Live performances from your favourite artists

Part 3: Where Can We Play?

Being a great live band that plays shows around a wide area is the best way start to building the bands name. If you only ever play the same venue to the same group of friends and family that seems to be getting smaller and smaller each gig, you are probably over-saturating your local venues with your presence.
Venture out of town regularly. Put on a great show to whoever turns up (even if its only 5 people). Building a reputation takes time, but is also exponential. Once there is enough groundswell you will find gig attendance take off, but you need to play as many shows as you are able to get to in as many places as you can!

The most important thing is that the band is entertaining to watch. If there is no stage presence or the band is boring and dull to watch, you are fighting an uphill battle. This doesn’t mean you need to be extravagant with a stage show, but watch some of your favourite bands for inspiration on how to be comfortable and relaxed on stage.

Image these days is very critical (this can be a positive and a negative depending on your attitude…). It doesn’t mean you have to dress in matching clothes or dress like you are in Good Charlotte… It means finding a style and image that suits the band. A lot of bands have a tendency to wear on stage whatever they normally wear everyday. This can sometimes lead to a band on stage looking like the guitarist is a skater, the drummer is a metalhead, the bass player is indie and the singer is into hardcore. While these clothes may represent the individuals, is it a good representation of the band as a whole entity?

People go and see bands for different reasons – some have heard and like the songs, some think the lead singer is hot or the guitarist is amazing to watch live and some may be there to see the other bands playing. These are the people you need to try and win each gig. You friends already like you (or at least say they do).

Let’s say you have a fan-base made up of friends and local people as well as from the outside areas you have been playing for the last 6months – year. If you have been releasing a new song every 6 weeks (see Part 1), these fans have heard the songs, downloaded/bought them, they know the words and have been telling their friends about you. When you play a gig, a percentage will be from this fan-base and their friends, but most likely, a larger amount will have never heard of you before.
Play an amazing set that will blow the other bands off stage. Make sure you play the songs that are the most popular downloads, as obviously these are your stronger songs.
The fans that have heard these songs will be singing along, which will impress the people that have never heard you before. A lot of bands hire a bus to play venues outside their local area. This is a great idea, the more people you can bring, the better you look to the audience that don’t know you as well as looking good to whoever books/promotes the venue if they think you draw a large crowd (this will lead to more gigs).
Hopefully a percentage of this new audience buy the CD and discover that most of the best songs you played at the gig are on the CD. These new fans will follow your band on the internet and tell their friends about the band so that the next time you play, you will have a larger percentage of the audience there to see you, many will have heard of you, but not seen you live yet, now you have to blow them away with your live set!
All of this is going to take a lot of time and a lot of gigs!

So where can we play?

This depends on how far you are willing to travel and how often.
When they were first trying to build their reputation, NOFX used to travel all over American playing gigs everywhere. Playing small towns that very rarely have bands playing is a great way to pack out a venue; the smaller towns have been known to turn up at venues simply because it was something different! NOFX traveled almost the same tour path for a couple years, playing at established venues as well as small towns, all while they were still an unknown band. They built up a solid fan-base all over America simply by playing shows everywhere. By the time the band was starting to break through, there was already a large crowd of followers.
This was done in the days before you could run a search on the internet, find a list of venues and pubs and plan out a tour itinerary using http://www.whereis.com/.
There are a lot of country towns and mining towns throughout Australia. Once a year, in support of your latest release, you should do a tour hitting as many venues as possible. Not all venues will be able to pay the same amount, but some of the smaller country town venues can provide food and accommodation which is good when you are on the road for a few weeks, others may only have a budget that covers petrol money to the next venue, but if you put on a great show, you should be able to sell some merch!

During the rest of the year, it’s important to play outside your local area more often than you play in it. If you play too often at your local venue, even your dedicated local fans won’t mind missing a show because they know they can see you again there in a couple weeks.

On your website/Facebook/MySpace have an area people can either request where they want you to play, or where they are from. If you are able to create mailing lists, you can look at creating targeted lists for different areas. If you are playing a gig in Sydney, contact the people who have said they live with 2 hours of Sydney, etc.

The main thing that I cannot say enough, is that it is going to take time, money, effort and a lot of gigs to create and maintain a fanbase, but without a fan base eventually the only person turning up to your local gigs will be your mum… if she has nothing better to do.

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