Gigging and touring is the bread and butter for indie musicians today. Playing local gigs on the weekend with a few regional or national tours can provide enough income to get by, but thereâs a lot more to gigging than performing and ticket sales. The fan interactions, collaboration opportunities, and merch possibilities open up a number of income streams for musicians. Letâs take a look at three creative ways you can use the tools you already have available to make more money at your gigs.
1. Break out the new content
Donât let yourself get tied down to a black-and-white release date, especially as an indie artist. You donât need to worry about leaked content like the major label musicians â the more of your music that's out there on the internet, the better. With that in mind, try using new material to your advantage to incentivize fans to come out to your show.
Tell your fans youâll be premiering a song from the upcoming album at a certain show to give them a reason to come out. If you really want to get people talking, choose one show to premiere a few songs or even the full album, but donât tell anyone which gig it will be. This way, if they really want to hear the new songs early, theyâll have to come to every show. Of course this only works if youâre playing a few gigs in the same area, like your hometown.
With both these strategies youâll be driving fans to buy tickets, but you can also choose to exclusively sell the premiered song or album early. Physical CDs and download cards are both great options.
Weâve talked about the value of customer feedback before, and playing songs live before theyâre recorded and released is a good way to improve the song. If the chorus doesnât get the reaction you wanted or the form doesnât flow quite right, you can still go back and make some tweaks before itâs officially released.
2. Play the salesman
Merch is made out to be a great moneymaker for indie artists, but a lot of times the merch table can be a rather lonely place with few fans willing to venture away from the fun to check out the CDs and T-shirts. If you really want to make the most of your merch, you need to be out in the audience talking to fans and pitching your products. If possible, carry a few CDs with you and get a card reader like Square for your smartphone or tablet to make transactions quick and easy.
It can be a little awkward to play salesman for your own material, but you donât need to be pushy or showy. The key is to approach your fans like people! Get a conversation going, ask them what they thought of the show or what their favorite song was, and let them know you have CDs and other merch available. If youâre not comfortable asking for a sale, go around with an email signup sheet or tablet. An email will allow you to stay in touch and send promotions and offers down the line.
3. Bundle it up
As youâve seen, collaboration is one of the best strategies indie musicians can use to reach new fans. Especially during the early stages of your career, youâll often find yourself playing with other bands and musicians, and bundling your merch is a great way to drive sales. Try to work out a deal with the other band in which fans can buy both CDs together for a slightly discounted price. If youâre the opening act, this is a great way to use the headlinerâs influence to get your music in peopleâs hands.
If you canât work out a bundled sale, maybe you could offer one free download. In other words, when someone buys merch from the headliner, theyâll also get a free song of yours for free. While itâs not a sale, it can help get your music on their radar. Who knows â they may go back and buy the whole album!