The importance of playing live shows

March 1, 2010


I seem to get asked all the time “Do I REALLY need to play live shows?”

Well, to me, that’s kind of like a mechanic saying “Do I really need to know how to fix cars?” or a baker saying “Ooh, but to get hired as a baker, do I really need to make CAKES as well as pies and cookies and pastries?”

The answer is a resounding “YES!”


The point is, it’s really part of the job.

Now if you’re a composer, or just want to write jingles or music for ads or even some film/tv/video games, etc. then no, you don’t need to play out.

If you consider yourself a “songwriter” and not an “artist” you can just stay home and write songs.

Look at Diane Warren or Kara Dioguardi on “American Idol” – they are songwriters, not singers, and make a VERY good living just writing songs for other artists. And for many of you, perhaps a career as a professional songwriter is more practical these days that trying to get out on the road, developing a fan base and touring, especially if you have a day job and family to support.

Or, if music is just a hobby for you, and not something you need to make a living from, who cares about playing live shows? Just make your music and sell it to your friends and family and get a myspace page and be done.


But, to me, if you’re a true artist, an artist WANTS to be out there performing every night.

An artist WANTS to be in front of fans and getting immediate feedback from their music.

A true artist will play for 2 people or 20 people or 200, 2000 or 20000 people and not care who is there.

Now here are some other reasons why it’s important to play live. You may have some to add to the list:

1) As an artist, touring income is and should be where you make 80-90% of your money. Music on CDs can be downloaded or stolen. Myspace fans are great but if they aren’t buying your music and supporting you, how can you ever hope to make a living from making music? Live shows cannot be stolen. It may take months or years, but when you play out, each successive show should bring out more people / fans to the next gig if your word of mouth is good and you’re marketing effectively. So 5-10 people could be 20 then 40 then 80 then 100 and you get the picture…there is no magic shortcut to building a fan base. You need to connect with fans one by one unless you’re Lady Gaga…

2) I hear about all this doom and gloom in the business these days but yet, I’ve been out to 2 shows in the past week here in LA. Both were on very rainy, wet, disgusting nights and yet in each situation, the clubs were packed (almost sold out) because the bands performing were great live. We are all just human beings and at the end of a bad day of work, people will still drive in bad weather to see a great band perform. Music is good for the soul and many of my friends who work in the business say it’s literally SAVED THEIR LIFE! Even hit songwriters! You’re doing something important, creating art. Don’t you want to share it with other human beings in public??

3) If you’re looking to get signed to ANY type of record deal, whether it’s an indie label or major label, you NEED to be out there and playing live shows as often as you can. In fact, one of my good friends is an A&R executive and he only scouts at venues here in LA so if you’re not playing out somewhere, it’s unlikely he’ll ever hear about you or care.

4) If you’re lucky and HARD WORKING enough to ever get signed to any label, the first thing they’ll do is get you a good booking agent and get your butt out on the road. Why? Because labels know that the only well to sell CDs (outside of a MONSTER hit song on the radio or on TV) is from touring. Every artist that is huge now has busted their ass on the road for years. U2, Coldplay, John Mayer, Dave Matthews, you name it!

5) If you’re doing it right, every live show you do should lead to at LEAST 1-2 more shows (or other good opportunities). If not from someone at the club, then fans or industry people will come up to you and say “Hey, my buddy books this place, you GOTTA come play here” or “I love your music, can I use it in my indie film” or “I love your music, I’m going to tell all my friends on facebook about you and upload a video to share”. That type of reaction will only come from playing out!

6) Especially if you’re an indie artist, you’re not going to move any volume of CDs or get REAL fans on your mailing list unless you’re out there gigging!

7) You never know what AMAZING things can happen from just one gig. One artist was playing at a book store and a guy heard her perform and was so blown away by her voice, he literally started a record label to promote her music and spent untold amounts of money promoting her. Sure, this may sound like winning the lottery, and I wouldn’t expect that to happen, but no matter WHERE you are playing, there are rich people all over the world who also are music FANS and would perhaps just love to find an artist or band they believe in. And let’s face it, their day job that made them rich is likely boring so many people love the idea of investing $$ in an artist because the music business, let’s face it, is very “sexy” and desirable to someone who say, looks at spreadsheets all day.

8) Lastly, don’t you WANT to get out there and perform? Even superstar artists endure endless weeks, months or years on the road because they love being in front of an audience. And sure, if you’re HUGE, you’re making MILLIONS a year from touring. Look at Madonna, The Eagles, U2, Springsteen, Celine Dion, etc. These acts could never get played on the radio again or make or sell another CD but can easily make millions a year from doing shows.

In short, touring is INCREDIBLY important if you want to sell any CDs or make any type of living in the music business.

Now get out there and book some shows!!!




re: “It’s called the music BUSINESS for a reason” article

We are a small production company with an office in Hawaii and Hollywood. I have read your very ambitious efforts for a couple years now! Actually, I applaud what you are trying to do for those that are looking for the brass ring in music, in fact, the clubs in Hollywood play upon the desperation of bands and make them sell tickets to play at their venues. Now you don’t do this but the end result is the same. They make money having a free band who brought people and money and will buy drinks…Great Scam! You sell opportunities and collect when they make some kind of a small deal with end-users of the Bands product be it Radio or Advertisers.

Why not slowdown a little, grab a band that actually has the goods and pitch them to the powers that be? Would you happen to know XXX xxxx? He sells info on the music industry business and dealing with the Record companies. I wonder if he has ever gotten a band signed because of something they got from him?

I wonder, as well, if you have ever gotten a band into some success!


[Editor’s Note: I’m definitely not a fan of any “pay to play” venues but understand that venues have rent to pay as well as insurance, staff, etc. It’s not cheap to run even a small club, let alone one on the Sunset Strip so yeah, if you want to play at certain venues, they are going to make you buy tickets in advance as they cannot lose money when I’m sure hundreds of bands have said to them, “Oh, don’t you worry, we’ll pack this place” only to find that 3 people show up on the night of their show. I say, don’t play in these venues. If you aren’t big enough to sell hundreds of tickets, don’t play a “pay to play” venue. Play a house or living room concert instead. You shouldn’t go into debt just to say you played The Whisky….And don’t call everything a “scam” that charges money. Just because you can’t afford it doesn’t mean it’s a scam. Businesses are in business to MAKE money not lose money! And for the record, of course I’ve taken lots of bands and pitched them to my A&R contacts. It’s a very time consuming endeavor and in most cases, spending thousands of dollars to showcase a band or do things to get a label’s attention was a huge WASTE of money. That money could have been so much better spent on making and promoting an indie CD release than trying to get signed. If you want a look at my success, take a look at my web site or google my name and/or company name!]


re: What would you do with $100,000 for your music career?


Distribution, touring, co-op advertising with Borders/B&N/Starbucks/iTunes/etc, touring, publicist, touring…
Basically, a lot of touring combined with telling people about the album and tour. Luckily for me I already won the “make an album jackpot” (I made a record with Richie Podolor & Bill Cooper (producer & engineer for Three Dog night, Steppenwolf, New Radicals) and it has Grammy winning top session player Rami Jaffee on piano, B3, and accordion.
Hell, I already have a business plan put together…I have a budget for ads, touring, publicist, etc…
If you know any one giving that out, let me know…
I’ll send you my business plan financial breakdown.

Tom C.


Jennifer Yeko
True Talent Management
9663 Santa Monica Blvd. # 320
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

~Music Marketing~Music Licensing~Music Publicity

“Do, or do not. There is no try.”
— Jedi Master Yoda


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