ello and welcome to section four of my mini-series, Beating the Music Industry. Within this section of The Unsigned Guide, you will find contact details for UK venues, promoters and festivals, all of which have unsigned gigs or slots available.
Before embarking on the inevitable tour that every band and artist wants to sink their teeth into, it’s necessary to plan an extensive period of rehearsals to develop your sound to a point where you’re ready for the live campaign. You should also discuss various aspirations and levels of commitment of the musicians in your band.
If you’re looking for venues outside of the UK, providing you subscribe to The Unsigned Guide online, you should find contact details for promoters willing to offer a travelling band the opportunity to play on the same bill as several local acts.
A promoter that applies his unsigned trade ethically, will only be prepared to do this if it’s cost effective and make themselves money. When contacting out-of-town venues and promoters, always be aware of this and always be honest about the size of crowd you’re likely to draw away from your hometown. At this level, a word-of-mouth campaign between friends and family to generate interest in your music and your band, would fundamentally stand you in a better position to negotiate.
While playing gigs, self-promotion is key, especially for new and up-and-coming bands and artists. Try and employ as many conventional marketing techniques as you can, including well designed print, with solid distribution as well as appropriate online promotion. Setting up an unsigned night with other unsigned bands that you know on the circuit, is also another good form of self-promotion and if done well, can help increase your fanbase.
One thing to note is that you should stick to one rehearsal room, as changing rooms for each rehearsal will affect the acoustics of the sound, making it harder for a band or artist to come up with their own unique sound. Alternatively, in an ideal world you should hunt down you should hunt down a secure ‘lock out’ facility which gives you 24 hour rehearsal access.
Getting A Sound Engineer
When you do your first gigs, you’ll need a sound engineer. Most unsigned venues will supply an engineer on the night, but in order to develop your out-front/monitor sound, it’s advisable to recruit your own engineer who can get to know the band’s sound and give you the best possible sound each time you play. Bear in mind that a working engineer will charge anywhere upwards of £75 per show.
Your First Gigs
Early gigs should be used to develop your set; making changes to things such as songs and running orders. It is almost an extention of your rehearsal sessions. The idea is to perfect your performance and settle on a basic stage set-up that you’ll feel comfortable with, and which will maintain the attention of the audience.
Developing Your Fan Base
Promoters should always be willing to book you once, but if you don’t attract you own audience of at least 25-30 people (this can even be friends and/or family), it’s unlikely that you’ll be re-booked – harsh but true! Make the effort to get people you know down to your gigs. It’s crucial in helping to develop your fan base and your working relationship with local venues and promoters.
Print & Promotion
Make sure that when you do gigs, you keep your fans engaged and interested with future dates and any promotional material you may have, such as gig listings, demos/ep’s, etc. This is also referred to as a press junket. This can help promote you band and music in the early stages of touring, alongside word-of-mouth, which will help promote your band and music in the beginning.
At each gig you do, try and collect contact information from the people who attend your shows. These names will form the basis for your mailing list. Add to these journalists and reporters from the local press, music magazines, listing guides and websites and before you know it, you’ll have a reasonable list of people to mail your gig and release information to each time you gig or release a new demo, album/single or download.
Building Your Audience
A theme which will come up time and again will be word-of-mouth. For most aspects of self-promotion, this will help build your fanbase, and venues will be more than likely to re-book you again, providing the response from the crowd is good enough. For example - if you bring 30 friends to your first gig, of which 10 tell another 2 or 3 of their friends how good your show was, at the next gig you may have another 20 or so turn up, giving you an audience of 40 -45 fans. This is all down to the power of word-of-mouth.
This is it for live performance, so one thing to bear in mind is that if you take this approach and you promote yourself well enough, you’ll see your fan base grow in size (little by little, but then every little helps). Stay tuned for section five next week which will be on ‘Management Companies’.