By Ari Herstand
Editor’s note: The post below is from TuneCore Artist Ari Herstand. It originally appeared on Ari’s Take.
Building a fan base is a daunting task. Just reading that sentence your blood pressure probably rose a couple points. Everyone talks about how it’s so important to “build a fan base,” but no one really gives a simple way how or what that even really means.
You should not look at the ambiguous “fan base” as something magical and detached that will only take getting a hit on the radio obtainable. A fan base can be your friends and friends of friends who came to your last show and liked the show. If they come to the next show – BAM – fan base. Who cares that you know their last names and went to the bar with them last week. A ticket is a ticket and if they like you enough they’ll pony up the cash to come to the concert.
Gaining legitimacy with a club is easier than you think. You don’t need to send them a 6 paragraph email citing the battle of the bands you won or the TV shows you were on – but that could be an afterthought to reinforce the main point of your email: “How many people will be at my show.”
You can book a successful tour (I gauge success in terms of net income) around the county a lot easier than you think. In pretty much every major city in the country (world) there will be a small venue with a capacity under 300 that will be conducive to your sound. Nearly every under 300 cap venue in the world will be satisfied with a 50 person turnout on a week night and even some on the weekend if they haven’t filled that date with a sure thing. If you guarantee 50 will come you can probably book the club.
So that’s step one. Now that you have the shows booked how do you actually get the 50 to come? You have to find your niche. Every band has one or multiple niches. You can even create one. You should look at groups and organizations as a main target when promoting the show. Sure it’s nice to grab one kid’s attention from a Facebook ad, but it’s much more effective if you get an entire group excited about you.
Does your music appeal to college kids? Lineup promo shows at dorms/frats/sororities in that town a day before/day of the show and offer them a table to take donations for their philanthropy project. Are you a chess master? Contact the local chess clubs and offer them discount tickets and run a tournament pre-show where the winner will get free merch. Are you Jewish? Hit the Hillel houses/synagogues. Are you a theater nut? Contact local playhouses and offer them music to play before the show and at intermission and have discount tickets available in the lobby.
Just find a niche or an organization that you can contact locally that you can get excited about your band. Personalize your pitch to them and why you want to work together. It’s a mini partnership for that day (or months leading up to the show) so you should point out how it will benefit them. You should contact a few organizations for each city as to not bank on just one – in case it falls through or doesn’t work.
Once you find a way to get 50 people in any city to come to your show you’re now a headliner. Start with your local market and figure out what works there and then take that strategy on the road.
I once booked a 10 city high school tour. I spent a week in each city (most I had never been to before) and went into the local high schools during the weekdays then had an all ages club show booked on that Saturday. I performed a couple songs and talked to the music students about how a music education helped me get to where I am. The teachers loved having me because I was a living example of what they’re teaching and the students loved it because I play music they can get into and the fact that I had songs featured on TV and beat box made me cool (my jewfro didn’t hurt either). I was the talk of the school that week and guess what, every club show that weekend was filled with these high school kids who bought lots of merch. I promised every club at least 50 (even though I’d never been to that town before) and I had 50-250 at every show.
Ari Herstand is a full-time musician who has performed all across the country at clubs, colleges, festivals, high schools and more. His music has also been featured on television. Ari’s site, aristake.com, is dedicated to helping artists by providing tips and lessons from his personal experiences.