Writing and performing an amazing song is the holy grail of the music industry. Everything we do ultimately circles back to that. However, There are countless examples of artists that never reach their potential. Sometimes it’s lack of knowledge of the industry. Sometimes it’s lack of motivation to promote their music. Most often, it’s a combination of the two & the lack of any guidance along the way.
When you first start your career as a musician there are certain “gatekeepers” that you need to focus your attention on. There are a handful of people that hold the keys to exposing your music to the masses. They can include agents, managers, record label executives, program directors at radio stations, and festival / concert promoters.
The first group of people you will likely encounter in your journey to becoming a nationally touring artist are concert promoters. These are the folks that will book your band to open for larger acts & perform at music festivals. Below are some tips for making a lasting impression on concert promoters.
Play great music
At the end of the day this is what matters most. Playing in front of people is a learned skill. The Beatles famously played clubs in Hamburg for two years (1960-1962), often 5-6 hours a night. George Harrison said that “Hamburg was really like our apprenticeship, learning how to play in front of people.”
Practice your set & get really good at transitioning between songs. In my opinion, It’s best to not awkwardly talk to the crowd or explain the meaning behind your songs. There will be plenty of time for that when you are doing your own headlining shows. As an opener, let the songs do the talking. The only thing you need to do is remind people what the name of your band is.
Time your shows properly
We wrote an entire blog on the topic of timing your shows properly. Many bands want to spring into a lifestyle of playing every night of the week. Musicians are a passionate bunch & we totally understand the impulse. However, it’s a good idea to pump the brakes a bit & come up with a strategy so you aren’t missing opportunities.
Promote your show
Ask the promoter how you can help to promote the show. Many artists feel like it’s the promoter’s job to get people to show up to the show. While they will do everything in their power to do that it certainly shouldn’t be their sole responsibility. If they see you out there talking about it on social media, inviting people to the event, passing out fliers, and putting up posters then you are going to win them over before you ever play a song.
Advance your show at least 1 week in advance
Contact the venue at least one-week prior to the show to find out what time you need to be there. Find out as much information about the show as you can. You should ask what time load in is, if you get a soundcheck & when that would be, what time you play, and how long your set is.
Define expectations & show up on time
When you advance your show be sure you take note of some key expectations: Arrival / load in time, sound check, doors, show time, set time / length, curfew, rules, etc. Be respectful of everyone’s time and show up a little early & ready to work.
Don’t act like a spoiled rockstar & drink yourself to oblivion in the greenroom & then stumble onto the stage like a fool. Stay sober, treat this like a job, and do the hard work of building an audience one person at a time. I can’t tell you how many band members I’ve seen kicked out of clubs for drinking underage in the greenroom. Endangering a venue owners liquor license is a good way to land on a blacklist, regardless of how good your music is.
Respect the venue
Some venues are historic sanctuaries of music history. Others are certainly not. Regardless of the condition of the venue you need to treat it as if it’s your own. Don’t put stickers on the wall, kick holes in the greenroom walls, or vandalize the bathroom. I’ve seen that come back to haunt a lot of bands.. People put a lot of work into building businesses that support you. Everyone hears stories of rockstars destroying greenrooms. Remember that most of those stories are exaggerated & the artists were already rockstars & likely paid for the repairs as a show expense.
Be kind to the staff & say thank you
The music community is small. I promise you that a local promoter knows all the bartenders, stage hands, engineers, etc. in the venue. Be kind to everyone you encounter. Honestly, this shouldn’t be a strategy to make a good impression.. It should just be the way you are. Be kind. People remember that. Garth Brooks takes the time to learn the names of every security person he walks past in the backstage hallway. If he has time to do it then you certainly do as well. Also, you can really stand out by sending handwritten thank you cards. Get into the habit of doing just that & people will start to talk, I promise.