Playing Live In Your Home Market

Dear Tim Sweeney:

My band seems to have this ongoing discussion, (more like an argument), about how many times a month we should be playing in our home town. Friends in other bands tell us not to play in town more than twice a month. According to them, we will "burn out our fans". But I think they are wrong and we should play as much as we can. What's the right answer?

The answer to this ongoing question is to try to play in your home market between 2-4 times a month. But instead of just leaving you with that thought, let's explore the answer so you can have a full
understanding of why this is the right number.

As I have always preached, your career needs to be anchored on your live shows and it needs to start in your home market. Especially since your live shows and the "proper" preshow promotion will be 75% of all your future sales.

Your home market needs to be a large metropolitan city near you or that you are living in, that preferably has over 1 million people living there. If not, focus on the largest metropolitan city in your state that has at least 500,000 people. With that in mind, let's get down to business.

Artists will quickly say, "Don't play more than a couple times a month because you will burn out your mailing list." They are right! If your primary focus for promoting your next show is to merely let your mailing list know, then it is true, your existing fans will get tired of being promoted to. Especially if they have come to a couple of your shows in the past and have bought your CD. You can bet they are "burnt out" by your ongoing requests for them to come to your future shows.

Most artists do not think creatively when promoting their next show. They make the mistakes of handing out flyers instead of sample tapes or sample CDs, or spending hundreds of dollars on a newspaper or magazine advertisements, that no one can hear their music through. So let's start from scratch.

Let's use Los Angeles as the major market that you live in. LA itself is approximately 90 miles in size (counting in the smaller cities around it). This is important to know because of the following reasons.

Music fans who go out to live shows will generally stay in their "own area" when it comes time to see an independent artist. (If it is a major, established artist, who rarely plays in the area, fans will travel further to see them.) One of the primary reasons people stick close to home is the issue of drinking and driving.

Research has shown that people feel they can have a couple of drinks (or more) and safely drive home if it's only 2 or 3 miles away. Most people as you can imagine, don't have a desire to be on "Cops" or the nightly news with the police chasing them down the freeway. Wrong in their thinking about drinking and driving or not, that's one of the main reasons people don't drive 20 or 30 miles to your future shows.

However, that brings up a good point for us to talk about. If people generally won't drive more than a few miles to go to a show, doesn't that mean you will have different audiences at each show? That's right. Using LA for an example, even though Santa Monica and West Hollywood are right next to each other, people from the respective areas "hate to drive" 5-10 miles. Beside the concerns about drinking and driving, they complain about finding parking and the "safety" of each other's respective areas.

So doesn't this mean, since there are clubs spread throughout the major market you live in, shouldnít you play 2 or 3 times a week all over the city? No. The reason I suggest 2-4 times a month has nothing to do with your existing list, who has come to past shows and already bought your CD. It is based upon allowing yourself enough time to "effectively" pre-promote your shows.

Creating the sample tapes and CDs, doing your market research on the targeted areas around the club, where your potential fans hang out and shop, allowing for the time to hand out the 200-300 tapes or CDs minimum, you are going to need to generate new fans. Plus the extra time, you will need to "redesign" the club for your show. If you find that you can do a couple of shows in the South part of your city and 1 or 2 in the North, East or West and adequately promote them, you can consider 4 to 6 shows per month.

Keep in mind that your city is a big place with over a million people. You are not going to get the same people at your next show, unless you invite them. Even though your city may seem limited in places to play, or even geographically on the map, don't let your mind become "limited" on what's available to you.

Review the section in "The Living Room Sessions" about market research in regards to your live shows. It will help you generate a new larger fan base in a shorter period of time.

Author Tim Sweeney is head of Tim Sweeney & Associates, who are entering their 18th year of being, "the only true artist development company in the world."

Tim is one of the music industry's most sought after experts and consultants, and has written several influential books including "Tim Sweeney's Guide To Releasing Independent Records".

Tim Sweeney