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Discussion Starter #1
A basic truth in the music world is the more people in a bar, the more successful the gig. This is true for all parties concerned, the audience has a better time, the bar owner get's better business, and it's more fun for the band. We all know the feeling when the band out numbers the people in the crowd. So in essence, the most essential business aspect of the game is how well you draw a crowd. My band plays fairly tightly for the area we are in, and we get out often, but we can't seem to figure out how to get the crowds. Any Ideas?
 

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1) Be killin on stage.
2) Have killin players.
3) Have killin tunes and arrangements.
4) Play out regularly.
5) Get a good manager or agency to book venues where people will be anyway.
6) Have and use a mailing list.
7) Sell CDs AND (not OR) downloads.
8) Open for established headliners.
9) Play festivals and parties.
10) Stay regularly hustling and gigging out for a few years.

Even then, I think it's hit and miss. You just have to WOW people every gig, treat every gig like it's your last, you know. Book some weddings and outdoor festivals/fairs even if they pay poorly so people hear you. Doing a bar gig for free (or for like $300 for the band) usually is not "great exposure" no matter what the club owner says. If it's packed there every night, that's a different story, but then they will probably pay reasonably.

A festival or street fair is another story because you do catch all kinds of average Joe's out there walking by, and if you have a killer stage show, you've got them. Have someone working the crowd to sell them a CD and add them to your mailing list/facebook page instead of hoping they'll stick around for the break, and they'll probably eventually show up at a gig. Do this to 2,000 people, and you can expect a reliable 100 person turnout to any given gig in your area.

When you tour, go with a known local headliner that brings their people to see them (and you) and work that crowd, too. Reciprocate when that band tours in your area.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I wanted to reply, but I think Dan said it all. It may be sad for some people, but I think being good on stage, the show and image, can be way more important than the musicianship.

The one thing I would add is to know what is the right genre for the venue and locale. Presumably you are a rock and roll or blues band, then stick to that. Don't get too jazzy or introspective, keep it entertaining. that's not to say have to just do typical repertoire, there's still plenty of scope for originality, but above all work that audience, make them love you and get to know them and how to keep in touch with them.
 

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Very good advice. One question: How do you sell downloads during a gig ?
Or is the meaning that you should have both CD's and downloads available ?
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Very good advice. One question: How do you sell downloads during a gig ?
With something like bandcamp you can sell vouchers on gigs. Bandcamp give you the discount codes and you just write or print them and hand them out or sell them with your other merch.

My wife's band had some bookmarks printed up with a URL and QR code for the download store, and a space to write down the unique code when people bought the download.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks guys, great advice all around. We are a classic rock and blues band named Whiskey Creek (like us on Facebook) out the Corning area, although most of you won't know where it is. We have been playing bar gigs around 3 to 4 times a month, and although we haven't showed up at any real stage gigs, we have made a bit of a name for ourselves around the area. We consist of 4 members, a drummer on his 5th decade of professional musicianship, a bass player who's been with him since his first band, a guitarist who originally came form the Syracuse, NY area, and his 14 year old son (me) the lead sax player who has been playing for 5 years now, and can keep up pretty well. If we have one major flaw in our approach, I believe it's the lack of original music. The guitarist and I have been trying to change that. That being said I can't see how we could get away with selling cds consisting of other peoples well known music. Another flaw is showmanship. Be it breaks are to long between songs or choreography is not existent, we could put on a better show. Any advice in those areas plus how to interact with fans would be particularly interesting.
 

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My band plays fairly tightly for the area we are in, and we get out often, but we can't seem to figure out how to get the crowds. Any Ideas?
Quite simply put, play what they want to hear. You've got to know your audience.
 

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Reading the crowd is a biggie. I recently did a gig with a very good cover band where the lead singer had a brain fart, made the wrong call and lost most of the crowd for the rest of the night. Being that it was a casino, there was no shortage of other stuff for the audience to do, so they exercised their right. If you get a lukewarm reception to a funk tune, don't call another one! LOL

Here's some links to some cover bands I play with that I think do a great job of keeping their audience. A cover band is different from an original band in that you can't sell CDs... instead you base your draw on the energy of your show and the depth of your repertoire. Long breaks between tunes is a HUGE no-no. People have the option to hire DJs who keep them dancing ALL night. Be competitive. Minimize break time between sets and eliminate it altogether between tunes. You don't need to medley EVERYTHING, but have similar songs with transitions worked out in 3 or 4 tune blocks. Mash-up type things go over really great if they're done well. To transition to a tune without a break and without anything worked out, just point to the drummer, pound your fist 4 times in the new tempo indicating four on the floor and cut the band off so it's just him. Then he can do some little flashy stuff on the hi-hat or something while you hype the crowd. "How's everybody doing?" or "Are you having fun?" are nice, but "if you're ready to dance/rock/get funky, make some noise" is better. "If you're drinking tonight make some noise," etc. Alternatively you can have a tune cued up that features a solo instrument while singers have water, etc. Plenty of Van Halen tunes, or something like just the guitar part from "Rock Me Like A Hurricane," a random drum solo, laid-back keyboard improv into a slow tune, etc. will cover transition times while someone switches instruments or cues up new patches.

This is a good band I used to play with a lot that does a lot of classic rock tunes. I think SOTW member John Isley had the gig before me until he went on tour with another band. Watch the first video. They're tight, but not ridiculous. However, the show is POLISHED. The energy is great, they fill the stage, there's no question about the parts, the transitions are tight. They have some standout musicians who are featured (lead guitar is excellent), but maybe only once in the night because the focus is on the repertoire and keeping folks dancing, not on individual musicians or ego. Check out the repertoire list at the end.
http://www.newpowersoul.org/Video.htm




In this vid, the singer tells the audience to stand up and dance, pulls some girls up on stage, goes into the crowd and pulls a dude around to dance with some other people. Everybody on stage is moving the whole time




Good videos including some transitions and music covering the R&B, hip-hop and rock spectrum. In the 3rd vid, the tune is Dawn Penn's reggae classic "No, No, No," which we shoved in the middle of Rihanna's "Man Down." Way to kill some time, give the crowd a nice surprise and change up the set. Keeping things worked out and coherent will make you stand out from a million other cover bands that just do the same old same old. Don't get too crazy, but keep it interesting. Doing some arrangement also makes the band tighter because it requires rehearsal. This band looks like it's been playing a while, but the vids on this page were shot before the first gig. Also, note how the horns and singers never hold still. http://www.mixolydian.net/av.htm




If the crowd is feeling a groove, don't be afraid to stretch it out and jam on it for a while. Please ignore my shirt... **** looks like a mumu. Threw it out when I saw this!




Back to the idea of mash-ups, one of the workinest bands in New York is Rahj and the Mash (who I WISH I played with). Check them out. These guys are the BOMB on stage.
Transition, hyping the crowd, guitar solo, tune, transition. Stick and move!
It's VERY hard to find a good video of Rahj and the Mash doing their thing, but they stream live at http://thevillageunderground.com/ every Saturday night, much higher quality video than this.

Edit: Incidentally, Rahj's motto is "Everything you've ever wanted to hear, the way you never heard it before."
 

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Good stuff Dan. I'll add some observations / suggestions not necessarily geared to the performance.

The more you gig - the less likely it is that you'll be able to get your friends to come out.

You have to develop a fan base. Social networking is your friend. Have your front man encourage audience members to join your fan page on the spot. Right now. Have band members do the same on breaks. Use social networking (Facebook, Twitter etc) to post calendars and send your fans invites to every gig. I carry a smart phone. When someone asks where we are playing next, or when we will be back, I ask them if they use Facebook etc... If they say yes, I look them up and "friend" them right then.

Merchandising is a huge part of a bands success. Even for cover bands - T-shirts, hoodies, hats, sunglasses, matchbooks, condoms...anything you can logo. Not only do you make sales, but folks talk and think about you when they use / wear your merch. Have a good looking girl work the merchandising. Get 1000 guitar picks logo'd. Have the guitarists learn to flip them out into the audience. Toss out 30 or 40 (or more) a night. If you were smart and put a phone # or web addy on one side, someone will call you someday and book your band as a result.

Get a manager to coordinate all the above. It's hard to get musicians to stay focused on PR.

Or..........

Get a pro level manager and an excellent booking agent and don't mess with any of that stuff :)
 

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You know it's a bad night when you're doing a solo, and you outnumber the house. Been there. Yikes!
 

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With something like bandcamp you can sell vouchers on gigs. Bandcamp give you the discount codes and you just write or print them and hand them out or sell them with your other merch.

My wife's band had some bookmarks printed up with a URL and QR code for the download store, and a space to write down the unique code when people bought the download.
Interesting. never heard of such a thing before. Thanks Pete.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Interesting. never heard of such a thing before.
Yes, times are changing. I got a bandcamp page a few months ago, it has been a great way to offer full bandwidth downloads, plus all those merchandising features.
 
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