Playing music in a new city is a great way to reignite your soulful love of performing. There’s nothing like performing for fresh ears in an unfamiliar environment.
If you're investing time, energy, and money to travel to a new city for a gig, you want to make it count. You can't be in the city as often as you'd like, so developing a local fanbase and leaving a lasting impact requires strategy. Here are 18 ways to have a successful first gig in a new city.
Before The Gig
#1. Set a primary goal and a door-opening goal for your show. First, consider what needs to happen at this show in order for you to leave with a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. Make this primary goal measurable and specific. Next, consider what door you’d like to be able to open as a result of this gig. Most artists playing in a new market want to transform that market into a regular stop on their future tour route. What is your door-opening goal? Do you want to perform in that market every year? Every few months? Keep both goals in mind throughout your promotional process.
#2. Get to know the other artists on the bill. Introduce yourself via email and express interest in brainstorming a collaborative promotional strategy. As the show nears, tag the other acts in your social media posts and encourage them to do the same.
#3. Attend a local open mic in the month leading up to your gig. Perform your best material and talk to as many locals as possible. Be shameless: mention the upcoming show and pass your mailing list to begin developing a local fanbase.
#4. Mail a promotional flyer to the venue at least three weeks prior to your performance. If you can’t be there to promote the show in-person, let the flyer do some of the work for you.
#5. Submit your music to three local press outlets and three local radio stations. Most venues keep a press list of local music journalists and radio stations that can be contacted for show promotion. Email the booker requesting the venue's press list. Select three press and three radio contacts and submit your best or most recent track, complete with a press release about the upcoming show.
#6. Create a sponsored ad to run two weeks before the show. Limit the ad to run in the new city. Target folks who fit your typical audience profile based on age, gender, and interests.
#7. Mobilize your local connections. Build a shortlist of friends, family, and fans within a 25-mile radius of the show. A week before the show, send out personal text messages or personal emails asking if they can attend. If they can't make it, ask that they share the show on social media and invite their friends.
During The Gig
#8. Pass your mailing list and collect sign-ups. No exceptions. Even if it seems awkward, even if the other bands don’t do it, even if there are only three people in the room - pass that list. This is the best way to begin building your fanbase in a new city.
#9. Take live photos and video, or ask an audience member to do it for you. These can be shared on social media after the show and used as living proof that the gig was a hit, providing incentive for the booker to have you back in the future.
#10. Promote your merch. Use your stage time as an opportunity to talk about the records and merchandise you have for sale. Give an item away for free - like a sticker or postcard - to encourage audience members to visit the merch table. Distributing merch among locals is a great way to stay visible and relevant after you've left.
#11. Talk to as many people as possible. The other acts, the fans, the sound gal. Get out of your comfort zone. Every person you talk to is a new potential fan and connection.
After The Gig
#12. Post photos and videos to social media. You know what they say: Pics or it didn’t happen. Tag the venue, the other acts, the venue, and the booker as appropriate.
#13. Send a thank you email to the booker and ask to play again. Be gracious. Thank the booker for the performance opportunity and ask for a future performance date. Don't worry about being too pushy; it's better to make a performance request while you're fresh on the booker's mind.
#14. Send a thank you email to the other acts. Fellow artists are the most valuable connections you can make in a new market. Thank them for sharing the stage with you and request information about quality local performance opportunities for the future. If you and the band shared a similar genre or style, consider mentioning possibilities for future gig swaps in your home city.
#15. Add all of your email sign-ups to your virtual email list. 'Nuff said.
#16. Personally email every new fan. Instead of sending a mass email blast, take the time to write a personal email to all of your new sign-ups. New fans in new markets are precious; each is a tiny seed that you can nourish over time to build a vibrant fanbase in that community.
#17. Write a positive review on the venue’s Facebook page. This is a great way to build a healthy rapport with the booker and other gatekeepers at the venue.
#18. Ask any gatekeepers you met for testimonials. If you connected with the booker, prominent local acts, music journalists, radio personalities, producers, or other local industry professionals at your gig, request a testimonial from them via email after the show. It can be nerve-wracking to ask a virtual stranger for kind words about your music, but testimonials from locals go a long way when appealing to gatekeepers in a new city.