There is a harsh cycle every new artist/band runs into when they begin playing their first shows.
We’ll call it “The First Gig Cycle”, and it looks something like this:
Most artists (people) don’t have the commitment it takes to build an audience. They can’t stand the thought of playing to an empty room. They want to skip ahead to the part where they have a decent number of people, say 30-50, at their shows. So they begin their hunt by trying to book shows at venues out of their reach. When little (or no) venues respond, they get discouraged, and the entire process becomes much more frustrating. Artists forget that the venues they book don’t come with an audience included.
IF YOU’RE LUCKY:
If you get lucky and a nice venue books you, then yes, you will play that show. Great. But when you play to an empty room, the venue is unhappy, you are unhappy, and the few people standing in the room are uncomfortable. Nobody wins, and it’s going to be very tough to play that venue again.
The solution is to think long-term about your goals, and then prioritize your actions based on which will best position you to reach those goals. Then it becomes obvious: building positive relationships with several small venues over time will position you to reach your goals better than having one negative relationship with a big venue.
- Book small shows. Develop relationships with the venues and few fans that show up.
- Have a nicely-designed mailing list at every show. Bring a clipboard/pen (or an iPad).
- Have photos and videos taken at every show. The more content to choose from the better.
- Sort through the content and pick the best. Quality over quantity.
- Consider your (now or future) audience. Make sure this content aligns with their values.
- Strategically release content to develop an image/brand, but most importantly, your own voice.
- Find those who connect, critically listen to their feedback, and adjust.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN:
Now the cycle has changed:
This new cycle provides you with:
- More content to share
- More performance experience
- Positive venue relationships
- Honest feedback from listeners
- Developed social media presence
- Greater leverage when approaching bigger venues in the future
When you are ready to move on to bigger venues, you will bring these habits with you, and, finally, will be positioning yourself for success.
(*For direct DIY booking tips, click here.)