By Nik Ives-Allison
One of the biggest concerns we’ve been hearing from our artist members of late is about the dreaded ‘post-holidays slump’ in January.
In December things are great! People are going out, seeing shows, having a great time. Then in January—nothing. Folks are spent, both physically and financially, and it can be hard to rally your normal crowd out.
What is an artist to do? What we’d suggest, is using this time to really kick your audience development efforts into high gear and try some new approaches that maybe you haven’t paid enough attention to before.
Jason Wilkinson from The Artist Alliance delivered a workshop on December 14 on audience development for emerging-level artists and he gave some good tips.
His first tip? Don’t think about your audience as the number of people who were at your last gig. It’s the number of people you can count on to come to the next one. If you didn’t connect with the folks who came out to see you last time, if you didn’t leave them desperately wanting to see you again, it’s a missed opportunity.
What does that mean? Every show has to be a great show. You’re not going to have the best show of your life every night, but you sure can (and need to) try.
Just as importantly (and this brings us to tip 2), you also need to be able to offer something new—a reason to come out. It doesn’t have to be an album, an EP, or even a single. It can be an unreleased track you’re playing for the first time, a new merch line, or a one-night only silk-screen poster. Make it special. Make it good.
You’ve got a great show and original material but what now? Make it easy for people to stay connected. Social media is great—and absolutely you should be using targeted ads where that’s right for your audience—but Facebook alone isn’t enough to really cultivate an audience.
Have an email list at your merch table and use it to share important updates and announcements (pro tip from OMIC—use a different sheet each night and keep track of each city so you can send clear, targeted emails).
How do you get people to sign up? Offer something of value—a live off the board recording from the gig that night, an exclusive track, a video from the stage so they can try to find themselves in the crowd.
But what about new fans? Again, social media can go a long way, but only if leveraged in combination with old-fashioned hustle. If you’re playing a local gig tell people! Your grandma’s bridge club, the barista who’s wearing a shirt of a band that sounds like yours, the guy who sits across from you in the office who looks like he could use a night out. Find a point of authentic contact and use it to build a relationship.
Did you remember to submit your gig listing to Ottawa Beat and Showbox? Get in touch with other local media to see if you can do an interview to tell folks about why this show in particular is a can’t miss? Post in local digital forums and Facebook groups for music fans? Hit the streets and poster?
If you want to go the extra mile, if your venue doesn’t sell traditional paper tickets, make your own and keep them on you so you can get buy-in at the time folks say yes rather than waiting on the door. Keep a record of tickets sold at the door.
We know this sounds like a lot of work. That’s because it is. But it’s better than the alternative—an empty room and a disappointed venue.