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Extending The Power Of "Free" To Live Performances

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The practice of offering free access to your recorded music has now become commonplace. The free single, or even free album download, has been around for what seems like eons, and although bands offering free live shows has always been accepted, the embracing of this endeavor could not be more timely than now.

Venues offering pay-to-play “opportunities” for naïve and eager bands wishing to be seen on a bigger stage, are just as damaging to your career, as they are your pocket. The idea that cajoling your friends and acquaintances into parting with their hard earned cash, to see you play an apparently happening venue, is setting them up for a make or break introduction to your band. The fact that these venues offer no sound check time, a limited set time, and demand you fill the venue with your followers or suffer the damning consequences, is reflective of how much they actually give a shit about your career - absolutely nada. 

Playing a bad show due to your own fault, or that of the shoddy management of the venue, will reflect directly on that person’s decision to ever see you again.

Though social networking is now associated with virtual likes and perpetual pins, there is this great social network called reality and it is happening right outside your door as we speak.

Just as with selling music, our long-term aim as musicians is to also sell tickets. But whereas giving your mp3s away for free often ends up with your music falling into someone’s digital dumpster, the experience of a great live show will forever remain with them as an actual experience. Etched not onto a hard drive with a shelf life, but cemented into living tissue that gets jerked into action every time a smell, a song, a sound, or a feeling, kick starts a memory of that evening.

Of course the deciding factor of your performance bringing up fond recollections for them, is how good you actually are. This is why steering clear of high door prices and embracing alternative outlets for your live appearances, allows you to find your feet with your fledgling shows, and not perch on a cliff edge with every note.

Bands eager to throw unscrupulous venues a handful of dollars, should alternatively buy a bunch of beer and offer it to their friends for free if they attend a show. Act like a college couple discovering the joys of sex for the first time, and do it in a living room, in the back of a bus, or in a middle of a field. Wherever you can play and draw a crowd is ultimately going to serve you mountainously better, than playing a high priced, has been dive, living off past big hair day glories.

The resulting positive effect on your online social networks, will be the bounce down effect of enthusiastic tweets and updates from gig goers. Mentions of free booze and good sounds go a long way both virtually and actually.

Robin Davey is an independent musician and the Head of Music and Film Development at GROWVision. Follow him on Twitter @mr_robin_davey.