"Thou shalt not steal." Most of us have heard that line forever, maybe even before the first time we five-fingered a Hershey bar from the corner grocery store when we were 8 years old. And most of the time, based upon my upbringing and personal ethics, I believe it and wholeheartedly endorse it.
Except for when it comes to musicians and gaining fans.
If you're not actively charting a course to steal fans from other bands, then you're doing things the hard (if not impossible) way. If you're trying to grow a fan base and aren't soliciting gigs with bands that are similar to yours in genre and ability, then you're making it tough on yourself.
Think about what a live music fan is. It's someone that enjoys and appreciates your music and your show, and will make an effort from time to time to spend a few bucks to see and hear you play... whether live and in person or on your CD's.
I know many of you have booked a gig, only to find out when you arrive that you're a reggae band playing after a death metal band and right before a jazz band... or something f***ed up like that. And there's a good chance that the first question the promoter or booker asked you when offering you the gig was "What's your draw?".
If you want to really expand your fan base, you have to play gigs with bands that are as close to you in genre and ability as possible, and then out-play and out-entertain your supporting acts to steal fans away from those bands. It's what I try to do with each and every one of my shows; blend bands together that will make a show, not slam bands together in a showcase format. Because of that philosophy, I recently had an out-of-town band at one of my HOB shows report to me the following day that they not only sold 40 CD"s at the show, they also completely sold out of t-shirts.
Of course, you're welcome to play shows with mismatched bands, and you might find one or two fans (like me) that can appreciate almost any style of music and will become a follower. But I guarantee you that if you play shows with similar bands, and put out the highest level show you're capable of, you're much more likely to gain a greater percentage of new fans by 'stealing' fans from the other bands. And don't forget to work the room, both before and after your set, by talking to people.
One of my favorite methods of capturing new fans is to introduce yourself to a few people that you don't know at a show before you play, and ask those people if they would do you a favor by honestly critiquing your set for you when you've finished. The immediate returns are: 1.) You've personally introduced yourself and your band to someone that's unfamiliar with you, 2.) You get someone to stay through your set that may have left before or during your performance, and 3.) You've given those people the power to make you a better performer. If that doesn't gain you a fan, then you need to hock the axe, find a day job, and go back to karaoke nights for your music fix because you're just not a very good musician/entertainer.
Do your groundwork. Check out other local bands on Reverbnation, Facebook, or wherever you can find them. Listen to their stuff. If it's similar to yours, try to get out and see one of their shows to see how they match up with you. Take a press kit and CD's with you, and if they're a suitable match, introduce yourself to band members after the show and tell them that you'd love to play some gigs with them. If necessary, be persistent... not pushy... until they capitulate. Do things smarter, not harder.
And then go steal their fans.
GigBoss is an independent concert promoter in Southern California and co-founder of Muzaic (Muzaicshows.com), a free service for booking talent and getting gigs. website: muzaicshows.com | social: @muzaicshows
Photo by Aaron Mattern