Advice from Tim Sweeney

June 2004

How may CD sales are in your audience? For most artists the answer is very simple: three or four. For successful artists, it’s a question they can’t answer until they’re onstage during the performance.

The reason why most artists can answer is predictable. They continue to make the same mistakes they made before, during and after their shows. For example, using the ideas they got from their fellow artists (who have not even sold as many CDs as they should be able to), they promote their shows in two very typical ways. One, they email the same mailing list they email about every show, never taking into account that they are trying to get people who work all day to get back in the car, back into traffic and away from their television sets, which provides hours of mindless entertainment. They don’t “preplan” their shows, so there is no idea of which songs they will be doing (except for a hand printed set list) that will have any value or meaning to the fans that show up. In essence saying to them, "We didn’t think of you enough to plan anything to inspire you so stand there and watch us for 45 minutes and think we are great." Since nothing was planned or thought out ahead of time, the email will merely say, come to our next show at this place on this day and time. Boy, that would really inspire me!

Another mistake is when the artist decides to try to get new fans to come to their shows they head to the streets with flyers - a piece of paper which states again the place and day and time of the show. Nothing of value, just a piece of paper where no one can hear their music. While some artists do give out CD samplers they forget the verbal tracks expressing who they are as artists and the value in their music. Again, not putting in the time or effort to do it correctly so it will be of benefit to them and their fans.

When the usual 25 people (including friends and family) come to the show, they transform into “rock gods” and play to themselves, never building the bond they need to with the audience that will motivate people to want to buy a CD. They don’t talk about their songs or how it relates to the audience. Of course the volume of the music is an issue and the group never did anything about the visual aspect of their show to make people focus on them. Just magically taking the stage after the last three  bands have played and gone over time will be enough. Won’t it?

After the performance, it’s time to focus on arguing and letting out all their frustrations. Most groups or artists do this right after the last note of the last song. Or after they put their gear away. Again hiding from the people who came out to see them and making sure to break any kind of bond they have built. And just to frustrate their audience even more, they will only offer CDs for sale through a merch table where people have to wait in line. That will cap off the evening. Of course they have to save their private time for when they get home to criticize each other for what wasn’t done and how they can do better on their own or better yet,  it’s just time to quit music all together.

If any of this is familiar to you, than you need to start over! It’s time to start being a successful artist.

The power of the message in your lyrics and in your songs can’t be found solely in someone hearing it. You have to promote yourself as an artist. Reach out to new people all the time, not just your current mailing list who have already bought your CD. Talk with new people in your home town. Get them to learn about you. The person you really are. How you can help them be more aware of their lives and community through your music. Express that between your songs at your shows. Redesign the venue to reflect “you” when you play. Be creative. Be different. Be YOU.

After the show, step off the front of the stage with CDs in hand and thank people for coming. Get to know them. Have them buy CDs right then from you. Learn what they liked about your show and your music, so you can share it with new fans. Be the last to leave. Make sure you have talked with and listened to everyone. These are just a few of the strategies that I teach artists like you. Yes, you are an artist. Start your music career over acting like one and believing you are one.

If you are ready to make the jump from three to four CD sales per show to thirty or forty? Then check out my in-depth seminars like Music Strategies at or my books like "Tim Sweeney’s Guide To Successfully Playing Live." They will help you become the artist that you are - one who can move past self-doubt and procrastination to being an artist that is self-sufficient.

For more information about Tim Sweeney, check out

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Copyright © 2004 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 31 Jul 2018 23:38:08 -0400