In my spare time, I perform as a local musician. I play some original music, but half of my performances consist of cover songs (I still can’t nail my Michael McDonald impersonation for “What A Fool Believes.”)
Only a handful of gigs in the Blacksburg area, like the downtown bars, have intended performance spaces. But during any given week, there’s a lot of other stuff going on in unconventional venues. Cleared-out art galleries complement intimate acoustic or dance shows with aesthetic pleasantries. Basements are literally converted into underground noise machines.
So last summer, right when I started to get more opportunities to play, I turned to Facebook. I posted every show that I booked. Then I uploaded live performance clips and shared shout-outs to other local artists before and after gigs. I even posted pictures of handwritten setlists hours before the show.
And I failed. Actually, no, I didn’t fail — I wreaked of laziness. Don’t get me wrong, I worked my fingers to the bone on creating (recording, practicing, booking, and performing). But when it came to promotion — the very thing I do for a living — I dropped the ball. It wasn’t that I tried too hard; I didn’t try hard enough.
I was too busy getting my name on concert posters, I forgot no one knew anything about me when they glanced at them. I’ll never forget performing my first (and last) regional show at midnight to a scant crowd of five (one was reading a book!) I had fewer attendees than my opener, who sang karaoke to Coldplay’s “Yellow” by plugging his iPod directly into the sound system. That was a long drive home.
There’s a lot to be said for word-of-mouth event promotion. But at the end of the day, promotion is about getting the most people available to act. And that’s why my social media failure, coupled with some other successes, helped me learn how to better leverage Facebook engagement. Whether you’re a struggling artist or a regionally successful 501(c)(3), it begins with starting a conversation.