking on the phone, helping them with a home project, hanging out with them at a barbeque or function, etc.
3) Give people a reason to come see you this time. Why will it be different than the last time they came to see you? New songs, mutual friends that will be attending, special features of the venue - anything you can think of that will give them a new reason to show up. If they have seen you live a dozen times already, what reason do they have to see you a 13th time? I heard my buddy doing this recently. He had mentioned his next gig and said, we've been dying to get a gig at this place, we were on a waiting list for months. This offhand comment piqued my interest, I Googled the club, It was a really nice place in Brooklyn, and wanted to check out the gig and the club myself. Little comments like that work! In fact, you should try to create a new reason for every gig you play.
4) Nobody likes when you brag about yourself. So, brag about the other band(s) playing the gig. Play with other bands you like. Tell everyone that may come to your show, you have to see this band we're playing with, they're great! Make it an exciting event for all involved.
5) Your goal is to reach thousands of people for each gig. Aside from your loyal friends, the average response to gig promotion is about 2%. Only 2 people out of every 100 people you reach will actually show up at the gig. Use multiple ways to reach as many people as you can. Use everything you have in your arsenal; phone calls, emails, twitter, bulletin posts, advertising, word of mouth (ask all your friends to invite a few people that have never seen you), local entertainment paper club listings, local radio concert and club listings, website posts, flyers, advertise, etc.
I want to relay this story about two bands I knew. They were of similar style, were good friends of each other and had many mutual friends. When one of the bands played the other would always show up to support their buds. When either of the bands played their own shows, their draw was about 20 - 25 people. When they played together what do you think the draw for the night was - 45 to 50 people? No. It was almost always 70 - 80 people. The bands realized that they had a much bigger draw when they performed together than when they performed separately. From that time on, the two bands did all of their shows together. They realized that they were not in competition with each other at all. They helped each other, worked on bigger/better gigs together, shared adverting costs and shared their fan base.
It would be quite beneficial if you were to hook up with some like-minded bands in your area. Package deals are the best way to draw bigger audiences and play bigger shows, just ask Sharon Osborne about this. You can work towards making a great gig for the whole night rather than just your band performance. This is how you would boost the whole scene, much like how the grunge scene started in Seattle in the 90's and similar events started in the 70's NY punk scene (at CBGB's) and the LA glam metal scene in the 80's.
You can see a dozen songs from the many live shows I had performed at my YouTube channel.
More thoughts and ideas to be discussed.
Michael Knight is a composer and guitar player from Floral Park, NY, who has released several independent CDs on his own label, Knight Music Productions.
His latest CD is entitled "Electric Horrorland", another musical descent into the darkest depths of the abyss.