POPCAST EP. 2 - Promoting Live Events as an Unsigned Act & What Life is Really Like in Music!

Hellooo, welcome back to Popcast! Coming at you all the way from here in my house just outside of Manchester!

How’s everyone finding working from home? Especially musicians out there, it’s pretty hard to do what we do at the moment isn’t it! Especially, just with small things like trying not to be annoying to your neighbours or family right? But I guess that’s the world we live in at the moment!

Anyway welcome to Popcast EP. 2 we’ve got a big one today! Firstly talking about self promoting live events as an unsigned independent artist or band. Then secondly what It’s actually like tackling the challenge of trying to build a career in professional music in 2020!


So my originals band has been making music now for about 4 years and last year we played our biggest headline show to date at a place called Band On The Wall in Manchester. If you’re from the North West and you’re into music you’ve probably heard of it if not been to see a show there. When I was 14 I went to see a gig there and had the vision in my head of what it would be like to play a show with my music up on that stage one day. It’s funny that a fleeting thought or vision like that can stick with you for years and then 8 years later I found myself stood up there doing just that and do you know what? It was every bit as good as that imaginary feeling I had at 14 years old dreaming of playing that gig.

Moving on from that the next show we play in manchester will be at a 500 capacity venue and I have every confidence that (after the pandemic dies down) we will sell out that show! That’s based on the fact that within 2 weeks of our gig at Band On The Wall being announced for the 7th December last year we managed to near enough sell out that show.

It’s important to say that the methodology I’m going to be talking about here and the numbers associated with it are based on that single event, there’s a lot of variables to putting on live gigs but I’m going to keep this as simple as possible.

Before we jump into how we managed to pull that off, here’s a bit of context! Putting on an event on a Saturday night in December is now in my opinion a 7/10 stupid Idea haha. people have so much going on in December with Christmas parties or other seasonal events not to mention the fact that you’ve got the weather to contend with. Also on the night of the event there was a big boxing match between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz and believe it or not about 20 people we got in touch with said they couldn’t come to our gig because they’d bought pay per view for that fight. Just to rationalise that, if you want to sell 200 tickets that would be 10% of your potential ticket sales gone because of an event that couldn’t be further from the country pop gig we were trying to sell but that’s evidence to say that big national events, no matter how seemingly irrelevant they are, can still potentially have a big impact on your sales.

We’ve had the good fortune of working with the uk’s best small label according to the AIM independent music awards, a manchester based label Northern Quarter Records managed by Scruff of the Neck and they were the promoters for the gig.

I’ll just quickly clarify the role of a promoter, they book the venue and the bands and arrange printed tickets, facilitate online sales and that sort of thing, but they look after so many live events that the actual marketing and selling of those tickets is sort of down to you.

It is definitely advantageous to work with a promotor for all those reasons plus they can give you a realistic estimate on what they think you’re capable of selling and they could help you get into venues that would turn you away if you contacted them yourself.

We were able to secure the gig at band on the wall because I’d mention to one of the guys who runs live at the label that we’d done a completely self promoted gig (by that I mean we booked the venues and support acts and got the ticketing sorted) and we did 140 tickets at £3. That gig was again in terrible weather too! There was legit a blizzard outside, if you remember the beast from the east or whatever it was called, that storm we had a few years ago landed perfectly on the night of that gig haha.

Anyway, because we had those figures and we could quantify what our potential ticket sales would be it was a relatively low risk decision for the promoters of our Band On The Wall gig to put us on as headline act. So that being said if you’re just starting out with an originals project, the first thing I would suggest you do is book a gig yourself somewhere and be ambitious with the size! You might surprise yourself if you implement the sales method I’m about to share with you.

Then you can use your new found knowledge of how many tickets you can sell at what price to convince promoters to put you on, either at bigger venues or potentially in other cities maybe where there’s some sort of connection to one of the band members so that you know you can at least sell some tickets there too. Basically it’s all about numbers!

So how did we do it?! Well firstly we made sure that we had the best quality promo materials we could afford, we booked a photo shoot, did a music video for one of our songs and some other live session video stuff and put all of that out with the information and links to buy tickets.

The thing is that’s where most people would stop. You put’ve out the posts and you’re hoping that people see them and care enough to buy your tickets. But everyone else is doing exactly the same thing! The missing piece of the puzzle that puts any actual value into the idea of buying a ticket for your gig is a personal engagement with the people buying your tickets.

What I mean by that is people might see your posts and think, “This band look like great fun I’d love to go see them!” and then they might even see your post with the link to buy tickets and be like, “Cool i’ll do that…” and then they forget.

I set out with the goal in the two weeks before our gig to make sure that everyone who had ever interacted with our social media felt like they were a valued part of what we do. A band with-out fans is just a bunch of people waving guitars at each other to no-one.

The conversion rate of having conversations with people via direct messaging on social media and interacting with people in the comments of our posts etc. was about 10%. So if you want to sell out a show in Edinburgh and its a 100 cap venue, get in touch personally with 1000 people in Edinburgh that might be interested in your show!

The effectiveness of this level of effort is unparalleled in my opinion. It’s very time consuming and will take you hours to achieve but if you book the show 2-3 months in advance and spend a half hour to an hour a day (instead of the round the clock for two weeks situation that I had haha) you’ll get there!

This last week has been one of the most challenging weeks professionally I’ve had in my whole life. Now that’s not a complaint it just got me thinking! This podcast is all about sharing the reality of what it’s like being in different areas of professional music but we’ll get into more of that a bit later on.

Being your own boss in any field of work is probably the same in the sense that you control your working hours, how much you take on at a given time, that sort of thing. The danger there is that if, like me, you have a personality type or something in you that is restless and potentially overly keen to make something happen for yourself, you’re going to constantly push the boundaries of what you’re capable of doing within a given time frame and I suppose the term for this in current pop culture is overwhelm.

It’s difficult to talk about this because often times when I stack up my workload to a point where it seems unachievable (and i’m talking about my own experiences here because that’s all I’ve got to base this on but I’m sure there’s a lot of you out there who’ve done the same thing) there’s a sort of fog that descends and I become kind of lethargic and everything seems a lot harder than it actually is.It’s sort of my brain interfering with the reality of the situation and creating a much more challenging appearance of my work for the next few days or weeks than 9/10 the reality actually is

if that makes sense?

In this situation I think one of two things can happen based on the fact that I’ve got better at not letting that thought manifest itself into me actually being inactive and not being able to face work. So, one is that despite my best efforts of pushing through a very uncomfortable and overloaded week where I might work all hours possible and still can’t get done what I needed to and end up dropping some plates because there’s too many spinning. Or secondly and more commonly the overwhelming foggy feeling of being incapable is actually completely wrong so, with the resilience and the will power to just get on with it, you get to the end result and you’ve managed to find a way to make it work.I’ve found that that sensation of satisfaction has become a little bit addictive really.

Being completely out of your comfort zone and achieving something is the single best way to build your own self confidence and the reason this is relevant to a podcast about professional music is this: I’m yet to come across an aspiring musician, especially those who are wanting to be an artist or push they’re own music, who doesn’t feel like they’re out of their depth and/or is really dealing with imposter syndrome!

There’s a really old book written in the great depression by a guy called Napoleon Hill that says you have to develop sufficient self confidence to be able to take on the challenges you’ll face in order to be successful. I mean that could refer to life professionally, romantically or in general social situations I suppose.

So for context this last week, I worked about 60 hours in 3 days from 8 in the morning until 4 the following morning and the day after that had a head ache that was so persistent I couldn’t actually look at my computer anymore to do any work at all.

We’re currently in talks for our originals band with the label we worked with last year that are, in the short term, career changing and will open up a lot of options for us again in the short term. As well as that, I had one of the most uncomfortable conversations I’ve ever had in my whole life with a member of our band who we can no longer work with as a result of that conversation and honestly once I’d hung up the phone my hand was shaking semi-uncontrollably I was white as a sheet and thought I was ready to be sick. Maybe that sort of interaction is par for the course if you’re going to run anything that involves other people though?

On top of that there’s a fair bit of pressure coming from the fact that, along with a marketing team, we’re currently in the process of planning to launch an online business that has truly global potential if we get it right. In terms of what I do for work this all sort of sounds like I’m complaining. I’m not at all I promise you that! I absolutely love what I do. I love the challenge of it. I love the adrenaline of having all of these conversations and trying to make things happen. I know that that is sort of what my make up is as a human being but I thought after last week and how simplified that explanation of how to earn money as a musician was, I would give some insight into the reality of this profession in a time when work and money is scarce.

To sum all of that up if it wasn’t for the fact that almost on a weekly basis I’m tested by how much either I’m willing to put into these things or how much I can cope with them, I wouldn’t be able to actually deal with any of it. It’s like this cyclical challenge of taking on the next seemingly unachievable week of work that means that the next one is a little bit easier if that makes sense? I don’t know, anyway, just waiting for the day when a lot of the things I’m currently working on can be taken over by other industry professionals like an appropriate label manager publisher etc. and this new business is up and running with staff and good cashflow that means I can ease off in terms of actually running the thing long term.

I don’t think truthfully anyone decides to go into music for easy money you do this because probably at about 13 years old you decided after watching a concert or video that you wanted to be on that stage doing it instead of watching it. Keep that vision alive in your mind and nurture it and it’ll all be worth it in the end I reckon!



So this business I keep talking about… well you’re listening to the beginnings of it!

At the Moment Popcast is a very very new little podcast about my experiences as a musican with the offerings of soon to be 4 courses in various music related skills hosted on my website joekeegn.co.uk/shop - The Vocal Development Program - Beginners course is now live on there so you can improve loads of different aspects of your voice for just £5.99 per module of the course or the full beginners vocals program is £29.99! (there’s 10% off at the moment to if you sign up at the bottom of the page!)

Anyway, that’s all going to get bigger in a few weeks we’ve got an interview with our first guest! She’s a singer songwriter from the other side of the planet in new Zealand and I thought it would be great to chat to her and compare our experiences and see if there’s some consistency in the way we think about life as independent artists both as different genders with in this level of the music industry and with quite literally polar opposite nationalities.

The ambition in the medium term is to bring you guests from all areas of the music industry to highlight the fact that this is a massive business with all sorts of potential career pathways and to bring you conversations that deliver more than just motivation and inspiration but deliver an actual education on the types of things you should be thinking about doing to enter into this industry with the confidence you can get where you want to be! In my opinion there’s two factors to that one is you have to develop the skills to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that eventually will come your way and also be able to guid yourself through your career following advice from people who have already done it!

So in the next 5-10 years we’re going to create the best online platform for skills development and career advice for aspiring music professionals the world has ever seen… That’s a very cool sentence to say and a very exciting prospect but also incredibly daunting so thank you for reading I feel like I’ve got you guys by my side and in my corner helping me build this thing!

So that being said I hope you’re enjoying Popcast if any of this has been useful or you can relate I’d love to hear your thoughts so drop me an email on joe@joekeegan.co.uk or message me anywhere on @joekeeganmusic across all social media and share this help us help more musicians across the world by sharing this or send it to a friend you think it might be useful for.

See you next week!

Joe x


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