photo by Tom Ciaburri

photo by Tom Ciaburri

Nobody works as hard as a Bluesman, and if you’ve ever been at a bar where Ironing Board Sam is performing, you believe it. An energetic stage show is almost always followed by mingling with the audience, as Sam is a consummate professional, and on top of that is genuinely pleased to see everyone who shows up to hear him sing. After a set, you might find him shaking hands with every patron in the place. Last year, at the Eddy Pub, I watched as Sam spent every break chatting with fans, answering questions about his music and life, and thanking them for coming out just to see his show.

For Sam, I know it’s about loving what he does, but it’s also about the business. To supplement the pay from gigs, many artists depend on CD/merch sales – impulse purchases from people who loved the show. Making sure they connect with the audience – whether they do it from onstage or in the crowd afterwards – is essential to making the most of a gig.

One friend of mine, a younger musician, recently took the stage in a disturbingly ugly hat. He played two songs, and took it off, at the request of the audience, to continue his set. But he put it right back on as he headed out to his merch table at the end of the show. He told me “People come up to ask about the hat; they recognize me, and that helps, especially if I’m one of multiple opening acts. If they come up to talk to me, they might buy a CD.”

Most of our artists rely heavily on the income from merch sales at their gigs. Music Maker grants our artists CDs to sell at their shows, and it makes a difference for them. Instead of taking home just $200 for a bar gig, I’ve seen artists double that when you add in tips and sales. It’s so great to see musicians like Sam enjoying their audience, and it’s even better to see that he can increase his income with the albums Music Maker helped him record. So, when you’re out at a show, remember to stop by the merch table. Sure, you could listen to an artist’s music on Spotify the next day, but when you buy a CD from Ironing Board Sam, Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, or any other number of performers, you’re contributing to their gas money, rent and getting them to that next gig. When you buy their music, you ensure it stays alive.

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