Everyone claims to be a Marketer.
And they are right. We are all “marketing” ourselves everyday whether it’s our job performance to our employer, our worthiness to our spouses, our opinions on social media, or why you should come see my band play Friday night. We are all trying to influence each other in one way or another. However, most people don’t do it correctly, nor approach it with a well thought out strategy.
Applying even some basic marketing principles can reap big rewards with your band in attendance, sales, bookings and engagement.
1: a long-range plan for achieving something or reaching a goal, or the skill of making such plans
In most cases, we are marketing ideas and opinions to others for social acceptance. However when used to affect sales, the strategies and methods become more important, and typically so do the budgets. However, I will show you ways you can achieve results using basic principles that will cost little to no money.
Coke spent $3.96 billion in 2017 for marketing. It’s not because no one knows who they are and they need more recognition, but rather because they want every person who gets thirsty to think of Coke first before any other choice and choose one of their products.
This is accomplished by brand marketing (or “branding”). But what exactly is “branding?”. Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.
It’s no different with your band. People will return to your shows, buy merchandise and tell their friends to come not because you played every song note perfect (although that can add to the experience), but rather because they associate your band with having a great time, made them feel a certain way, or aligned with their personal views.
In his book titled “Start with Why”, Simon Sinek explains that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.” (Note: This book changed my life. I highly suggest taking 10 minutes and watch his TED talk below). If you engage people, make them feel good and align with their values, you will have return customers and evangelists that will praise you to all their friends – and what’s the best ROI for any marketing? – Word of mouth.
I will bet that there are other bands in your area that draw bigger crowds than you. You probably ask yourself – “How do they do it? How do I use this simple nugget of information called branding to increase my show attendance and popularity?”. Let’s break it down and apply some basic branding principles to get you started.
“How do they do it? How do I use this simple nugget of information called branding to increase my show attendance and popularity”
Everyone wants to feel special. Everyone wants to feel included. So many bands get up on stage and play their songs and never interact with the audience. They stare at their shoes which stay planted in the same spot for the whole night. In this day and age where attention spans are short, you are competing with the 15 TV’s hanging in the bar, cellphones, social media, arcade games and the most damning of them all – the temptation to see if there’s something better happening elsewhere. This is especially true in areas where there are clusters of bars in the same general area. If people are not having a good time, they will leave to see if they can find it somewhere else.
Be the party that EVERYONE wants to come to and at a minimum, be more fun than all the other places.
And this starts with engaging your audience. Make them feel like they personally know the band. During breaks, don’t go outside to smoke or seclude yourself in the corner. Everyone in the band should go out and walk around the bar. Be social and approach people – and not just your friends – but rather people that you don’t know. The objective here is to GROW your fan base, not hang out with the ones you’ve already got. Say “Hi – thanks for coming to the show.” This in itself will generate conversations. If you are the type of band that takes requests you can ask if there’s something they’d like to hear. If you notice that someone is celebrating something, go up to them and congratulate them and then make an announcement on the microphone. Dedicate a song to that person and in most cases their entire group will come up to dance.
If your band has stickers, merchandise or swag, this is the time to walk around and hand it out. Again it creates the opportunity to start a conversation. The conversation makes people feel they have a personal connection with you and in return, they will tell their friends and return to your shows.
Then be sure to carry that back on the stage as well. You hear it all the time — but give people a show. Be animated. Look the part. Invest in some lights. And most importantly include the audience. It can be as simple as asking people who the artist was that wrote the last song you played — maybe even reward the winner with some swag, or one my band likes to do is reward dancers with custom beads. Girls love beads. When their girlfriend comes back to the table wearing them and she doesn’t have a set, I’ll guarantee you she’ll be right up front next song looking to score some for herself.
Another popular engagement tool is the sing-along. Choose the songs in your set that have strong hooks and lend themselves to singing along, and then encourage the audience by pointing the microphone into the crowd at the appropriate time.
”Just a city boy. Born and raised in SOUTH DETROIT!“
– Journey – Don’t stop believing
Doing the microphone thing on that part of the song always kills on the east side of my state. OK, it actually works pretty much anywhere. Girls love Journey. But in general, people love to sing along to their favorite tunes.
By the way, for clarification, there is no South Detroit – that would be Windsor Canada. Get out a map and look for yourself – But I digress.
This is a simple statement, but one I see so many bands neglect. You are providing a show, so be sure to create one. Start by distinguishing your appearance accordingly. That doesn’t mean you all need to wear matching leisure suits, but have a theme. Make sure everyone can pick you out of the crowd as being in the band. I’ve seen countless times where this simple trick alone can change the impression of people, including bar owners, and result in a better participation and acceptance. For the same reason you dress up for a job interview, do the same for your performance. You are a rock star. Dress the part.
And how about smiling? Look like you’re having fun up there – you are aren’t you? This also translates to the audience. I don’t want to watch a band that looks like they’ve just finished having an argument out back or are noticeably pissed because they’ve had a bad day. Again, you’re bringing the party, and no one like a party pooper.
You also need to be animated. Move around and don’t stand still. There is a saying that the head of your bass/guitar should never be pointing in the same direction for more than a few seconds. If you have any rhythm (and if you don’t, then why are you in a band?) consider dancing, swaying or moving to the music. Bruce Dickinson, lead singer of Iron Maiden said that he over exaggerates his antics because they need to translate to the back of the arena. You should as well. A simple toe tapping is not as apparent to the crowd as you think. Go large. Video your performance and see what works and doesn’t. This will also help you see what gestures actually translate as well. Remember, you’re competing for attention with that TV hanging in the corner.
Also be sure to have a stage that is devoid of clutter and professional looking. Lights, banners and an organized backline help convey professionalism and enhance the show. I don’t recall ever seeing a coat, purse or personal belongings sitting on the drum riser at a Kiss concert.
Creating a visual element is important and can elevate your bands status quickly. It conveys professionalism and can quickly give you an advantage over other bands, which in turn translates into a higher paycheck and more bookings. If you haven’t, invest in some lights, get a professional banner made, have professional equipment and consider getting a sound man so you can concentrate on being the best showman you can versus finding where that 5K ringing in the mains is coming from.
In fact, imagine a Kiss show with none of the stage props, the makeup, the antics and the four of them just standing there and staring at their feet while playing. Quite a different picture isn’t it? Kiss were the kings of band marketing. It didn’t hurt that they also arguably wrote some great music, but they are a perfect example of how these tips can transform a bands image.
That being said, I don’t recommend pyrotechnics in a bar setting and the whole blood spitting thing might be a turn off for Barbara and her office friends at the corner table – so proceed cautiously.
If you are the type of band that provides music that can be danced to, and that is important to you, be sure to carefully select songs that will encourage people to get out of their chairs. Nothing screams “This is a party” like a packed dance floor. And bar owners love this as sweaty dancers drink more.
It’s also a good idea to focus your song selection towards women. Women are always the catalyst for starting the dancing. And if the floor is full of dancing girls, I guarantee you that shortly there will be dancing guys as well. I’ve yet to see a dance floor full of women dancing to the local Black Sabbath cover band.
Plus a packed floor full of dancers conveys that this party is better than the one down the street and will attract others. Maybe you’ll even attract the holy grail of cover bands – the bachelorette party – and your evening will be set.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA
Oh social media. How we love and hate you. But the truth is, it’s created an incredible opportunity for marketing and communicating to our demographic. However, the whole purpose of social media is to be social right? So first and foremost, use it to be social first before using it for monetization or promotion. You want people to interact with you and others about your band and performances. Facebook is the most popular, but Instagram, Twitter and Youtube can also be great platforms to help increase your engagement with viewers.
Encourage people to post on your site by starting online conversations. My band likes to ask what songs people want to hear at the next show. Another great tip is to explain to people that you are checking your FaceBook page in-between sets and will reward anyone who posts a picture, video or comment with a free drink or merchandise.
Taking pictures of individual people at the show and telling them that you are going to post it on your page and that they should go tag themselves is yet another trick that gets people to not only visit your page, but then also share it to their friends. This also has the added benefit of showing up later in time lines as well. More importantly it tells everyone viewing them and that didn’t come, that they missed the party – “You shoulda been there man!” – and they won’t want to miss it next time.
Remember, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. You are the ringmaster for the party. If everyone sees what a great time they’ll have coming to your show, they will leave the bar down the street to come to yours.
NOW GET TO WORK
This article has just scratched the surface of the many ways you can use effective Marketing to promote your band. In future posts, I will be discussing other specific areas of Marketing that you may benefit from as well.
But, the basic principles of branding are the bedrock of any marketing campaign, whether its your band or Nike. Without it, all other marketing will fail. It also has the advantage of not being expensive to do and can produce great results quickly if done right.
So get out there and use these tips to give your audience the WHY you do what you do. I guarantee you’ll see more people showing up to your shows and increased bookings. And if you get that opening slot on the next KISS world tour because of my advice, I’d appreciate a couple free tickets.
With over 30+ years in the Advertising, Marketing and Music industry, Chonk has been featured on CNN, Apple.com and in the Wall Street Journal, and has been a featured speaker nationwide giving lectures about Marketing, Technology and Social Media. He’s won several awards including regional and national Addy’s and Webby’s and has established himself as the “go-to” resource for many businesses by creating new and expanded opportunities for brands to extend their reach, deepen their relationship with customers and enhance their business offering through new technology.
Chonk was also the founding member of seminal Michigan punk band FA-Q, current guitarist for SilentBark and webmaster for Cover Band Central.