Think bigger, but just a little bigger – get with bands in the same genre with more pull

Dear Dean, how do I get more people to come to my shows? – Love, Everyone

As a musician, you spend an idiotic amount of time begging people to come to your show. Well, I’ve been doing this for a while, I have tried everything from bribery/blackmail to putting on a hell of a show. 

The best way to get more people to come to your shows is by consistently knocking it out of the park. By playing so well that the band after you bombs. The second best way to get people to come to your shows is by playing with bigger acts. And duh, okay, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. Actually, that’s always easier said than done.

This seems like common sense, and I could end here – but in classic me fashion, I’m going to stretch out a blog post about it. 

If we break it down at its atomic structure, our goal is to get with a band that plays a similar style, that pulls a bigger audience than you do. You are gonna want to leech off this band’s fanbase! Is it wrong, maybe? Who’s to say! It’s really not a surprising statement, you’ve undoubtedly already thought of the idea. So, *ahem* – WHY THE HELL AREN’T YOU DOING IT!?!

The way I see it, we are prevented by four problems. 

Problem 1 – You’re not asking

This is stupid but is an immediate fix… See, all you need to do is start asking to open for people. Done. Easy. 

You might ask me 

“Say, Dean, are they going to say no to me?”

Are they going to say no? Absolutely, some will say no. Even if most people say no, you’re still going to get a few that will say yes – and BAM! You’ve got yourself a show! You’re also going to raise the number of shows you’re playing. (Duh) and you’re making connections. 

W​hat’s the catch? Well, there isn’t one! All of these bands started where you were at some point. You don’t owe them anything other than common courtesy. Be kind, end when you’re supposed to finish your set. Plug their music… done. You don’t have to kiss anyone’s ass. Just be cool! It really helps if you’re a fan of the music. To progress, you have to become a fan of the scene, and you have to ask!

Problem 2 – You’re asking everybody/the wrong people.

Everyone can appreciate some hustling, but you need to refine your search. Sure, there’s a time where you should be asking just about everyone and saying yes to everything. But you also are mortal, you have a finite amount of energy. Don’t ask a metal band to open for them if you’re a folk group. That’s just stupid. I’m not saying you have to play to the stereotypical genre types. But use some common sense.

Let me give you an example, my music sounds nothing like the group Juniper Ridge (love that dude), but we are at least close enough that the audience wouldn’t be shocked to hear us follow each other.

Problem 3 – You’re asking the same people again, and again… and again.

Is it cool to be friends with other bands in the community? 

Yes! Can you play with these acts multiple times? Again yes! But if you’re playing with the same bands over and over -and over and over again, You’re not bringing in fresh ears to hear your music in your scene. Your progression will be dreadfully slow, and the purpose of this post is to help us get to where we want to go, and to get there quickly. You have to branch out! You have to think bigger. How do we do it? We reach out to bigger acts… but just a little bigger. Think of it as different layers. If you are always playing with people on the same layer, you’re not progressing. I’m not suggesting to be a douchebag. I’m simply saying you have to reach up from time to time. Don’t leave others behind, just include some who are ahead of you. Does that make sense? If it doesn’t, or you feel bad about it, feel free to write me.

I​f you catch yourself thinking, “They wouldn’t say yes to me.” You might be right, but you also might be wrong. You haven’t found out yet, and you owe it to yourself to ask and see what they say! You have to get over your fear of being told no if you want to have any form of success. 

Problem 4 – Finding these popular groups

So the next hurdle we have is finding these acts. Let’s try an experiment. 

Write down your favorite local acts. 

I​f you can’t think of more than five acts, you suck. You need to branch out and go to more shows. 

You can list a band you’ve played with before, but you really have to love this band.

Don’t show people this list (people are petty, and they will be hurt, it’s how things go) 

L​et’s say my list looks like this 

  • T​opless monkeys 
  • The Thankless Mothers
  • G​reg Baker 
  • F​lawless Weekend
  • Woman

Now I go down my list and say, “Have I played with them before?” 

I​ have played with Topless monkeys, Woman, and Greg Baker, but I haven’t played with The Thankless Mothers and Flawless Weekend. I saw Flawless Weekend open for Death Cab, and I passed a bar where I heard Thankless Mother playing, and I like them a lot. 

I’m a fan of their music. They are more popular than I am, and they will have a more significant draw than I have alone. I can be “inactively seeking” ( a funny phrase) opportunities to play simply by being a fan of music. Will they say yes to a show I have planned? Maybe… Hell, maybe not. But I asked, so my chances shot up from 0% 

I​f you have a top-five list, and it’s filled with bands you’ve already played with. Move to a top-ten list. Actively/inactively seek groups to start loving. How do you find these groups? By going out and listening to them on a night that you’re not performing. Take your job seriously and put in the work. 

How often should you be playing with new bands? Every show? No, that’s crazy hard to find consistently. But once every four or five shows, you should play with a new group/artist. That’s not that hard to pull off. 

The Final Point

Be a fan first, be a fan of your drummer. Be a fan of your own music. If you notice you’re not a fan of these things, it’s okay! We have all been there, we need to practice, we need to write, we need to be a fan of our own work. If you wouldn’t listen to yourself, why would anyone else want to?

I think we all can try harder to be part of the community. GO TO SHOWS WHERE YOUR BAND ISN’T PLAYING. Do you have a local artist playlist on Spotify? If you don’t have one of these, you’re not part of the community. There, I said it. 

I have referred to the 70-20-10 rule before. It has been a while, though! Here’s a link to help you out.

THIS IS WHY YOU HAVEN’T MADE IT

Is it conceded for me to say there is a lot of good advice in that column? Maybe, but there is a lot of helpful stuff here. My point is midway through the article, so I will sum up the 70-20-10 here. 

70 percent of all you post should be on valuable, relevant content. 20 percent of what you share should be shared content, and 10 percent should be self-promotion. – Dean Nelson

M​eaning one out of every five days you should be promoting another act. Meaning you’re involved in the community. Meaning, you need to change. Meaning… if I have to say “meaning” so many times its not obvious and I’m doing a terrible job explaining things. 

(Meaning I need to rethink my life. Should have never given up that carwash job. Shit.) 

B​-t-dub… Here is my local talent playlist! If you don’t see your name on the list (and you want to be on the list) message me through the “contact me” page at the top of the page and I’ll check your stuff out! I’m always down to hear great music.

Dean’s Spotify Local Artist Playlist

Remember to think bigger, but just a little bigger – Play with bands in the same genre with more pull.

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