‘Echo With The Sounds Of Salesmen’ – How To Promote Yourself At A Gig

PPlaying gigs requires a lot of preparation of the part of a band. You’ve got to make sure that your playing and performing is up to the highest possible standard, that your setlist is strong from start to finish and that you’ve actually got people turning up to watch you in the first place.

After all that prep, it often feels tempting when gig day comes around to simply get-up, rock your way through your well oiled set, and then spend the rest of the evening in the bar celebrating your latest musical victory. Get into the habit of doing that, though, and you’ll quickly find that your band isn’t exactly moving up in the world.

When you play gigs, you have an opportunity to promote your product to a public that may be prospectively interested in what you have to offer. If you want to get them to invest in you as an artist, then you’ve got to grab the bull by the horns when it comes to promoting your music. To get you started, here are three methods that you can use to maximize promotional success at your next show.

Image credit: mandaberry on Flickr

1. Tell People The Name Of Your Band

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a local music night which featured a better than average singer-songwriter on the bill. I’d enjoyed her set and was quite interested in checking out her music online and maybe going to one of her future shows. Problematically, though, she never once mentioned her name in the entire 45 minutes that she was on stage.

The event’s compere had introduced her at the beginning of the set, but I, like most people, am crap at remembering names, and after three quarters of an hour, was at a loss as to the identity of this mysterious chanteuse. If the anonymous singer-songwriter had told the audience her name, say, after every other song, however, I probably would have remembered what she was called and subsequently gone to a couple more of her gigs. It’s easy to get-self conscious about repeatedly referring to yourself onstage but the fact is that repetition is the only way of getting your name to stick in peoples’ minds.

2. Bring Merch

Image credit: candicejeanl on Flickr

A couple of months ago, I blogged about the importance of flogging your merch at a gig. In bringing it up again, I run the risk of sounding like a broken record, but it’s such an important point that I feel validated in reiterating it. Even if you’re just starting out, your band should always be bringing merchandise to shows. It doesn’t have to be elaborate stuff. For a new band, some stickers or badges with your name on it and some demo CDs should do the trick (for more information of the difference between a demo CD and a proper CD, read this thing I wrote).

Whatever you’ve got, the main thing is that you get it out to the people at your show who seem interested in your music. When you’re on stage, look for the people who are responding positively to your songs. After your set, go and talk to them and offer them some merch. If you can get them to sign up to your mailing list, that’s also good. Bands often don’t approach people in this way because they assume that interested parties will come to them. That, however, rarely happens. Successfully converting people to your music is, more often than not, down to your own proactivity.

Oh, and on a side note, make sure that your merchandise prominently displays the name, web address etc of your band. If you’re not sure why it needs to do that, refer back to point one…

3. Talk To Other Bands/Promoters

Image credit: thomashawk on Flickr

When you show up at a venue to soundcheck, you should make it a priority to go and introduce yourselves to the other bands on the bill, as well as the guys/gals that are putting on the event. And by talk to people, I don’t mean offer a brief nod of acknowledgement so much as holding a proper conversation with them. It can be short and sweet, but you need to find out who these people are, what they do and why they’re doing it. You should probably also congratulate them on a job well done after they’ve finished their sets (even if you’re lying through gritted teeth) and definitely should stick around to see them play if you were early on the bill. In business terms it’s called networking, and it’s just as important in music as it is in the working world. Being friendly with other bands and promoters will open doors for you. It can get you more gigs and it can introduce you to contacts who may be useful to your band as your career progresses.

To achieve these three points requires your band to be proactive and approachable. A band is basically it’s own pre-formed social group, around whom you most likely feel comfortable. This makes it easy to fall back into hanging around, close-knit, with them when it comes to gig time and that is exactly what a large number of bands end up doing. If you can push yourself out of your comfort zone though, and make a real effort engage with your audience off, as well as on stage, you’ll be rewarded for it.

Alec Plowman is writing a PhD thesis on liveness in rock music at the University of East Anglia. He is also a freelance media journalist, musician, and collector of Star Wars memorabilia. Check out his blog at www.alecplowman.com