Industry Live Shows! How to Get Em and Keep Em


Go Digital or Go Home
*** ill o.g. ***

Blowing Up from the Basement is a series of articles and resources written exclusively for the IllMuzik fam, designed to help the bedroom producer/artist increase their exposure and make industry contacts that will get his/her music heard. These articles will run bi-weekly or monthly and will cover the wide spectrum of topics in this business of music from selecting managers, setting up your business properly, networking, and the list goes on and on.

In the latest series of Blowing Up From the Basement, I'm presenting a two part article that will allow you the artist to move from the basement to the stage!
  • Article #1 will cover an overview of live shows, setting them up, and a few other topics.
  • Article #2 will cover promo aspects, and how to build relationships with promoters.
We will learn the importance of touring, how to set-up a show, promo kit, little known (but effective) ways to promote your next show and more!

Disclaimer: All of these techniques actually work because I use them everyday.

Don't expect your career to blow up next Tuesday, if you treat your music as a hobby or "something you do after work". To make it in this business, it requires sacrifices and the willingness to be told the word "No" for years of your adult life, do YOU have what it takes???

The Importance of Live Shows to the Indie Artist

The most important thing to remember is the reason why you are playing live is to get comfortable enough with your material to play MORE live shows! Live shows are the #1 way to bring traffic to your website, and to sell merchandising such as t-shirts of your group, CD's, and stickers. If you're an artist, touring is part of the job, so if you're not good at it or don't particularly like it, you'd better find a way to love it because touring pays your rent when your records don't sell, plain and simple. Doing shows and eventually touring different venues is the foundation of the true independent artist. Many local MC's are under the impression that they can sign to a label, and then start touring but promotion should always start with the artist, only to be enhanced by the record label.

Setting Up the Show

First things first, before you set up a show, you should get a promo kit together. A good promo kit will consist of a black/white photo (no Polaroids, please), artist bio, a CD of your 4 best songs, and a business card with contact info. Do not place them in a manila envelope because the contents will fall out if opened incorrectly. A folder will do just fine with the logo or your label or group name on the front cover. Next you want to check "the wire" for upcoming shows. You can call local venues and ask if there are any upcoming shows. They will say "Yes" and give you a time/date. You will ask for the promoter's phone number or website and follow up with them. Send the press kit or hand-deliver the kit and follow up 7 days after initially and every 10 days thereafter.

The Purpose of a Promo Kit

The Promotional Kit is marketing tool that explains to the reader both in visual and audio formats what the promoter will be getting in exchange for booking your services. Your promo kit contains relevant band info that booking agents need to see. The Promo Kit contains a cover letter, a Bio, a Photo, articles written by the press, and of course a tape or video performance of the music presented.

Professionalism Goes A Long Way

If possible, the performing artists should arrive at least one hour and a half before the show. If you do not have management, I definitely suggest you arrive sober, because you are showing up early to meet the people behind-the-scenes, ultimately the people who will welcome your return if you play the game right. You want to make sure you give your CD to the DJ, and work out any special lighting requests that you may have. In most cases, the host isn't there an hour early or anything, but you definitely want to get with him/her to get all pronunciation straightened out. The host should mention your website, album release, and that your man is in the crowd selling CD's. If they don't, then you should handle that.

When you meet the club owner, shake the man/woman's hand unless he turns it into a "homeboy handshake". In the music business, professionalism is at an all-time low, especially amongst the artists. Show the owner, you are there to do a job, but also to have fun. Jot down the club owner's name and contact info and become best friends with the promoter, as you grow in fan base you'll find it easier to string together a small club tour just based off connections from shows you've played. It's understandable that a lot of artists drink and smoke before getting on stage, but just try to limit that to the last 30 minutes before show time. You could spend the whole pre-show time trying to "get in your zone" but if you're too high to make it to sound-check, you wasted your time even showing up. Remember that your reputation will always arrive before you do!

Tips to Land The First Show

Artists just getting their feet wet to live performing often find it hard to find their first show. The common mistake many indies make is to try to aim too high and attempt to open for a platinum recording artist. Most veteran club promoters won't let an act perform live unless you have performed other shows, and you can't get a show unless you've gotten other shows. Just keep in mind that your only goal is to get your first show. The best places for Hip-Hop/R&B acts to get their first taste are found in the following list:
  • Talent Shows
  • Unsigned Acts Showcases
  • Freestyle Competitions/Battles
It's important that whenever possible, you record your shows. This can also be added in your promo kit and sent to promoters. (Bonus Tip) If you're in a freestyle battle competition and you want some good live video footage, spit your best written rhyme and ignore the MC on stage, point directly at the camera and to the crowd. This will give the appearance that you are performing at a live show, which will add to your credibility.

Promoting Your Upcoming Shows

If you are new to your hometown market, then nobody in your area has a clue who you are. The real question is why would anybody even bother to come out and see your live performance? Once you've rehearsed your live material enough to feel really confident enough to perform, it's time to promote. Most of the readers of Blowing Up From the Basement do not have connections with radio, or print media, so I've devised sure fire, low-cost methods to help you promote upcoming shows.

Check out Blowing Up From the Basement next week for the follow up to Live Shows! How to Get Em and Keep Em!

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