After hundreds of successful rock ‘n’ roll gigs, the Grand Rapids trumpet and keyboard player offers some words of advice to local bands: Work hard, and respect your fans and fellow musicians.
Attitude and work ethic.
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I’ve played nearly a thousand shows with my band, The Outer Vibe. Our experiences in working with venues, booking agents, promoters and other bands have taught us that, while a band’s songwriting and performance ability do count, a positive attitude and solid work ethic are paramount.
A band that works hard to promote shows and sell tickets while remaining humble and honest will get more gigs than bands that sound as good live as they do on their recordings, but are difficult to work with and think they’re entitled to rock star treatment.
Successful bands will choose to learn from others who have already gone through the work of figuring out how to be successful. I can sum up the most important thing every local band (heck, every national band) needs to know in three words: Every fan counts.
Each and every fan deserves a high five or hug from the band, recognition for being at the show and a “thank you” for buying a third copy of your CD to give to another friend or sibling. Take a picture with them, ask them to tag you on Facebook.
KEEP YOUR FANS ACTIVE, ENGAGED
We’re talking about active fans – the ones who come to your concerts, bring friends and buy merchandise. Numbers on Facebook and Twitter are most meaningful when they start translating to concert attendance and merch sales.
Active fans make your band grow. They bring friends to shows, buy and wear your T-shirts, hang concert posters and invite people to Facebook events. You need as many active fans as you can get.
How do you find them? Talk to every single person attending your show, whether they’re there to see you or another band. Every band member should shake hands and make friends (even the bass player who’s shy or the drummer who thinks he needs to be backstage texting his girlfriend). There’s nothing like a face-to-face conversation to create special memories for fans, especially in today’s social media-hyped black hole.
People like to be part of something; music lovers go to concerts because it’s fun and they feel like they belong. So as you’re talking to all those new fans at these fun events, make sure they know where you’re playing next. Hand them a promotional postcard and invite them to another show.
Remember: You never know who’s in the crowd at your show, who knows who in the music industry. We’ve accidentally run into people who have helped us out tremendously. In 2009, we won an East Lansing battle of the bands hosted by 105.3 Hot FM’s Gravy. It was the first time he had heard of us, but he loved our set and became a good friend, introducing us to the person who is now our manager.
DON’T BE THAT BAND WITH A BAD REPUTATION
We’ve also had the privilege of playing high-profile Grand Rapids’ events, such as WOOD TV8’s ArtPrize concert series and the 4th of July celebration. One local band with whom we shared the stage at one of these arrived late, avoided talking to other bands backstage, played their set and left immediately. Not only was I surprised by their lack of networking, I was shocked they didn’t even bother to set up merchandise.
Hundreds of people would have gladly paid for this band’s CD. Instead, they missed out on merch sales, connecting with new fans and, mostly, a really fun night. We signed autographs for an hour afterward while this band was probably at Taco Bell or playing video games in someone’s basement. Furthering their music career?
Your town’s music scene is only as strong as the bands involved, so grow relationships with other musicians. Play a show with them and stay for their set; don’t just pack up and leave. Support your fellow artists. Listen, and then congratulate them when their set is done.
Chances are you’ll share the stage again, and if that band hears your name in the future, you want them to remember good things.
You want to be the band that brought the crowd you promised, respected the sound guy’s equipment, and didn’t complain about sharing back-line gear. You don’t want to be the band that brought five people and complained about the small crowd and low pay, spilled a drink on the monitor, and then left before the headliner’s set.
Simple courteous behavior will earn you friends and connections in the industry, here in The Mitten and beyond. Yes, every fan counts.
About Lisa Kacos: A self-described “band geek” playing 100-plus shows a year with rock/pop’s The Outer Vibe, Kacos knows plenty about cultivating fans and managing a career as a full-time musician. A native of Jenison with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from Michigan State University, she also tutors budding young rockers in on- and off-stage etiquette as part of The Outer Vibe’s popular summer Rock Camp programs held across Michigan, with the week-long Grand Rapids session for teens starting July 15 at St. Cecilia Music Center. The fan of Muse, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Strokes, Jack White and Radiohead also adores motorcycles, collecting trumpets, reading Edgar Allen Poe and, jumping jellyfish, watching “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Catch her and The Outer Vibe in coming weeks here:
Saturday (June 15)– Rockford Start of Summer Celebration, Rockford (8 p.m.)
June 22 – River Days Festival, Detroit (Noon)
June 27 – Quaker Steak & Lube, Grand Rapids (7 p.m.)
June 29 – Kirby House, Grand Haven (9 p.m.)
Email John Sinkevics at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2013, Spins on Music