How Often Should You Play? 6 Drawbacks to Playing More Shows
In some of my other articles, such as How to Book SXSW, I mention the importance of playing often. However, I need to add a disclaimer: it isn’t just about the quantity of shows plated, it’s also about the quality. While in theory, it sounds good to perform as much as possible because you can gain more exposure, the results can be quite different.
There is such a thing as playing too often, especially in the same market. Here are some of the biggest reasons why you should limit the number of shows you play:
It hurts your draw. Even your most die-hard fans won’t want to see you every week or two. Playing too many shows close together will split your ability to draw. This in turn hurts your relationship with the promoter. In fact, some promoters actually make you sign an agreement that prevents you from booking in the vicinity for 2-4 weeks around a show. Unless you are invited to play a residency, try not to play the same town more than once a month.
It diminishes your value. We tend to think of things that are rare, collectable, or limited as more valuable. The same is true with your show: not only will your supporters consider it a special opportunity to support you (especially when they’re only being invited a few times a year instead of a few times per month), you’re more likely to get higher guarantees as a result.
It doesn’t increase your fanbase (that much). If you are playing with unknown acts that don’t draw well, you’re going to only end up playing to the other bands. These days, most venues don’t have a steady walk-in clientele that you can perform for. Music venues rely heavily on the bands to make the show a success. That extra time you spend booking your local shows could be spent finding better acts to play with instead.
It’ll cost you other shows. Playing too many shows in your region will crowd your calendar and might cause you to lose opportunities opening for larger acts or special events that you could be invited to. If you keep a good rapport with promoters, you can work with them to be more strategic about the calendar.
It wears your band out. Too many shows can also stress the band out: your gear, your vehicles, interpersonal relationships, etc. You don’t want to burn yourselves out playing small shows every weekend when, if spaced out properly, those shows could be doubled in size.
It takes you away from building your career. Shows take up a lot of time. You have to book the gig, haul gear, setup, play, tear down, etc. That’s extra time that could be spent on writing music, working on your music career’s long term strategy, booking a tour (different than regional gigs), networking, or even visiting someone else’s show to get some inspiration for your work.
Instead of trying to fill the calendar, use your efforts to fill up the venue.Think about your long term goals. Add some variety to the calendar with the types of venues, locations of shows, the kinds of events you could be playing. If your goal is to play 100 shows this year, 90 of them should be out of town.
Try this: imagine that your band can only play four local shows this year. Where would you want those to be? Which acts do you want to play with? If you value your time and believe that each show needs to be a part of an integral part of a long-term goal, you’ll be more careful about the kinds of shows you book or accept.
Being strategic about your shows will get you closer to your goals than conquering one dive or bar patron at a time.