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You're Wasting Your Best Marketing Opportunities

In my last post, I discussed a practical strategy for touring that nearly everyone can follow. In this post, I'll dive deeper into how to make the most of your touring and discuss the immeasurably valuable marketing opportunities that nearly every band is squandering.

The first one is shows. I know your band is absolutely amazing live, but how consistently committed are you to making each live show an opportunity for growing your audience? While many artists love performing, they fail to appreciate the precious opportunity that presents itself each time they take the stage.

As you'll read below, you can make some easy, practical adjustments and get much more out of each performance.

I'll assume, for the purposes of this post, that you're already putting on excellent live shows and skip to what might be less obvious.. It all starts at the end of each set, when you invite people to your merch table. My favorite way is to offer a freebie. Before the last song, have the singer say - we're (band) - come sign up for our mailing list after our set and I'll give you a free sticker.

Then get the singer off the stage and over to the merch booth while the band breaks down any equipment they've left on stage. Keep the singer there behind the merch booth for as much of the night as possible. The plan is to hang out and get to know potential new fans. Have friends or other bandmates bring the singer a drink so they don't have to move. The singer's job is to make a connection. Ask people questions about whatever town you're in or if they play music or whatever. Don't let anyone leave the merch table without signing up for your email list. If other bandmates want to join in, even better.

When I saw Listener perform in Portland a few years ago, each band member posted up behind the merch table and each of the four of them had their own long line of people waiting to chat and say hello and get the world's sweatiest hug. Sure, you don't have those kinds of fans yet, but neither did Listener before they started nurturing their rabid cult fanbase.

My friend Avi, who escaped the music industry and now runs Silver Sprocket, a wonderful independent comic publisher and store, tells a story about how Andrew WK used to talk to every single person in his merch line every single night on the Warped Tour. It would be like 2 am and he'd be there, hoarse and unfed, on the verge of collapse, making sure he gave his energy to each one of his fans.

I'll spare you a huge diatribe about this, but as an artist, what you really want is dedicated superfans. Not impressions, not streams, but people who show up to see your shows again and again--people who *buy records and shirts*. This kind of dedication to your audience (in addition to making good music, which I already assume you do) is the thing that will make fans delighted to do so.

While email might feel like the least glamorous of all marketing mediums, it's one that actually reaches your audience, where you don't have to stand out or pay/pray to the algorithm gods and it actually sells records. I cannot state enough how invaluable it is to collect email addresses and then store them by zip code. Even if you're only doing this with like 30 email addresses at first, it's well worth your time. Also, the fewer people you have on your email list, the more you're able to send people weird, amazing personalized stuff.

Was there a kitchen fire at your bar show in Reno? Make 5 custom shirts that say "I survived the Reno kitchen fire of '23" and email the 10 people who signed up for your list in that market. Ben Weinman calls this super-serving your super-fans.

You might be thinking to yourself, "I don't have any super-fans". That might be true. But the way to get super-fans is to nurture and delight the people who are into your music, even if they're just passively interested at first.

So decide now that you're going to get so good at keeping track of your fans based on location. It can just be a google sheet with emails and cities for now. It doesn't have to be crazy. Email people in a given market with shit they'll care about, like your awesome Reno kitchen fire shirt or just -- that you're coming back to Reno. Of course, you'll email your whole list when you release new music or have some other big announcement, but remember that small and specific is good.

While you're at it, you should also decide to get good at writing interesting emails. Tell your fans meaningful or deranged stories about your music, invite them to participate in your process, learn their names, and hold sacred the gift of them placing their fandom in you, if you can. This mindset has the potential to transform, not only your email correspondences, but also every way you communicate and serve your fans.

Next post, I'll dive in even deeper on how to infuse creativity and joy into your less glamorous work as a musician. If you don't want to miss that, sign up for our email list and I'll send it to you when it's up. We're a college radio promotion company built on our passion for helping independent artists work smart and connect meaningfully with a supportive fan community, so we post about all kinds of stuff.

Bonus Tip! While you're preparing to start investing energy into your email list, head over to Bandcamp! Bandcamp collects all the email addresses and zip codes of anyone who has ever downloaded your music - look you've got a head start already!

P.S. This really is the last thing to help you get the most out of your shows. Tip your sound guys. Those dudes talk to everyone.

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