Developing a new market

By Zack Salem

As an artist development consultant, I work with bands and solo performers of all styles and at all levels of experience. Most of them have unique problems or issues, but one common mistake I see artists make is poor development of the markets they play in.

Anyone can put together a tour. But the bands and solo performers who take the time to develop themselves in each market are usually the most successful.

Since market development is such a vital component to any artist’s success, I’ve decided to write a series of articles detailing how I have successfully done this with artists in the past.

Pick Your Spot

The first thing to do is identify the market you want to develop the artist in. Many artists mistakenly look for the biggest city they can get to. But the location of the city is much more important than its size.

In order to properly develop yourself in a new market, you’ll need to spend a-lot of time there. Picking a market close to your home town makes this easier to do, and will increase your chances of success.

Identify a market that is close by, yet large enough to develop a significant fanbase in. Ideally this market is close to you while also being in close proximity to another market or two.

Alternative Venues

Once you have identified the market you want to develop, you need to find a place to play.  Traditional venues are always a good place to perform, but getting a gig at a venue in a town you have never played in is difficult, so for now im going to focus on alternative options.

If you know any people who live in that market, see if any of them would be interested in having you play a house party. Ive worked in many markets where private house parties with bands are much better than the shows going on at the bars.

These shows can be a great first gig, and a-lot of fun. The more intimate nature of these events often lead to extremely dedicated fans that will follow you to the larger venues and demand their friends come out to see you.

If the city has a college, look for a student group, fraternity or student housing area that puts on shows. College towns are great at developing new artists as there are usually parties and events set up for underage students on a regular basis. These are usually fantastic opportunities to meet and develop new fans.

No college in town? Pick up the local paper and entertainment newsweekly and check out the event calendar. Look for non traditional venues; fundraisers, public gathering, festivals or public events like farmers markets or organizational meetings.

Call the organizer and tell them about your band and that you would like to play a show for them. You would be surprised how many groups will jump at the chance to have an artist play for them for free.

Yes, I said for free.

For your first few shows in a new town, you should be more concerned about finding places to perform than getting paid to play. Once you develop a following, you can start working on guarantees. For now, trade what you have for opportunities to gather new fans.

The Trade Option

Probably the best way to break into a new market is to find a band to trade shows with.

Find a local band in this new market that plays a similar style of music to you. Invite them to come to your home town and open for you in exchange for them booking you to open for them in their home town. Since you both play the same style of music, you should be able to share fans.

The problem with trading shows is finding the right artist to trade with. Even if an artist plays the same genre, their draw may be larger or smaller than yours. They may not want to play in your town or not have any dates that match your availability.

These problems are why we recently added a Gig Swapping system into Musicpage. This free service allows artists to create an online ad in the state you want to trade shows in. We post your Gig Swap in the market you want to play in, so that interested bands can call you.

If you have a band or solo performer profile on, you can create a Gig Swap for free on your Market Page. If you don’t already have a Musicpage performer profile, use this link to create one now.

Music Page

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