Not only will performing live help you build a fan base and improve your performance skills – it will also help you gain attention from industry gatekeepers. If your music and live performance are great, people will find you – because everyone in the industry talks to each other, and fans share music with their friends. You don’t necessarily need to tour to gain attention, you can and should just start playing various venues within your hometown or immediate surrounding towns to expose yourself, create a local buzz, and get people talking about you.
And the reason I’m saying all this is because some artists and managers don’t understand how important it is to perform live. Especially with the digital and play-listing economy. They think it’s OK to release some tracks online or to the radio, but then not perform for their fans. But I don’t think that’s acceptable if you’re looking to make a career out of this. We call them “basement artists” – artists who release a few tracks but then never see the light of day and their careers are over before you know it.
First of all, fans want to see their favourite artists perform, and you might just be their favourite artist. Second, it’s a business. Most industry gatekeepers don’t really want anything to do with you if you’re not performing or not willing to perform because that’s a massive revenue stream out the window and shows you’re not a dedicated performing artist.
They key is to keep playing in a certain market as much as possible until you have a following there and you can fill a room, then you hold out on playing there for a while to build up demand. And I’m not saying any of this is going to happen quickly. You have to be prepared to put in years of hard work.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about how we can perform when we’re new and not ready to tour around yet, and want to create that local buzz.
1. Local Venues
I mean I have to start with the obvious. Depending on your sound, you definitely want to contact the smaller, local coffee shops, pubs, and diners in your area and ask them if you can come perform an acoustic set or small set of covers one night or even during the day. Some of them have new music Monday’s and stuff like that so start contacting them and see if you can get in. While you’re performing covers, slip in a few original songs if you have them and see how that goes. If it goes well maybe you can start a residency.
Which brings me to to point #2, see if you can get a residency at a venue in your home town, which means playing once a week or once a month at the same venue for a select time frame. Not only will this help people remember your name in that area, and keep you practicing regularly, but you might also be able to get a confirmed amount of money coming in each month.
3. Corporate Events
I used to work for a corporate and special event entertainment booking company and they pay their performers pretty damn well! I managed an artist who was booked by them regularly and she was getting sometimes $3- $4000 a weekend for a corporate cover gig. Try to find a few good entertainment booking companies if you’re interested in playing 3 hour shows of cover songs for corporate events. You can also try to build relationships with event planners at large corporations or restaurant managers who hire bands for special events. OR Googling and responding to “cover band” or “party band” advertisements. that can work out well if you find legit good ones.
4. Open Mic Nights
Some artists are into these some artists aren’t. And depending on where you’re from, open mic nights might not be available, or they might not be taken seriously, but when it comes down to it, if they are available, you may as well try it out and see how it feels!
5. Local Music Associations with Global Reach
Over 25 countries around the world have music managers forum’s. In Canada, every Province has its own not for profit music industry association. If you’re not yet, GET INVOLVED with your music associations. Go to their events, show your face, make friends, and apply for their local and export showcases. These organizations exist to help artists grow their audiences not just locally but globally.
6. Go Live On Facebook & Instagram
This goes against performing live for a live in-person audience obviously, but it’s still a form of performing live, you just don’t get to gauge the vibe of the room, you can only gauge comments. Warn your followers that you’re going to go live at a certain time, even if it’s just for 5 followers, because you’re going to have to get used to playing to empty rooms anyway – so just go live and just start performing.
Don’t sit there and wait for everyone to come on just play and keep playing for a half hour as if you were live in a bar. If you’re good, people will share it, and your fans will slowly grow. Then take that live video, save it, and post it on your other accounts, or use it for paid advertising if you want.
And if this is still too uncomfortable for you, and you’re not ready to even go live on socials, then just start recording yourself. Just open up your camera on your phone and start recording. Get used to watching yourself, and making yourself better. When you get a video you like, post it on your socials. Then do that weekly.
It irks me so much when I go to an artists Instagram profile and it’s all just photos. If your bio says that you’re a songwriter or artist or band – then I want to hear you! I want to see within the first 9 squares a video of you performing or a post that at least has your audio.
In summary, remember, consistency is key. Both going live on social media AND going live locally in person, WEEKLY, is key. Then as I mentioned, once you can fill a small room, hold out, build demand, then move to a larger room.
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