I read an interesting open letter last week about how venues need to work on building up their own draw instead of relying on bands to do all the promotion. That got me thinking about how draw works.
I’ve decided that there are 3 distinct types of draw; each of which has advantages and disadvantages, and each is depleted differently.
First of all, as suggested in Dave Goldberg’s letter, there’s venue draw. This is where a the venue where a show is happening draws in a crowd by itself largely independent of who is playing. If you spend a lot of time seeing live music in Nashville, you can see this quite readily. There are a ton of small venues around town that don’t have any crowd of regulars. People will come see their friends’ bands one night but have no reason to go back to that venue again for months. On the opposite extreme are the honky tonks on Broadway. These are the “tourist” bars. They always have a huge crowd, and it barely matters who’s playing that night. This sort of draw is usually fairly resilient. People will go to their favorite/a famous venue; seeing your band is a pleasant coincidence for you. However, the next night, you’ll be somewhere else, and they’ll still be at that bar. (Hopefully, you got them to sign up for your mailing list so you can convince them to be disloyal to their favorite venue the next time you play!)
Second, is personal draw. That is where you convince your friends and family to come out to your shows to supportyou. This type of draw gets depleted pretty rapidly. If you put on one or two major shows a year, you can probably convince a lot of your friends to come see you play. However, if you’re playing every week - or even every month - you’ll quickly lose the interest of all but a few dedicated friends (i.e. your mom and significant other).
The third kind of draw is band draw. This is what you as a musician want to cultivate. This is where people want to see your band. They may like you personally, and they may like the venue you’re playing in, but they’re mostly there because they like your band and the music you play. This sort of draw is also pretty easily depleted; the standard advice is that you shouldn’t play the same market more than once every 6 weeks to avoid burning your fans out. However, if you can get a loyal fanbase who will come out to see your band play once every two months, you’ll be one step ahead of the game. These are the fans that will buy your merch and come to see your band more than once a year and tell their friends about your band. These are the fans that will make your band sucessful. Get that band draw; get people out to see your shows because you’re a great musician who puts on a great show, not because you’re playing a great venue or because they’re your mom.