1. Gig Gard, Gig Smart
Playing live often is, for obvious reasons, a vital component of being visible and building a fanbase. The bands I was in that have generated the most consistent buzz were gigging on a weekly or bi-weekly basis in the beginning. In general, a bi-weekly gigging schedule is a good goal. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should take every single gig that comes your way. It’s important to be smart about where you're appearing and when.
It can be dangerous to play too often in one place. Doing so will tire out your audience in that area and makes your appearance much less special. So gig often, but spread them out geographically. If you live in a large metropolitan area, make it so you’re only playing the same part of town once every six weeks or so at most. In smaller towns, reach out to venues in adjacent towns and make the trip. Yes, this could involve a lot of travel, but it will pay off in the end, as you are reaching new fans consistently while keeping the interest of your current ones. But here's the reality, if you live in a town of 400,000 - 800,000 - or 1,000,000 people, my assumption would be that if you played a venue a few times a month, you will always gain a fan no matter where you play. But still, spread it out and gig often.
2. Get Radio Play
Yes, this means that you need to have radio quality music that you need to have available to be played. (If you don't, make sure to hire a good local studio that can do this for you!) But with this being said, make sure to go through the checklist to make sure your music is radio ready. There are a handful of stations that will play locals only, college radio stations that will play upcoming band's music and even internet radio stations that will play most. Don't be discouraged that the popular stations featuring top 40 artists aren't playing your music. (Unless you have the advertising and radio budget of the top 40 artists, you won't be played there). Rely on the other stations to help you by bringing your music to a market that you might not be yet. Remember, just one more fan created may be the difference in creating a tipping point of making your band known.
3. Move From Band To Business (Think Out Of The Box)
Now, I don't mean sell out. But this is the year to take your band from the slowly growing, garage band practicing, goofing off group - to a successful, money making business.
Most feel that they can write a few songs, play a few shows, maybe wait for a handout and become the next big thing. The reality is, however, there are no handouts in the industry. It takes a bit more than a few good songs and a few shows to become known. There are two main things that come into play when it comes to the industry. First, is who you know. This will never change. Utilize and lean on all contacts you have in the industry that can get you the next contact, the next gig and even be heard by just one more person. Who you know in the industry will get you one step further - therefore, if you don't know anyone (or don't know enough people), get out and meet more people. Attend the shows, attend the conferences, set up meetings with people in your town; network, network, network. If you know people but aren't willing to contact them or use them, then how serious are you about this group? Bill Gates once said that the success of Microsoft never came from the money spent in the business but the time spent ON the business. So spend time making it happen.
The second is then what you know. Take the time to look at businesses that have succeeded and apply them to your band. If your band ran like a new entrepreneurial venture, what would you stop doing, and what would you start doing? Get the right people involved and kick the wrong people out. Start running your social media in a way that builds a brand rather than making you look cooler than you actually are. Speaking of social media; stop pretending like your famous (I mean if you are, then you've probably already done all this). Respond to fans! If Taylor Swift and Queen can take a second out of their day to wrap Christmas presents for fans or throw a CD release in 5 different cities and anonymously invite fans for a listening party and personally bake them cookies ... I'm sure there's more you can do. Think out of the box. No business became successful by being like all the others. Businesses and bands become successful because they are original and came up with their own ideas. Seek out successful ideas and apply it to their brand.
4. Close The Gaps
Everyone has been guilty of it at one time or another. Some of us continue to do it. You end a song and turn your back to the audience, while tuning your guitar - you don't say a word, or even giving the stink eye to a musician that missed a note even when you're the only person that noticed. Whatever it is, you’re creating dead air. On stage, 5 seconds of dead air is an eternity. Time to close the gaps. Give people a show so good that even if they have the record, they want to come to the show for the entertainment.
It’s essential to understand that the flow of your set is just as important as the quality of your songs. Take some time outside of your show to work out the details of how your song list will flow. Then, rehearse it. Most bands get together; play a bunch, write some songs and often goof around. Don't forget the moments of treating your band like a business and schedule literal meeting time to close the gaps.
Fact is, major recording artists place specific attention on the flow and continuity of their live show. This is why they spend months rehearsing it before going out on tour. They’re doing it…why wouldn’t you?
5. Set Expectations & Divide Tasks
This is probably the most important point. As a band, you all need to settle on common goals and expectations for your career. Decide what sound and image you’re going for and how long you see yourself pushing your music career. The last thing you want is your singer or drummer to bail after a few years because he feels like he needs to move forward from a group that is only a hobby to him.
An important expectation to set is how much time you can all realistically dedicate to the band. Some member may still want to hold down part-time jobs as a stable income while others may feel the best option is to go full force into music to “make it” faster. In the end, you may end up feeling like some members aren’t pulling their weight and that leads to tension in the band. But if you can set expectations and divide tasks on who books shows, who maintains social media, who builds networking contacts, who helps gain PR, who balances the budget all while writing and creating new and good music - you'll continue to take the necessary steps to move your band forward.