As you’ve probably noticed, in our newsletter and blog we’ve recently included articles with tips and advice for unsigned and independent bands alongside updates about Surface Festival. We’ve included topics such as ‘how to move forward as an unsigned/independent band’, ‘how to get a live performance right’, ‘digital distribution tips’, ‘advice on recording your band’, ‘boosting your online performance’ and ‘how to get the prefect music video’. All these articles can still be found on our blog here>>.
Today we’re going to focus on how to self-promote your band. Learning how to promote your band can mean the difference between just playing some shows with friends and getting serious gigs.
First off: Treat your band like a business
Most, if not all artists, start out making music or writing songs simply because it is what they enjoy and want to spend most of their time doing. However to aspire to any level of commercial success you must get your music out to as many people as possible, and to do this you must pay some attention to organising yourself properly, just like any other business. So from here on out you need to treat your band like a business and treat your music like the product of your business because that’s exactly what it is.
So if your music is the product of your business and your business is your band, you want to get the word out about these to as many people as possible, right?
Handing out a few flyers and setting up a webpage isn’t enough. People are unlikely to just stumble upon your website or just turn up to a gig with a band they know nothing about. You need to make yourself accessible; people need to be able to find you through as many channels as possible.
Below are some ideas on places your could promote your band and music. Before you start, don’t try to cover too much ground at once. Look at the way larger artists or even other commercial companies are promoted, they have specific campaigns that promote specific things – a well-known artist might have a specific campaign for a new album or a tour, Magnum might have a specific campaign for a new ice cream. So choose one thing to promote at a time, like a single, a specific show or your website. Once you know what to promote, you will be able to make clear goals for yourself, i.e. if you want to promote your website, then your goal is to bring traffic to the site. With these goals in mind you’ll be better able to judge the success of your promotion.
The promotional ideas below are not exhaustive, just use what suits your campaign at the time and always feel free to think up your own ideas as well.
- 1# A Website and Blog: Your website is where potential fans will go to check you out. So on any promotional tools always make sure there is a link to your webpage. On your webpage they should be able to find samples of your music, a link to somewhere they can buy your music, a list of upcoming gigs and an email signup form. Every visit to your site is crucial and should ideally result in an email sign-up or sale. If you’re looking for a professional looking website try using a website designer such as filterdesign.co.uk. For widgets to link your website player directly to an online store head over to Zimbalam.co.uk.
- 2# A Squeeze Page: This is a page on your website where email addresses are “squeezed” out of your visitors. You could offer a free download of a song in exchange for an email address. You can get some great widgets that will do this for you. Each visit to your site should be the beginning of a process that will eventually lead to them buying your music or a ticket to your show.
- 3# A Mass Email Account: Once you see those contacts rolling in a mass email account will make life easier. There are ways to do this yourself but email marketing is tricky. You can get in trouble if people think you are spamming. Putting a legit company in charge of this makes it easier for you. Your email company will collect new sign-ups for you and allow you to update all your fans and eventually sell them your new products.
- 4# Facebook/MySpace/Twitter: Facebook and other social networking sites are great for keeping in touch with your fans via regular status updates. You could also run promotional offers via these sites, such as a free download for anyone who ‘likes’ you on facebook or ‘retweets’ your band account on twitter. Again, Zimbalam.co.uk do some great MySpace and Facebook ‘apps’ that will link straight through to external stores where people can download your music. Also consider using facebook ads. You pay a small fee for any people that click through to your webpage, so this is a low-risk strategy to drive visitors to your site.
- 5# Other internet sites: MySpace and Facebook are not your only outlets to showcase one or two of your songs for free. There are sites all over the internet designed to help unsigned artists promote their music and to allow music enthusiasts the opportunity to discover new, lesser known bands. Last.fm and ents24.com are two well-known sites you could start promoting yourself on, and there are many more out there.
- 6# Local papers: Alongside internet based promotion don’t forget the traditional channels. Get yourself in the editorials and ‘what’s on’ sections of local papers.
- 7# Flyers, posters, business cards: Don’t rely on these alone, but see them as a great addition to your other activities. You can get a load of these printed quite cheaply, so hand them out at your gigs and outside venues.
- 8# Merchandise: Make up some stickers, badges, t-shirts, lighters or anything else you can think of that include your band name and webpage. Then leave the stuff anywhere you can. Pass them out at your favorite clubs, leave them on the record shop counter, anywhere you can think of. Also always make sure you have a small table at each gig with all your merchandise, some free demo CDs and an email sign-up form. You could try CheckMineOut Merchandise Services, who also run a blog on successful merchandising.
- 9# Freebies: Everybody loves getting something for nothing. See it as a promotional tool to spread the word, so people will buy your music at a later date or buy a ticket to your next show. You could give people on your mailing list an exclusive free download once a month (be it a new song or an alternate version of a song). At gigs, you could raffle exclusive mix CDs made by the band – everyone who signs up to your mailing list at the show gets entered in the draw.
- 10# Promotional offers: Consider discounts and promotional offers. If a CD is £5 and a cap is £5, why not offer both for £6? That way whoever is buying your CD is tempted to buy the cap as well and then becomes a walking advertisement for your band.
- 11# Be open to different types of events: Consider playing various different gigs, incl. acoustic jam nights, to open yourself up to a number of different type of fans. Consider gig swapping with other bands.
- 12# Press: For some people calling the press can be daunting or even downright terrifying. Some people you call will be nice, some people won’t. Some people will never return your calls or emails, some will. You shouldn’t take any of it personally and you definitely shouldn’t be afraid to try. Don’t be discouraged by someone who is rude, or someone who is polite, but still says “no”. You never know, next time, you may hear “yes.”
- 13# Video Diaries/YouTube: Consider adding a video diary to your webpage and definitely post any videos you have to YouTube. YouTube videos are great for linking across your social networking sites. You can record video diaries yourself with a hand-held camera. For a professional music video of one of your songs or a gig you could use a production company such as CreativeJunkieMedia who specialise in bands.
- 14# Free online classifieds: There are hundreds of free classified portals all over the web and many even specifically for musicians. While you are in these sections placing your ad take a look at the other ads already placed. Many people or organizations hosting contests or events that need performers use the classifieds as well for their free advertising. You just may find a killer hidden opportunity.
- 15# Musicians directories: There are a lot of music artist directories on the web. Some are free and some are paid. For example Yahoo directory accepts both free and paid listings.
-16# Internet Radio: There are hundreds of radio stations out there. A simple search for internet radio should lead you to a bunch of them. These stations are always looking for great new music to introduce to listeners.
- 17# Review exchanges: Consider teaming up with other bands and writing positive reviews for each other. You can use these reviews for your website, press and promotional packs, independent review sites, ezines and any other sites you can think of.
- 18# Cross-linking/Search Engine Optimisation: The more places that link to your band’s website the more likely it is that future fans will find you. You need to expose your music wherever you can with links back to your website and email signup forms. It is possible to create cross-links across the internet yourself but it is very time-consuming and figuring out how search engine ranking works is complicated. Consider using a SEO (search engine optimisation) company to ensure your band website and any other relevant websites mentioning your band come in the top search engine results. SEO-it-right have a specialist ‘Band SEO online marketing’ division that could help you here.
- 19# Article Directories: One innovative promotional method is to write articles about your band or something related to your music and then submitting them to article directories to spread throughout the web. There is software available that will do this automatically and will bring a lot of traffic to your website.
- 20# Text message services: If you wanted to take your promotional campaign a step further than the standard email newsletter, you could work with a text messaging service to text fans your latest news. But remember, people don’t like being bombarded with text messages, so keep messages to important info only.
- 21# Mobile ringtones/apps: You could create a mobile ringtone of one of your songs for your fans. Every time their mobile rings it will remind them of your band. In addition, with the iPhone and other mobile developments, you could even become resourceful by creating your own mobile app.
- 22# Link up with a charity: Is there a particular cause or charity you feel passionate about? Think about an organization or mission you’d feel proud to support. Offer yourself pro bono to play at one of their upcoming fundraisers, or organise gigs yourself with their name as a backing. A relationship like this can be beneficial for both your band and for the charity to spread awareness. Be sure to bring CDs and merch to these gigs, whether you choose to sell them or give them away for free.
- 23# Other local venues: You could ask parks or local gyms with basketball courts to sponsor a concert at their facility. This could benefit both parties as more people come to their facility and more people get to see your music. When you do manage to gain a sponsored event, make sure you bring people along to the gig. If you’re using their facilities and no-one turns up they won’t work with you again.
- 24# And don’t forget – NETWORKING: We all know how important networking is. After all ‘word of mouth’ is one of the best and free forms of promotion. Network as much as possible at each and every gig with venue owners, promoters, other bands and audience members and use these contacts to organize shows locally and nationally. Then use the networking channels you build positively, always return phone calls/emails promptly, be courteous and professional with people, and follow through with what you say. If you do these things people will see you as reliable. When you do get a show booked make sure you bring people along. Use the promotional ideas we’ve discussed above to drive people to your gig. Venues and promoters have huge costs when organising a gig, if no-one comes to your show and they’re losing money they won’t book you again. Don’t forget networking channels can also work in the opposite direction and negative word could spread about your band. So don’t do yourself the disservice of self-promoting a bad rep for yourself. Instead use networking positively, do what you have promised and promoters, venues and other bands will do as promised too and pass on positive word about your band!
- 25# Last note – Don’t give up: Remember, learning how to promote your band or music doesn’t happen overnight. Give the learning curve some time. You WILL make mistakes, but just take it easy and use common sense. And if one idea doesn’t work there are always more ideas you can try out!!