How To Promote A Local Concert

The following post was created by Jeremy Boyum, bass player for Shadow Of Whales. We were planning to publish a guide like this for some time now, and lucky for us the team at Muddy Paw PR was able to find a talented and well-spoken artists to help bring it to life. Enjoy.

It was getting late. At this point, I was going to get maybe three hours of sleep before I had to wake up, bring my son to school and run off to work and do this all over again. It was cold – okay it was only like 30 degrees, but that’s cold for Texas okay?! – And I wanted to go home. But I couldn’t go home, because if I quit now, I could be missing out on that one person who would become the next Shadow of Whales super fan. Maybe we would have an awesome conversation about the state of the industry or maybe their favorite band was Relient K too. Maybe they would join the street team and come up with innovative ways to help us promote. Maybe I would run into the president of Sony and he would be so impressed that we got on a national radio campaign! I couldn’t give up, not until the job was done.

If you’re in a band and you’re really serious about growing your audience, one of the biggest things you can do (aside from writing good music) is PROMOTE YOUR SHOW! Legitimately promoting your show with hard work and smart work can be time-consuming and very challenging, not to mention you’re sacrificing some of your money and blood, sweat and tears to make it happen. BUT, if your dream is to play your music in stadiums and arenas one day, you’re not going to get there by just being in existence. You have to spread the word!

I fully recognize that there are already articles that talk about this subject. My goal is to shake loose some of those creative juices that work so well in your musicianship to really take your promotion game to the next level. You ready?

ONLINE PROMOTION

Most articles talk about promoting your concert online, so I’m going to just do a quick walkthrough to recap:

FACEBOOK EVENTS/ADS

When most of your audience is still just your friends and family this is pretty vital. Unless you want to play to an empty room, you need to let your friends know what’s good!

I would definitely suggest experimenting with ads if you haven’t already. As unfortunate as it is that Facebook screwed musicians with their algorithm, you just don’t have much of a choice. If you are really against Facebook, then you are going to have to work extra hard to make sure your friends know about your show. After you send out Facebook invites send EVERYONE you invited personal text or Facebook messages, or give them a call. (Calling or text messages are better) The more personal you are the better, especially with your friends.

TWITTER

Believe it or not, Twitter is a really great way to get the word out about your show. Especially if you’re opening for a major touring band. You can gain a lot of new followers by tracking the artist you’re playing with, engaging/retweeting their tweets and engaging with their fans so that you can tell them “hey, guess what, we’re actually playing with that band.” (Pro-tip: look up Twitter advanced search)

If you’re playing a festival, most of them have trackable hashtags that they use to broadcast the message. They coincidentally also use Facebook events and a lot of people engage with it. You can post on those event pages… Just saying, be a part of the conversation and make some friends.

ONLINE EVENT CALENDARS

Most cities have them. DO512.com for instance in Austin, in addition to the Austin Chronicle and local newspapers with calendars. It’s also very important to utilize Bands in Town and Songkick. Bands in Town ports to a lot of popular social media and you can link your bands Spotify account to Songkick. Meaning, if someone’s listening to your band on Spotify they can also see if you’re playing a show in their area.

Make sure you’re doing the work online, it’s really important. If it feels meaningless just think about the fact that your band’s name is in more places on the internet which means people searching keywords on Google are more likely to find you. (This is especially useful if you’re at a stage where you don’t have a website or large following on social media) There are also often spam *cough* I mean “other” sites that track things like this so when you do this work it’s more often than not being duplicated on to other sites without you having to do anything extra.

GRASSROOTS PROMOTION

Flyers

Nowadays flyers are actually a pretty big advantage because it’s not something bands are doing as often. I think that might have to do with social media making people lazy. Social media was never meant to replace anything that people do on a day to day basis to promote their business. Social media is meant to be an EXTENSION of a business/band/brand. At the end of the day you still have to be out there and on your grind both online and offline.

Flyers are also a huge turnoff for a lot of bands because:

  1. If you’re not good at design, don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be amazing, hand draw something if you really have to and then bring it to a local print shop and have them make copies. The money will be worth it if you stay consistent. Just make sure your band’s name is on the flyer and easily readable. The most important thing about handing out flyers, especially in the beginning, isn’t necessarily promoting your event. It’s promoting your brand. The more people see and hear your brand’s name the better. If it’s surrounded by your kick-ass concerts or the new single you put out then it makes it look even better.
  2. If you want flyers that are both within your budget and also really high-quality, I ALWAYS get my bands promotional material printed at www.bandposterprinting.com. They’re the best! They are super affordable for what you get and what you get is awesome. Not to mention they have fantastic customer service. I don’t even care that they’re on the other side of the country from us, they’re still cheaper than FedEx/Kinkos and PostNet!
  1. It can be bad if someone doesn’t take the flyer or they insult you. The other day one of our street teamers was handing a flyer to someone and he said “no, I don’t want your flyer. But I can help you.” He then snatched the rest of the flyers she was holding in her hand and threw them in a nearby garbage disposal. Needless to say she was pretty upset, so was I, what a jerk! No one wants to be rejected and that can make it hard to stay motivated. BUT;
  2. On the other hand, that very same night we met so many awesome and very nice people that connected with us on social media, and several of them ended up coming to the show we were promoting. What’s more is the venue saw us promoting and we gained a lot of respect points from them. You never know what’s going to happen but if you don’t try then you’ll never know.

So where do you hand out your flyers now that they’ve been printed?

Do some research online, or ask around for what bands are playing in your area. Even if they’re semi-large local acts, you can attend the concert and in between bands playing, introduce yourself to people in the audience, have a short conversation with them, mention YOUR band and the fact that you’re playing in the area soon. With major touring bands coming through town, they’ll always have a lot of promotion and there will usually be a crowd waiting outside before doors even open. Use this to your advantage. They can’t go anywhere so walk up and introduce yourself to every single person in line and tell them about your event. In addition to promoting at other concerts look for heavily populated areas near where you’re playing. In Austin, a lot of our venues are on 6th street. On Saturdays after 10pm, they barricade the streets surrounding 6th because there are SO many people there getting drunk at all of the bars that the sidewalks just can’t hold them. (Pro-tip: alcohol makes people more willing to accept your flyers more often than not. Not that you won’t get rejected but your chances of acceptance are certainly higher.)

If you’re younger and held under parental guidelines that keep you from driving downtown (or if you don’t yet have the ability to drive downtown yourself) hand these flyers out at your school. When I was in high school I played in a band called iTEM84 and we would make four flyers on one page, make as many copies as we felt we needed, then cut them in to four quarters and gave some to our friends to help us hand them out. We’d hand them to everybody roaming the halls between classes, put them in lockers, on bulletins, on cars in the parking lot and any other place I was allowed to post them up. Much like people waiting outside concerts, these students have nowhere to go and often times nothing to do, so why wouldn’t they want go to your concert or at least check out your band’s music?

Posters/Stickers

Again, these don’t have to be super fancy, just do your best to make your name very recognizable. When you print posters and put them around town, try your best to post them in blocks of four (Either in a line or a square/rectangle) unless the space only allots for one. This might not yield immediate results but it’s really important to stay consistent. Imagine the first, second, third or fourth time you see something you might just pass it by. But you see it a fifth time and finally decide, you know what I keep seeing this logo/name everywhere, I need to check this out.

Also, this always looks good to the promoters and venues. Even if your show at this point ends up not having a super great turnout, they’ll see that you put the work into it and be a lot more willing to give you another show than if you were to sit on your hands and pray.

Street Team

Handing out flyers can be hard but the good thing is that you don’t have to do it alone. Ideally if you’re in a band you would be doing it together, but even if you’re not, you can always ask a couple of your most dedicated fans to go with you and share in both the pain and the excitement. Remember those friends you were inviting on Facebook? Ask the ones who truly believe in what you’re doing to help you out one night. Give them a free shirt or free ticket entry for helping out. What this does in addition to helping you promote is it gives them more stake in your success and they’ll end up sharing you more to their friends as a result because they feel like they are more a part of what you’re doing.

GET CREATIVE!

Work on your pitch when handing out flyers, see what works and what doesn’t work. Work on your poster design and grow your street team. Have group events with them when promoting and go out to eat/hang out with them. Think of ways you can utilize these people as billboards for your cause, especially if they’re the ones offering to do so. Think about it, is it more effective to see one guy in plain clothes handing out flyers for his next show? Or would there be more impact if there were ten people all wearing the same shirt, handing out the same flyer talking about how great this one band is? There’s tons of room to explore here!

Keep thinking of different ways you can attract people’s attention. For one show we recently promoted, we took a page out of the Warped Tour/Festival handbook. Often at Warped, you’ll see bands with handmade pole-signs that have their band’s name, the stage their playing and the set time. In similar fashion we made a 17×8.5×11 styrofoam box with battery-powered LEDs and a PVC pipe. We covered it with paper that had our ‘Shadow of Whales’ logo on it and the show information. We carried this thing around 6th street and downtown Austin while it was flooded with people and as we walked around we would see people not only look up at the sign but then read it OUT LOUD! We had people yell at us from rooftop bars and ASK us to tell them what it was about.

Former Taylor Swift manager, Rick Barker says “if you want to sell 500,000 albums, you need to meet 500,000 people.” I know we’re talking about promoting your concerts but the concept here is the same. If you want to have more people at your show, you need to meet and share your music with more people. The only way to do that is to get out there and grind it out. You don’t need to make this a massive success on day one. 500,000 people is a LOT of people to take on all at once. But maybe you could meet 10 people in one day, maybe 50? As Warren Buffet says “No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.” Take small steps and implement new strategies as you master learned ones. Start with mastering online promoting, then master posters, then stickers, then flyers, then street team. Before you know it you’ll have a whole crowd of people at your shows that you just met through promoting. If you stay consistent, stay coachable, and work hard, I guarantee you it will be worth it in the long run. Most importantly, do not EVER give up!

With a passion for creating music and spreading hope through friendships comes Austin five-piece, Shadow of Whales. (For Fans Of: The Killers, Franz Ferdinand). They are all songwriters, they all love music, and more importantly, they all love people. Their debut self-titled EP charted on CMJ‘s Top 200 and has seen regular rotation at Starbucks Coffee across the United States and Canada. They have performed at several festivals including the Vans Warped Tour (San Antonio), Heart of Texas Rockfest, and South By So What?! Festival, and have shared the stage with names such as Courage My Love, Mayday Parade, Circa Survive, Jonny Craig. They just released their new single, “Roots” which you can listen to HERE, and are currently running a Patreon, offering fans exclusive tracks, merch, discounts and more. Grab your download of “Roots” HERE.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.