The night of your album release show should be the biggest night of your career to date. If you’ve done your job right, the show will be packed if not completely sold out. The reason more people come to album release concerts over your Wednesday night four-band bill show is because it’s an event––and should be hyped up as one. Having a packed club with people there actually to see YOU is something that won’t happen very often early on, so you have to be sure you go about this right.
1. Look the Part
This is the revamp of your band and your image. It is the new beginning of what this new album represents. All the work you put into the production of this album should be represented on how you present the entire evening: beginning with how you look. Ladies typically understand the importance of caring about how they look on stage, but dudes generally do not, for some reason. So this goes out to the dudes especially: dress UP. You don’t need to dress up like you’re going to a wedding or fancy dinner, but dress UP from what you normally wear or perform in. Maybe coordinate a hot look with all the members of the band or get new hairdos. Just make sure you look like you belong on that stage.
2. Pimp out the Venue
Pick a venue for this show that will allow you to take some liberties in a redesign for the night. Nothing drastic, by any means, but maybe set up a photo booth (with costume accessories available of course!) with a full backdrop of your album cover and have a friend of yours promote his photography business by taking photos for free that night and have her stamp each photo with her logo. Then upload these photos to your Facebook page and tell everyone to go find the photos there and tag themselves. (You’ll get more Likes too!)
Hang the show’s posters all around the venue in a classy fashion. This is YOUR venue for the night and it’s YOUR show. Make it feel that way from the moment people step into the place. Maybe even have a greeter at the door handing out mini Altoids tins wrapped with a string that has the album name on it.
3. The Show Poster
The show poster shouldn’t be a boring 11 x 17 poster with the album cover on it and white space at the bottom where you hand write “CD Release Show” with the details. This CD release poster should be artistic, eye catching––something you can sell screen prints of at the merch table.
4. Revamp Your Merch
The majority of the people at this show have most likely seen you perform before. If you’re like most local bands, you have performed a million times around town over the past couple years, and of these million shows you had a handful of people at each (who then felt they didn’t need to make an effort to come out again because you play all the damn time and they’ll “catch the next one”). Chances are, they will recall the merch display you used and the T-shirt designs you had at that time. Revamp everything this night. You should order all new merch that represents the new album. Build a new merch display and make it BRIGHT and put it in a very prominent area of the club. Make sure you have sellers there from the moment the doors open to the moment everyone leaves.
You will sell the most amount of merchandise at this show, so be prepared for that. Push the merch from the stage and talk about unique merch items you have for that night only (limited screen prints of the poster/album cover, customized chocolate bars, thongs, whatever). Announcing the cool merch items from the stage will drastically increase sales. And remember, people spend $5 on coffee and $7 on a Jack & Coke every day. Don’t be afraid to sell them seemingly frivolous, impermanent items (like branded chocolate for $3). They are there for the experience and buying shit is part of the experience. Give them stuff to buy!
6. Give Away Merch
One fun way to get everyone to know what you have for sale at the merch table is to showcase it in front of them by giving it away throughout the show. Don’t throw it off the stage and invite a wrestling match––host a raffle with door prizes. To promote advance ticket sales, let everyone know that if they buy tickets in advance they will be thrown into the raffle for special merch items only available at the show. Run Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram contests to promote the show and everyone who participates gets thrown into the raffle as well. Then on stage, through the mic, call out the winners and have them come up to the stage to claim it and show off what they won.
7. Make it Memorable
Make sure everyone walks away from this show buzzing about the experience. You want them to talk about it to their friends for weeks. You want this show to stand out among the hundreds of local shows by other artists. The more buzz you have from the release, the more people will go on iTunes and Spotify and check out the new album. Putting on a great concert is one thing, making the entire evening an experience is what makes it truly memorable.
ARI HERSTAND is a full-time DIY musician who has played over 550 shows in 40 states. He has had songs featured on multiple TV shows and has opened for Ben Folds, Cake, Matt Nathanson, Joshua Radin and others. Herstand runs the independent music business advice blog, Ari’s Take, at http://aristake.com.