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HOW TO BUILD YOUR FANBASE AT SHOWS

You’ve already learned how to build your fanbase online and start your own street team. Now it’s time to plug the knowledge you’ve gained sitting behind your computer into the real world. And for a musician, it doesn’t get more real than a loud, crowded club guarded at the door by a lethargic dude with a clipboard asking, “So who are you here to see?”

Your live performance is your single, most powerful selling point. If you blow it, your hardcore fans will probably forgive you but most newcomers will be turned off for good. However, if you nail your live show, you’re looking at a goldmine for recruiting fans and selling merch.  So you better have a plan for capturing the hearts, minds and email addresses of all your new friends. Here are some ideas:

•    Enlist your street team. You’re going to be distracted pre- and post-show, so it’s essential that you have your team there to handle the business side. If you don’t have a street team, recruit your friends and family. Just be sure to give everyone enough advance notice (at least two weeks).

•    Always have a mailing list sign up. This can be an old school sheet of paper, or an Excel spreadsheet or Word document open on your laptop at the merch counter. While you’re on stage, make sure you use your mic to advertise the sign-up sheet.

•    When you’re asking for email, get wireless info, too. Capture as many cell phone numbers as you can so that you can alert people to news and events in multiple channels — both online and text messaging.

•    Use rich media to engage your audience. There’s always some down time between sets, so take advantage of it. The audience will be looking for something to do. One cool idea is to set up a projection screen using iWall or FireText. Both programs allow people to text into a central number and see their text messages displayed on the screen. Ask them what song they want to hear first and let them text you their answers. Not only will you capture useful cell phone numbers, you’ll also be learning interesting information about your fans.

•    Have your team canvas the audience after the show. Grab an iPhone and walk through the crowd asking for emails and cell numbers. Be as respectful and friendly as possible. The people who loved the performance will most likely be receptive to signing the mailing list.

•    Do an in-show contest. Have some fun and announce that the first 10 people to sign up on the email list will get a t-shirt. Offer a free download with a mailing list sign up. Or do a drawing for a free CD. There are countless promotions you can do to recruit new fans, so be creative.

•    Use your laptop. While people are at the merch booth, ask them to log on and add you as a friend on your primary social networking site. Get their Twitter or IM info. But always make sure you’re respecting their privacy. If they’re not game, don’t push it.

•    Make the rounds after your show. The best way to make a lifelong fan is to make them feel special. Take the time to have a conversation. Always drop by the merch booth to sign CDs and chat people up.

•    Once you’ve got their information, don’t sit on it. Basic direct marketing research shows that a person is never more interested than at the moment they sign up for something. As soon as you load up your email addresses and cell phone numbers, send out a blast that thanks everyone and offers them a “next step,” whether that be buying a CD, joining the street team, reading a new interview or sending their friends a link to your music. The only way to keep fans interested is to keep them engaged.

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