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insight - Packing the House

May 22, 2012

I just came back from SXSW, where I attempted (unsuccessfully) to see 80 bands in five days. The overwhelming crush of live music everywhere got me thinking about ways bands can rise above the noise. So, I thought I’d share some tips I’ve learned from managers, booking agents, and talent buyers that can help make the difference between playing to the bartender or playing to a packed house.

First of all, spread your gigs out over time; make your show an anticipated event.

Remember that clubs are businesses. If they see you on other club calendars, they’ll call their friends at those venues to see how many people you actually drew, so be honest about your audience!

Work PR in tandem with the club and its resources. Do they have a publicist? Supplement their work with yours—always have a good bio and press release on hand. Have materials online. And I’m not talking about Facebook; if you want to be taken seriously, you need a website.

Go see other bands play. Connect, become friends, get on their gigs.

Work your own merch table. What better way to engage fans? Do the meet-and-greet, sign autographs. Plus, you’ll make sales!

There’s nothing stopping you from trying these tips right now. How do you boost your draw? Tell us at

Sarah Jones

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