Your Facebook event gonna fail you….

When I was in Africa there was a popular song that my new friends were singing, called “Money Gonna Fail You.” or in the local language, which was a  Jamaican-sounding broken English “Mo-nee go Fai-you” It would show up on the porch at night after a hard days work hand mixing lugging wet mortar in West African wok-shaped “buckets” designed for steadying on ones head, or after traveling a half day into the capital city for supplies, often bartered somewhat dubiously. where we would all sing until it was cool enough to fall asleep. This song would show up and feature all the things that had gone wrong that day. Fro instance, if the Russian made SUV broke down at the market the make of the care would show up in a verse “Neva go[nna] Fail you….” or if Joe dropped his “san-pan”full of mortar the “Joe go[nna] fai-you…” You can hear a version of this song during the first 1min and 15 secs here on this link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTKec2GOHUk  Well, in this case I would have to add the verse: “Facebook-Facebook-Facebook….Facebook Gonna Fail you..’

I have been saying that  creating an event on Facebook and inviting your 5oo+ friends is the way to go, but it is not. I was WRONG. Or at the least I did not realize that i neglected to think about the details  of just HOW i share my own upcoming small-venue or cafe events.

Facebook decides when and where that invitation will appear, and its users, your friends each have settings that dictate what information from facebook will or will not be forwarded to their e-mail. I miss invitations to events ALL the time. I might be checking on the details of an event, refer to my calendar tab, and there are so many invitation there, that i had not seen until just then.

I have felt so overwhelmed that I admit i have clicked right back out of my events tab and calendar, because I have “failed to respond” to so many. The fever pitch of ever-flowing information is making so much if it dull and deafening. I do not want to add to it or to others cyber-based load unnecessarily. What now?

As I approached my own sink or swim debut, i was actually hitting the share button on my event and choosing the “in a private message”[PM] option, and when I told others to create a Facebook event, I did not realize that perhaps the large turnout was partially attributable to the fact that I shared my event, in a personal messages, along with personal words of invitation.

Now, I mentioned that i do not want to add to the cyber-burdens of others, so I do not click “invite all” when creating the event, nor do I invite everyone and their brother.It is wise to make your event public, if you want to grow your hearers. Before I hit send on a personal message with an invitation link on it, I try and  think about what being at my program on Friday night, or at least being invited, might mean to the person to whom I am considering personally inviting. Be as thoughtful as you would like others to be of you.

You can share your event in a personal message too, it is easy. Here is how, for those of you who are not  adept at social media. When you click “share event” then opt for a PM or a post on your wall, etc….you can add a a few words of PERSONAL invitation to the general event link. it might take a little time, but if you are interested in growing your fan base, or in my case, just connecting with people in a meaningful way via my songs, then it is well worth the time spent.

I actually think about who might be interested in coming to my event, like all those people that say Next time you sing at that cafe, please let me know” for starters. I share with those who come out to hear me on a regular basis,and I make it a point to invite a few newer friends who have never been to the cafe. I troll on chat for people who might just want to go out and do something completely different on a Friday or Saturday night.

My songs include levity, and also some gravity and sympathy, so I am also sure to include a few friends who might have been having a hard time lately—after all…Why am I doing this in the first place? Just to hear myself sing, and drag out 6 musicians and a bunch of gear?! No Way! That view is way too narrow! There has got to be some deeper meaning to what it is we do when we birth new songs, or feature old ones which are special enough for us to have studied and prepared to share with others.

And that my friends is starting to sound like my next post….If a tree falls in a forest, Does it make a sound? I will write about THAT next time!

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Knowing Who We Are

As you enter the process of booking a venue it is important to know who you are in relation to that venue. Think of yourself at a little red dot positioned in the grand scheme of something bigger. You are part of a grand scheme on this planet, but let us narrow to the venue for which you have either been asked to play, or you where you have submitted a demo and have asked to play.

 

Are you a newcomer who has been granted a few minutes or a few hours by someone who is giving you a place to share? Are you and old hand who consistently draws a crowd without too much work, and you are loaning and donating your time and talent to a venue that could use a little boost? Likely most people who play at small venues fall someplace in between.

 

In knowing who we are, it is good to know who we are not. We are not necessarily what others who know us say about us, or who we appear to be on a social site, where for good reason we attempt to put our best foot forward. I  am always impressed when I attend a concert of a person who I greatly admire and love to hear their music, and they say they are surprised that anyone came/comes to hear them.  I do not believe that when I have heard so it is feigned humility.

 

What is your role at the next venue where you plan to play. I assist in the booking process at a small venue with a particular function within the community. Below is a story about once upon a time long before I worked there…

When I approached the thought of playing this cool little cafe,I was excited, I was scared, I had never shared my original songs publicly yet, it was to be my first time out of the box.  At the time, I was an eager learner in a songwriter support group. Once in a meeting the leader said that when we are  invited or permitted to play locally in small places of business, it is a reciprocal affair. After hearing a few of my best songs the owner then considers the risk of trusting that I can deliver that level of quality in the live setting of his establishment. If he takes that risk, then I should make every effort bring him new clients form among my friends, who might go there even on nights when I am not performing.

 

When I was preparing to play at the venue (where I now work,) I told my producer that maybe just that first time I would not tell anyone,  because I was so scared my first time out, and unsure of myself. His response was, “No, you will go home and invite everyone that you know, and so will I.”  I considered ignoring the advice of the support group leader, and my producer, because I am slightly oppositional, and I was worried that I would be a flop.

 

Then someone, ( I wish I remember who,) set me straight. I told them how I was feeling about it, and they said that the problem with that plan was that it was “all about me.” I was horrified, and ashamed of myself, truly. When I looked at it that way, things began to shift. I would like to say I stopped being scared, but I DID begin to think of others.

 

I thought about my lyrics, and who might benefit form hearing them, I thought about family and friends, and wondered if they would be hurt if I did this crazy thing and had not told them. True confession, I thought about passing out during my first song, and whose faces i would want to see when the smelling salts would revive me—or, about having an fatal heart attack, and who I would have wanted to be with me, as well as at my funeral. I would like to say I am joking, but these were my true thoughts.

 

I created a Facebook event with location and time and called it “Come hear me Sink or Swim.” I invited all my friends—about 250 at that time.  I posted it about 6 weeks before my event, and then proceeded to hit the “share” button on it and shred my event invitation via personal messages (This is critical, and I will explain that in an upcoming post.) I called, e-mailed, and face-to face invited people. I put up a flyer at work, and my church, and handed out flyers to my neighbors. The whole last week leading up to it, I kept an eye on my chat bar at the side of my Facebook page, to say to those who said they were coming “See You Friday!” Or invite someone who might not have seen it, or seemed like they might enjoy something “completely different” this Friday (Monty Python inflection intended!!!)

 

Because I was thinking that the café owner would more readily forgive me for ruining his atmospehe, I made a little survey form asking what people had to eat that night, what they favorite menu item was, and ,  and a box to check if it was their first time to the café on the top half, and their names and optional e-mail addresses for if they wanted  me to inform them when I would be singing again.(  I had my kids distribute them and re-collect then  a few songs before our break, and my kids tore the bottom half off, and threw them in hat. The top half was given to the owner. I had my husband buy a gift certificate before I got there,. And choose a winner form the names in the hat. It was so much fun!  I repeated that for the first three times I played there.)

 

I felt like I was strapped in and slowly on that agonizing ascent of a roller-coaster that would culminate in some sort of public humiliation that I would never outlive. When the big day arrived, I determined to stay home as long as I could, so my husband and tween son went to help set-up. When my son got home he said “Mom, you better do a good job tonight, because there are so many people there they can’t get in the door and it is hot outside. Out of the mouths of your own kids….. [facepalm}

 

Once I got there I saw it was true. I sat in the parking lot and contemplated just driving away. But where could I hide for the rest of my life? I walked in the door, took my stool, and gave my producer the nod, as planned, to start the first song….when i got through it, the applause was unforgettable. ( I know It was just my own friends and family, and if I want to know the truth, someday I will have to play where nobody knows me, and feels sorry for me. Someplace where there is an attraction other than music to consistently draw them in, where if I was “eh” or bombed, they will be back the next night or week anyway, and nobody would remember my name or see my face again.)

 

I learned so many great lessons in that passage of my life, and I will never forget. No matter where I play, I think about my role for being there. I think about how I can best assist my listeners, and those in attendance. I think about whoever invited me and when their needs might be, what they expect. Think about something other than me.  It shifted the focus the first time, and anytime I start to fell a twinge of cowardice, I can shift my focus again toward others. I have gotten paid gigs, and I approach it the same way, there is just never room for assumption. Assumption for what is expected, assumption that I will be  given a rubber stamp of acceptance, that I am the lofty performer, and you are all here to see me me me! No! people come with the stain of their last few weeks or days or hours on them, just like me, and maybe I can help them forget that for a little bit, and maybe when they return to their own lives and work they will have had a productive shift in their thinking too.

 

The truth is, I have no burning aspirations beyond performing locally, for my own friends and loved ones, and anyone who winds up in the café the nights I play. I might never go have that “test. I see my events as amazing opportunities to invite people who I intersect with in my community that maybe could use to hear something I say, or gain courage that at my station in life, and given my circumstances that they know of, grows their own courage and creativity. I will kepp on wlecomgn people inot my creatve mind, and my own personal mode of de-stressing and processing my own life and thouths.

 

Because I now work at the cafe, I see both sides. I see when the owner hires extra staff because he is counting on a crowd, and assumes the risk that the night’s food sales will pay them, I will keep introducing new clients ot the café each time I play, a dozen at a time if I can, for that would be town percent of the seating. I will remind my friends and loved ones to let someone else do the cooking.

 

So, who are you? Are you just starting out, trying your wings? Are you just a local person having fun making music? Do you create new original music? Do you play covers that people in the venue you are going to can relate to? Do you want to be in pictures—do you have a certain market you would like to break in to? (Ie you want to play at weddings, —Invite some wedding planners!!!!) Are you a mutt like me, and just happily to have a nice spot on the floor inside form the cold and some food scraps tossed your way? Remember, this is a blog for players at local venues close to their own home.  If you run with the big dogs, somebody else will tell all about you, and people will seem to magically appear….when you have an agent, you can stop telling people about your events, until then, be sure to Know who you are and what you truly have to offer. (On sustainable occasion, this café will host a medium-sized “dog “who knows the hard work of house concert touring.) But until you run with the big dogs, know where you are playing and how it is you can have a positive impact for the good of each one. This café welcomes those who want to build their own fan base, in exchange for introducing them to come in and check out or great food and atmosphere. Prepare and do quality, be warm and friendly and approachable, attempt to pack out the house,  and your tip jar should be generous for you…almost like getting paid.

 

Playlist Planning and Prompts

I remember researching  how to set-up a playlist before this first time I ever played. I watched a VHS video on how to order the songs to create a crescendo and where to place a break. I learned about the endings of songs and at what point I could add something silly or risky audience participation. I was talking all about it to my band and they thought that the small venue format might be alittle different. I did it to the letter of this VHS Guru’s law, then after the first two performances, I was comfortable enough to do it my own way. There are lots of theories out there, if you ask your search-bar or your . I think the one thing that can override all advice is knowledge of your listeners. If you are invited to a private event, you would tailor your playlist to the theme, or the kind of group you are serving. You might have contact with the event coordinator to receive some clues. Take notes and jot down any ideas for Songs and perhaps some small items to share between some of the songs might want ti use, and build from there.

In this post i will focus on the small venue arena, like a cafe or coffeehouse, where people are free to listen and free to talk quietly among themselves, where you do not know if you will wind up being front and center attraction, or if you will be the background music. Obviously the first thing to consider is your style. if you are a solo musicians, or a mellow band that plays only quiet instrumental, you are providing background music, and just go for it. No need for anything dramatic, just keep it rolling at an appropriate volume. Yours should be a relatively peaceful process. If you songs have words, read on….

If you are walking into a venue with no knowledge of the listeners before hand, best to choose something tried a true. Even if you know that your die hard fans will be showing up and filling the place, you may want to follow this format, if you will be packing originals or covers of varying emotional impact. I say emotional impact because some genres in which most of the songs have a similar  emotional impact and intensity of instrumentation, could be as easy to glide through the playlist process as with purely instrumental. 

But for the sake of the topic, let’s say you are a singer songwriter, new to this venue, and maybe even new on the local scene, or from out of town. I have gleaned most of these ideas from one video in this series. My notes are sparse. I suggest that you try to find a copy of the video to watch and here is a link to get you started: http://tomjacksonproductions.com/dvds/  the same dvds are no longer on the merch page for the site, but his methods being tried and true, you would find them highly informative. So the notes in the next two paragraphs below are not my original thoughts, nor are they complete or comprehensive. They are so reduced down and paraphrased, Even Tom might not recognize them, but as my father used to say, “credit where credit is due.”

First two songs, on a scale of 1-5 make them each a 3.5, because people are not really listening yet, and they function as a first greeting handshake, so do not make them either too crazy or too introspective, unless you are wildly world-famous already, and then you can play your latest hit if you feel like it. (My words here: I did this and it helped to calm my nerves. Now that i am a regular, my band talks me into playing an up-tempo toe tapper, that is already familiar. After those two songs, that end with little fade, perhaps abruptly on a single beat. Then it is a good time to introduce your band as a whole,and thank the audience for coming out,  but do NOT introduce your band members individually at this time . Then you will want to play some of your your “greatest hits” about #5 intensity or volume about three in a row.(Me here: If you have fans and groupies who recognize these great! You do not need to talk between every song, in fact you should not. Sometimes just go to the next one with a nod. )  If you are a regular, then you will want to place announcing and executing new songs you are excited to share before break or at about the 3/4 mark.) The first two songs are very risky places for a rookie or a newbie to a venue to place any form of audience participation. (My idea here: I would place those kind of songs in what i call my trim-gap. more on that later.) The presenter says that to ask for audience participation before they seem enthused and engaged, is like being introduced to someone for the first time and asking if he/she will marry you. They need to get to know you first. They want to get to know you, they want you to succeed, You make a mistake, smile and keep moving. 

After the first two songs, bring in a some favorites, either known to the crowd, or your own that you feel that you execute well and are upbeat. Bring on an intense thought provoking song before break. The would be a great time to pitch your favorite charity of your tips are going to it that evening, and to pitch the great food and beverage selections at the venue and thank them for letting you play there. Then you will want to take a break, then come back and play two songs (as a rejoinder…similar to the first two, and repeat the same “wave cycle.” Only at about the last quarter, you can do fun crazy stuff, like audience participation depending on the crowd, or a sing along, everyone is relaxed and those that are still there are in till the end, and are digging your stuff. (Christian bands sometimes will put in a familiar of easy to song along worship song here. Then you want to end with your greatest hits and then either a bang-up song or a wind-down song. 

Many of the ideas in the last two paragraphs are not my own, but from here on are my thoughts. At the venue where I am a liaison, we advertise that live music runs for a two hour period within a four hour expanse of time when a full menu is available throughout, ordered and picked-up at a counter, that needs to be busy, in order for the owner to pay his employees that evening. If the audience is new to the venue, and you might know that if you have brought them, you may feel free to promote the tip basket labeled, for the artist at some point, just before break is a great time. Then  when o break, do greet a few people, have a drink of water, use the facilities, and get back to your places in about ten minutes, or trust me, people will wind back down and start putting on their coats to go. You don’t want that…You have practiced and prepared and the cooks have prepared food ahead of time…dessert is coming!

How do I know if I have two hours of content? Most of my songs are recorded in some format. From the first few times I have played, and every time I am asked to do the music for a private event, I literally have the length of the song noted beside each song, and as I am “story-boarding” my set lists, I can add them up when I think I am done. If I come up too short for the time I am allotted, I add, if the songs exceeded the time allotted, I either cut some or create what i call a cut-gap. there are usually tow songs on my playlist that are optional, and I check the clock when I turn the page to the first of those two. If when I am running ahead of schedule,, or the audience is looking tired, I might pass one or both. If things are going well, and I am ahead of schedule, I see how far ahead I am and will keep one or both of those songs in the set, and will likely finish on time. 

Balancing playing and talking. Solo musicians are so cool and I envy them, they can sit up there and grin, or make no eye contact, just be lost in their own little world, and get away with it and probably rate higher on the coolness scale. Those who bring lyrics are a little bit more exposed. In a small venue you will not be bale to get around a little bit or narrating, though your songs will do much of that, but there are times when an instrument needs a a re-tune and you will need to talk a little bit. That is good, the audience came there knowing they would receive a performance at close range, and some really like it. I try to think about a flow for my songs, or a them for the night. Once near Halloween, I talked about being authentic vs wearing masks whenever I talked between songs. I take between ever other or ever three songs. it might be a 2 minute story, it might be one sentence. It is so great to have notes on our lead sheets for when a song needs an alternate tuning, I use that inflammation when arranging the order of songs and talking as well. My songs are emotionally intense and I plan to break it up with a telling something funny on myself. Audiences love to see happy band banter and the smiling unity that comes when something goes funky for a second, and you quickly recover…it is part of the package of live and local. I will plan out what i am saying, but at our bands ‘dress rehearsal” I do not say it. They would get bored with me if they heard it before, they laugh authentically or learn something knew about that song they have been playing, or their front-lady or man. 

In a venue with food happening throughout, and people coming and going, like this cafe, it is like a party atmosphere. Those that want to hear  you will be cuing in to your words, sung or spoken, and those that needs to be hearing their table-mates will be hearing them. Talk to those that  are giving you eye contact. if nobody is giving you eye contact, you will likely need your “cut-gap” songs. Once you are over any initial nerves, you will become an audience reader, which is a good skill to acquire. If you are new and nervous, you will play everything faster, as if there is a monster chasing you….you are now warned. Some nights go that way even when you are not nervous. Timing your songs and pre-planning what type of things you might convey between songs really helps. Once I had an exact hour to do a church service, where i was the singer and speaker on one. I worked on that to whittle it down for weeks, and I could hear the steeple chimes in the live recording at either end. Another time I was given a 2o minute time slot to song, and the speaker went so long I only had ten. I was able to make quick adjustments and my the tip basket was 120 dollars…I thought it would be like 20, all in ones, so i handed it to a musician to divide evenly with the other musician…I should have taken a cut! Dang! The more prepared you are for the optimal situation, the easier it will be to adjust when on the spot. 

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I  arrange  my playlist using on sticky notes on a blank wall at my house. I story-board them like a screenplay or sit-com writer  plans out scenes. I have made the Horizontally, and vertically. I prefer two vertical columns. I set up so that the first column is the first set I will play before the break, and the second, the second  set I will play after break in tow columns.(see photo)  I often will stick the first songs in each half and the last songs in each half up first, then fill each column in. if I plan to do tow songs in the same tuning  one right after the other, i will attach them, and if I plan to talk in between i will stick up a sticky-note of another color, and later add in a short title phrase like: “quick band intro” or “individual musician introductions” or  “sick of snow rant” or pitch the menu” or pith the charity.” I will move those sickies around like chess pieces, but all the elements will be there, and there is no need to areas. Once I get it, I re check for tuning breaks in my lead sheet notes, put the lead sheets into a 3 hole black binder, or in the front of my alphabetized lead sheet catalog binder, with a handy table to keep it form disappearing in the glare of the spotlight,  and I am ready.

Give your band the playlist. Send it to them in an email a head of your rehearsal(s) leading up to your event. They will get their own lead sheets in order, and if the dog ate them, they will meekly e-mail you and ask for another, though they should prize their lead sheets with all their performance notes written in. You can work on your set list weeks, or even months in advance, if you need pressure, make them hold you to a prior deadline and learn to depend heavily on your rehearsals to sure up any tunings you might have missed taking account for and how close you are to the time slot. if you play at different venues, repeat playlists that have worked well. it is not more genuine to be different each time, it might be the break you will need. I save all my presentations in separate folders with all my talking points in the pockets, in case i have to do a similar event in  the future. 

When choosing a playlist I try to keep in the posture of making space for what is needed. Do the listeners need a break after  hard week, does the venue owner need about a dozen more hungry patrons that i could aim to invite, does he or she need me to talk about that night’s special. Viewing yourself as a helper, instead if truly at the center, can really help. If you are still stumped, then make yourself focus on a particular person or small group that you KNOW will be there, and almost tailor  your program to what you might want to share just with them if it where a private performance, then go with that, but make eye contact and interact with everyone present. Do not interact with the few who may or may not know who they are, or you will alienate the rest. Same with too many inside band jokes, some are fun, too many are alienating. If you cannot think about the group or individuals, you can think of an ax to grind, or a subject, like if it is the end of winter and everyone has had it, you can make cracks about that, or choose songs about butterflies and green meadows….just try.

Those are my playlist prompts. Enjoy planning for your event! 

The Barefoot Cafe Liaison

 

 

 

 

What do I have to do to play at this Cafe?

You have to play well. Long hours of practice have begun to payoff. You have sought objective non-biased feedback from several sources and have gotten positive reviews. The next step is to submit a three song demo. Choose several songs that reflect your style, played simply and are minimally processed, much like how you plan to play at this small venue.

You have to be prepared to play for two hours. Live music begins at 7:30PM and runs until 9:30 PM. Typically bands will play for 45 minutes or so, take a break, then play for another 45.Plan 2 hours worth of songs, with some that you can cut out if you are running short on time.

Be willing to play for a free meal and whatever voluntarily falls into the tip basket that evening. This cafe loans it stage as a launch pad to newcomers and novices, as well as more established local bands. Bands who started out at this cafe return to play for years, because it feels like home.  Established bands can use this cafe to promote themselves by inviting anyone, friends and prospective clients, to come hear them, as it is a public place and event, (as opposed to when they play for private gatherings,) and because they want to preserve and promote the cafe. This cafe wants assist each band’s attempts to support and promote its own fan base. This cafe wants to make efforts to connect each band with a few new fans by sharing our regular clients, through free-community board advertising, as well as our websites and social media. For example, on-air promotions through the radio station housed within the venue.) However, the burden of promotion lies mainly with the artist. Every attempt should be made to fill all 70 seats, and at that, encourage them to arrive before you begin to play, with a hearty appetite for something on our menu, preferably dinner. Busy counter-service is how you can say thanks if you are new comer or novice; and if you are more ‘famous’ and up and coming,  you can support this gracious venue, and preserve it for others who started out small just like you! The owner invests in upfront costs of rent, utilities, groceries, and paying employees…you invest by taking  the challenge to fill the house. Bands who fill the house will be given preferential booking. “Tell your fans not to cook,” and more fun tips on promoting your event on other posts.

Enjoy looking at the tips and ideas on this blog!

Best wishes!

The Barefoot Cafe Liaison

[Artist Liaison at this Cafe]