Music Marketing Pro Tip: Work The Line

1For virtually every live show waiting in line is part and parcel of the whole experience, with often standing in a que for hours before a show kicks off. This time can make for a great, old school, real-world marketing for other artists, providing a captive audience who is clearly passionate about music.


Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix

Clever digital marketing will get you far in the music business, but creative real-world marketing still matters.

Waiting in lines is an essential part of the live music experience. Be it a club show or an arena gig; music fans stand in lines to enter virtually every show they attend. The most dedicated followers often line up hours before anyone else to ensure they get to stand as close to their musical heroes as possible. That kind of devotion is an essential part of fandom, and it provides up and coming musicians a great opportunity to build their following.

When tours come through your region with lineups that relate to the music you perform, you should be working the line. In the simplest terms, working the line refers to a face-to-face promotional effort where musicians engage with music fans waiting to attend a show. It’s simple, effectively free, and can yield new followers of your career.

Many musicians work the line in three simple ways:

  1. The performers carry signs or wear shirts promoting their music. That way, everyone who sees them also sees their logo. 
  2. Musicians will often carry a phone or portable MP3 player with high quality (over the ear) headphones. With each person they encounter, the musician will ask them to give their music a chance. They will also have CDs and download cards available for anyone who may feel compelled to make a purchase on the spot.
  3. After sharing their music, artists will ask consumers to sign up for their mailing list or to follow them on social media. That way, everyone who takes an interest in their music is contacted at least one additional time in the future. 

Some musicians think outside the box. Recently, I was walking by a venue in Grand Rapids, MI, when I spotted the following message written in chalk under an overpass:

Grand Rapids’ rapper Beatrat has the right idea when it comes to music promotion.

When fans line up for shows at that venue, the crowd often stretches under that same overpass. Considering there are no billboards or businesses in that space, this message from Beatrat is likely to garner some attention. It may not be pretty and it may not be the best possible representation of the music, but it is effective.

If you’re not working the lines outside venues in your area to promote your music then you letting dozens or more potential fans slip through your fingers. Step outside your comfort zone, learn how to talk about your music, and put yourself out there.

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.

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