How to Get More People to Your Gigs

Pulling crowds is hard work, but there are ways to make it easier.

Ultimate Guitar
It's not easy getting people to your shows when you're starting out.

You don't have a name, you don't have a reputation, and you're asking people to take a punt on your music pretty much out of the blue. While a network of friends and family are on hand to show their support, getting he general public to check you out is a different story.

I won't lie to you. There isn't a single, magical solution for getting large numbers of people to your gigs (especially paid entry gigs). If there was, there'd be a lot more professional musicians in the world.

That said, there are a number of common pitfalls to avoid when promoting, as well as strategies you can use to maximize the attendance at your shows. I've listed some of them below.

If you're sick of playing to single figure crowds (mostly comprising the parents of bandmembers), you might want to give this a read.

Come Up With a Promotion Schedule

Ever been in the situation where you're a week away from a show and you realize that you've forgotten to invite friends to the Facebook event page? Or found yourself frantically calling friends at 11 p.m. the night before your big gig begging them to show up and bring as many friends as they can?

This happens surprisingly often, and it's because people don't think about scheduling time to promote their shows. They promote inefficiently as a result and don't get the numbers to a show that they should.

Next time you've got a gig confirmed, sit down and work out how many weeks you've got until that gig. Then, decide what you're going to do in terms of promotion in the time frame that you have. You'll probably want to start by setting up a Facebook group as soon as possible, as well as looking into organizing any magazine or radio promotion you want to do). Then, in the weeks before the show, you'll want to do more direct, targeted marketing like putting up posters and flyering (more on that in a sec). Finally, you can use the days before the show to call up friends and fans to remind them that the show is happening.

Structure your promotional time effectively, and you'll be amazed at how attendance improves.

Use Social Media Effectively (But Not Exclusively)

Twitter and Facebook are great platforms for letting people know about your gigs... so long as you know how to use them.

This one comes back to scheduling. Spamming people with daily posts about your upcoming show is more likely to put them off than get them to come along, while leaving it until the last minute before posting about a show is unlikely to get people through the door.

Regular, scheduled posts (as a rule of thumb, I'd say one a week with extra posts on the day before and the day of the gig) keep people in the loop without boring them. Also, make sure that your posts are concise, easy to read and grammatically sound. The last thing you want is for people to not show up to your gig because they didn't understand your message.

While we're on the subject, you can't use social media as the sole means to promote a gig. Social media is a useful tool in your arsenal, but it isn't the be-all, end-all. Posts are easy to ignore, and get lost easily in the stream of content that clogs up peoples' feeds. Facebook and Twitter posts should be used to consolidate the more hands-on promotional work that you're doing. Use them on your own, and attendance will suffer.

Use Flyers and Posters in a Targeted Way

Flyers and posters are great, grassroots promotional tools. But the amount of bands that don't know how to use them continues to baffle me.

The pervading idea seems to be that putting up posters means canvassing as many surfaces as you can. I can sort of see the logic: the more places our poster is, the more people will get to know about our show. But, before you go out and pin your promotional material to every notice board, bus stand and underpass wall in your city, ask yourself whether fans of your music are likely to congregate in those spaces.

Putting posters in the places where your fans aren't, is unstrategic, and a waste of your promotional energy. Rather than broadly canvassing, you should be targeting the places where potential fans of your band are hanging out and hitting them hard. Record stores, instrument stores, hip coffee bars or local music venues - wherever the music lovers in your city congregate is where you need to be.

Similarly, you don't want to be handing out flyers to any old randomer on the street. Hit people up when they're queuing for popular gig nights of a similar genre to your band (check with the venue before you do this. Generally, they'll be cool with it, especially if it's the venue your band will be playing, but you don't want to rub anyone up the wrong way).

While you're at it, don't just silently pass out your handbills to your potential new fans. Be active and make a positive impression. Compliment them on their choice of band shirt, tell them about the sort of thing your band does. Being friendly and engaging will make people remember you, and more likely to turn up at your show.

Make Sure You Can Promote a Show Before You Book It

Promoting shows takes time and energy, so make sure that you can put time into it before you book the gig.

Having lots of gigs on the calendar can be great. It's an incentive to work hard on your music and makes you feel like a real, full-time musician. But, if you're not getting anybody turning up to those shows, you're kind of wasting your time.

If you've got a big, paid entry gig scheduled into the calendar, you don't want to book any more ticketed shows in the weeks either side of it unless you're confident that you can bring people through the door. Otherwise, you'll inevitably end up promoting one gig at the expense of the other, or doing a half-assed job of promoting both of them.

When you're a new band on the scene, playing a really well attended show to a sold out crowd once a month is better than playing four almost-empty venues in a week. So don't be afraid to turn down a show if you don't think you can get the people in.

By Alec Plowman

11 comments sorted by best / new / date

    No matter if you're playing in or outside your hometown, always get a local band to play the show with you. The more well-known, the better. This may be the difference between 10 and 100 people showing up.
    May be true, but then again, might sometimes not turn out as expected. As in, if the other band plays before yours, their fans could leave after their performance, not staying for yours. And if the other band plays after yours, their fans may show up... too late for yours. Been in the above situation a few times, both as the suffering band and the non-suffering band... it really sucks either way and, sadly, sometimes really happens.
    The problem with out of state gigs is that promoters don't promote anymore. When I was in a touring band in the 90's the promoters had ties with the community and knew how to get people to a show. Today the "promoters" send out some invites on Facebook and think their job is done. I get that that band is responsible for promotion, but hanging up flyers for a show in a city 500 miles away might be a bit much to ask.
    You're absolutely right. #2 on the above list doesn't only apply to the bands, but the venues, the 'promoters,' and even down to the local scene in general. If the venue hasn't agreed to pay you anything for your gig, they really don't care if anyone shows up, it seems. And if you DON'T make them a pile of money, you're band isn't exactly the first one they call to play the bigger national gigs. It's a lose/lose situation for everyone. Secondly, people within the local scene will spout all of this nonsense about how they're 'soooo big into local music' and preach about supporting local bands and establishments, but don't even show up to local-only gigs. This is frustrating because any local band relies on the locals as much as the scene itself relies on the local bands. The whole local music industry needs to change if any grass-roots group wants to make it out of their hometown. Oftentimes, promoters are just middle men between the band and the crowds. Just one more person to take a cut of any profits. Their job often consists of writing down a few band names into a calendar and posting about it on Facebook the week before. This isn't promoting. Anyone can do that. I'm not knocking local promoters, just the ones that do this, which is already too many.
    Other useful things I have learned over the years to keep the audience there: 1. ALWAYS put the most popular local band on as headline, and NEVER so the audience has to miss the last bus. Spread the other popular bands throughout the rest of the bill. 2. Make every band provide part of the backline. 3. Pay every band petrol AS AN ABSOLUTE MINIMUM. Take enough money out beforehand. 4. Pay everyone at the end of the night and not before. 5. Don't be frightened of cancelling a gig that not enough people are going to. Half the Facebook count and work on that. 6. Just because you've booked bands doesn't make you more popular so don't get too upset when no-one comes. Respond by playing well and giving the other bands a job to beat your performance. Even Black Flag played to the other bands. A LOT.
    i have true look and good view about good luck in have different way in that before isee the normal at music ishow the exclusive in it and feel that
    Some good advice here. I have found to that sometimes the shows with the smaller crowd in a smaller venue are the best shows.