This is a guest post written by Evan Hamilton, Rock Star, Community Ambassador, Lighting Designer, and Nifty Person in general.
Here in the Bay Area, there is always music playing somewhere. Every night of the week in every hip neighborhood in San Francisco, Oakland and beyond there are DJs, reggae groups, rock bands, country acts, hip hop artists and more serving up some of the most unique music you’ll find.
For people looking to listen to music, this is great. For those trying to get their music heard, this can be an intimidating challenge. So how does a musical artist in a big town stand out amongst the crowd? I spoke with some fellow musicians and dug into my own bag of tricks to give you some pointers.
There are a million musicians playing tonight. What are you doing that’s different? Say it. Keep in mind that this may not be the thing you find most important about your music – what engages your audience is what you need to find. Maybe you leave your turntable to go dance partway through your set. Maybe you give out instruments to the audience. Maybe you invite the audience onstage to sing about burritos. Having trouble figuring out what is unique about your act? Try writing down some details about your art, your process, your latest creation, and your live shows. Then show it to a friend and ask them what they find compelling. There’s something about you that is going to catch people’s attention – sometimes you just need help finding it.
Price Tickets Smartly
This one is hard for artists to learn, especially when money is tight. The fact of the matter is, people rarely pay $15 to see a show unless it’s a big artist. If you absolutely need to charge more than $10, go for $12 or $13. In the same way that $4.99 seems less than $5, you’ll still make the money you need while getting people to the show.
Sell Tickets in Advance
It’s incredibly easy to for someone to say they’re going to come to a show and skip it at the last minute. If you’re monetarily invested, however, you’ll be much more likely to attend. Offer discounts (easily done with Eventbrite’s Event Discount Codes feature) or give a sense of scarcity (“VIP tickets limited”).
Unashamedly Enter the Conversation
If you truly believe in your art, don’t be afraid to tell people! Take advantage of the power of Twitter search: search “San Francisco tonight” and see who’s looking for something to do. If you play Dubstep, search for “Dubstep San Francisco” to find those who are looking for some SF Dubstep. Then politely let them know that they might like to check out your show (and make sure to continue the conversation if they respond).
Publish Your Event to Facebook
People don’t like to leave their comfort zone, and Facebookers are no exception. Save them a trip by posting your event to Facebook as well as Eventbrite. It takes about 30 seconds using the Publish Event to Facebook feature, and will mean even wider distribution of your event.
Don’t Expect Too Much from Social Media
The flipside of Twitter and Facebook is that people tend to expect too much of them. You can ask people to share or retweet your messages and spread the word, generally people are happy to help, but don’t expect your message to go “viral” just because you want it to – there is no viral button. Create a hashtag only if it can take off – but don’t force it on people if it won’t (for example, if you expect only 20 people at your show). Keep in mind that trying to get people to use a hashtag is a hassle for them, and can dissuade them from helping you with other promotions in the future if you bug them about it too incessantly.
Digital is the Way to Promote, but Don’t Totally Ignore the Analog
While the days of traipsing all over a city to put up posters about a show are over, make sure to find some time to put up posters in the neighborhood you’re playing in. Maybe they’ll draw people, maybe they won’t…but the effort has long-term benefits. Down the road people may hear about another show of yours and remember seeing your poster up. This gives a sense that you’re successful and makes people more likely to come to a show so they can finally see what you’re all about.
And of course, the most important thing is that you need to work hard. Very few people succeed effortlessly. If you’re not working hard, don’t expect a crowd!
What are your tips for standing out amongst all the other music out there? Let us know in the comments!