I go to a lot of shows ~ usually two to four a week ~ and I often hear from other fans what they feel are the shortcomings of the acoustic venues we frequent and why they don’t go to more shows or take the leap of faith to experience a new artist. Some of the issues are related to basic customer relations. People have developed higher expectation as their lives get busier and their entertainment options multiply. Venue promoters are often just music lovers themselves, not business majors or PR experts. They may not even be comfortable with, much less adept at, dealing with customers.
For many, it’s the chance to help and interact with the artists that propels the “superfan” into this thankless and usually unprofitable business in the first place. As a result, venue operators sometimes lose track of what the musicians most need from them: new and returning fans. By building a good relationship with the venue’s audience base, a promoter has added his own personal “draw” to the list of reasons a customer may choose to come to his venue. Without this personal contribution to the public relations brew, promoters are guaranteed to hear themselves muttering the classic refrain, “Why do people only come out to see the big names they already know?”
This little blog is an amalgam of what I hear out in “the scene” and some tips I’ve picked up from working in customer service myself for over 20 years:
1. Treat the Fans Like Rock Stars
- Smile, make eye contact, and at least nod to as many customers as the hectic duties allow
- Stay positive and stay grateful. Never let on that you wish they’d come to last week’s show, too, or that they’d brought more people to tonight’s show
- Be respectful of suggestions and complaints. Never let the customer think that their suggestion is ridiculous or their criticism offensive (even if you may think so). Here’s my favorite response to practically all suggestions and complaints: “Thanks for taking the time to let me know; I will look into that.”
2. Treat Your Rock Stars Like Business Partners
- Be assertive about the importance of the schedule your audience is expecting ~ the time needed for sound check, the start time, set lengths, etc.
- Encourage autograph signing and mingling if feasible at your venue. Fans will form loyalties to a venue where they’ve gotten the chance to meet favorite artists.
3. Make It Easy
- Keep an accurate, easy-to-use, updated calendar on the web. If you’re no webmaster, use a do-it-yourself networking site such as MySpace or Musi-Cal
- Give start times for all artists on the bill. Don’t worry about the fact that some fans will only be interested in a specific artist. If you keep the show running on schedule and the following acts are of the same quality as the act they came to hear, you will pick up a few more fans for the other artists. Also, if you’re running a multi-hour show with no indication when their artist is going to play, most fans won’t come at all
- Consider starting an online mailing list if possible
- Give the schedule to the folks who answer the phone!! Include a brief description of artists
4. Play the Host (or find someone else to)
- Start building your relationship with your customers from the stage: Keep it brief and friendly and positive
- Introduce each artist and each set
- Let people know about key upcoming shows and how to find the information on the web
5. Keep It Professional
- Start on time and stay on schedule
- Don’t let flash photographers or talkers ruin the show for the rest of the audience
- Run the PA appropriately for the artist being presented. For an acoustic singer/songwriter, there are only two critical issues:
- The volume should not be painfully loud
- The lyrics must be understood over the other instruments
Here in San Diego, we have all of the necessary singer/songwriter talent to rival Boston as a singer/songwriter Mecca. We only lack a Club Passim to showcase that talent in an environment that welcomes and caters to the fans supporting the music with their dollars and their attendance.