At a previous soul-sucking job in the corporate computer world, the importance of “being there” was often preached ad-nauseum by our overpaid management. Before I abandoned the banality of corporate life, I took away one important lesson: when you are there as an active, contibuting member of a team, family, neighborhood, or any other community, it goes a very very long way.
It’s common sense to say that the most interested and active people in a music scene are those who play in bands themselves. Clearly, they have a vested interest in making music, performing, and growing their overall audience.
Unfortunately, it’s all too common to see bands only go to shows that their band is playing or stand outside before or after their set. All the while they are absent at anything that doesn’t pertain to their band. These are major problems for your band, and let us tell you why.
If your band is serious about getting outside of your home town and reaching a broader audience, you need to network, make connections within your community, and leave a positive impression. Like the old saying goes, it’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know. You could be the next Radiohead, but it wouldn’t matter unless you made those connections with other bands in your area who more than likely know other people that you don’t know. Just like you probably know people that they don’t know. Thus, like in any professional role, new opportunities arise when you expand your network of contacts, it’s a fact.
If you become known within a community as that group of people that only goes out to their own shows or doesn’t watch other bands in the process, your peers will take notice of this. The same goes for the opposite, people take notice when you go out and support other shows when your band isn’t playing. More often than not, they’ll feel compelled to do the same for you since they begin to see you as a supportive group of awesome people. When your existence as a band is dependent on winning people over to your cause by liking your band, you need to be humble and selfless. The audience is your customer, you must earn their loyalty by making lasting, positive impressions on them. Always remember that other bands are part of the audience, and more often they have greater influence over their peers when compared to general audience members.
Let’s say hypothetically you own a small retail business where you sell antique clocks. If you have a customer come into your business and you ignore him or her, you’re rude, or you flat out show lack of interest in him or her supporting your business, what would happen? You’d be lucky if they bought your product, and if they did, you’d be extremely lucky if they came back a second time to buy your product. Now let’s say a representative from “Antique Clock Weekly” comes into your business and you do the same, this representative may go and tell other antique clock enthusiasts that you frankly are not an active, contributing member to the antique clock community. In the process, you lose your reputation which is EVERYTHING when it comes to music. Always remember: Your audience is your customer.
Also, a big pet peeve of ours is when local bands play a show and hang outside the venue before or after their set, not bothering to watch any of the other bands that night. Would you want people to go outside during your set? Probably not! If your friends see you outside, they more than likely won’t watch the bands inside either if they aren’t familiar with them (and more than likely they are not familiar with them). If you’re in a local band, you have an obligation to go and watch your peers a show that you’re playing, and bring your friends inside with you while you’re at it!
We’ve had nights over the years where we’ve had 4-6 bands play, over 200 people come through the door, and only 40-60 people watching each band. It’s a lot more fun to play a show when you have all 200 people in the room at the same time.
Even if you don’t like the band, go and watch them and be supportive, it goes a long way because people notice it when you don’t watch their set! We can tell you right now that the bands we want to book are the ones who come down often, talk to people, buy some merch from other bands, bring some friends inside with them, and generally are positive about the music community as a whole. It doesn’t matter that much to us how good you may be, we’d much rather book a band that was awful that supported their fellow musicians than a band who is ridiculously good and walks around with their noses turned up at everyone else. Being a jerk in the music business gets you nowhere!
Bands like the Swellers, Chiodos, the Suicide Machines, Kid Brother Collective, etc. nearly all went to every show in their community when they were starting out. People remembered this and then returned the favor by coming out to their shows, purchasing their merch, and spreading their name to more people. I personally remember Nick and Jonathan Diener coming down to nearly every single show every weekend in Flint. People recognized this and it reflected very positively on the Swellers. People wanted to help them succeed because they were great people first and talented musicians second.
Building a network and community of musicians takes dedication from everyone involved. No local band is “too good” to where they don’t need support from other bands in the area. This is why you rarely ever see only one band on a bill. You need to support each other if anyone wants to get outside of a basement.
Moreover, if you are serious about growing your band, you must recognize that you can only play in front of your friends and family for so long. Believe it or not, they will eventually stop coming to your shows. Thus, you need to expand your audience outside of your immediate circle. Often by watching other bands, talking to them, and leaving a positive impression on them as someone who cares about supporting a community, you’d be very surprised at the kind of opportunities that will come your way.
So next time you see a bill with no one you’ve heard before, go check it out with an open mind, you never know who you could see or meet in the process. It’s more than likely cheaper than a movie (it almost always is at the Local), you’ll probably have a great time by expanding your horizons, and you might help your own band in return.
In summation, if you want more people to go to your shows, GO to more shows in your scene! Keep a positive attitude, meet people, make connections, support your fellow bands, watch their sets, and you’d be surprised where it can get you.
Rebuilding our music community starts with you. We need you to be there.
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