As an independent hip-hop artist, one of the most important things that you will need to do for your brand is to get out there and perform live shows.
While it’s definitely useful to have your music promoted online with various blog and being shared across social media, it’s even more powerful to start building a fanbase by booking live shows.
Once you’ve put in all the work recording, distributing and promoting your music, you need to be ready to get on stage and perform it.
Performing on-stage is far more difficult than many youngsters might ever have thought, but the power that comes from being able to do this is simply incredible.
In terms of brand building, performing live allows you to:
- Build a genuine fanbase of loyal members who can vouch for your ability outside of a recording studio
- Make a name for yourself amongst the live performers – much like a professional athlete, if you show up well in recording you’ll be scouted live. This lets you catch the eye of important industry contact such as a producer, A&R, label representative, etc.
- Learn some independence – many independent rappers think that they’ll just get help along the way from someone but as an indie artist, you need to put in all the work yourself. Being able to book live shows and pull a crowd in on the back of your own hard work is one of the most important and rewarding aspects of being on the independent grind.
For any good independent artist who isn’t living on delusions of grandeur, setting up live shows is something you’ll need to get used to.
You need to step up, though, and be prepared to actually make a fist of being the act that they pick. You need to step in, too, and actually go and visit the place in the beginning.
1) Act professional
The first thing that you need to accept, though, is that you won’t be able to just walk in and get accepted. You aren’t a customer, so they owe you nothing effectively. You need to turn up with a smooth and charming persona that will get you the time of day, and then you need to present your music in a professional manner.
You shouldn’t looking to find out what to expect from a venue as there are no set rules, but you can easily learn what they will generally expect from you. The first thing on the list is to be professional – a venue won’t hire a loose cannon or a kid who won’t follow the house rules.
Being professional is more than just being eloquent when you are in negotiations. It’ about having a brand, a following. Have your music easily accessible online; make sure you have a website and active social media pages, too.
Let them see that you have a following – no venue will book you, if it appears that you are riding solo and have no fans. So make sure that your fan representation is easy to see for everyone involved at the club with a professional link between all of your marketing materials like a website and social media pages.
2) Be ready to fail
Listen, failure isn’t something that you should be scared of – the most successful moments in your life tend to come on the back of failure. Securing that first gig where you raise the roof makes all of those knock backs and rejections feel so much more worth it.
Struggle is the name of the game when you first start trying to book shows, as you’ll find yourself in that old catch-22. They won’t hire you because you have no stage experience to call upon, but how can you get that experience in the first place without ever being taken on?
Thankfully, this changes quite quickly. For your first few gigs you might find yourself having to offer out your services for nothing just to get a spot. But hey, if you’re other alternative is not performing and making no money why shouldn’t you consider it?
If a venue throws you the freebie curveball, don’t reject it out of hand if you aren’t getting any offers elsewhere. You might not get a wage that night, but if you put your soul into the performance you could have the makings of a positive review and reference as well as a small local following that will start to build up.
In short, be ready to get rejected – we all do – and be prepared to swallow your pride to get those first venues booked up.
3) Promote yourself
One of the biggest things separating an indie artist and one who’s on a major label is the promotion and marketing power they have behind them. While they might have a full department promoting the hell out of their live shows and music, you have to do all your promotion and marketing independently.
There’s no agency and no record label – you need to do it on yourself. The venue, if they bring you in, will do a bit of PR but to get the crowds in you need to do the hard work yourself.
Get onto websites like Fiverr and get some quality custom flyer and poster designs made up, and make sure that you are spending the hours hanging up these leaflets everywhere. Drop in at universities and other local areas to try and drum up some support.
It might not sound fair – you basically need to lose money at the start – but that’s the way of the industry. It’s the same in just about any industry. A web designer will need to set up an office; a chef will need a restaurant.
Everyone has to put a bit out at the start to make sure that they can get noticed and actually get a fan-base building. Don’t take it personally; it’s just the way of the modern industry.
You are investing in your chances of succeeding in the future, so be prepared to take a hit and venues will consider taking you on. They like to see eagerness, and when you have nothing else to offer in terms of a musical CV you need to be prepared to just get the head down and do it. A venue that takes you on can be the life-changing experience you need.