THEY’RE STILL ON THE COUCH!!?? Music fans’ awareness of shows has never been higher – with social networking event posts, evites, and tour apps. And can you tell me why my Google calendar has imported every single event by every act I have ever liked and sends me constant push notifications? Despite rising awareness of shows, it is still a challenge to get fans off their couches and into a venue on a consistent basis. Central Florida musician and scene veteran, Dave Mann reveals the wisdom he’s learned as both founder and organizer of the ever popular Jambando Concert series and band leader for the perennial purveyors of flavor rock, funkUs.
BIGGER MIGHT BE BETTER
Playing live is where it’s at! Everyone now has the opportunity to create super slick polished yet home studio produced album. Protools and its counter parts are like video games; spend enough time playing around and the player can become the conquering hero. But step into the real world and the princess they saved onscreen won’t talk to them, ‘cause their live game still sucks.
It is during live shows that fans can see the talent and professionalism that separates real artists from studio content creators. But to get people through the door, rely on a basic principle of sales and make them want it. “If you want people to come, it has t be something special.” Said Mann. His band, funkUS, consciously decided to cut down on the number of shows they play. They also changed the types of shows they play, opting to focus more on festivals and large venue shows. When planning an event type show don’t just look at the band calendar. Know the target audience and plan an event at a time that doesn’t compete for their attention. Be the best source of fun for them on that day or evening.
GET A ROOM
Where can be as important as When, when it comes to throwing down. “It’s important to have a good working relationship with the venue.” When a good foundation has been laid with a venue, you can book and plan much farther in advance. More time to plan gives artists a greater likelihood that things will run smoother or they’ll have time to grease the inevitable squeaky wheels. There’s always one. “I like to plan shows 6 months in advance. But I start thinking about them a year in advance.”
When choosing the right venue there are several things to consider. Is the venue easy to get to? Does it show up in the average GPS device? Is there enough parking? Will fans have to pay to park? Every dollar they spend on parking is a dollar lost on merch and bar tabs, both of which can effect an artist’s bottom line. Pick an appropriately sized venue. Too small and fans experience a bad kind of crowd funk. Too big and any empty space can kill the excitement.
LOOSE LIPS ARE ONLY BAD FOR SHIPS
Making any show successful takes a TON of hard work. Best get organized. Dave Mann shares, “I do it in segments to make sure I have time for everything.” Spend too much time promoting, inviting, reminding, tweeting, and instagramming pictures of how hard you’re working and that can leave little time for efforts that have a bigger payout.
Dave Mann has made a name for himself in Central Florida. He’s the kind of musician other musicians love to share the stage with. Venues love the draw his band brings to their bars. Fans love the festivals he puts on. He’s not just one part of the music scene, he ingrained himself in it. And his advice for any artists wanting to follow suit is, “Go out. Be a part of your scene. When you’re there, talk about your shows.” The power of a facebook event page is to be able to see the shows your friends recommend. A personal recommendation is still the best way to get fans off their couches. The online promotions should flow from that concept of personal recommendations. “Be your own press. Word of mouth is the strongest social media.”
THE WHOLE AUDIENCE ISN’T LISTENING
“The first step in building a fan base is to recognize it.” Mann continues, “You can’t hope to appeal to everybody. Find that 1% that really digs your music and focus on them. [A fan base] spreads that way.” Unsigned acts fortunate enough to enjoy the longevity and dedication of its members have another consideration when it comes to getting fans’ attention – fans get old.
For the aging fans, the passage of time somehow makes a midnight start time a nightmare. They don’t bounce back from the party as quick as they used to (So I’ve heard). Weeknight show attendance depends on if they have early morning meetings. Babysitters must be gotten and returned unharmed back to their own homes at a decent hour. Fans get old. Their priorities change. “You gotta respect that. It just means you gotta keep getting new fans.” If the music is good, people will share it. If they move away, they share it with their new neighbors. If they have kids, they pass the music along. Every fan won’t be at every show. “But with a little buzz, it’ll work out”
With show awareness so prevalent these days, bands need more than just infrequency to create demand. They need to keep it different. Variety keeps fans interested. funkUs shows happen at camping festivals, charity fundraisers, even cruise ships. Jambando does more than offer an extended line up of Central Florida’s best jam and funk artists. Fans just have to go to each Jambando because each one is different from the last and won’t be anything like the next show.
In December, Jambando presented ‘What Woodstock Jambando ‘79’ where fans can to discover what would happen if Woodstock had been in 1979. Local acts put on shows paying tribute to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Black Sabbath. Fans enjoyed the added elements of food trucks, glass blowers, and local vendors. The effort raised what could have been an average local music show to a head turning event.
HAVE YOU SEEN YOUR SCENE?
Success is magnified when it’s shared with others. With the death of A&R departments and the expense of management companies still out of reach for many emerging artists, a music scene itself has an obligation to develop its own. That means artists need to help each other out. When bands get better, the scene gets better, the fans have more fun, and they get off their couches.
“We showcase a lot of up and coming bands.” Said Mann. Getting on a Jambando bill is a big deal in the scene. Even with a guaranteed audience, the hardest work isn’t done. Playing bigger events can mean big opportunities. “It is up to [the bands] to make the most of those opportunities.”
Before anyone spends the next 5 days getting the mix just right on their latest single, consider recorded music’s place in history. Recorded music has not been around too long in the grand scheme of musical history. When labels and ‘industry insiders’ point to low album sales and declare that music has no value anymore they discount centuries of the thriving success of music scenes everywhere. Music is a part of our lives not because we can buy singles from the dashboard of our cars but because it connects us with community.
Live music is where it’s at. Always has been. Always will be.