10 Things To Do Before Playing The First Show

My search for other musicians is going extremely dreadful.  I’m keeping at it, hitting Craigslist and the weekly magazines daily, but, so far, nothing.  Now, I’m going to shows and talking to EVERYONE if they know a guitarist or drummer.  Something will happen, but this process might take longer than I thought.

So, until then, I figured there’s other things to work on for a band before the first show (or, um, the first other band member…erk..).  The following is a brainstorm of things I will be doing while trying to find band members.  Please read and let me know what you think!

1. Physical promotion

Even without a band, I might as well start getting people interested in it.  I’m going to start designing fliers with my band’s name and a little slogan.  I’m going to put these fliers EVERYWHERE.  At clubs I want to play, at high traffic locations, all around where the weekly rags are published.

In addition, I’m going to create business cards and small handbills to hand out to everyone and leave everywhere.  I’ll leave the fliers on tables everywhere I go.

The last thing I’m going to do is a fun experiment.  I’m going to design beer coasters and give them to bars.  I’m not sure how much good it’ll do, but I think I’ll get a kick out of seeing my band’s logo at every bar in town!  Haha!

2. Prepare social media and have a unique plan for each service

I will open accounts with the following services:

  • Facebook:  I’m going to take a more personal approach with Facebook.  I want to be more personal and have fun with people.  Facebook will be more for making friends than selling crap and yelling at people to come to shows.
  • Twitter:  This service will be more stream of consciousness.  What am I doing with my music at the moment?  Anything interesting?  Did the guitarist just pee himself?
  • YouTube:  Of course I’ll put up my music videos and live videos.  However, I think there are other creative opportunities here, such as weekly webcasts.  I’ll need to play with this service to make it another, interesting way of communicating.
  • ReverbNation:  Tons of free embeddable widgets and free services.  Hopefully they have some HTML5 solutions by now…
  • ArtistData:  A music calendar system that syncs across multiple databases and social media sites.  Makes posting shows much easier.
  • Ping.fm:  Update multiple statuses and blogs from one place.
  • MySpace:   Ugh…just have to.  Mainly for bookers and people wanting to quickly hear music.  Who knows?  They may even make a comeback…

3. Create strategies and goals for shows

My last band didn’t have a very clear goal other than to play a lot of shows.  We didn’t put much effort into the promotion of a show, we didn’t have a social media strategy, and we didn’t have a plan so that we wouldn’t burn out…which we did.

I’m going to create a well defined set of bare minimum things we’ll have to do for each show (like fliers, interviews, advertising).  Also, I’ll make sure that the show promotion will occur in a timely manner, not just the week before the show.  Preferably, one month ahead of time.

With shows, I will also make a strategy around how often to play in any one city and also how far to travel.  People are less likely to come out to a show if you’re playing the same city every week.  Also, if you can’t keep repeatedly hitting the same cities throughout the year, it’s not worth going to those cities.  I’ve toured from Bellingham, WA down to San Diego and back.  San Diego is not easily repeatable because of everyone’s work schedule, lives, and money.  And if I can’t hit a town at the drop of a hat, it’s not worth going, in my opinion.  I need to repeatedly build an audience.  The first time will probably only win over one or two people.  I need to build on that, and that means I need to be able to get back to that city to play a cool show.  That’s not feasible if it’s a 24 hour drive.

Currently, I’m thinking I will stay within a 3 to 4 hour radius of Seattle.  As for frequency, only once a month for any city with the exception of as many shows as possible for the first 3 months.  In the first 3 months, I want everyone to hear about Shiplosion, so I need to get that name out there.  Still, I’m not going to play exclusively in Seattle.

Finally, I need to work out the time involvement so the band doesn’t burn out.  Maybe, 2 to 3 months of playing shows, then take a month off.  During that month, create new music, create new merch, or get into the recording studio.  I’m not sure what the right balance will be, but I don’t want to be going non-stop without making progress or gaining fans.  Also, I want everyone in the band to be having FUN and being happy with the project.

4. Figure out themes, topics, and markets

For Shiplosion, I want a fun, party atmosphere at shows.  The theme is based on getting the audience hyper, drinking, and happy.  I need to develop this theme further and get a bit more specific on how to accomplish this.  I just got the idea yesterday to always put “shi” in front of certain words that start with ‘P’.  For instance, “Shi-Party Animals!”

Though Shi-Partying is fun, I’ll need more specifics for musical content.  I need to research different topics that I’ll cover in the material.  So, from the theme, start developing more specific topics like maybe party anecdotes, silly things that have happened, or just songs about being yourself and getting things done.  I need to brainstorm more on this.

Once I’ve got the theme and topics, I need to research what “markets” I can appeal to.  Are there non-music magazines that would be into those topics?  Other hobbies that might overlap?  College students or grumpy old men?  With this knowledge, I can find unique ways promote my music.  Maybe write a song about cats.  Everyone loves those damn cats.

5. Website design

Man, I have a love-hate relationship with web design.  On one hand, I’m a geek that loves to tinker with HTML and CSS.  On the other, there’s only so many damn hours in the day.  The site of my last band was a nightmarish disaster.  First, the singer designed it using Dreamweaver and just published it.  As soon as I went to edit the site, all I could see was all the tons of crazy crap that Dreamweaver dumped into the HTML.  No CSS whatsoever.  I spent hours upon hours just to gut out the crap.  Then, for some odd reason, the damn site wouldn’t center.    To make matters worse, I started loading it up with widgets that just didn’t match each other.  Then I went through nightmarish hours dealing with installing Blogger after they decided to stop supporting FTP.  If you want to see the ugliness, go to THE THEM’s website.

I had a simpler and sexier design to replace that crap, but then the band broke up.

So, now I have a chance to do it again from scratch.  This time, I want to KEEP IT SIMPLE!!!  Currently, the new site for Shiplosion is just a place-holder.  But, I want it to be nice, clean, and not a headache of widgets everywhere.  I’m going to storyboard what I want for the site, and follow a simple format.  I’ll make sure to get a separate post going on that.

For the site, I will start it off with just a simple to read calendar of shows, and simple ways to hear/download the music.  And, of course, to join the mailing list.

Since I don’t have any music or shows, right now, I was thinking of simply putting something cryptic like “Shiplosion…It’s going to hit the fan…”  Then, put something like “Click here to join the Shi-Party!”

6. Get the e-mail list started.

I used ReverbNation’s FanReach previously.  This time, I’m going to experiment with FanBridge.  Before doing that, however, I’m going to look at its feature set to see if I can do scheduled newsletters and see if it has any advanced features that would allow me some automation and customization.  There may be a better e-mail list manager out there.

7. Write a song a week!

I only have one song, right now.  In order to play a show, I need about half an hour of material.  That’s probably around 10 songs.  In order to be operational within a few months, I need to get writing.

I’m forcing myself to write one song a week.  The song doesn’t need to be earth shatteringly awesome.  In fact, it might even suck horribly.  However, I need to constantly have my brain in song creation mode.  I need a lot of material in a short period of time.

8. Research other local bands that sound similar to mine

I need to keep my eyes out on bands playing around town that I want to do shows with.  Put these bands on a list to contact them for opening spots on shows.  Also, I need to go see them and see how I can reasonably differentiate my own band to stick out.  What clubs do they play?  I need to go out to their shows and meet them.  Make friends before day 1 of playing a show.

9. Create a list of places to play

I’m going to find all the clubs that have bands play.  Of those clubs, I’m going to narrow it down to the smallest clubs possible.  For each club, I’m going to read their sites to see if they have specifics that they want the band to do.  For instance, I don’t do pay-to-play or ticketing schemes from clubs, so i can safely eliminate them.

The initial list will be for clubs within an hour and a half of Seattle.  I hate using MySpace, so I’ll try to have the e-mail contacts of each of these clubs for easy access.

10. Design graphics and merchandise

Fun and time consuming!  I’m going to create some graphics and designs that I can use for t-shirts, fliers, and on the web.  I want to have a large set of graphics I can pull on at any point in the future.  I’ve already begun on the logo and fonts, but now I need some fun designs for merchandise.  I’m not a graphic design expert, so cool artwork is a slow process for me.

The above was a brain dump, and obviously quite a bit to get started with.  Did I leave something out?

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4 Responses to 10 Things To Do Before Playing The First Show

  1. spindles says:

    I’m three sentences in and i love this post!

    • Haha! Be careful of the fifth sentence.

      This was a brain-dump. After I finished writing this, I looked at it and sighed, “Crap. I have to do all of this?” Feel free to call me out on anything I listed or overlooked.

  2. Spooky says:

    Burn out is hard to avoid. PWP eventually decided to keep to two shows a month- one in town and one out town. Usually the monthly local show is reserved for touring bands that we show swap with. If there are no touring bands coming through town, we won’t play locally every month. This schedule does not include our usual summer tour. We also decided to stop playing shows while we were are working on recording projects as the gigs would always find a way to detract from the work in the studio.

  3. Pingback: What 5 Things Can I Do For My Band TODAY? | How To Run A Band

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