5 Essential Tips For New Artists!
So your lineup is assembled. You’ve been hitting the practise rooms for the past couple months and have a setlist ready to go. A local promoter has approached you, asking if you’d like to open a show next month. The slot is locked in and preparation begins.
Now the question on each member’s mind is “How do we prepare the right way for the show?” Sure, you have the setlist, but what good is it if you’re headed in totally clueless?
After spending the past 2 years gigging around Newcastle with “humble beginnings” opening shows at the late great Jumpin’ Jacks, I’ve learned a lot about how the local scene works and gained a plethora of great advice from veterans in the industry.
My band Perceptions have just rounded off 2018 as the main support for King 810 at the O2 Academy, and we couldn’t have possibly achieved this without the help and support of not only our fans but every person that gave us advice or pointed us in the right direction.
I’d like to share a few things that I wish I had known before my first gig in order to help new musicians grapple the bull by the horns right from the start.
1. Use social media to build a fanbase. Social media is everything nowadays. Long gone are the days of plastering the town with posters and flyers for your show as the main method of promotion. Of course you’ll still see posters wherever you go, but the music industry has fully embraced the workings of social media. The most important thing to consider when building a social presence is that it must represent your band on a visual level. People should be able to look at your profile and, without reading a word, conceive similar ideas that your music portrays.
It’s also important to keep your branding sleek and fitting. You want potential fans to come across your page and instantly think “These guys seem cool, I’ll check them out”. You don’t have MySpace to play your track in the background of your page anymore, so the main way of convincing people to listen to your music is to strike them visually.
2. Hit that ‘sweet spot’ when promoting shows. Too many times we have all seen a band post every 3 hours about their next show which is still 2 months away. On the other end of the spectrum, we also each know that band that posts once when it’s announced and forgets about it, complaining on the day why nobody showed up. Through trial and error, you’ll learn the sweet spot for promoting shows. Platforms like Facebook have specific algorithms employed that make the most efficient posters appear on more timelines, and while these are quite secretive, the general consensus is to post around 10 times a week. Of course, these posts should be a mix of show promoting, music promoting and images/videos from past gigs. You should look to promote the show with 2-3 posts in the announcement week, then keep up with 1-2 posts per week.
During the week of the gig, look to bump that number back up to 3-4, posting on the day before the show and the morning of it too.
3. Get in contact with other bands on the lineup. This can sometimes make or break a show and the overall atmosphere in the venue. Most organisers will take it upon themselves to make a group chat with members of each band in to organise the night, however there will be some shows where this doesn’t happen. If you haven’t been put into contact with any other bands on the show, check the lineup and hit up their pages. You should always ask about the backline situation as most bands are more than happy to gear share to save a lot of effort. Make friends with the other bands, chat to them! Nine times out of ten you’ll be playing a show with them again in the future, so why not strike up a partnership? It’s all about networking and helping each other grow because we’re all dreaming of that festival headliner slot.
SIDE NOTE: Stick around and catch every band. There’s nothing worse than a dude who borrows your amp only to go for drinks elsewhere during your set, turn up as you’re coming off and tell you how sick your set was.
4. Take tech advice whenever you can. You’ll have at least a sound engineer at every gig. He’ll be the person behind the desk ensuring the sound levels are perfect. If (like me) you don’t have the best knowledge of getting the perfect sound from your equipment, take a moment to ask them about it. I’m sure most will be more than happy to give you a few pointers in refining a sound.
It took me a full year until one of the engineers at the O2 told me to bump up my noise gate and stop that horrible feedback coming from my amp. Also during sound check, take the time to walk onto the main floor and see what it sounds like from the crowd. Being on stage is a totally different sound from being in the crowd, so you can get a more accurate picture of what needs to go up and what needs to go down.
5. Don’t be afraid to put on your own shows. It is probably easier just to get yourself on someone else’s show to begin with, but organising a show can be quite straightforward when you get the hang of it. First, find a few bands to play with. You can hit up bands you’ve gigged with in the past or take to Facebook for suggestions.
Next, find a venue. Little Buildings for example is always a perfect spot for smaller shows, however during April and May they’re upgrading to ‘Bigger’ Buildings and won’t be taking on shows during that period. Venues such as Head of Steam and Think Tank? (plus Underground) are easily accessible and only require a one off cost for venue hire. Once you’ve locked in a lineup and venue, consider your ticket prices. You will want to, at the very least, break even with the cost of the venue, but consider that you’ll likely get more people down at £3 per ticket than £6, so its a balancing act. Venues will typically cost around £60-£150 to hire for the night but enquire with them for nights available and pricing. Also take into consideration that most people will be working during the week, so look to weekend shows for the best turnout. Once you’ve got the details finalised, promote, promote, promote!
Here's a list of the writer’s go-to promoters and venues to get youstarted:
O2 Academy (FREE OF CHARGE BUT WILL TAKE % OF TICKET MONEY, DEPENDANT ON GOOD SALES)
Words: Jake Fernandes
Manager and vocalist/guitarist for Perceptions
Cover photo: Bella Sakr