Lesson: Building Blocks: Gigging on a 10-Week Cycle

May 2008 By Thomas Goss c/o www.nzmusician.co.nz
Every band is different but bands that make it all have one thing in common - audience development. Those are two big important words that everyone reading this should remember for the rest of their careers. The bottom line in management is always attendance. If you manage yourselves as many bands do these days then you are going to have to book smart! Here is a strategy that I have developed to help working bands organise their goals as performers and music business professionals. It includes various types of gigs how to use them progressively and gives bands a guide to plan ahead with promotion and audience development. It's called the 10-Week Cycle.
Basically every 10 weeks your band will host a signature headlining gig. Every other gig that you book will be used to promote and build your audience toward that one big gig and you will focus most of your energy and creativity to make it happen. Let's break them down so you can start planning now... The 10-Week Cycle -a guide to possible gigs 1X Signature headlining gig
2-3X Supportings gigs
1x All-ages guest spot
2-4X Covers gigs
2X Parties/events
1-2X Street fairs/festival gigs
1-2X Out-of-town gigs or local area tour
Total: 10-15 gigs per cycle for a working band 1. The Signature Headlining Gig
This is your baby. You can do whatever you like here in terms of mood staging and theme. What really helps make your show work are the supporting bands though so choose the guest acts wisely. Promote the hell out of this show with posters word-of-mouth MySpace/bebo announcements textlisting and flyers passed out at all of your gigs leading up to the date.
Use one or more of the following media outlets: PSAs or interviews on the radio a TV spot if you can get one a newspaper interview or photo with caption or a feature in street press and gig guides.
Offer something new every time like a merch item (t-shirt button badges etc.) or a CD or a new batch of songs.
Make this gig a party for your commited fans and a special welcome for all the new audience you've picked up at other recent gigs. 2. Supporting Gigs
When you are playing at another band's headliner your responsibility to them is to keep the gig hopping. Play a short set - 25 minutes max. That gives the headliners the option of booking several guest acts and you want more bands to play so that everyone can pick up on each other's audience. Make sure your flyers are lying around for the signature gig. Talk to people hand out flyers have fun but most important stay at the gig.
Don't check out after your set and take your crowd with you that is the lowest of the low. 3. All-Ages Guest Spot
More and more bands are trying this and it's working well for them. With the all-ages scene growing stronger in cities like Wellington and Christchurch and starting to blossom again in Auckland it's good sense to get out there and support the scene.
These gigs don't pay much but the appreciation is very gratifying and the audience development factor is priceless. 4. Covers Gigs
If you are a working band you may want to take advantage of the many cover music venues in your area. This need not mean that you have to give up your identity - just learn some covers that are in your style range do them your own way and slip a few originals into every set.
If you keep a positive attitude about this you can really pick up a lot of new audience this way. Until the day comes when you don't need this type of gig anymore make some extra money book a couple of these every so often and use them shamelessly to get the word out about your big gig. 5. Parties/Events
If you have a set or two of covers and can really sell your audience on your originals then you should consider booking as many parties as you can. Friends and family are great but the best type is always the corporate gig. If a company likes you you may find your band offered a spot at every event they hold.
Such gigs are priceless because the audience will be completely on your side if you can get them to respect you. Also consider the money and exposure in graduation parties college events and weddings - as long as you can stay being the band you want to be. 6. Street Fairs/Festival
These can also be good audience-builders because the attendance is so random. A passerby can become an instant fan. Agents/organisers will notice which bands work the audience well. In a festival you can also make connections with other bands who might like your work and book you onto their roster for a supporting set or a tour. 7. Out-of-town Gigs
What to do when you've firmly established yourselves in one area? Start a new group of fans in another. Take pokes at the club scene of a nearby city and see if you can work with bands there to build up support for your band. After a while these out-of-town gigs will become more and more important until finally you are touring every chance you get. Even better playing outside your home town will make you stronger and wiser as a band and give you a taste of the challenges to come. Finally always be on the look out for new ways of performing like live radio or internet shows or putting video clips on YouTube and MySpace. Use every opportunity to build your audience.
No one really knows why some bands make it and others don't but no band will ever make it without giving the audience a reason to come back.
So keep your sets tight your chemistry sizzling and your vision of the future bright. Plan the show set the stage and then go out there and kick them where it's felt. See you at the next gig. By Thomas Goss c/o www.nzmusician.co.nz Thomas Goss is a concert music composer producer and rock band training guru. He directs the 'Wellington School of Rock' and organises the yearly event 'Rock Camp' bringing professional-level industry skills to teen rock musicians from all over NZ.