Gig Like a Pro Part Two: Bring a Big Crowd

Getting a decent audience shouldn't be a nightmare.

Ultimate Guitar
Gig Like a Pro Part Two: Bring a Big Crowd

Welcome to Gig Like a Pro, the series that teaches you how to maximize your band's gigging potential, to get shows that will improve your reputation and to avoid the mistakes that many young acts make.

Assuming you followed the advice from last week's edition, you've got a great gig coming up. That's awesome, but now you face what is perhaps the biggest hurdle: getting people to attend the show.

Bringing crowds to shows is something that many bands, but especially young bands, tend to struggle with. You got into this rock and roll business because you wanted to play music, not because you wanted to be an ad man, and this promotional stuff might not come naturally. But, fear not. Beefing up gig attendance doesn't need to be herculean struggle. Follow these three rules and you'll start bringing the crowds in.

Make it manageable

Bands often get overwhelmed when promoting. There's a lot of pressure to get people to come to a show, and inexperienced groups often don't know where to start.

Successful promoting involves breaking down the tasks at hand into manageable chunks. Say your band is expected to bring 25 people to a show. Achieving that goal is much easier if each band mate aims to sell six or seven tickets (assuming that there are four of you). They make a list of ten to fifteen people they know that are likely to attend, then make their way through that list systematically and before you know it, you've reached and breached that 25 ticket goal that seemed so impossible before.

The same applies to flyering, putting up posters and all the rest. Come up with a promotional battle plan and delegate responsibility to your bandmates. You'll find that promoting a show is much easier than you expected.

Start promoting as early as possible

If you leave promoting your gig until the week before the gig, you can pretty much guarantee that no-one will attend.

People have lives that don't revolve around your band. Social schedules fill up and money gets tight. So make sure that you get in and guarantee their attendance as early as possible.

As soon as the gig is confirmed, start selling tickets. Give yourself the time to build up a reasonable audience and get in there before your friends start making other plans.

Oh, and one other thing on that note, make sure that you get a physical ticket in that person's hand, rather than a vague promise that they'll be there on the night. Vague promises are easy to flake out of at the last minute. But, having spent the money on the ticket already means that friend or fan is pretty much a dead cert for coming to the show. Even if they do pull out, you've still made a bit of money, and that's good news for you and the promoter.

Don't rely solely on social media

Social media is a great tool for promoting gigs, but you can't use it exclusively.

Too many bands are guilty of posting about upcoming shows extensively on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter while neglecting other, more traditional forms of promotion. As a result, few people end up attending their shows, the reasons for which they don't understand.

There are two main problems with a social media exclusive approach to promotion. Firstly, there is a lot of content vying for peoples' attention on social media, and the news of your gig risks getting lost amidst that content. Secondly, when you're promoting on social media, you're broadcasting to whoever may follow you, rather than targeting those people that are the most likely to attend your show.

Social media needs to be used in combination with good old-fashioned grassroots promoting. It can strengthen your promotional campaign, but using social media alone won't get butts on seats.

10 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Go and record/play some music. Stop pretending to have an audience and fans. Spend your time making music for your own enjoyment.
    Maybe this is just my experience, but maybe adding something about being part of the local community would help? Maybe the author is going to touch on it, but it has helped my band tremendously. We're good friends with a couple other bands in "the scene" and we hang out regularly outside of gigs and other events. Say they bring 20 people to a show we are both playing and we bring 20, you can feed off each other and create a fan base down the road. I've had multiple people tell me "I came out for X band (that we're friends with) and they told me to check you guys out. I'll definitely be coming back for you guys!" And they did. Support each other's bands and go to their shows when you can. You most likely got into a band because you enjoy music, why not listen to other music you enjoy and your friends enjoy making?
    Agreed. Author is giving only a 10,000-foot view of how to "Gig Like a Pro". There's no 'nuts and bolts' here; no real take-aways that a young upstart band could use. Just a bunch of big ideas.
    Point 3 is very important. Literally anyone is using social media, and frankly no one will actually care if you just post your gig there. Same goes with bands who have a few dozen likes and act like they had a few thousand, post studio updates and some other BS, nobody gives a flying fuck, really.
    Main issue with number 2 is that most people I've tried selling to always say that they will get the tickets later or don't have the money now. I swear I do 90% of my selling a couple days before the show because everyone waits til the last second to buy or they seem to wait until the week of to make sure they have nothing better to do before committing to the show.
    #2 If there's a promoter, they need to do their fucking job and promote it, not expect me to herd my friends into a show to help them make money.
    Thats exactly how I feel about it! Way to many times I'd get told "your has to sell X amount of tickets to be able to play". And of course wanting to play a show often times as a smaller band we'd go out of pocket just to get in front of some people that wouldn't have heard us otherwise. So many time I just wanted to be like....I'm sorry but Mr. Promoter.... by virtue of you being a promoter would it not be your job to sell tickets.... and you know....promote to ensure the costs of the venue etc. are covered? You are the one putting the show on after all are you not?
    These articles are dreadful. There's no meat on the bones here at all. If you've never played a gig before you would figure this stuff out yourself. It also actually helps promote a practice that is completely unsustainable: if you think your friends will turn out to your gigs week in week out, you're wrong. It should also not be encouraged imo, because promoters get lazy. They put on new bands CONSTANTLY as they tend to bring a bigger crowd of family and friends. But this doesn't last, nor does it actively grow a repeat business fan base that are interested in coming to that venue again because they are confident an exciting scene is emerging. Although charming, watching 4 young bands nans trying to stand up on zimmerframes throughout their grandkids set isn't exciting. This stifles any hope of a scene emerging when these young metalcore bands break up every 6 months. Well this is my experience in my home town anyway. Ultimately, just gig appropriately and try to pick a promoter who is gonna put work in too. Choose venues that have decent crowds who will be there regardless - if that means playing dingy (but full) pubs, do it. The word of mouth (if you're any good) will hopefully spread from there and your next promoting excercise will be easier. weve recently managed to win a few people over at these sorts of gigs and they have somehow managed to sell more tickets to our shows than us. Which is great, and shows the importance of connecting with a fan base, no matter how small, as this helps with promotion.
    How about, just be good. Practice, learn your craft. Be organic? No, thought not