Play less often, or mix it up…

This is one of those less popular blog entries. In the past, on the old (now defunct except on Facebook) Denver Music Board, I’ve advocated that original bands make the conscious decision to play less shows. Backlash is inevitable since most bands think their reason for being is to play live shows – wherever and whenever possible. But there is a very good case to play less frequently…

First off, most original bands (and even bands in general) tend to have friends and family as their biggest base of supporters. This is great when a band first gets out onto the scene. This base is what I call their social capital. And like real money, bands would be strongly advised not to spend it all in one place.

Friends and family will support you through thick and thin…for a while. But when a band starts to play out every weekend, the social capital starts to wear thin. These “fans” have heard the tunes a few too many times. Maybe they have even heard the practice sessions coming up through the floorboards. Suddenly they are coming to fewer and fewer gigs, maybe even making up some lame excuses to avoid shows.

It’s hard to keep things fresh when your band is playing so often. You’ve probably also noticed the band is not writing as many new songs, because you are knocking out the same old tired set weekend after weekend. Meanwhile, the attendance is probably dropping off each week.

Play out once a month
Yes, playing out once a month or less is the best way to stretch social capital and still allow you to be visible to attract new fans. Even doing so, some of your friends and family base will see you the first month, skip the 2nd and maybe even the 3rd month, and catch back up with you later in the year. And that’s…OK.

It’s OK because your ultimate goal should be to acquire real fans. Friends and family will support you, but real fans will gravitate to your shows, become advocates of your music and help you truly grow. Friends and family support dries up eventually, which is one reason why so many bands break up in the first six months to a year.

What do we do between shows? Exercising restraint allows a band to do a number of other vital activities that are crucial to the band’s long term success:
*Write more and better tunes.
*Work on elements of the live show.
*Work on promotion efforts (submit music to stations, blog, market, write press releases, do interviews).
*Practice some more – become jaw-droppingly good.

Still not convinced? Then consider playing out more frequently only if there is a significant amount of physical distance between gigs. Play Lakewood, then Aurora. Trek to Fort Collins or CO Springs next or up to the mountains. Yes, you are actually touring then! That’s why bands get out of town in the first place – to pick up new fans and not burn out the old.

Mix it up - get out of town for a while...

Some local bands have enough restraint to only play out twice a year. These bands are desirable to see because they are not easily accessible or overly saturated in the marketplace. And when they do perform, it’s always special…and lucrative.

Play out once a month (or less) and your attendance per show should be strong. You will develop a real following, made up of real fans. And paradoxically, the venues will thank you with more gigs…

Feel free to comment on this blog. And please stay tuned for the next entry for attracting bigger audiences – turning down the volume!!

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