Fans - or your fans-to-be - can't get excited about your music when you're playing it for yourself in your rehearsal space, no matter how good it is. Recordings are good - and important - but there is nothing quite like a gig to really get your fans enthusiastic about your music. Think about your own experiences as a fan - are you ever quite as keyed up about music you love as you are when you walk out of a really great gig? A good live experience just makes your fans more loyal to you.
And what happens when your fans are loyal? They tell their friends. They bring their friends to your shows. Some of those friends will become your fans. And then they will tell their friends. And so on and so forth until you need to book a bigger venue to cram them all in.
First, let me say up front that you shouldn't shy away from playing live just because you're not 100% sure you can't hit every note without a flub 100% of the time. It's fine to play when you're a little rough around the edges - in fact, in some genres, getting too slick will lose you fans.
But - the more you play live, the better you will get at it. Your sets will become tighter. Your confidence will grow. Getting comfortable on the stage is a crucial skill for a musician to have, and no, it didn't just come naturally to all of your favorite bands. It's something that takes practice, just like everything you do as a musician. You will only get better from show to show.
Press coverage is one way to keep your band's names on people's lips, but the media needs a reason to be talking about you. Shows are a way of constantly updating your story, and every new gig gives the media a new chance to cover you, whether it is a show preview, a review or an interview. Easy as that.
Live shows are the ultimate in networking opportunities for musicians. At every show, you have the chance of meeting (and making a good impression on) new bookers, promoters, music journalists, musicians, managers, agents and more. Even if, say, the local DJ you meet at your next show isn't the one to put your new song in heavy rotation, maybe the journalist they mention your show to get curious, seeks you out and writes a story about you. Maybe the manager of another band on the bill passes your music on to a label. The possibilities are endless - and every new face at a show is potentially the face that will make THE difference in your music career.
Last but not least, playing live often is a surefire way of attracting attention from others in the music business - others who can help you achieve your music industry goals. From festivals to labels to managers and everyone in between, one of the first questions you'll be asked when you try to get someone in the industry on board with your music is about your live shows. People want to know how often you play, how many people pay into your shows, where you've played before, if you tour regularly and so on and so forth.
Why does everyone want a peek at your live show business? Well, for starters, when you play live often, it suggests that you've already got a bit of a fan base to work with - in other words, SOME music fans out there already know your name and willingly pony up the cash to see you hit the stage, so whoever in the industry is checking you out knows that they don't have to start completely from stage zero. Likewise, the fact that some people are already on board with your songs suggests that other people will be, too - and that is the very thing that anyone in the industry is trying to gauge before they start working with a band.