I have been mixing bands my entire professional career in the music industry, from a local youth venue, touring with bands on the east coast of Australia, club nights, in house positions, walk ins, filling in for other engineers, recorded shows, done countless location recordings, studio recordings and so on. I am currently the studio technician for a studio that is a part of a music store and am the venue manager for a 500 capacity venue with my own PA, lighting and back line hire business. I have mixed hundreds of shows and have started to promote my own shows and I have seen many patterns of behavior that many bands fall victim to that ruin their reputation, ability to earn money, how many people will come watch their shows, their longevity and their ability to expand out from their hometown.
#1 Play Often But Not Too Often
Far too often I see bands play their hometown far too often. It is not okay to play your hometown more than once a week. It is not a good idea to play your hometown more than twice or three times a month, less if your genre is more niche. Your ability to draw punters to your shows will plummet if they’re just seeing the same show again and again, week in week out. Punters only have so much disposable income and they plan their nights out carefully, so don’t be surprised when no one comes to your show if you are playing your home town again next week or worse the next day. Venues will usually have a clause that prohibits bands playing shows in the same area within a week either side of the show, some extend to two weeks or more to ensure your bands fans are actually going to come and see you perform and not to a competing venue the night before to see the same band.
#2 Promote Your Show
When you get put on a show, you need to do everything in your power to ensure your fans come, if they don’t your value as a band on the bill will plummet and the amount of money you can get from venues will never increase if no one wants to come and watch you. Venues are in the business of selling tickets and food and beverage sales. To put on a show costs a fair amount of money, venues need to cover production costs like sound and lighting equipment and operators, door staff, security, their overheads like power and rent, their own staff and so on. If they are hiring you to play a show then they are hiring you to bring your fans to eat, drink and pay admission. Don’t be surprised if you get paid nothing if no one is at the show watching your band. Where is the money going to come from? You need to be running a Facebook campaign, not just posting every now and then on your band page, you need a plan, what to post and when, on your band page, in groups, on other pages, on your personal page, you need videos, photos, links to your music to buy, links to the event page, links to pre-purchase tickets. You also need to be in Instagram and twitter doing the same thing. If your fans do not know about your show they cannot come to your show. You need to get a high quality version of the event poster, go to a printing company and get a run of posters printed, this is cheap to do by the way, and put them up in places where your fans or potential fans might see them. Cafes, street posts, university campus boards, anywhere you can think of without attracting a fine by the local council. You need to print off small flyers and go to similar shows in the month preceding the event and hand them out to everyone there, especially if the show is at the same venue. If it is at a different venue, ask politely to make sure it is okay to do so or you might get kicked out.
#3 Get Out Of Your Home Town
Far too many bands play enough outside their home town and eventually ended up breaking up without achieving anything significant. I have seen many bands start to build momentum and fall flat on their faces and break up over petty things that should have been taken care of when the band was formed, like copyright, songwriting and the rest of the business side of things. You need to play in major cities and regional centers where people have never seen you play. Develop relationships with bands from other places and tour with them, you will soon develop close friends in other cities that you can easily play a show with and crash at their places and return the favor when they come through town themselves. This has so many benefits, you will start to understand the national music scene a lot more and will learn who the big names are within your scene and who in touring and what shows are a good idea to try and get onto.
#4 Avoid Cancelling Shows
Nothing is more frustrating for venues when bands cancel their show at late notice with lame excuses. Dave Grohl famously fell offstage and broke his leg and continued playing the show in a chair whilst his leg was put into a brace. I have had committed bands still play a show without their drummer and with their songs playing in the background. Or turning the set into an acoustic set instead of progressive death metal. And if you definitely cannot play the show, give as much as possible and have a replacement band ready to go in your place. Apart from annoying venues, your fans will not appreciate it either. If they were going to your show they were most likely looking forward to seeing you perform. Do it often enough and you may well start to lose your fans.
#5 Be Organised At The Event
Most shows run to a strict time schedule and must be finished by certain times according to their license. Bands who play over time are extremely disrespectful to the venue and the other bands playing on the event when it eats into the other bands set times. When three the support bands play a 40 minute set instead of 30 minute sets, that is 30 minutes of time that will come out of the headliners set, or 30 minutes the venue will have to pay security, staff and production for that was previously arranged. This can snowball when that time gets charged as overtime, for example past midnight and onto a public holiday or Sunday rate. That 30 minutes can turn the night from being successful to being a loss. If may be the difference of your band getting paid and not. Drummers should have their drum kit setup in pieces ready to go so when the previous band finishes they can easily swap the kit out with endless adjusting or taking them out of bags on stage.15 minute changeovers are common and is enough time for the vast majority of bands to change over without stressing. When it comes to loading in before the event, make sure you arrive on time, bands loading in during another bands set is majorly insulting and looks extremely unprofessional. Venues stipulate a load in time for a reason. Parking arrangements may change after a certain hour, loading zones may become no parking after a certain hour, an area of the venue may turn into a restaurant and prevent the loading in of equipment. Sound check times are also set for a reason. Many venues have curfews for making noise, not just at the end of the night but before the show. Many venues will only start sound check after dinner service has finished or before it has started.