Do you want to turn your next gig into an unforgettable show?
In front of a packed crowd?
In a cooler venue?
The key to booking better gigs is right here in this apple…
No, this isn’t an Adam & Eve reference.
Instead, I’d like you to imagine you’re moderately hungry.
If I offered you this apple, you might eat it. You might not.
If it’s been months since you ate an apple (assuming you like apples), you might scarf it down.
Now what if I offered you two apples today? You might eat one and let the other go bad.
And if I promised I’d bring you free apples every Friday for the next year, you might think:
“Well, what’s the point of even eating an apple today? There’s always next week.”
Plus, maybe you’re in the mood for tacos tonight.
The economics of… apples?
Yes, there’s an Economics lesson buried in here somewhere. About scarcity, demand, inflation, and — let it NOT go unaddressed — the Universal Law that tacos are better than apples.
But what does this story about apples have to do with gigs, you ask?
Let’s do a little reverse engineering.
Bigger venues need to trust you can fill ’em
Advancement is partially about managing perceptions.
In order to book a better gig tomorrow, a talent buyer has to feel relatively certain that you’ll be able to recreate the success they’ve already seen you achieve today.
So let’s talk about how to manage perceptions that your gigs are successful events.
Don’t “oversaturate” your market
Audiences rally when opportunities are rare.
How do you guarantee your gigs look like a success?
It should feel like a special event. A rare occasion.
Meaning: Don’t play too often in the same town.
Maybe once per season. Once per year, even!
Every concert should be a can’t-miss event
Scarcity creates urgency.
If you only play once in a while, your fans will have a deeper yearning to attend (or a bigger sense of obligation, if we’re talking about friends and family).
You want ALL your gigs to feel important enough for people to do the inconvenient stuff: trade work-shifts, hire babysitters, make the drive.
Even if that means overall you’re playing fewer gigs, the ones you do play will be more rewarding for both you and your fans. And any new downtime can be used to expand your tour circuit. Or produce better shows. (More on that below).
Play venues that are too small
Demand should outweigh supply.
Oh no. Supply & Demand?
Yep. In terms of your tour calendar, this means don’t play too often in any given region.
But you also should play in venues that are slightly too small to fit all of your likely attendees. This creates an atmosphere of exclusivity. We all want to feel special, right?
So if you can get 400 people out on Friday, play a 300-cap room.
If you can rely on 50 people on Tuesday, play a tiny room that squeezes ’em in.
If you think 15 people will show up, bring your own PA to a bookstore or boutique or barber shop and host your own pop-up style concert. These can be incredible opportunities to provide an intimate experience that feels exclusive and rare.
Groupthink can be a good thing
Buzz = Permission.
The more tightly packed the place is, the more you’ll create the perception (or reenforce the reality) that you’re an exciting artist.
This can be a bit of a balancing act, of course. Because a line around the block to get into your show is great PR on the one hand. On the other hand, it would also be great to have those people as paying attendees INSIDE the venue.
So, just remember…
Crowds stir excitement, and excitement grants permission to crowds.
By packing the place, you’re removing psychological barriers for the entire audience. A big audience will often pay closer attention, go deeper into the music, and appreciate what you’re doing on stage all the more.
As opposed to a half-empty club. Or a theatre with a bunch of empty seats. Suddenly you’re introducing doubt. “Hmmm, I wonder why more people aren’t here? Is the band slipping? Have trends changed? Should I feel bad for them? Awkward!”
Less gigs should mean better gigs
Redirect your resources to produce an unforgettable performance.
When you’re more selective about the shows you play, you can spend more time prepping for each show to make it truly special.
Dial in the production. Rehearse some crazy songs. Plan a secret collaboration. Pick a theme for the night. Get amazing outfits. Build props. Curate a must-see lineup. Promote, promote, promote.
The time you would’ve spent diluting your audience across too-frequent local shows can now be put to better use: Making the ONE show you do play feel like the event of the year.
Basically what I’m saying is: If people show up because you promised an apple, give them a taco!
The point of this article was to introduce a little psychology and economics into your booking strategy.
If you want to start playing more amazing shows, just remember:
- The power of rarity, scarcity, and urgency. Don’t play too often in a single town. More people will attend the gigs you DO play.
- Choose smaller venues to create the impression of demand. Make each gig feel exclusive and exciting, and your audience will enjoy the show even more.
- Spend the time to make each show feel like a special event. You want your fans to not only remember the concert, but to keep talking about it.
If you do all those things, it won’t be long before bigger venues, notable talent buyers, and local promoters start approaching you. And once you’ve proven that all your local gigs are a success, maybe it’s time to partner with one of these entities to scale-up to bigger and better performances.