We've all got to eat. It's the way we sustain ourselves. But when it comes right down to it, would you rather have a microwaved frozen dinner or a good old-fashioned home-cooked meal?
Some of you may have said, "frozen dinner is good enough," and that's okay. But let's assume that you receive dinner invitations from two separate friends for the same evening. One invitation says, "Come on over for dinner and I'll throw some frozen enchiladas in the microwave. The other says, "Come on over for dinner. I'll be making some homemade enchiladas from a recipe that my grandmother used when she grew up in San Antonio. I've always loved Mexican food, and I've never tasted anything better than these. I'll also be preparing some authentic rice and beans and we'll have some ice-cold Mexican beers to wash it down with." Now, assuming that you enjoyed the company of both of these friends equally and they lived the same distance from your house, which invitation do you think you'd be more likely to accept?
There’s a certain appreciation for someone who takes the time to create something truly wonderful and different from what you might normally expect, or from what you're used to. And that appreciation goes even deeper if they're doing something that you know might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, or something that you might find difficult or impossible to re-create on your own.
If you're a musician, you sustain yourself through the people who you touch with your music. When you play your live shows, you're sustaining your financial ability to create more music and play more shows by the number of people that you touch with your music. You want people to leave the venue after your shows saying "That was sooo good... I'm stuffed!," but maybe even take a little doggy bag of merch home with them. You want to be the gourmet chef on the stage, creating something so delicious that everyone who tastes it has to tell their friends about it.
So why do you only send out microwaved Internet invitations to your shows?
Technology has given us a multitude of tools to simplify the process of collecting and preparing the necessary “ingredients” to create and distribute notifications of your upcoming shows to the people who might attend them. We have access to email lists, social media followers and dedicated fans, all at the touch of our smartphones or PC keyboards. We can literally serve up our show invitations to hundreds, maybe thousands, of possible show-goers with a few simple clicks. But then you take only a couple of ingredients to a potentially successful show and plop and squirt them into your invitation. You go with the quick and easy method instead of taking the time to create something mouth-watering.
Younger musicians may not remember the days before streaming music. As a kid, (yes, I’m dating myself here), even buying a single CD was a decision I didn’t take lightly. I could only afford to buy one album every week or two, and I treated it as an investment. Maybe even as a personal statement. It was something I was going to live with for a little while, and to some degree, I needed to be “sold” on it before I even got the store. I might have read about it in a magazine. A friend might have been raving about it the day before, replaying the best parts for me with his air guitar. And when I’d get to the store, rarely would I just grab it out of the case and run to the counter. I’d take a moment to read the liner notes, check what musicians played on it, who produced it and maybe even compare it with other earlier albums by the same artist.
Now you might already be thinking “Fans can get all that info from our website.” But the reality of social media is that they’re just as likely to swipe to the next video appearing in their Facebook feed of a dog riding a skateboard. For this very reason, you need to entice your audience, make human connection, and get them excited about the personal experience they’re going to have attending one of your shows.
Sure, it takes a little longer to list the other bands on the bill for your show. It takes time to cut and paste links to those bands' web pages on your social media invites where your invited guests can have a quick listen to their music, in case they might not be familiar with them. Remember that you're inviting people to enjoy a five-course meal of music, not just a microwaved frozen entree (aka "your band"). You may have to think a little bit to write something engaging––using adjectives and adverbs––that “sells” your show by spicing it up and giving it flavor. You'll want to spend a little time each day leading up to the show prompting your invited fans––marinating them––to remember that you have a show coming up; whether it be by general posts on your social media, individual personal messages or even a phone call. Let them know that you're cooking up something special, help them smell the aromas of that delicious musical meal, and remind them that you'd like them to join you at the dinner table for the feast.
On almost any given night, no matter how dedicated your fans might be, they have opportunities to attend other shows with other bands, some of which (gulp) might be better than yours. You and I certainly hope that's not the case, but why would you jeopardize your next meal by taking shortcuts when you send out your invitations, instead of investing a few extra minutes to let them know that your event will be well worth their time and effort to attend.
You want to sustain your career and satisfy your fans' hunger? Then throw away your microwave and try some home cooking.
“GIG BOSS” is an independent concert promoter in Southern California and co-founder of Muzaic (Muzaicshows.com), a talent booking website that helps artists, promoters, and venues collaborate and manage all aspects of event organization. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | website: muzaicshows.com | social: @muzaicshows