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What Are You Doing to Make Your Band a Success?

November 9, 2011

Text by Anthony Caroto. Image of June Divided at The Grape Room by G.W. Miller III.

Performing live is a wonderful and rewarding experience. Any musician will tell you. There’s nothing quite like it. The bigger the crowd, the more invincible you feel. But herein lies the question – how big is your crowd?

There is this perpetual myth that venues are responsible for putting any and all bands in front of a packed club on any given night of the week. As impossible as this sounds, many bands cling to it like organized religion.

So, now what?

Oftentimes the problem is that neither party understands their role in the equation. Many venues expect instant financial results with only a minimal investment.

Sorry Mr. Bar Owner, but a couple of community speakers and an 8-channel mixer does not a music venue make. And July’s calendars don’t really seem to have the same impact in November. It’s great that you have a MySpace page – if only it were still 2008 and you remembered the password. If you (the band) choose to play there – and I’m guessing the booking process is rather, ahem, loose – then keep your expectations low.

A venue’s job is to promote itself and its lineup. They’re looking to build a loyal following of folks who enjoy a few drinks while watching live music. It’s their responsibility to provide the atmosphere. This includes a quality sound system that fits the room, a web presence with regular updates and a staff that genuinely enjoys live music. If the venue doesn’t provide this, then don’t play there.

What a venue is not responsible for is telling the world about how great your band is specifically. That’s your job.

Herein lies what confuses bands the most; promotion. Yes, venues understand that you’re an “artist” and that you’ve spent months writing and rehearsing your material. But a few last-minute Facebook blasts about your show will not generate a satisfactory crowd. You’re gonna have to actually step out from behind the computer and do something. Sure, the age of social networking has allowed us to reach more people in a shorter amount of time but there’s still something to be said about the tangibles like posters, flyers, stickers, etc.

To be in a functioning band goes beyond the ability to string a few chords together. Today, it’s all about branding and marketing. What identifies and separates your band from the others? Will the folks who saw you perform last weekend remember your name on Monday?

That, my dear bands, is completely up to you.

Anthony Caroto founded Origivation, a Philly music magazine, in 2001. He sold off the magazine in 2006 and then bounced around the country before returning to Philadelphia in 2010. He now works at The Grape Room in Manayunk, doing a variety of tasks including promotion and booking. Drop him a line at

  1. November 9, 2011 12:45 pm

    Totally agree Anthony. The one thing we struggle with is playing shows that charge our fans a cover but only give us a 30 minute or 40 minute set. This isn’t a huge issue until the other bands are not at all selected for the type of music they are. I know the grape isn’t this was and that is awesome.

    But if we are going to charge our fans over $10 we should get at least an hour. We played a show (through a booking company – I know shame on us) that charge fans $12 to get in the door. Then gave us a 30 minute set. Stuffed the night with like 8 bands who had very little musical common ground. When we got 43 people to come on a Sunday night we only made $140.

    Sorry just venting. Keep doing what you are doing at the grape!


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