Playing live: probably the most important thing you will do as a musician at every stage of your career. However, don't get lulled into thinking that sauntering up on stage, playing a killer set and heading home is all it takes to really wring everything you can out of a show. No, instead, there is much to do before, during and after a show that turns a night of awesome music into a night of awesome music that nets you a lot of fans that keep coming out to shows, buying your music, helping you get press attention, helping you move up to bigger venues...and the list goes on. Once you've got your set list, well, set, put these tips into action.
During your show, your audience is going to (hopefully) be prodded to find your social media profile and do all the requisite liking, friending and following such sites require. In this day and age, they don't even have to wait until after the show to link up with you online. They can use their phones to check out your online profiles in real time during your set (hopefully while you're tuning up between songs and not during your masterpieces). With that in mind, you can't send these folks to your blog that was last updated at Christmas 2010 or your Facebook page on which you've yet to say anything at all. Before the show, get your online game tight, so that when the people do come to seek you out, they'll see that you've got an active and vibrant online community going that they simply must join.
You should always have a mailing list sign-up sheet available at every show. Yes, even those shows where you know no one is going to sign up for your mailing - it's just a good habit to get into. It doesn't have to be fancy. A notebook or legal pad with a spot for name and email address works just fine. If you want to kick it up a notch, invite people to leave their mailing addresses as well. That may be the old fashioned way to handle a mailing list, but imagine the impact of something from you showing up in a fan's actual mailbox - something tangible and undelete-able. I know, right? Kind of cool.
Be sure to urge people to sign the list during your set, and get your merch people on the task of converting merch table browsers to mailing list members. Want a trick of the trade? Sign up a few people to the list before the show starts. You can make up names, use your friends and family - whatever. No one likes to be the first, so having these few names there will encourage people to jump on board.
Don't be late for load-in, soundcheck or anything else. Don't overplay your set. Get out of the venue when it's time to get out so that the people working there can go home. A huge part of establishing yourself on the live circuit successfully is making a good impression on the people who work it. Respect their time. It will count for a lot.
This idea won't be possible when you're selling out arenas, but when you're playing small to mid level clubs, step away from the free booze backstage and mix it up with your fans at the merch table. The personal interaction with you will help cement your band's status with them, and you're bound to sell a bit more stuff, too. Can't beat that.
This kind of interaction with your fans also offers some pretty valuable insight into your music. Which songs do everyone keep mentioning? Which song does no one EVER mention? Who do they think you sound like? Are you getting a lot of new fans or people who say they've been at every show? All kind of good things to know.
After the show, it's time to thank everyone who helped make it happen, AND it's time to reach out to any press that was there to thank them for the time and hint how much you'd like to see a review of the show in their publication (or just their feedback if a review isn't appropriate). Do these things when the goodwill from the show is fresh - this is how you start cementing those relationships that were conceived in the post-adrenaline rush of a good show that often don't end amounting to much. Make those new contacts count by being the one to reach out.