[Editors Note: This article was written by Suzanne Paulinski.]
Putting together a live show isn’t easy. You’ve got to find the right venue, pitch to and book the venue, promote the show, rehearse for the show, lug your gear to the show, and then perform!
With so many moving pieces, not to mention the nerves you may experience before getting on stage to perform, it’s easy to forget many small but important details that can help take your show from a great performance to a great platform for growing your career.
Live shows should never be looked at as stand-alone experiences, but rather opportunities to leverage greater growth in your fan base and income streams.
Below is a list of five things you should bring to every live show to ensure it’s a seamless experience for turning concert-goers into engaged fans:
1. Laminated Price Lists
It’s a no-brainer to bring merch with you to sell at your show, but it’s not common practice for musicians to remember to take care of their price list. No one wants to wait in line forever, no matter how great your swag is.
Bringing a paper list that gets taped to the table or wall not only makes it difficult to see when you’re behind a group of people, but all too often drinks spill, people scrape up against it, and before long the price list is illegible and/or torn to pieces.
Having two or three laminated sheets to pass around or display in various places near your merch makes it possible for potential fans to quickly and easily see what you’re offering and how much you’re charging.
Pro-tip: Keep prices simple and have one or two bundled packages available at most. Don’t provide too many choices for people. Don’t charge $17 for a shirt. Keep it at $10, $15, $20 so time isn’t wasted figuring out totals and change owed.
2. Clipboard or Tablet With Email List App
Live shows are a perfect opportunity to grow your email list. Don’t be shy about it! Tell people during your set that you have a clipboard or (preferably) a tablet with a sign-up form on it. If you’re using Mailchimp be sure to download their Chimpandeedoo app and customize your own form to display at shows.
You can keep this at your merch table and trade an email for a free single or pin, or deliver them something cool digitally in the welcome email.
ALWAYS make sure you highlight what they’ll get for giving you their email address. While it’s important to mention your social channels while you’re on stage, encouraging the audience to take out their phones and follow you, getting their email will all you direct access to them and you can list your socials in the welcome email, making it super easy for them to follow you immediately.
Pro-tip: Ask for the zip code as a required field in your sign-up form. You never know if someone at your show is visiting from out of town. When they’re added to your list, segmenting your list by zip code will enable you to contact fans in a specific region when you’re playing in their area.
Note that you only have to do this at shows, if someone signs up for your newsletter from their personal device most email management systems are able to detect their location automatically.
3. Cash Box With Change & Square Reader
Again, keep the customer service experience in mind. If someone comes with a $20 and your t-shirts are $15, either sell them a bundle of two for $20 or have change readily available! While many are used to Venmo and PayPal these days, some still prefer to use cash. Have a locked box with you with about $100 or so in small bills ready.
For those who prefer debit/credit, investing in a Square reader is more than worth it. Many times you can get one for free if you open a business account with Stripe or PayPal.
Pro-tip: Always make sure you’re charging your phone or tablet before a show so you don’t run into issues taking payments due to a dying device.
4. Free Giveaways
You don’t have to feel as if you’re getting nothing for investing in these materials, (i.e. stickers, pins, pens, etc.). Instead, as explained above, use them as leverage to get people on your email list. Whether they are patches, stickers, CD singles, or pins – trade them for emails!
Pro-tip: For this to work effectively, given that you most likely only have a few minutes to capture people’s attention before the next performance, have everyone in the band ready with a device or clipboard for taking emails.
5. Your Focus & Energy to Schmooze
While this one may also seem like a no-brainer, it can often be underestimated how much energy it takes to not only perform on stage, but off stage as well. Your performance doesn’t end when you pay your last note. If you want to grow your fan base you’ve got to show up in every sense of the word.
Smile, ask them questions, answer their questions, take photos, share contact info, thank them for coming, etc. Don’t simply make announcements to follow you online and then run off stage and disappear.
Pro-tip: If you are an introvert, this doesn’t have to feel so overwhelming. You can set up boundaries around your energy that will allow you to do your job without feeling completely burnt out. Stand in one place near your merch table or at the bar and let them come to you.
However, make sure you announce on stage where you’ll be and invite them to come find you! Cap your “schmooze time” at 15-20 minutes and then call it a day – or make a deal with yourself that you’ll connect with ten new fans and once you reach that number you’re officially off the clock.
Keeping these five small but effective things in mind before every show will allow you to make your time at the venue work for you well past the end of your set. After practicing these efforts at your next few shows you will most likely see a shift in your fan engagement and live performance income.
Suzanne Paulinksi is an artist consultant with over 10 years in the music industry and owner of The Rock/Star Advocate