Lessons about performing, lesson 41: Venue follow-up!

Well, here we are again, my dear reader! If you’re reading this on the day it was published, it’s the Friday and that means that we have our weekly guitar thread tonight.

If you’d like a reminder (and any updates that may apply to that thread) then there’s a spot right there on the right. It says, “Subscribe for thread notifications.” If you put any ol’ name and working email address in there, I usually remember to send out reminders.

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We’re a fairly new domain, on a non-standard ccTLD, and we live in a bad Internet neighborhood. So, it’ll probably get filtered to your junk folder. Sorry ’bout that, but there’s not much I can do about it. You can configure your email provider’s settings to filter it to the inbox, which is what I recommend. You can also send them hate mail, or a horse’s  head, but it’s probably just as effective to use your own filtering mechanism.

Now, this is our 41st entry into the lessons for performing musicians. They’re rules that you can pick and choose from – but most of them are applicable, in some way, to your particular situation – assuming you’re going to be a performing musician and would like to eat more than frozen meals and peanut butter.

No, they won’t help you be a rock star – but they will help you reach the point where you’re able to make a successful living by just using your musicianship. It means you might not have to try to juggle three different jobs.

If you’d like to see the whole list, sort of – it’s probably a little out of date, then click here. Otherwise, I’m going to assume you’re all caught up and we’ll just jump right into the next lesson.

Rule #41: Follow-up with the venue!

This is one of those rules that not many people follow. I’m not sure why, but it’s actually a good idea. It’s not even difficult, nor is it something that will cost you much time and it probably won’t cost you any money.

You can even make a handy-dandy form letter or write a small script that you will follow.

“Hi, I’m Bob The Bassist from The Bar Band and we played your bar on Friday, the specific date we played on. We played there from 9:00 to close. Do you have time for a few questions?”

You can even just send ’em an email. Modernity is awesome. Again, you can script it.

“I’d like to thank you for having given us the opportunity to play at your facility and I’d like to tell you that we had an excellent time there. These are some thing that I think we did really well and these are some things that I think you did really well.”

It’s also your chance to disclose troubles that you had with the venue. You can use a little something we in the industry called tact. Seriously, tact goes a long ways.

“While I’m on the subject, there was an empty storage closet and we were told we must change in the bathroom and it doesn’t look like the employee bathroom has been given much attention by the cleaning staff.”

And, again, you’ll want to tell them what they did right. That’s important and it helps set the tone. Remember, you’re trying to sell them services – namely your performing in their venue again. So, play to their strengths.

“What we really appreciate is that payment was prompt, our dressing rooms were spotless, the service staff was very helpful, and being able to park right at the loading dock (and you having several dollies there to work with so we needn’t unload our own) was fantastic. We were able to unload, set up, and do soundcheck without any hassle and our loadout was smooth.”

Things to not do. Don’t use a lot of jargon. Don’t swear. Don’t rant. Don’t be excessively verbose. Don’t shower with faint praise. Do your research and call out helpful staff by name. Unless particularly egregious, don’t call out unhelpful staff.

This will take very little of your time. If they’re busy, arrange to call them when they’re not busy. Don’t bug them, let them call you back when they’re ready. Give them a day or two, but don’t pressure them into calling you. They’re not all going to be willing to do so and they may just be too busy to do so.

You’re doing this because you want to play there again. You’re doing this because, even if you don’t want to play there again, you want the next group to play there to have a good experience.

You’re doing this to keep your band name fresh in their memory. It’s amazing how many times doing a follow-up will get you another gig at that same venue. They’ll say stuff like, “You know, now that I have you on the phone, I have another opening next month…”

So many bands don’t do this. If I were into writing clickbait, I’d have started this article with, “Learn this one trick venue owners wish you didn’t know!” Or something like that. I’m not really sure. I don’t think I’d do well with clickbait stuff. Damn it, I’d have figured something out.

It takes anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. I much prefer to use an email and then, in the email, I’ll ask if they’d like to set up a few minutes where we could have a brief conversation. It’s amazing how many folks will happily give you that time and the chance to have that conversation with them.

And, again, you’re a business. You’re selling them your services. You can find oodles of content about how to be a better salesman, but it’s important to remember that you are, in fact, selling them your services. I mean, come on now, you’re a musician. You’re almost certain to have had some pissy job in sales before! Use that training for something for yourself.

Be professional, don’t be pushy, don’t be skeevy, and don’t get disheartened when they tell you no.

Wait… What? Back up a minute. What’s this no thing?

See, you’re also going to ask them for feedback. You’re going to ask them how you did. You’re going to ask them how they think you could improve your performance, both on and off the stage. You’re going to ask what their staff thought of you. You’re going to ask if they had any comments from the patrons about you.

And you’re going to listen…

Just like you see countless venues, of all shapes and sizes, they see many different acts. They have countless acts come through their door and work their stage. There’s good odds that they’ve been in the business for a while and there’s good odds that they know what works and what doesn’t work.

You’re going to take advantage of that and use their feedback to improve. Not all feedback has the same value, but you need to be honest about yourself and your band. You need to understand that their criticism may have some validity. You need to address their legitimate concerns and do what you can to improve your performances.

It will, ideally, be a two-way street. You’ve seen enough venues. You’ve been around enough. You can tell them ways that you’ve seen other venues make more money. You can tell them ways that you can make your performance more valuable to their patrons. You can tell them how they can improve and that makes it better for you and the musicians who come behind you.

I’ve been in two bands that habitually did this. In all other bands (that have ended up doing this) it was done by me taking the initiative and reaching out to make contact with the last venue we’d performed at. Even if it’s just to thank them for giving us the opportunity to play their stage, it’s always something. In the days of electronic communication and the speedy access to information, there’s literally no excuse to not actually do it AND to do it professionally.

If you have a manager, this is the type of thing you’d want them to do. Given that you’re reading my site, you probably don’t actually have a manager. You should get one, though I mentioned that before. Like many lessons, this one ties in well with some of the earlier lessons.

Finally, I’d like to thank you for reading my site. You all take a few minutes to come spend it here with me, pretty much every day. There’s quite a few of you who visit and leave comments elsewhere and I appreciate the interaction. If there’s anything I can do to improve, let me know! Until next time…

Shut up and play us a song!

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