It’s been about 3 years since I started playing out as a solo acoustic performer playing my own songs. I’ve noticed an interesting phenomena, which probably applies to bands also (none of the bands I was in before I starting songwriting lasted long enough for me to notice this phenomena).
At your first gig, or rather your first few gigs, of course you have no fans yet, so you invite your friends, family members and co-workers. You have a good turnout, because of the curiosity factor– the “I didn’t know you played music!” factor. But then once their curiosity is satisfied, they stop coming to shows, unless they really like your music; that is, they have become fans. Your closest friends may continue to come to shows for awhile longer, just to support you, but eventually unless they also become fans, you’ll see less and less of them.
This can be discouraging. At your first shows you’ve got 10 or 15 people, now a year later, even though you’re a better songwriter, a better singer, a better performer overall, only one or two people are showing up.
So once you’ve passed Stage 1; that is, after you’ve exhausted the pool of friends, family members and co-workers, the question becomes: how to you get actual fans? People who come not to “support” you, but because they love seeing you perform and hearing your music.
Ah, if I only knew the answer to that problem. I’d be interested in hearing how other singer-songwriters and bands have made this transition.
4 thoughts on “Friends and Fans”
Play a ton of shows. Not just one or two a month…one or two every week.
I appreciate the suggestion from Anonymous, but until one has a fan base it’s difficult to get gigs. Venues want to book people who can bring people in and spend money. So even if one wanted to play one or two gigs a week, it’s just not possible.
So I think the solution is two-fold:
1) keep trying to get gigs. Don’t worry about being turned down. Look for non-traditional venues.
2) play open mics every week. This will allow you to hopefully make a few fans and network with other singer-songwriters (or bands). Maybe you’ll get lucky and find an “angel” who will love your music and offer you an opening slot for them. It happens. But even if you don’t find an angel–and most of us won’t–you can slowly build fans and friends and eventually be able to honestly tell venues that you can bring people to a show if they’ll book you.
Other folks out there have ideas? Agree? Disagree?
I feel your pain, Rob.
Here’s a really great idea a lot of folks do…find a gimmick for the gimmick’s sake that will draw people to your shows. Here are some random ideas in no particular order:
Play nude wearing cowboy boots…or with a tube sock on your john henry.
Hire some midgets as minions…they can taunt the audience between your songs.
Get some gold teeth.
Foster a persona that you are a tortured artist with a major drug problem…make sure you hire a very hot girl of questionalbe intelligence and tacky fashion sense to hang on your arm when you make the rounds to were the “cool kid” musicians hang out. Make sure you hire another guy to go around and say to every one “do you know who that is?” (I suspect your gigs would start filling pretty quick with this particular one.)
Or switch to banjo and wear one of those through-the-head arrow props like Steve Martin. Write songs about Margaritas…and wear funny hats.
…Or you can just keep writing from your heart and fuck’em if they don’t get it or understand what you are trying to do. I guess it really doesn’t matter a thousand years from now does it?
Dee Sub Wun
I appreciate my friend Dee Sub Wun’s humor and empathy. But I’m of the opinion that… gonna write a new blog on this.