June 18


Protect Your Fans

By Keith Livingston

June 18, 2016

fans, live show promo, live shows

Your fans are your music success. Almost every reward, beyond the satisfaction and fulfillment you get from creating and playing music, depends on your fans. If your music were a car, the fans would be the engine. If your music were a business, the fans would be your customers. You take care of the engine in your car. You treat your customers well.

But sometimes promoters don’t understand that.

The Gig

Not too long ago, I did a gig about 25 minutes down the road (during non-traffic hours). It was a songwriter showcase a buddy of mine had recommended me for, and the promoter had contacted me. I did it, and he asked me back. I turned it down. Here’s why, and what so many promoters do that makes shows less successful.

This particular event is in a small venue (a coffee shop), and it’s held between 6 and 7PM. There’s nothing the promoter can do about the hours. The limitations are placed on him by the owner. The promoter has chosen to have 3 artists playing 20 minutes of original material each. It ends up being closer to 15 minutes, by the time one person gets off and the next is introduced.

Now, that would be an awesome schedule for a venue that had a good built-in audience who liked original music. Each artist would get exposed to a room full of potential fans. However, the night I played there, there wasn’t much of a crowd. And practically no one showed up for me, either. Why? Few fans were going to drive through traffic to see me play for 15 minutes!

Is The Gig Going To Be A Good Experience For Your Fans?

So, one question I ask myself when considering a gig is, “Will this be a good experience for my fans?” If you invite people out to a show, and they don’t have a good experience, you might not get another chance. So, you protect your fan base, at all costs.

So, when he contacted me to ask me to play again, I told him that if I could do a 40 minute set, I’d do it. It’s a nice place, and my peeps would enjoy the atmosphere. I suggested he go with a 20 minute opener, and a ‘headliner’ on for 40. I’d be willing to do the 20 up front too (but I wouldn’t necessarily promote it heavily). There would be a better chance of there being a few people there to see the main act.

He disagreed, and told me that dividing it 20/40 would “take someone’s slot away”.

I Want A Gig I Can Feel Good Promoting

But for 20 minutes, when it’s tough for people to get there, I’m not going to promote much, if at all. If I do promote a gig like that, I’m very clear about it. “I’m doing 15 minutes down at Cafe Haven, in Anytown. Drop by, if you’re in the neighborhood.” And that’s not ideal for me.

I’d like a gig I can feel good about promoting, because I know it’s going to be a great experience for the people that come to see me. And the promoter wants a full house. And that’d more likely to happen, if I’m promoting too.

Why Take Gigs

A gig should move your music goals forward, in some way. There should be a chance to play in front of new potential fans, or provide a nice experience for your current fans, or exposure to the right people, or money. Or maybe you just need to run through your set, before that big show next month. Some of those types of gigs I may be more interested in promoting to my existing fans, than others 🙂

If You’re A Promoter. . .

I know. You book acts that think bringing people in the door is completely up to you. But some of us realize that filling a venue is a joint effort between the acts, and the promoters. Talk to you acts, and find out what they’re doing to promote your shows. Suggest ways to promote. Provide them with promotional materials — It’s a lot easier for a group to post a poster you’ve made, than to make one themselves and post it. Write promo copy for them, that they can cut and paste. Ask them what would make them really feel good about promoting.

Put them on the bill with acts that fit well, and point them to promo materials for that band too. Especially if an artist is doing a short set, they can promote it as a night of fun, rather than just them — but only if they know the quality of the other acts, and what their music sounds like.

If You’re A Musician. . .

Protect your fans. Do everything you can to make sure that if they come to see you, they’ll have a good experience. Don’t promote a gig otherwise. Ask venues about things such as parking and directions (anything that can make it easier for your people). Work hard for the good promoters — do your part.


Keith Livingston

About the author

Keith Livingston started recording his own music in the late '70s, on a 4-track. He worked his way into live sound and studio work as an engineer -- mixing in arenas, working on projects in many major studios as a producer/engineer, and working in conjunction with an independent label.

He taught audio engineering at the Art Institute of Seattle, from 1990-1993, and in '96, contributing to authoring several college-level courses there.

He was General Manager of Радио один (Radio 1) in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Now he spends his time recording his own songs wherever he roams, and teaching others to do the same.

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