Why Don’t People Come to My Shows?


Hey Musicians! You know I love you. You are creative, sensitive, generous, and easily distracted. You are proud and insecure at the same time, knowing exactly who you are, and trying to share yourself without revealing too much. It’s a full time job making something delicious out of the creative juices – I get it. However, in all your beautiful complicated process, I find that you might be overlooking a few simple ideas that could make a difference. I’ll try to explain, from the perspective of someone who tries desperately to help you help yourself. For example, we have a wonderful youth showcase coming up next week on Saturday May 28 – has anyone told you about it? Do you know the bands? I’ve written bios on all of them…but, of course you don’t know them, for the same reasons they do not know you…

Why-Don’t-People-Come-to-My-Shows-04Let’s start at the core of the issue – you create a product called music. To you, the product is personal and completely unique. You put time, money, heart and soul into conceiving and giving birth to it. It’s a snapshot of you at a given point in your life. However, to the average music fan, your product is simply “music.” Most listeners cannot tell if you know how to play your instrument, if it’s even you playing, or if you ran your entire vocal through auto-tune. When I hear people getting ready to go out, this is what they say – “Let’s go hear some live music…” They don’t say, let’s go hear a certain band or even a certain type of music. They want an experience – usually happy hour prices and good company are at the forefront. The music is an incidental. They just don’t always know what they’re doing, especially with so many seemingly random music events happening on any given night. How do you get those same people to say “Let’s go hear (insert your band name here…)”?

Why-Don’t-People-Come-to-My-Shows-05Well – what makes your version of music, for example, different from mine? YOU! What’s your story? Bands are loved because of their corporate personality – memorable because of a feeling shared by audience members at an event or connectivity when listening. And this makes sense – because again, your music is YOU. Where am I going with this? I want you to be recognized by name for the unique and personal product you created with your blood, sweat and tears. You want to be known for your message and the intent behind it. If you don’t know what your message or intent is, find someone who knows you and ask them to help you put it into words. You must be able to present your purpose if you want to be remembered.

1) When you promote a show, think about what gets you into a front row, dancing and clapping…why do you choose one show over another? Connection to the music or connection to the band, right? How do you create that bond with listeners? You need to be sharing your story, and other people in your life need to be inspired to share your story too. Invite your friends and family to your shows the same way you’d invite them to a surprise birthday party for your best friend – personally! Your show is a party that you are hosting – let people know their presence will be appreciated. When someone feels personally invested in your show, they will invite their friends. When someone knows why your music is important to you, and feels that their presence matters, they’ll make you a priority.

2) Always take the opportunity to share your story with someone who will repeat it. This means that you’ll need to be open to having conversations with radio stations, newspapers, magazines, fans, promoters, businesses, and friends about your music and WHY you are inspired to create it. Use your creativity to “show your work”, as it were. Know your story. Believe your story. Live your story. And…if you are lucky enough to have an article written about you, a television show feature, a radio show interview, a podcast, or any kind of press – share it just like you want people to share your music. Someone took the time to research you, record your story, and give you a gift to help you in your journey. Recognize the value of the alliance and reciprocate. Industry professionals talk, and we share our feelings about you.

Why-Don’t-People-Come-to-My-Shows-013) Work with your venue to help create an identity for your band. Find out their promotional strategy for your event, visit the venue and meet the staff, leave posters, make an impression. When they post or publish your event, SHARE IT! The venue is another ally in your musical journey. Link to articles, podcasts, reviews, tv appearances when you share your event – educate people about WHO you are. If you can get the venue talking about you to regular customers, that is huge! What a great way to attract a new audience. Some, but not nearly all, of the media in the area who strive to create shareable content for you are PDX Spotlight, Local Roots, Portland Radio Project, Oregon Music News, Vortex Music Magazine, Willamette Week, Portland Mercury, She Shreds Magazine, The Bus Stop, Ter’s Tunes, Sounds of PDX, The Portland Playlist, and Songs From the Source.

Please feel free to leave comments and questions. I also encourage you to participate in the MusicPortland.org Census to voice your opinion. For other articles about music and music promotion, search Portland Notes and Vortex Music Magazine.


2 thoughts on “Why Don’t People Come to My Shows?”

  1. How far in advance should I start promoting a show? I often feel like when I start a month early posts or reminders get redundant and people lose interest; but at the same time, when I promote close to the date, say week before, everyone has an excuse about their schedule of why they just “can’t make it.”

    1. Hi Miranda,
      Great question! So – this will depend on many things. I started composing an answer, but then realized it’s another article 🙂

      The short answer is that you should be ready to go with a press kit for an event as soon as it is confirmed. Different media outlets need different lead times. Social media is not enough anymore.

      I’ll write an article on promo timing this week, but also, please send me an email at kelly@portland-notes-5bc2dd.ingress-baronn.easywp.com, and I’ll send it to you first.


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