Community Discussion: What gets people out to DIY shows?

This week we’re talking about what we think drags people out to shows from the perspective of promoters, bands and punk fans.

It can be tricky convincing people to go to your show where you’ve got yourself a perfect lineup in a perfect venue for perfect entry cost, yet you’ve only managed to get ten people through the door.

What do you do as a promoter to get people to come out? What makes you go to shows? What puts you off?

Max Qayyum – editor/Seeing Your Scene promotions

I’ve only put on a couple of shows so don’t really have much authority. I think one thing is clear and that is that people want to go to shows on the cheap. The first show I did was £5.50 entry (for charity), but turnout wasn’t very good despite an amazing lineup with both touring and local bands. That’s not a bad thing, though, we all want it on the cheap because I don’t think any of us actually have any money. It’s just a shame that bands cant realistically ask for less a lot of the time, promoters can’t pay more and venues can’t be run any cheaper. That drives ticket prices up.

That’s not the only reason. There’s tiredness, busyness, clashes and simply not knowing about stuff. Living in a busy city like Nottingham and/or Birmingham all of those things can happen at once. You can be at a show by yourself and everyone be at another show across the city. 

But regarding social media: I feel like the people who are going to come to the show will KNOW about the show. Punk rock is all about hearing about “underground” things. If you like a band on a bill, you’ll hear about it from them; or if you like our Facebook page we’ll shove all of our shows right in your face.

Joe Ling – contributor/Surprise Attacks promotions

What Tactics do you use? Word of mouth and old fashioned flyers and posters – but mainly social media – Facebook primarily. We have a Twitter account, with a healthy number of followers, but not convinced that twitter actually makes that much difference to whether people show up or not. Certainly, there’s no correlation between the number of event pimp and video preview tweets we do and the numbers on the night. Which is curious – but Twitter is full of robots and only about a third of our followers are real people, and almost all of them are fellow promoters, bands or good friends from the zine scene – who live out of the area and wouldn’t usually come to our gigs.

So Facebook is the main “medium” we use – (almost) everyone uses it, for better or for worse. We are talking to a couple of students about helping us with Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat, but not entirely convinced that it would be that effective. So – we are currently trying a few things – encouraging people to share the event and invite other people themselves by offering a lucky dip from our distro for one sharer or “inviter” picked at random; and a free zine for every share (or retweet). This is new, and only trialling it this week so will let you know how it goes.

We’re also going to experiment with promoted posts on Facebook. It’s a moral conundrum – Facebook and social media generally is the work of the devil – but if paying four quid to Facebook to push your event into people’s feeds will get more people into the music we love, and coming to the shows, then that’s a positive thing.

We distribute flyers and posters pretty widely – across the major towns within about thirty minutes’ driving time, including Birmingham. We’ve got a pretty good network of people that can distribute flyers for us, bizzarely not all of whom actually come to our shows. We also trying out some reciprocal promotion with the alternative club in Worcester (TNT) whereby they put our flyer on their in club “TV” roll and give out flyers – and we promote them in return. This is also new so we’re seeing how it goes.

However. The one thing that is very strongly associated with a good turn out at our DIY shows is – perhaps tellingly – having local bands supporting. Local bands with popular local people playing in them. Whose friends will turn out in force – and stick around for the bigger non-local bands on the bill. We’ve had a several, on paper, awesome shows that we expected to be packersm but were oddly and awkwardly quiet. The one thing they all had in common was no local support acts on the bill

You could debate the reasons for this all night – is it laziness, parochiality, the harsh competition for people’s attention generally – but it’s a fact that you have to accept. As any town only has a finite number of local bands, if you put on shows with any frequency (we’ve put on 23 in just over 18 months) you find you quite quickly overexpose the best local bands. So we’re thinking about a guaranteed slot for young local bands (that can pass a basic audition to the committee), and thinking and thinking hard about how we can realistically make our shows all age or at least 16+.

But trust me – this is a LOT harder than it sounds. We’ve got contacts (well, ex colleagues) at the youth service/voluntary sector that would love to help us do something like this. at the local skate park most likely (Can’t use our regular venue as it’s a pub and the risk to the licensee from all ages shows is just too great and we get that). But it’s a big undertaking – and even though we are a loose(ish) collective of four, we’re almost at capacity fitting in business as usual around work, kids, family and  the other stuff we all do. So getting as many people involved as possible is probably the biggest key to getting people out to DIY shows, ultimately. And keeping things as rooted in the local music community – haha, scene! – as possible.

Chris Fishlock – contributor/Fishlock Promotions

As a promoter I mainly just pray to the Gods every night coming up to a show for people to actually turn up to a show so it doesn’t feel like I’ve wasted a large amount of time, money, stress levels and e-mails to make some great gig that no one will turn up for. What makes me goes to shows is the fact that every night where I get see a load of great mates and great bands and create great memories with them. That beats a boring night of lonely depression in my cold lonely house every single time.

Tom Jackson – contributor

In all honesty the main thing that gets me down to shows is the band lineup and more importantly trust in my friends judgement. But that’s just me. Now, whilst I do not nearly have as much experience promoting bands as clubs (Sugar Ape in over three city’s now) I feel the two almost come hand in hand and these are some hard shallow truths I don’t think you wanted.

I have sunk many hours into promoting and the most effective thing you can do is flyer, flyer, flyer, flyer! Work hard is rule one.

More importantly don’t just flyer talk to people, make a scene, get them to like the page. We used to go out in outfits and hand stuff out, let people enter a competition if they clicked attending, etc. Make friends with them – socialise on Facebook through the event. One of the main promoters I know messages everyone attending the even and he swears that’s what you have to do to get and sustain heigh numbers.

Another valuable lesson is people are suckers for free things. Now I know you gotta make money but you can always swindle something.

Then again this is a list of what YOU can personally do; in all honesty it’s just a popularity contest if your promoters are hot/popular and a few promoters and share the event on there Facebook a few times – there’s your base of apx 150 supports who will come every time.

As much as we all want to support our friends, in this day and age of social media and instant messaging other shows and plans are just a glance at your palm away so if you don’t have strong bands or popular promoters you have nothing.’’

Josh Jones – contributor

Because of where I live in South Wales (and of course, money) I have to pick and choose which shows I go to. This means skipping a lot of shows I’d love to go see. So, when I’m booking tickets I’m looking critically for what shows are worth going to which are not. Personally, I love when bands have cool tour/show posters. DIY promoters need to make sure that the gig is being played in a venue that is popular – especially with students – and not in any random pub which doesn’t normally host punk shows.

Sam Moloney – contributor/Mixtape Saints
I think the problem that people are facing as promoters right now is saturation. There are so many people “running” shows, and doing it for the main part badly. That’s not to say that I discourage people from booking bands, but setting up nights that are obviously gonna fail will only put bands off from coming to your town/local venues, and it will put off venues from running alternative/live music nights full stop.

DIY is awesome; because there is something in it that means more than money… But if you’re going to put in anything more than a house show, remember that bands have to eat too, as do venue owners/bar staff and tour crews. If you’re going to book a band, be honest about what you can pay (even if it’s beer food and a bed it’s appreciated!). In terms of crowd attraction, I’d be well up for seeing more interactive events, but less of them. Don’t over saturate your scene… Make shows an EVENT, have cake, and poetry or story tellers… Or a skate comp. Whatever you do, make it so that people get there money’s worth. 5 quid is a lot to watch the same local bands play the same songs they played a week ago through a shit sound system whilst paying 4 quid a drink.

I genuinely believe people want to go out support music, but they don’t have a lot of cash to spend, so if the night sucks, next time they’ll probably just get a pizza and watch YouTube.
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