BOOKING 101 - Street Invites
New for 2015: Here is the simplest, quickest, easiest, and cheapest (free) way to get people into your gigs: Invite them in from the street! Here are the two ways to go about it...
The first is just like the title says: Invite people off the street. All you need is a small pad of paper and a pen. Arrive at your gig an hour or two earlier than you need to, and start walking around the block. Look for people that are most likely to like your music, and walk up to them and say "Hi, my name is __________ and I'm a musician/singer, and I'm going to be playing tonight over at the ABC club right over there (point to it), and I wanted to invite you to come see me play/sing; do you ever go see live shows there?" Whatever answer you get, you will eventually get to the point of them asking where exactly the club is, and that's when you point at it again, or get your pen and pad out, and write the address of the club, and the time, and give it to them. Then say you hope to see them there, and for them to come up and say hi too.
Why use a pad and pen, instead of just giving them a promo card/poster/etc? Because people don't like receiving mass marketing materials, especially from an artist directly (it kills the personal touch). The big advantage of doing the invites yourself is that people love meeting artists and creative types in general. That's why they go to local gigs, and why the first thing you want to say is "Hi, I'm a musician...". Very few people will get mad at an artist who is introducing him/herself. So, since this is a personal invite from an artist, the last thing you want to do is break the personal connection by handing out pre-printed stuff of any sort. Everything must be hand-written. Many of the fans will even keep the hand-written note as sort of an autograph.
The second way to do street invites is to knock on doors of apartments, homes, companies and stores in the area around the gig. The steps are the same: Knock on the door (or walk in) and say "Hi, I'm a musician and I'm going to be playing tonight at the ABC club right over there (point to it), and I wanted to invite you folks to come see me play; do any of you ever go see live shows there?" The only change in wording is that you are now inviting more than one person at a time. The person you talk to could be a maid in a house, a student at a school, a clerk at a front counter, a receptionist in an office, a security guard in a warehouse, a hostess in a restaurant, etc.
If you are scared of doing these invites yourself (almost ALL musicians are), then there is still hope! Have a friend come along, who is very outgoing. Have him/her go to the people and say "Hi, my friend here is a musician, and he's going to be playing tonight at the ABC club right over there (pointing to it); I wanted to invite you to come see him play; do you ever go see live shows there?" It works great!
Don't be surprised if you get invited to join them for beer, dinner, bbq, a party, a walk around the office, etc. They get real friendly! If you have an instrument, have it nearby (but not with you) so you can grab it and do a short performance if needed. It's important to not have it with you; that would look too presumptuous.
There is actually a third way, although it's less personal, and that is to hire people to pass out pre-printed cards/flyers. This actually is what most people do, and in my opinion it's not nearly as effective, especially when you take into account that you have to pay them. But if you have extra money, and you have a large area to cover, it might make sense.
Using the "invite" technique is how you beat the majors! No major artist is going be able to do street invites. Matter of fact, many people live right next door to venues, but have never been to a single show there. Why? Because they were never personally invited. When people are personally invited, they will go to things that they have no interest in at all, just to show support to the person who invited them. This is ESPECIALLY true if the person is an artist of some type. After all, if an artist knocked on your door and invited you to see his/her show that night, would you want to go? What if a chef from a new restaurant nearby came and invited you come try his new favorite dish... would you want to try it? What if a dancer came and invited you to see her very first performance at a place right down the street... would you want to support her?
And here is a last twist of usefulness of invites: When you already know that you'll be doing invites in a part of town, use that information to get better gigs. Do this by including this information in your venue marketing materials, in your emails to venues, your phone calls to venues, and especially in your personal visits to venues (where you can explain exactly what you'll be doing). Actually, street promotion (which is what venues call it) is something they normally pay for, so if they hear that you'll be doing it for free, then you will be the artist they choose to book instead of the other hundred or so that they were considering.
That's how it works.
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