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Old January 30th, 2013, 03:14 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Do you have a "draw"?

My classic rock/R&B/blues band has a dilemma. We're in our mid-40s to mid-50s, and although we play out 20-25 times a year and always go over well, we're having problems at clubs that depend on us to bring a crowd. Essentially, it's hard to get friends/associates out to see us, because most of them are our age and just don't go out to bars anymore.

This came to a head on Saturday, when a club that we play at once a month said they weren't going to book us for a while because we're just not bringing in enough people. The dilemma is that we're a good band, and like I said, we always go over well with audiences. It's just bringing our own audience with us that's a problem. Any thoughts out there? Anyone else having the same problem?

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Old January 30th, 2013, 03:19 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Yes I sure do, I'm from Texas my draw is thick..
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Old January 30th, 2013, 03:28 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Great question, I'm interested to hear responses....
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Old January 30th, 2013, 03:31 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I really hate to play bars that expect you to fill the place for them. You will have a certain amount of people who will follow you but it's still up to them to advertise and draw a croud. We had the same problem with a bar we were playing at. They complained about the croud that would show up but if it wasn't for us they wouldn't of had what showed up. When the old owners had it we always had a good croud. Then he sold it and the new owner wouldn't listen to us or the old owner he was listening to the bar maids he hired. Not only did they give him bad advice they were stealing him blind. We got to talking one night and was talking about what we were charging and the bar maid was stealing $50 and telling him we were charging $350 and we were only charging $300. He fired her before he found that out. I'd go there on a night we wasn't playing and they'd have even less people than us. Needless to say they had to close their doors.
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Old January 30th, 2013, 03:34 PM   #5 (permalink)
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We have a lot of the same issues with folks our age. So we work hard to see other bands with younger players. We mix with the crowd, sometimes they acknowledge us on stage...anything to stay relevant.

Of course, a snow storm hit an hour before our last gig...pretty much kept the crowd to a minimum. Our one hour drive from Santa Fe took two and a half hours. But they asked us back.
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Old January 30th, 2013, 04:00 PM   #6 (permalink)
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OP, I hear you loud and clear! I've had a similar experience.

You're right, people our age don't go to the bars anymore. After realizing this, I asked myself: why? Because, like me, most of them have jobs and families. How did I reach them? I started playing benefits.

Since '09 I've played exclusively benefit style gigs. They're fun, easy, and have a few of their own 'benefits'.

These benefits include:
1. We play for FUN (which translates to 'free'). No stress hassling over pay or worrying if you'll even receive it.
2. It builds good will in the community. We've played for school fund raisers, cancer drives, etc.
3. We play package shows. If we split the time slot with 2 or 3 other bands, we get to enjoy the music of our fellow bands as well as meet other musicians for future projects. We're not exhausted at the end of the night because we only played one set and gave it our all.
4. One tight high-energy set is more impactful than 4 mediocre sets.
5. Since the gigs are usually benefits, we're done by 10 pm.
6. ALL the band members can attend more gigs because they don't have to sacrifice the 6-8 hours required from set-up to breakdown.
7. No cigarette smoke or drunks. The audience sits and listens to the band as if it were a concert and not a party.
8. These events are advertised as 'family friendly'...and they ARE.

It took a while, but eventually we started to find our 'draw'.
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Old January 30th, 2013, 04:17 PM   #7 (permalink)
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My band has a modest draw, but our strength, and the reason bar owners love us, is we play a long time and keep people staying out late buying drinks. It's not so much that we brought hundreds of people who wouldn't have come (though we bring in our share). The biggest benefit we give to the bar is that people stay later buying more drinks than if we weren't there. Talk to your bar managers about that. If people are having a good time, the bar makes more money whether you drew the people in or not.
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Old January 30th, 2013, 04:29 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Same problem here. A lot of our friends are in bands, so they are usually gigging also. Most of my other friends are just not that into live music - I know them through work and they aren't going to come out to see us. Also there are only three in the band and two of us are married, so we collectively have a much smaller pool of friends than a five piece band. And whatever the case, how often is the same person going to want to see you play? Maybe two, three times a year, unless they are a huge fan?

Ultimately you have to go beyond friends and family, and that can be tough. The best way that we build any sort of following is consistently collecting email addresses at every gig - even just two or three on a bad night adds up to a sizeable email list. Facebook is of little use as the people we know on Facebook fit into that 'friends who won't come' category. And trying to get punters to hit the Like button when they get home leaves the ball in their court: being proactive and getting email addresses works much better.

Even so, after two years we haven't really built a big enough following, even though everyone says we are good. So we are now in the process of only taking gigs where the owner has no expectation of us bringing a crowd, or where the quite specific genre we have may generate a crowd. An example is putting on a show where there isn't much live music, like out in a village somewhere, and really making an event of it. This does mean travelling more than we'd like, or turning to functions rather than pub gigs, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
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Old January 30th, 2013, 05:33 PM   #9 (permalink)
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We are entertainers. Its our job to entertain the club's patrons. If the club has a reputation of having good entertainment, then what's the problem? I suggest, if your band is good, then find venues that are noted for good live entertainment.

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Old January 30th, 2013, 05:44 PM   #10 (permalink)
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The people who grew up going to bars to hear live music all have kids and mortgages and overpriced baby sitters! However, bar owners should not expect bands to "bring a crow," that's their job through promotion, good food, good prices, great atmosphere and customer service. Owners shouldn't expect bands that gig 20 or more times a year in a given region to get friends and family out consistently. Sure, if Groove Hammer played 3 gigs a year we could get 100 people out, but that's just not realistic otherwise.

The band's job is to KEEP people in the bar, preferably dancing. A thirsty crowd is a drinking crowd and the band's job is to sell beer! :-) We do that by playing great music each and every set, so that even if people don't dance they enjoy themselves so much that they stay all evening. Groove Hammer is lucky because we are finally beginning to build a regular crowd in a couple bars we regularly play. We have a group of 25 - 50 who come out regularly, and since most of the venues around here only hold around 100, that's a good supplement to a regular Saturday night crowd. Two of our regular venues say that we're their largest audience draw for any band they book, but hockey games and UFC still does better! That's the reality of the business!

Several of the live music bars around here are starting the bands at 9PM instead of 9:30PM so that more people stay for the third set, and they've done the majority of their sales by midnight with a larger crowd, instead of many people leaving at the end of the second set to get the baby sitters out the door before midnight. It makes sense. People are more likely to stay a bit longer if the third set is in full swing. It's much easier to leave on a break, especially if it's already pushing midnight.

Have a website, a Facebook page, and do emails for all your gigs. Hopefully your crowd will build. Good Luck!
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Old January 30th, 2013, 05:49 PM   #11 (permalink)
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We have a database of about 500 people that we send out an "e promo" to a few days before we play somewhere. We also post all upcoming gigs on our website and our facebook page. For the past couple of years we have been getting good attendance to our gigs...usually around 50 from the database show up...even in lousy weather. So It's about a 10% return on the email blast. Added to the house regulars we normally have 75-100 in attendance, which is a full house for the places we play. What we've found to work for us is to not play the same venue too frequently. About once every 8-10 weeks at any specific place pulls in good attendance. Any more frequent than that and the draw is less. At one of the places we play regularly the owner told us he takes in an add'l $9K average when we play there. So he asked us to play once a month. We shared our strategy with him and he agreed...so we play there once very couple of months and it's a full house every time.
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Old January 30th, 2013, 05:56 PM   #12 (permalink)
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One other thing...YOU CANNOT COUNT ON YOUR FRIENDS. They'll show up every now and then, but you need FANS!
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Old January 30th, 2013, 06:02 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by burtonfan View Post
OP, I hear you loud and clear! I've had a similar experience.

You're right, people our age don't go to the bars anymore. After realizing this, I asked myself: why? Because, like me, most of them have jobs and families. How did I reach them? I started playing benefits.

Since '09 I've played exclusively benefit style gigs. They're fun, easy, and have a few of their own 'benefits'.

These benefits include:
1. We play for FUN (which translates to 'free'). No stress hassling over pay or worrying if you'll even receive it.
2. It builds good will in the community. We've played for school fund raisers, cancer drives, etc.
3. We play package shows. If we split the time slot with 2 or 3 other bands, we get to enjoy the music of our fellow bands as well as meet other musicians for future projects. We're not exhausted at the end of the night because we only played one set and gave it our all.
4. One tight high-energy set is more impactful than 4 mediocre sets.
5. Since the gigs are usually benefits, we're done by 10 pm.
6. ALL the band members can attend more gigs because they don't have to sacrifice the 6-8 hours required from set-up to breakdown.
7. No cigarette smoke or drunks. The audience sits and listens to the band as if it were a concert and not a party.
8. These events are advertised as 'family friendly'...and they ARE.

It took a while, but eventually we started to find our 'draw'.
My group does a lot of these, and I find them more rewarding than most paid gigs.
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Old January 30th, 2013, 07:03 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Usually bad draw means bad advertising. You provide entertainment, not people.

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Old January 30th, 2013, 09:55 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Common problem - particularly in the great white north, my area - it's 70% French also so the population splits between English & French clubs.

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Old January 31st, 2013, 08:29 AM   #16 (permalink)
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I see three scenarios :

A) having a small following (50-100 peope) and play only 5 times a year. Everybody will come at each gig and fill the room
B) having a huge following and play those 25 gigs/year. A rotating 10% of the following will be enough to fill the room
C) play those 25 gigs/year with a small following but don't expect any of them to show up at every gig

We play scenario A)

If you want your fan base to remain happy (and show up) you should rotate the material from gig to gig by a large amount
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Old January 31st, 2013, 09:04 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Same in Berlin

Same problem here!

Same problem here. A lot of our friends are in bands, so they are usually gigging also. Most of my other friends are just not that into live music - I know them through work and they aren't going to come out to see us. Also there are only three in the band and two of us are married, so we collectively have a much smaller pool of friends than a five piece band. And whatever the case, how often is the same person going to want to see you play? Maybe two, three times a year, unless they are a huge fan?

I agree to every word.
In February we play in a Bar that wants 80 Euro from us so we need 16
People minimum,that means all of our friends who must by a ticket
for 5 Euro plus a Drink for 3 Euro.
I am afraid only our 3 wifes will arrive there!

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Old January 31st, 2013, 09:36 AM   #18 (permalink)
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For those of you saying that it's the venue's responsibility to draw a crowd with advertising...please think again. Can a venue really be expected to bring in a crowd for your unknown band? Do you really think that any amount of advertising (or emails, Facebook updates etc.) will bring in the punters?

Sure, the venue can and should play its part by having clean toilets, friendly staff etc., and by only booking good bands so that it gets a reputation for great music.

But to think that they can generate interest in a stream of unknown bands, most of whom are playing the same type of covers, just isn't realistic. All they can really do is keep their website/Facebook up to date, inform the local listings sections of magazines of their schedule, and maybe have their own email list that gets weekly updates. But none of that is going to 'bring in a crowd' for unknown bands.
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Old January 31st, 2013, 10:55 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GigsbyBoyUK View Post
For those of you saying that it's the venue's responsibility to draw a crowd with advertising...please think again. Can a venue really be expected to bring in a crowd for your unknown band? Do you really think that any amount of advertising (or emails, Facebook updates etc.) will bring in the punters?

Sure, the venue can and should play its part by having clean toilets, friendly staff etc., and by only booking good bands so that it gets a reputation for great music.

But to think that they can generate interest in a stream of unknown bands, most of whom are playing the same type of covers, just isn't realistic. All they can really do is keep their website/Facebook up to date, inform the local listings sections of magazines of their schedule, and maybe have their own email list that gets weekly updates. But none of that is going to 'bring in a crowd' for unknown bands.
When people go to a bar that advertises a beer special a band is a waste of time and money for everyone, bar owners, band members, everyone. The patrons dont care if you are there and people that are looking for a live show have better places to go. Places that are known for live music. How are you possibly going to draw more than your relatives playing in a bar that isnt known for music?

I hardly know my local acts but i know the bars and clubs where they have good live music. I pay extra for beer and stay late. I wasn't drawn to your band, i was drawn to a night out with good music.

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Old January 31st, 2013, 11:51 AM   #20 (permalink)
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As it has been said before my entry -

Make a website - record your rehearsals and gigs - put tunes and video on your site

network with area musicians. GO see them play, meet their fans, and encourage them to come to your gigs. Hand out business cards with downloadable content on your website.

I HATE FACEBOOK - but it is great for band networking.

get a gig at a new bar.
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