Local Musician? Can’t Get Traction in the Scene? Maybe You’re Making These Blunders

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Image: Cape May Band via Flickr

Almost inevitably, every local music scene has some artists that seem perpetually able to get great gigs, while others consistently struggle. Unfortunately, it’s not all about talent, because almost everyone knows of at least one little-known band that is a lot more skilled than many of the artists that get radio airplay.

If you’re a local musician and are tired of feeling like you’re constantly failing as others thrive, keep reading. You may be making a few common mistakes that are causing fans, peers and booking agents to get a bad impression.

Not Supporting Others in the Scene

Before you have loyal fans who come to every show, there’s a good chance many people in the audience will be fellow musicians who are there as a show of solidarity, because they remember how tough it can be to draw a crowd before you get established. If you don’t return the favor, you can’t expect fellow musicians to come to your shows. The same is true if you come to a gig, but look bored and disengaged during the whole thing.

Speaking Badly About Other Acts

This mistake is even worse than the one above, because it may quickly get you blacklisted. Many musicians underestimate just how intimate a local scene can be. Maybe it irks you how a singer in your town likes to tell corny jokes between songs, but if so, just keep it to yourself. Speaking your mind about something like that isn’t worth the potential harm to your reputation.

Thinking It’s All About You

People in the community often really appreciate when bands go out of their way to do something that helps others. Recently, a rising independent band from Virginia called The Winter Line decided to host an event that was part performance, part gardening workday and took place at a local homeless shelter. The produce in the garden helped feed the volunteers and residents of the shelter, so this event directly assisted people in town. Also, anyone who took part in the gardening workday could get free admission to the performance portion.

The artists who took part in that event didn’t get paid, but their decision to do something for the greater good almost certainly got noticed by fellow members of the music scene. Consider following their leads, and at least remember how making money doesn’t always have to be your ultimate goal. Sometimes, it’s even better to help people in need, while simultaneously spreading your art.

Playing Too Often

If you’re from a relatively small town and are playing the same venues five nights a week, don’t be surprised if you’re not able to draw very many fans to any of the gigs. There is such a thing as over saturating your market, even once you have already built a sizable fanbase. If you instead aim to book a single major gig every three to four weeks, it gives you enough time to promote each one properly and make people more anxious to hear you play.

Lacking a Work Ethic

Some local musicians hear about bands that became overnight successes and have the often incorrect belief that those artists didn’t have to work very hard to get where they are today Although you may get very lucky and attract the attention of a music industry executive, it’s very unlikely to happen unless you’re willing to support your talent with a hardy work ethic.

Remember: this is not a life you chose because of the employee benefits; you chose it because you have a strong passion for your craft, and passion requires work.

That means diligently creating flyers and hanging them around town, going out of your way to form strong and mutually beneficial relationships with booking agents, using social media to your advantage, letting fans know how much you appreciate their support, and of course, constantly practicing. Even if you’re a very gifted musician, that doesn’t eliminate the need to constantly hone your craft.

This is not an exhaustive list of reasons why you may not be getting the kind of gigs you feel like you deserve, but it may help pinpoint some of your shortcomings, allowing you to improve and finally get recognition in the scene.


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