In our recently concluded series, "How to Get a Gig," we learned a systematic approach to building and marketing a band. We saw how to win gigs by relationship building even if you aren't a born salesman. But what happens when you get the gig? We have all heard how competitive the music business is, but what can we do to stay on the winning side of that competition? What are the secrets that the longest-lived working bands know about staying relevant? Here we will look at Eleven Secrets to Keeping Your Gig.
Number One: Sweat the small stuff
Run your band like a business with military precision. Start sets on time, keep your commitments, regularly request the announcements/specials and promote them, never allow dead air during the show, run the most commercial sets you have, maintain a sober demeanor, etc. This is one of the most important principles to keeping your gig, because this is stuff any manager or server can see even if they don't know a thing about music. This is how you keep your credibility up with the venue, and it could mean the difference between success and failure when the numbers are down.
Number Two: Connect with everyone that comes through the door
Tight, clichéd banter might have worked great for Ace Frehley in 1976, but every bar band since has beaten these classics to death. And maybe audiences reacted positively to bar bands imitating concert acts in the 80s, but 35 years later, they're more inclined to roll their eyes. Party with your fans, don't perform for them. Instead of playing rock star, try interacting with patrons on a personal level. Some musicians are brilliant at doing this, casually interacting with patrons as naturally as if they were sitting at the same table, "Okay, so how about you folks in the corner? What's going on there? Oh, it's a birthday! Who's the victim?" This technique makes your customers feel welcome and important, and it is a fabulous segue into the 3rd strategy:
Number Three: Make a point of meeting everyone in the bar
During breaks, take time to circulate among the tables and greet your fans. Say hello, learn names, ask for requests, and thank everyone for coming. Create a simple system for remembering people until you know them really well. Even just a list of the people you see regularly in each venue can be a big help. Glance it over before you enter the venue and try to visualize each person's face from the name on the list. When you see them, the name will spring to mind much more quickly.
Number Four: Get to know the staff and make sure the patrons do, too
Include your bartenders, servers and managers in your audience interaction. Use their names constantly. The more personal they seem to the patrons, the better tips they will earn. Build them up into personalities; make them celebrities in the club. All things being equal, people buy from their friends. By making the servers friends of the patrons, you will sell more. By making yourself friends with the patrons, you will draw better. By making yourself friends with the staff, you will get more gigs.
Number Five: Track birthdays and special events and actively solicit them
Ask your fans about special events and parties coming up and offer to throw a party for them at the club. Depending upon the venue, you may even be able to arrange bottle service and reserved seating. The secret on this is keeping track of those birthdays and inviting them to spend them with you. Social media sites like Facebook and Google+ offer access to birthdays.
Number Six: Religiously collect contact info and keep in touch with fans
These days the easiest way to network with fans is through your personal social media account (or one created for the purpose). Connect with as many of your fans as possible, and regularly visit their pages and interact with them by 'liking' photos or posts. A great way to create interaction is to have someone go around and take photos of all your fans at your events, then invite them to visit your social media page to see them. Make sure to reply to every comment or message you receive. Use Event features on social media to advertise upcoming shows and encourage people to RSVP.
Number Seven: Keep your website current and interactive
There is no excuse for having a lackluster website these days. Go check out the various hosting sites that offer user-friendly web page design apps. These are very reasonable and because they are so easy to modify you can remodel your site as often as you like (at least once a year!). Make sure you continuously offer new candid shots of the band and the fans on your website and engage with every person that leaves a comment. And take steps to make certain that fans can easily find out about your upcoming shows without searching around the site!
Number Eight: Keep up with the competition
Once you get a regular gig, it is easy to become complacent and isolated from the scene. After all, you are working most nights that shows are happening, so you can easily get out of touch with what is happening around town. Find some folks who get around to see a lot of bands and ask them how happening the other bands' shows are. Every once in a while, purposely open up a weekend night so you can cruise around and check out the other bands. Are they drawing the same as you? What styles are they playing? How is the audience responding? How many familiar faces from your own shows do you see among their fans?
Number Nine: Keep your material fresh
Add new material constantly, both songs and variety content (such as jokes or toasts, etc). Periodically shelve a part of your set list for a time to allow the songs to rejuvenate. You can always do one of them if an insistent fan brings you a request. But if you rest the material before people grow weary of it, you can use it indefinitely.
Number Ten: Understand that your next gig depends on your bar sales
It doesn't matter how good you are. It only matters how much you sell. Ask the bar manager for sales figures regularly and take the job of packing the room seriously. Always look for creative ways to draw an audience, and always consider new ways to encourage them to spend liberally.
Number Eleven: Don't take yourself too seriously; keep it fun
Incorporate humor in your show. If you are having fun and interacting with your audience, they will have a great time too.
What methods do you use to keep your gigs? Let us know in the comments below.
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