Playing Live and promotion: Circle Theory or Fact


Here is an interesting piece which I often share with those who ask where to start if they want to play out live. I like to call it the Circle. Whether it a theory or fact depends on you and your desire to work. Simply restated it means it works in theory and only becomes fact when one is willing to do the things necessary to put the theory into action. The basis for the Circle Theory is about more than circles and has nothing to do whatsoever with math of any kind, so don’t get nervous if you think you are expected to do some geometry or any advanced math.

Here is goes.

You are a performing artist who has actually recorded, at minimum, a demo CD. (a demo CD is short for demonstration CD which means just that. It is meant to demonstrate, roughly, to the person you send it to what you sound like.) Now you are ready to start trying to find places to play or to begin promotion of your group in general. Here is where the circle comes into play.

Take where you live and find it on a map. Print a copy of that map. Put a small dot on the town or city you live in and then draw a circle encompassing a certain size area. I usually tell people to go 50 miles in each direction and draw a circle. Everywhere within that circle becomes the area you are going to focus.

****SIDE NOTE****
There might be some who will now states the obvious: what about the internet? Does it not make focusing on a single area obsolete or too old school? Yes and no.
For the purposes of this circle theory I am considering this to a beginning band or performer who needs to learn the ropes and get an idea of how to promote themselves. Many times this is a younger act who, even given the opportunity to play a show 2,000 miles from their door, are limited to places they can actually reach as a live act. Also the things they learn and glean from this experiment can be a template transferred to a national or even international scale. Don’t get ahead of yourself.
********END of SIDE NOTE************

This approach can keep you from banging your head against the wall after many post rehearsal talks along the lines of “hey we don’t have any shows.” Is it the only approach? Probably not but it is the best way I have seen work and some people do it without even realizing they are doing it.

Take your circle on the map and look at it. Then go do your research about the area it encompasses. Where are the clubs? Where are the places to play? Where are the events that need live entertainment? Where are the opportunities to do your thing?

If your circle happens to extend into or is at the epicenter of a large or medium sized city even better but do not feel like giving up just because you live in a rural area. There are always opportunities to play you just have to look for them within the circle.

The goal then becomes getting proper copies of your CD made and putting them together with one sheet describing your band and a great photo of you, not a camera phone pic or something silly, a real picture taken with a very high resolution camera in something besides your usual gear,the clothes you would normally wear onstage. This will be a good place to start locally. More advanced users might immediately scream “what about your online kit? And your website! and Myspace, youtube, facebook, etc.!” These are all part of the bigger package but one thing I believe and will until someone sets me straight stems from this belief: It is difficult to be huge where you are from. Look at Jesus for example, he was not that popular in his own turf. The less “big time” and more accessible you seem to locals and the more “real” you seem to them the more likely they are to want to work with you. When and if they think of it as doing you a favor because you asked and worked at the shot the more likely they are later to feel a kinship with you after you create a following, like “I gave that kid his first gig.” People like to feel important and often they are. When you say to a local “check out my web page or any web content” it is much less personable and has much less resonance than if you go, “here is my CD, check it out, we would like to play at your club.” This makes this a direct contact and you become a face in their mental friend list and not the “schmuck who tried to lead you to their lame website.” Not that your website is lame but you will make it so if you come off anything less than genuine.

Let’s continue this in a part 2

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