I talk to lots of bands in lots of towns all across the country, and I absolutely love it when someone tells me nobody in their town goes to shows. It’s as if the community held a town-hall meeting and decided, unanimously and enthusiastically, that they will no longer attend live music performances. Sometimes I like to picture the mayor smashing a guitar in celebration.
It’s absurd to say or believe that no one in a particular town goes
to shows. When people say “nobody in this town goes to shows,” what
they’re really saying is:
1) “We didn’t promote.”
2) “We did promote, but in an extraordinarily half-assed 1987 way. We
put fliers on the cars at Wal-Mart and put up posters at the club. Oh,
and we sent a Myspace bulletin.”
3) “Nobody in this town goes to our shows.”
I hear the “nobody goes to shows” thing a lot in New York. While
it’s true that large cities have greater competition for people’s
entertainment money, I’d wager my bank account and yours that no New
Yorker has ever entertained the question “What am I going to do tonight
… the Guggenheim or Arlene’s Grocery?” Very, very few people just
happen upon a show. You, the artist, have to reach them and draw them
in. If they want to go, they’ll go.
Drawing comes down to quality, recognition and promotion. First, be
fucking outstanding at what you do. Second, make sure people know
you’re fucking outstanding at what you do. Then, do absolutely
everything in your power to let them know, one on one, when and where
you’re playing. Fliers in themselves are nearly useless, and so are
Myspace bulletins. Mass e-mails are a little better because the
person’s already heard your band. The most effective means of promotion
are individual. I’m talking Facebook friend messages (not just
invitations), text messages and telephone calls.
It’s a lot of work, but so is everything else in this business. So get working.
John Zaremba is the guitar player, booking agent and tour manager
for Say When, a rock band from Boston that has been touring the country
since August of 2007. He can be reached at email@example.com