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Building a Following as a Solo/Duo Act


Howie22

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This is something that I've been struggling with over the past couple of years of playing music.

 

Typically speaking, I don't have any trouble getting gigs. I'm playing right now as much as I want to (probably even a little more than I want). I have 30-40 "fans/friends" that come out to see me once a month or so. Typically, that's dependent on the venue, etc.

 

Where I really need help is building a bigger fan base. I'd like to get to the point that I'm bringing in a lot of people most anywhere I play. Customers in the venues often tell me that they enjoy the show, etc. I will give them business cards, etc. I'm just not making the connection with the audience to get them to go home and follow me on Facebook or sign my website mailing list or whatever so they can find out my schedule and come out and see me again. I try and make it fun for the audience when I play.

 

Most of the places I'm playing are restaurant settings where people are seated and I'm typically playing at low volume. I'm fine with that, but I think it's often a tough sell to get people in that scenario to really get involved. Furthermore, I'm naturally a bit of an introverted personality. I don't have any problem talking to people, but I don't have that natural outgoing persona.

 

What kinds of things are you doing to build your fanbase??

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I don't build a following as a solo and I'm not interested in performing anywhere that demands I do so. All of the solo gigs I play are restaurants, wine bars and galleries. People don't come there for the music, they come there for the food, the wine, the ambience or the artwork. My job is to enhance their experience. I keep getting rehired because enough people tell the staff/owners that they think I'm good and they enjoy what I do. I get paid well in tips as well. But people don't go out of their way to go to a restaurant based on who's playing there, nor should they. If the music is a bigger consideration than the food at a restaurant, I'd think the place had a serious problem. Come for the food, stay for the music and apre-dinner wine. That's not to say some people don't come down when they know I'm playing, but as a rule, restaurants/wine bars aren't an entertainment draw business.

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I feel the opposite. I play the same places each week so I need to build a friendship with the regulars that go. Most places I play at are beach bar/restaurant type spots. One place I play at constantly rotates all their music shifts; except mine. Why? Beacause i have a minimum of 15-20 people (sometimes up to 40) that come see me there EVERY WEEK. Thats huge for a solo act in my opinion.

 

How I do it is by just talking to people during breaks. Clown around, whatever. Just dont go sit by yourself and play on your cell phone during your break and you will make friends with customers.

 

It's not enough just to be "good at what I do" in my opinion unless its a one-nighter.

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Building a fan base also includes offering something unique that the fans don't see anywhere else. In spite of having great talent, if you're not doing anything really different than other performers, the fans don't have a real compelling reason to flock to you. And I would have to agree with the restaurant statement, those folks are there to eat, not listen to music. Your performance just makes the evening much nicer. How big is your area? what is your competition like? Is there another act that gets the draw you're after and how are they doing it?

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I don't build a following as a solo and I'm not interested in performing anywhere that demands I do so. All of the solo gigs I play are restaurants, wine bars and galleries. People don't come there for the music, they come there for the food, the wine, the ambience or the artwork. My job is to enhance their experience. I keep getting rehired because enough people tell the staff/owners that they think I'm good and they enjoy what I do. I get paid well in tips as well. But people don't go out of their way to go to a restaurant based on who's playing there, nor should they. If the music is a bigger consideration than the food at a restaurant, I'd think the place had a serious problem. Come for the food, stay for the music and apre-dinner wine. That's not to say some people don't come down when they know I'm playing, but as a rule, restaurants/wine bars aren't an entertainment draw business.

 

 

Exactly!

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IMO; dress with class, and pay attention to the customers if you're playing in a restaurant, they have to hear the waitresses and vice versa. If they have to struggle to talk because you're too loud you won't be liked.

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It's not weekly, more like every 6 weeks. There are almost no gigs where a guy can play the same place every week here.

 

Most of the venues you are lucky to get into more than once a month. There are a few I get twice a month on weeknights, and one I get twice in a month on weekends, but usually it's once. Different rules for different parts of the country.

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I've always been too versatile to build a following. I had a ski area gig that was big on country, buffet, crude humor type songs. But concurrently had a restaurant/bar gig catering to older folks. Got a Jazz gig downtown etc. Because of this business model, any following was very little. Someone once showed up at the Jazz gig requesting Rocky top.

 

My goal is to keep the regulars at any venue coming back and staying longer. Maybe bring friends, but I find that most people going out now days stick to their area. Clientele in a small town 20 miles west of here don't drive to other small towns very often.

 

My most recent gig was a pool hall that usually has karaoke. They had me every other Saturday night for a few months. I quickly got a following from my facebook friends, many I went to school with long ago. If it wasn't for them, the gig wouldn't have lasted long at all. And thru FB, I've created a following.

 

Regardless, for now I've been replaced by karaoke. Proof again that repeat gigs don't repeat forever, even with a following.

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I've always been too versatile to build a following. I had a ski area gig that was big on country, buffet, crude humor type songs. But concurrently had a restaurant/bar gig catering to older folks. Got a Jazz gig downtown etc. Because of this business model, any following was very little. Someone once showed up at the Jazz gig requesting Rocky top.


...Regardless, for now I've been replaced by karaoke..

 

 

Very perceptive.

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You build a following by schmoozing with your audience during the breaks and while you're setting up and tearing down. Not being afraid to go up and talk to perfect strangers is a good thing. When you do, let them know when and where you are playing next. Kid around and be loose. This comes easy to me but not so much to others.

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That is huge-up to 40 people coming out every week to see a solo act? That is awesome. I hope they appreciate what your doing$$$$

If you do a house concert and 40 people show up and pay 10.00 that's a pretty good payday. I would hope a weekly gig is paying you at least half that based on your following. They should be! A solo gig where you bring no one can pay 100.00

For bringing even 15 people, you are earning another 100.00 IMO.

 

 

 

I feel the opposite. I play the same places each week so I need to build a friendship with the regulars that go. Most places I play at are beach bar/restaurant type spots. One place I play at constantly rotates all their music shifts; except mine. Why? Beacause i have a minimum of 15-20 people (sometimes up to 40) that come see me there EVERY WEEK. Thats huge for a solo act in my opinion.


How I do it is by just talking to people during breaks. Clown around, whatever. Just dont go sit by yourself and play on your cell phone during your break and you will make friends with customers.


It's not enough just to be "good at what I do" in my opinion unless its a one-nighter.

 

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Fanbase for acoustic music is what? A dozen people? We play 2 times a month in public venues and get at least 10/15 people that we know to come out and see us, sometimes more but I do not consider them a fanbase, they are friends that come to support us and have a good time.

 

A fanbase would be people that I would not otherwise know, who choose to come and see us play, that we have maybe a dozen or so that come out once every couple of months to check us out, mostly people we worked private parties for, or someone that was there when we played the last time and liked it so they made it a point to come back.

 

The most important "fan" for me is the audience that is there at that particular time since we use every gig as a means to get others, every gig must connect with that audience so we get more clients, not fans.

 

Rod

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You build a following by schmoozing with your audience during the breaks and while you're setting up and tearing down. Not being afraid to go up and talk to perfect strangers is a good thing. When you do, let them know when and where you are playing next. Kid around and be loose. This comes easy to me but not so much to others.

 

 

I'm typically not afraid to go talk to strangers in general. However, interrupting someone's dinner or private conversation by walking up to their table just seems a bit weird to me.

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The most important "fan" for me is the audience that is there at that particular time since we use every gig as a means to get others, every gig must connect with that audience so we get more clients, not fans.

 

 

I agree with this. However, we've all played those shows when the place is dead for one reason or another. Just an off night.

 

I find those gigs to be miserable. I'd like to build a bigger fan base so that doesn't happen so often.

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You build a following by schmoozing with your audience during the breaks and while you're setting up and tearing down. Not being afraid to go up and talk to perfect strangers is a good thing. When you do, let them know when and where you are playing next. Kid around and be loose. This comes easy to me but not so much to others.

 

 

i agree with this... not saying it comes easy to me like it does to you. it doesnt. but we're getting a bit better at it (i've a duo mostly, the odd solo gig but mostly duo).

 

i think musically we would be quite strong vs a lot of the competition around here.

and i do think being musically strong definitely gives you a head start.

 

but if you want it to mushroom into something bigger then i think you have to connect beyond the music.. which is a bit of a bummer for me since i dont do that too naturally with strangers. im too cautious!!

 

but i have realised that, ironically enough, not caring so much about it all opens you up anyways. my duo has improved on the interaction side of things - its something you can pick up as you go along, well at least to some extent.

 

my 2c...

d

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i think the whole restaurants things vs bars would really deserve two separate threads..

 

correct me if im wrong Howie22 but I think your OP relates to more of the bars/parties environment.

where it is more important to interact with the crowds. or to create some kind of connection with them..

 

i think interaction is needed in a restaurant environment too, but its at a lower level and a bit easier i guess.

its more about not overpowering them and just seeming relaxed as you play etc. mostly they want to be left alone to eat and enjoy the music but still be able to hear each other etc

all IMO of course.

 

cheers

d

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You build a following by schmoozing with your audience during the breaks and while you're setting up and tearing down. Not being afraid to go up and talk to perfect strangers is a good thing. When you do, let them know when and where you are playing next. Kid around and be loose. This comes easy to me but not so much to others.

 

 

This is part of being an entertainer, or just good customer service. But I've learned not to be too random about it. I only approach people that look at me as if they want me to. Ever go up and talk to a punter that really doesn't like you? If someone's a potential fan, they will watch you perform, applaud, and probably smile. But keeping to yourself or going outside during breaks is working against building a fan base.

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Some good responses regarding schmoozing. Along with the debate of whether you need to bring in people. :rolleyes:

 

To address the original question, Reverbnation is a good site to capture fans, although most of them will be other bands/musicians "friending" you. But one thing I have tried is "free downloads". I have printed cards with the link to my reverbnation page and an offer of a free download. When they go to get the download, they must sign up as a fan with their email address to access the download. You can hand these cards out live in person, or post links on your facebook page. Now you have them on your mailing list and they will know when/where you're playing again.

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This is something that I've been struggling with over the past couple of years of playing music.


Typically speaking, I don't have any trouble getting gigs. I'm playing right now as much as I want to (probably even a little more than I want). I have 30-40 "fans/friends" that come out to see me once a month or so. Typically, that's dependent on the venue, etc.


Where I really need help is building a bigger fan base. I'd like to get to the point that I'm bringing in a lot of people most anywhere I play. Customers in the venues often tell me that they enjoy the show, etc. I will give them business cards, etc. I'm just not making the connection with the audience to get them to go home and follow me on Facebook or sign my website mailing list or whatever so they can find out my schedule and come out and see me again. I try and make it fun for the audience when I play.


Most of the places I'm playing are restaurant settings where people are seated and I'm typically playing at low volume. I'm fine with that, but I think it's often a tough sell to get people in that scenario to really get involved. Furthermore, I'm naturally a bit of an introverted personality. I don't have any problem talking to people, but I don't have that natural outgoing persona.


What kinds of things are you doing to build your fanbase??

 

Create some tentcards w/ a place on the back for prospective fans to put in their snail mail and/or email info, then, once or twice a month, send out where you're playing at.

 

Also, get on Twitter and put your Twitter info on the back of the tentcard...I send out reminders, the morning of the gig, with the time/location info and a suggestion, like "Today, it's red t-shirt day...wear one!"...it's interesting to see how many people in the audience have followed your suggestion. :)

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That is huge-up to 40 people coming out every week to see a solo act? That is awesome. I hope they appreciate what your doing$$$$

 

The establishment that I do this at does take care of me because of this. I am up to $50 an hour, and I'm the only one that is there every week. Also my tips are WAY higher here than anywhere else. $40-$50 is a bad day in tips.

 

 

I play restaurants and it's the food, prices and friendly service that draws the people, not my music.

 

Well. I agree we are providing a service but if you want to make better money and you play music full time you have to go further. I am not saying you need to "bring people" to your gig initially, but you really should build a relationship with regulars and people that ALREADY go to wherever you play so they will want to make sure they are around when your playing. It's not so hard but with a negative attitude it ain't going to happen.

 

I made so many friends with people at this one spot that now i introduce couples to eachother, they become friends and meet each week and watch me, and that sorta thing can multiply real quick. I don't have a day job and I play 5-6 times a week so I need to make sure any place i play at is making money or I'm out.

 

I play aSunday gig with this way of thinking and each week I average $220ish. My best day was $265. This is EVERY WEEK! I think it's worth it to go the extra mile.

 

*Also wasn't there a post about not getting much crowd reaction? Become friendly with everyone and you will see that change real quick*

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