I recently played a club concert as a part of a Star Wars Day/Free Comic Book Day evening of geek music and I came away with this: venue is key.
When I play at a convention, the room may be a dull, hotel cube but, it is intimate and everyone in the room wants to be there. At a club, the room may look cool but, the people in the room are not necessarily there to see me. They are there to drink and hang out. That’s cool, but I don’t like it. This is why I don’t play bars, wineries, or coffee shops unless I have a good reason.
A few years ago, before the ghost, my goal was to play at least four shows a month and for a year, I did. In order to hit my four show goal, I accepted shows where I knew that no one would show up. There was one particular coffee shop/gelato stand that kept trying to have music, but nobody – NOBODY – ever came. I accepted the show because I only had three booked that month. They said I could have a free gelato but after two hours of a public rehearsal in an empty shop, I just wanted out.
I feel much better about playing one or two concerts a month for conventions and odd events than I did playing twice as often for inappropriate venues.
Which brings me to authors.
Authors have a similar dilemma for book signings and readings. Much like unfocused musicians, unfocused authors sometimes scramble about looking for anyone with a room and a chair. Like aimless musicians, aimless authors, after having a disappointing show, will go back to that venue with little to no adjustment in their approach. Sometimes the poor experience has to do with the author not getting the word out, not telling friends, not doing a facebook/twitter/meetup event thing. But sometimes the venue just sucks for you. If the regulars at a club expect a rockin’ band and they find an acoustic guy (granted, a pretty awesome acoustic guy), right away it’s a fight. If the shoppers in a book megamart just want a coffee and a quiet browse and they find an author staring at them with a “buy my book” look in their eyes, it hurts everyone.
Now that your event has failed, how do you change your strategy?