Day three of a first-timer’s IBMA experience

This post is a contribution from Jim Gabehart, one of our 2010 IBMA correspondents. He will report all week about his experiences at IBMA as he tries to promote his new group, Jim & Valerie Gabehart. You can see his profile here.

How could a day that started with such promise end so badly? Our focus has been on initiating contact through offers of a free copy of our new CD to passers-by, and it seemed to have been working beautifully. Virtually every person that passed by our booth stopped dead in their tracks and gratefully accepted our CD with promises of radio airplay, helping us spread the word about our group, and the majority indicated an interest in coming to see our group perform in our After Hours showcase.

We gave out over 100 CDs on Tuesday, and eagerly anticipated a throng of listeners overflowing the showcase room which seated less than 60 audience members. We started the day with an interview for a television program which airs in Piscataway, New Jersey. Although the traffic was virtually non-existent in the Exhibit Hall when it first opened, which I attributed to the fact that everybody in attendance probably visited all of the exhibits they cared to visit on the first day, traffic steadily picked up and it seemed we were building momentum toward our showcase at 11:30 p.m., a reasonable hour for the crowd who is not inclined to be out and about at 1:00 or 2:00 a.m.

Gig fair was a very efficient way to meet and provide promotional materials to a large number of event promoters. We had approximately a dozen 7-minute meetings with event producers, which allowed a sufficient amount of time to introduce ourselves, provide a press kit including our recent CD, and in some cases even allow them to listen to an excerpt of our music on an iPod. While it would have been nice to leave the appointments with actual bookings, that would be a little unrealistic, I suppose. Most event producers stated that they would be returning home from IBMA to review all of the information about the groups they met, listening to recordings and reaching decisions about who they are interested in hiring. We had a lot of encouraging and positive reactions to our “story” and our music from those who listened to it, and I want to be optimistic about the likelihood of receiving some bookings as a result of the gig fair meetings. However, even if the meetings don’t result in bookings, the relative ease of having face-to-face interactions with so many event producers in a short time span is an opportunity that I certainly appreciated. I could end up with same result, but odds are better for a positive result with a face-to-face interaction, with a much smaller investment of time and effort.

I took time to meet someone for dinner (who drove an hour down from Kentucky), a cousin I hadn’t seen for probably ten years. We returned to the Renaissance Hotel to practice and prepare for our showcase convinced that at least a large portion of the 150 or so attendees that we met in the Exhibit Hall over the past two days would be coming to our showcase. In retrospect, it was clearly naïve to think that among all the showcases taking place at the same time, and with the difficulty of remembering all the details, despite the business cards we handed out with our showcase information along with every CD we gave away, our showcase we be a priority for anyone. However, we received such an overwhelming enthusiastic response in our contacts at our booth and during Gig Fair, which I estimate to have been greatly in excess of 50, perhaps 75, who indicated a definite intention to come, I really expected a large turnout.

As you may have guessed by this point in my story, we had a minimal turnout, less than 20, for our showcase. If this wasn’t bad enough, we had major technical problems with the sound system. The combination of our technical difficulties and the uncontrollable disappointment in what we expected to be the culmination of our efforts to be seen, heard, and remembered, affected our performance and brought the night crashing down to an embarrassing and disappointing conclusion. Detailing this disaster may fly in the face of one of the primary rules of promotion — always have a positive attitude and put forth a positive spin on any endeavor you’re seeking to promote, but I promised to write about our experience, not hesitating to tell it like it is — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The one positive of the poor turnout is that everyone missed the sound problems and poor performance. Hopefully they’ll like the CD and give us a chance to show we can reproduce a performance comparable to the CD.  Tomorrow’s another day! (our last before heading back to West Virginia for four shows this weekend — a chance for redemption).

  • David Morris

    Some observations from the second row: The sound system issue wasn’t distracting once the music started. Valerie’s voice was sublime and the pickin’ was solid. Yes, the crowd was small, but I once saw Missy Raines play for the gate when only 13 people showed up in the fog — and five of them were members of the opening act! But she and the New Hip played like there were 1300 in the seats, and I’ve never forgotten that. The good thing out of this is that your disappointment wasn’t evident in the audience. Keep writing, keep smiling and treat every show as a sellout. Play on!