Are you and your band mates frustrated because you are not getting as many people to come to your live shows as you want? It's not only about getting 'new' people to come and see your band, but even most of your own friends and fans typically don't come to your live shows regularly which is making it harder to get bigger and better gigs and make more money.
If your band plays 25 gigs this year, how many of your friends/fans will come to see more than 4 of these? A very small percentage. Why?
It's (probably) not you, it's them. Let's find out why and what you can do about it.
When you ask your friends/fans to come to your next live show and see you play, what are you really asking them to do? Are you asking them to watch and listen to you perform your cool songs? No.
In reality, you are really asking people to travel all the way to some dirty club where they need to pay to get in the door. Then they will find themselves surrounded by intoxicated people who scream in one's ears because the music is too loud to talk, pay for overpriced drinks (and bad food), stand (or sit if they can find a chair) through an opening band they likely have little or no interest in, then wait again an additional 15 minutes as the stage changes from one band to the next, then finally they get to stand through 90 minutes of your band's cool songs in a room that is booming with muddy bass frequencies because the sound man does not know how to properly mix bands in a room that was never acoustically designed to have loud music played in. After the show is over they leave the club and drive home with their ears ringing and a headache.
So if that's what you ask them to do the first time, they come out to see you play. What are you asking them to do the second time? And the third time? The same thing of course.
Compare that with going to see a movie. You go to the nearest theater, you buy a ticket, you 'sit' through 5 minutes of previews, then you watch the movie. Afterwards you are home in maybe 15 minutes.
Or compare going to see your band's live show with staying at home and watching TV, listening to music, surfing the internet, or a long list of other pleasurable, easy and convenient things people can do.
The point is this: people have easier, and more convenient alternatives to have fun next weekend besides coming to see you (or any other band) play live.
As you can see, musicians fight an uphill battle to fill the venues we are performing at. We have a lot of work to do in order to get people off their butts to see your band's next live show.
Your friends and fans really need to know if it's going to be worth all the hassle described above before coming out again to see basically the same show a second, or third, or fourth time.
You first need to create a better and more unique experience for your fans from one show to the next. Some bands change the songs they play from show to show. Changing the set list does help a little bit, but you need to do more than that to really change what your fans will expect to experience.
Some bands try to be uniquely different from other bands. You don't need to be different from other bands, you need to be a good band that puts on gigs which are often different you're your other live shows! People need new reasons to come back to see you again and again. Download this special ebook to get more people at your next gig.
Think about what your band can do to make your shows unique from each other. Then, once you have ideas in place that will make your next show more special for your audience, you need to clearly and strongly communicate this to people.
I'll give you 2 great examples by comparing two rock bands I know. I'll show you how one of these bands totally packed their next several shows and the other band missed their opportunity to do the same by making a critical mistake.
Band 1: The first band put together their own show and instead of teaming up with another band, they hired a small group of (very attractive) women dancers to perform on the stage as the opening act. It was announced (before and during) the show that these women and the band would be hanging out with the audience 'after' the show at a nearby hotel lobby. People enjoyed the show and the activities that followed later. The key piece of success for the band was that they heavily promoted the event as 'special' and promoted the dancers (including embedded dancer videos on the band's and club's website) in as many places as possible. They worked very hard to promote the uniqueness of this show and told people very clearly how 'this show' was better and more special than previous shows. It didn't take long for the promotion to go viral in the area. The final result: The club was packed!
During the opening song and the band's final song the dancers came out and danced on stage, then moved into the crowd for a while and danced there too. The dancers were smart when they had the idea to integrate their act with the bands act on and off stage. They made real connections with the crowd as they mingled with them at the show and also afterwards. Both the band and the dancers did something really good for themselves. Instead of just putting on a good show and making the audience have a good time, they put a strong desire in the minds of many people there to come see them again and again.
This band did similar shows with these (and other) dancers as well as comedians and other acts (both musical and non musical) to keep their shows different from each other so that people would not only get off their butts to come to see the band for the first time, but also for a second, third, fourth, fifth and more times.
Band 2: I recently saw a second band play in Chicago. Their show also had other 'acts' that were not bands, including a pair of very attractive fire eating women who the crowd went absolutely crazy for. The only problem was there were only about 100 people in the venue to see the show (the club can hold up to 1,300 people).
The band knew the audience would love the show, but they failed to promote it well and differently than how they promoted their past shows. So at the end of the night they had 100 people who might come back to see them again. Had they promoted the event as the first band did, they would have had several hundred people coming back to see them again.
Had the show been promoted and organized more similarly to the way the first band had done, they would have several hundred people coming back to see them again at their next shows which would then almost be a guaranteed success (at least on the local level).
It's very important that your shows are unique from each other and not necessarily unique from what other bands do. In addition, the most crucial lesson to be learned is all of your 'promotion' needs to highlight each of your shows as unique, different and special events. It's not enough for your shows to actually be unique, you need to always communicate that uniqueness in all of your heavy promotion.
So what about you? I'm not simply suggesting you copy the specific ideas the other bands did above. I'm saying that you should think a lot about what you can do to make your band's future live shows different and more unique than what you normally do. Get together with your band mates and brainstorm your possibilities. To get even more ideas, you can download this free ebook about how to get more people at your next gig.
Tom Hess is a professional touring guitarist and recording artist. He teaches, trains and mentors musicians from around the world.