Booking feature

4 Things Indie Artists Should Start Doing (Again) *Updated*

Saturday, December 05, 2015MsAvaBella

Updated February 21, 2017 - Originally posted December 5, 2015

I remember the good ole days... 

I remember when there were no blogs, no Facebook, no Twitter, and no Instagram. Artists would actually book shows. Yep, they would actually sell tickets to get people to the venues. The club owners were happy, the talent buyers were happy, and the artists (most importantly) had people to perform in front of. Who would have ever thought "views", "hearts", and "thumb ups" would be the sole determination of your hotness and your hustle? Don't get me wrong, I love social media as a tool. It is a good portion of my business at Assilem Media Group, LLC; probably one of the reasons you even found this site and are even reading these words. I mean, it's a completely awesome way to connect with fans; but then what? How do you get the fans in the first place? Just randomly friend and follow people? Maybe you just tag as many people in your posts on Facebook? 


This post originally came about because I DJ'd a show and I was shocked that the performers were performing for each other. No one in the audience. Nobody bought drinks. Literally, not one single artist on the bill had a solid 4 people that paid entry to see them. Some of them even showed up late and stiiiiiiiiiill didn't bring people to watch their performance. Not to mention, they left immediately after their set was done (insert the: WHERE THEY DO THAT AT?!). It blew my mind.

Most of these artists jumped at opportunities to hit the stage purely for the photos they could put on their social media. Never mind that they didn't understand this is just a piece of what they have to do to survive this new industry we're in. Never mind that anybody; the sponsors, the record companies, the liquor companies, all are looking for not just the followers, but the dollars that those followers produce for you, your brand, and the experience of them you create. 

They really want to know that those people that view your Facebook uploads or YouTube videos, will actually convert to buyers of whatever you're selling. NEWSFLASH: THAT AIN'T JUST MUSIC HUNNY! Will they buy your lifestyle? Will they buy your merchandise? Will they buy an endorsed product or service? Again, WILL THEY BUY YOUR BRAND? IS IT STRONG ENOUGH? 

In this post, I want to take a look at the things artists used to do when they were really 'BOUT THAT LIFE. I want you to feel free to add to my shortlist of five in the comments below if you feel that I have missed something. 

What's your pet peeve with today's artists? Sound off below in the comments. 

Here are a few things I really wish artists would start doing (again). 

Promote | As I have said a ba-gillion times; Social Media is a part of the marketing process, but it is not thee only process. If you can not get a solid 4-5 people to the open mic, much less a show, to see you perform, then why the hell aren't you humble? Mind you, I am not talking about the newcomer. I'm talking about the MC Such N' Such who promises the talent buyer at Club XYZ, Imma pack the place out or Imma bring my whole hood. 

NEWSFLASH: they don't believe you, you need more people! Literally. Nobody knows who you are until you promote. Ever heard the term marketing and promotions? That is where the word comes from. Remember when you couldn't pull up to the gas station or the stoplight at a busy intersection without a rapper trying to get that $5 from you. What happened to those hustlers? Where y'all at? I have sold my CD's at bus stops, on the actual buses, at the venue (before and after shows), at family functions (friend's family functions, too), at the gas station, at the barber shops; you name it, that's how I got my first box of CD's off. 

If they didn't want a CD, they got a flyer. If they wanted me to hit 'em with a little something at the barber shop, LIVE, I did that. One day, my brother Gary and I went to barber and beauty shops throughout the city with my last 5 or 6 CDs. I had a show coming up and I wanted to sell tickets or the CDs or both. We didn't go home until I sold all of my CD's. It's that simple.

Sell Tickets | The job of the talent buyer is not to provide the venue aaaaaaaaand get the people there to see you. In most cases, the talent buyer's job is to simply book the venue or event space on the strength that the event makes everyone a winner and puts some money in everybody's pocket. Why would the talent buyer want to do anything but win? Remember, a win for you is a win for the TB and you will probably get booked again and paid more the next time you are booked. 

One of the first shows that I had to sell tickets for had a total 5 acts on the bill(all rappers by the way, besides me). It wasn't a stacked bill by any means and actually had some well known local artists performing. Each artist got 20 tickets to sell at a 50/50 split for $10 each. That means $100 for the TB and venue and $100 for me. After I sold the first 20 I asked for more to sell... 

Let's just say, I am the only artist that made money off of the show that night. I got booked over and over at this venue. When any well-known acts came to town; they called me to open. This has lead to national tours and more important, valuable relationships.

Have Merch | I recently attended a show in St. Louis in the Loop at Cicero's. It was a Hip Hop show. All of the artists were super duper dope. When they made an announcement that I was looking for talent to feature here on the blog and for a client's showcase during SXSW, there was only one artist who took the time to connect, and he also had merch. By the end of our quick conversation, he had reached into his bag to grab stickers, buttons, and CD (in an actual graphically designed CD sleeve). I was like, he can spit aaaaaaand he got merch?! It was a beautiful thing to see. This artist is obviously someone who has taken the time to invest in themselves, and cared enough to brand himself with some really cool ish (his buttons along with several others are still on my purple backpack right now)! 

Here's the thing; not every show will be paid. Not starting out anyway. So you have to be proactive. I believe in t-shirts. I believe in buttons. I believe in posters, autographed memorabilia, CDs for goodness sake! Many times on the road for promotional shows, the very thing that saved me was the fact that I had music. I have a product to sell. When you have a project, I suggest physical and digital. I'll have a post coming soon on the best sites to sell your music and the one I use personally.

Be Humble | I come across a lot of artists. Whether they are singers, rappers, poets; I hear this common theme that they are expecting something. I'm talking about the folks you have never even heard a downbeat from. Again... Where they do that at? Now while it is great to have hopes, dreams, and ambitions; work for them. Nothing is for free. Stop haggling with everyone from the TB's to the DJ (to play your music from your phone), to the Publicists, Graphic, and Web Designers. Pay what you owe. Stop trying to get things for free; that is not how an industry works. Haggling is not negotiating. There is a huge difference. Haggling died with bartering. 

The thing about bartering that folks used to get is that both parties have to have something of value to barter in the first place. Am I lying? This is what I've learned from experience: WATCH YOUR MOUTH. Talking out of turn to and about the wrong people will get you blackballed, make your road a lot longer, and a lot harder than it has to be. 

I could go on, but I feel like my rant for the day should be done. 

Is there something you've been seeing around your way that grinds your gears? Talk about it below. If there are any questions I can answer about being an indie artist, the industry, and the few things I've learned so far, send me an email - I promise to respond :)

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