Building a following for a big band

All about making money.
Post Reply
Mikebmiller
Posts: 499
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:13 am
Location: Spartanburg, SC

Building a following for a big band

Post by Mikebmiller » Wed Oct 16, 2019 8:02 am

Somehow I have become the de facto marketing director for my big band. I would love any input from folks who have done this type of work as to how to increase audience size for our concerts.

This is the band:

https://www.facebook.com/sjeband/

Some background - our band is an amateur but very good group. By amateur, I just mean we don't get paid. Many of the players are really top notch, with several active or retired music educators in the group. We play various festivals in the area and also put on 3-4 concerts a year at a local performing arts center. One of those was this past Sunday. Despite paid promotion on Facebook and other social media sites and an email campaign, we only got about 100 people to show up. And this was for a free concert. The biggest crowd we ever got was around 300 people for a Sinatra tribute concert a few years ago. Even when we got some grant money from a local college and brought in Jon Faddis a couple of years ago, we only got around 100 people. This is in a town of 40,000 people in a county of about 200,000. The local theater, which uses the same facility, routinely sells out 7 shows. The place seats around 500 people and is in a nice location near downtown that is convenient to restaurants and has tons of free parking.

Am I just spitting into the wind trying to get people to come to big band shows? Is there just no interest out there? Does making the concert free give people the idea that it won't be any good? Would we be better off charging $5 or $10? We are not trying to make a bunch of money, but after spending months rehearsing for a show, we would love to have more people to share it with.

Thanks for any ideas.
cmcslide
Posts: 66
Joined: Sun Apr 01, 2018 9:16 pm
Location: Myrtle Beach, SC

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by cmcslide » Wed Oct 16, 2019 9:06 am

Do any of your players have an in with a local university? I've put on big band shows at my school and gotten turnouts north of 200 for the concerts, including shows of original music and arrangements. A university may have a built-in audience and marketing machine.
User avatar
JohnL
Posts: 758
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2018 9:01 am
Contact:

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by JohnL » Wed Oct 16, 2019 9:08 am

What's your repertoire like?
Vegasbound
Posts: 242
Joined: Sat Jul 06, 2019 6:11 am

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by Vegasbound » Wed Oct 16, 2019 10:11 am

Does the venue allow the audience to dance? The 40's scene is huge and they love to dance

the way to build a following I'd get out and do shows? Build an audience through YouTube

It takes time and effort on the bands part, to get their friends family and anyone they know to turn up

What is your use?
User avatar
kingsk1117
Posts: 32
Joined: Mon May 21, 2018 5:46 am
Location: Chicago area

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by kingsk1117 » Wed Oct 16, 2019 10:42 am

Combine the shows with various high school jazz ensembles as openers to bring in people following those folks, too.
baileyman
Posts: 431
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2018 11:33 pm

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by baileyman » Wed Oct 16, 2019 12:25 pm

High school promotion really works!
Mikebmiller
Posts: 499
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:13 am
Location: Spartanburg, SC

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by Mikebmiller » Wed Oct 16, 2019 4:39 pm

cmcslide wrote:
Wed Oct 16, 2019 9:06 am
Do any of your players have an in with a local university? I've put on big band shows at my school and gotten turnouts north of 200 for the concerts, including shows of original music and arrangements. A university may have a built-in audience and marketing machine.
Our director is actually a math prof at the local college. They are the ones who gave us the money to bring in Jon Faddis. But after giving the money, the college did nothing to promote the concert. It wasn't even listed on their web site and I would guess that practically zero people from the school even came to the show.
Mikebmiller
Posts: 499
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:13 am
Location: Spartanburg, SC

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by Mikebmiller » Wed Oct 16, 2019 4:42 pm

kingsk1117 wrote:
Wed Oct 16, 2019 10:42 am
Combine the shows with various high school jazz ensembles as openers to bring in people following those folks, too.
That's an idea, but the bands around here don't do anything but march in the fall. And the directors tend to not care about anything except their own bands. I emailed every band director in the county about the Faddis concert and none of them came.
Doug Elliott
Posts: 1116
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2018 10:12 pm

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by Doug Elliott » Thu Oct 17, 2019 2:35 am

I don't know the right amount to charge, but nobody goes to free events, or even ticketed concerts if you give them a free ticket. Sell tickets in advance so they have a reason to not miss it.
User avatar
StephenK
Posts: 33
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2018 3:41 am
Location: Reading, Old England

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by StephenK » Thu Oct 17, 2019 7:15 am

I think it's a good idea to make a modest charge. When my groups have done free indoor gigs (eg a chlidren's event) the tickets were snapped up, but then there were quite a few no shows. Even a small charge generates a bit of commitment. You can ask some if they would like to have a pair of complimentary tickets, such as local movers and shakers in the arts/music world, and who could publicise your offering in local social media, newsletters and magazines sometimes etc, though often you can send copy and send pictures to these as they often need local stories.
Try and get interview slots on local radio. Have flyers for your next event ready at the previous event, or even other group's events if they allow.
Have an early-bird rate for tickets that's a couple of bucks cheaper until say a week or two before the event, to encourage advance sales.
Also maybe consider a smaller venue that you can mostly fill - sitting in a near empty audience isn't a great feeling. I'm not sure that a theatre-like set up is best for this sort of gig, a bit of space for dancing would be a plus, maybe even tables and drinks. Engage with the audience and entertain - some MDs I know are quiet in private, but in public on stage they almost flirt with the audience.
Mikebmiller
Posts: 499
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:13 am
Location: Spartanburg, SC

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by Mikebmiller » Thu Oct 17, 2019 8:12 am

StephenK wrote:
Thu Oct 17, 2019 7:15 am
I think it's a good idea to make a modest charge. When my groups have done free indoor gigs (eg a chlidren's event) the tickets were snapped up, but then there were quite a few no shows. Even a small charge generates a bit of commitment. You can ask some if they would like to have a pair of complimentary tickets, such as local movers and shakers in the arts/music world, and who could publicise your offering in local social media, newsletters and magazines sometimes etc, though often you can send copy and send pictures to these as they often need local stories.
Try and get interview slots on local radio. Have flyers for your next event ready at the previous event, or even other group's events if they allow.
Have an early-bird rate for tickets that's a couple of bucks cheaper until say a week or two before the event, to encourage advance sales.
Also maybe consider a smaller venue that you can mostly fill - sitting in a near empty audience isn't a great feeling. I'm not sure that a theatre-like set up is best for this sort of gig, a bit of space for dancing would be a plus, maybe even tables and drinks. Engage with the audience and entertain - some MDs I know are quiet in private, but in public on stage they almost flirt with the audience.
Great ideas - thanks. Our girl singer is actually one of the anchors on the local TV news. She has a pretty good following on social media in addition to being ridiculously talented. Our director is very engaging with the audience - lots of bad jokes. As far as the venue, it is the best place in town for a group our size - right downtown and close to lots of restaurants, but still with free parking. I think we may start charging $10 or so for tickets. At least if we sell 50 tickets, we pay for the facility rental.

I guess I need to start contacting all the retirement homes as well.

Have you guys found Facebook ads to be effective in building an audience? I spent $20 on an ad for this last show that they said "reached" 1,284 people and generated 69 "post engagements" whatever that means. It was the first time we have taken out a FB ad. We used to run ads in the paper, thanks to the generosity of one of our trumpet players, but that was costing $700 a pop. I have also used the Nextdoor.com site to promote events, with somewhat limited success.
afugate
Posts: 298
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2018 5:47 am

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by afugate » Thu Oct 17, 2019 9:11 am

Mikebmiller wrote:
Thu Oct 17, 2019 8:12 am
Have you guys found Facebook ads to be effective in building an audience? I spent $20 on an ad for this last show that they said "reached" 1,284 people and generated 69 "post engagements" whatever that means. It was the first time we have taken out a FB ad. We used to run ads in the paper, thanks to the generosity of one of our trumpet players, but that was costing $700 a pop. I have also used the Nextdoor.com site to promote events, with somewhat limited success.
Facebook "reach" shows the number of times your ad showed up in somebody's feed. Doesn't mean they actually took the time to read it / view it. They might have just scrolled right past it.

Facebook "post engagements" measure actual interactions - somebody clicked it, liked it, commented on it, etc.

Facebook ads can be beneficial if you take the time to narrow down the audience - and to define actions you want to produce. An example of an action is to "like" your page so they will see more of your content in the future. You could also attempt to get people to subscribe to an email list to receive announcements about upcoming events.

Speaking of events - make sure to create public events on your public page for your shows, and have band members and friends share the calendar event both a month in advance, and again a couple of days in advance of the show.

Hope this helps!
--Andy in OKC
AndrewMeronek
Posts: 507
Joined: Fri Mar 30, 2018 6:09 pm
Location: Detroit area
Contact:

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by AndrewMeronek » Thu Oct 17, 2019 11:00 am

Mikebmiller wrote:
Thu Oct 17, 2019 8:12 am
Have you guys found Facebook ads to be effective in building an audience?
I find for how I react to Facebook that ads aren't all that effective, but creating 'events' that people can be 'interested in' or 'going' is. They're roughly equivalent to creating a mailing list for information and reminders on whatever the 'event' is - very often, specific concerts.
“All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.”

- Thelonious Monk
Mikebmiller
Posts: 499
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:13 am
Location: Spartanburg, SC

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by Mikebmiller » Thu Oct 17, 2019 12:48 pm

We always do "events" for our concerts, but there is no guarantee that anyone will see them unless they have our page set up as one they will see first.
AndrewMeronek
Posts: 507
Joined: Fri Mar 30, 2018 6:09 pm
Location: Detroit area
Contact:

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by AndrewMeronek » Thu Oct 17, 2019 3:26 pm

Mikebmiller wrote:
Thu Oct 17, 2019 12:48 pm
We always do "events" for our concerts, but there is no guarantee that anyone will see them unless they have our page set up as one they will see first.
Yeah, true. FB is handy, but it does take some time to make sure to understand and take best advantage of the environment. Successful schemes seem to include:

Have a group page for your orchestra.
Have the group page advertise events.
Post occasional information (not just "don't forget about us") as the gig date gets closer.
Post a follow-up 'thank you' in the 'event' after a gig. Maybe include pictures.

With that formula, the 'building a following' seems to become more about getting people to be members of your orchestra 'group' rather than each individual event.
“All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.”

- Thelonious Monk
Gary
Posts: 252
Joined: Fri Jan 11, 2019 10:39 am

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by Gary » Thu Oct 17, 2019 8:10 pm

One thing to consider is having themes to your concerts. A theme gives you several benefits. One is to give a focus to the type of programming for each concert - music selection. But another reason, and with bigger impact, is that it gives the potential audience a way for them to zero in on the event in their minds. It also is something that may help them to better remember the event and also give them a reason to look forward to it and to attend.

Regarding the above recommendation to charge money, unfortunately, America is so consumer driven it often values things by how much they cost. Giving it away for free just tells people that you don't put much value on a product, in this case your concert. I would charge.

Having said that, I would still play at times to get some attention for your band, but only occasionally and with the clear goal of productive exposure.


Good luck!
Mikebmiller
Posts: 499
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:13 am
Location: Spartanburg, SC

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by Mikebmiller » Fri Oct 18, 2019 4:39 pm

Gary wrote:
Thu Oct 17, 2019 8:10 pm
One thing to consider is having themes to your concerts. A theme gives you several benefits. One is to give a focus to the type of programming for each concert - music selection. But another reason, and with bigger impact, is that it gives the potential audience a way for them to zero in on the event in their minds. It also is something that may help them to better remember the event and also give them a reason to look forward to it and to attend.

Regarding the above recommendation to charge money, unfortunately, America is so consumer driven it often values things by how much they cost. Giving it away for free just tells people that you don't put much value on a product, in this case your concert. I would charge.

Having said that, I would still play at times to get some attention for your band, but only occasionally and with the clear goal of productive exposure.


Good luck!

We usually do have themes. Last Sunday was a Latin concert. We have done Duke, Frank Sinatra tributes, and all kinds of other stuff.
fantrombone
Posts: 6
Joined: Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:50 pm

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by fantrombone » Thu Dec 05, 2019 1:01 am

Yes, do all the above! Then for your next one give yourself time to plan for a big bash. Yes do your usual gigs but make one or two a year special. Pick your audience Males females over 35 or under, perhaps a holiday or pre holiday...pick special guest stars to sing or dance or act and show off the talent in your group...pick your tunes for both your audience and the band ; free gifts, donate to; but most important give your self TIME.
Mikebmiller
Posts: 499
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:13 am
Location: Spartanburg, SC

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by Mikebmiller » Mon Dec 09, 2019 9:10 pm

We had a pretty decent crowd at our holiday concert yesterday. Probably 150 or so, which is good for us. I took out a $50 FB ad, but it is hard to know how many actually showed up as a result of that. But we did have a lot of fun and everyone wore their ugly Xmas sweaters.
SaigonSlide
Posts: 64
Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2018 12:47 am

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by SaigonSlide » Mon Dec 09, 2019 11:07 pm

Mikebmiller wrote:
Wed Oct 16, 2019 4:42 pm
kingsk1117 wrote:
Wed Oct 16, 2019 10:42 am
Combine the shows with various high school jazz ensembles as openers to bring in people following those folks, too.
That's an idea, but the bands around here don't do anything but march in the fall. And the directors tend to not care about anything except their own bands. I emailed every band director in the county about the Faddis concert and none of them came.
Man, that says a lot about local level music education there. Very sad.
Mikebmiller
Posts: 499
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:13 am
Location: Spartanburg, SC

Re: Building a following for a big band

Post by Mikebmiller » Tue Dec 10, 2019 7:27 am

SaigonSlide wrote:
Mon Dec 09, 2019 11:07 pm
Mikebmiller wrote:
Wed Oct 16, 2019 4:42 pm


That's an idea, but the bands around here don't do anything but march in the fall. And the directors tend to not care about anything except their own bands. I emailed every band director in the county about the Faddis concert and none of them came.
Man, that says a lot about local level music education there. Very sad.
We have some very good high school bands around here. Probably 3 or 4 of the top 10 bands in the state are in my county. It's just that they are focused on their own thing. Marching band is king in the fall. I personally think that spending 3 months playing the same 10 minutes of music over and over and over and over is not necessarily good for making a musician, but I am not in charge. It does build good teamwork and other skills that are good for the kids to have.
Post Reply

Return to “Music Business”