Music: Promotion and Groundwork – How to..

Lately I’ve been noticing that while more and more bands seem to be releasing material, fewer of them are actually doing any decent background work before their release.

It’s understandable that not everyone can or needs to employ a PR company to promote their music for them. There are a lot of things that a band can do for themselves to raise their profile and it doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Playing gigs on a regular basis, is of course, a great way to gain new fans and supporting other bands can be a great way to convert the other band’s fans. However is there really any point in playing every Monday night in a dodgy bar to 4 people? Methinks not!

So where do you start?

Firstly, I’m assuming that you have shithot music! You have your band, you’ve a few songs and you’re thinking of releasing a single. Why? To get your music out there? To say you’ve released a single?

What do you do first? Register your Myspace/Facebook names? Think about your audience. Who uses Myspace anymore? Other bands! Therefore it is a neccessity that you have a facebook page, a Twitter account, and a website.

Branding:

Branding so important in the life of a music act. How do you want to be portrayed? Does your image, yes image, reflect your music? There is no point looking like Marilyn Manson if you sound like Westlife! Extreme, I know, but look at the ‘cool kids’ in your genre, look at NME, Q, online, even Hot Press if you must. Add your own twist. Do you look like a rock band when you’re NOT onstage.

You need to keep a level head but your off stage presence is as saleable as your onstage presence. You want to look like you belong in a band. If someone sees you on the street, they may not know you but you have an aura, a look, a style that separates you from others.

You can have the look and the ego on stage but leave the ego on stage. Off stage it’s important to be a down to earth, approachable guy/gal. Nice guys do play Rock ‘n’Roll. Once upon a time Ronan Keating said ‘Be nice to them on the way up, you’ll meet them on the way down’.

Back to your image! You want your image to move across platforms and products. Yes, your band/act is now a product you want to sell and you need to think of it as such.

If you have a friend/student contact who will give you a hand with logos, websites, videos, latch onto them. Throw your request open to your audience. Perhaps thats an opportunity to get more people/fans involved by letting fans vote for a winning design.

When the time then comes it is important that the act reflects their logo/image in the artwork chosen for their CD release or PromoPack. If you are going with a physical release, think about how a CD is stacked in your local CD shop. Where is the act’s name and title? If its stacked behind a number of CDs, people will find it by two ways, flicking through the cds, or by seeing the top of the CD behind a namecard. A good idea is to try and put your name along the top of the CD.

Websites:

While Myspace has been a music staple for the past 5 years, the number of non music people using the service has dwindled. It’s still good to have a Myspace page, but it’s NOT your band website, it is just another online tool, as is Facebook.

These free online tools are not your own website and shouldn’t be treated as such but it is important not to neglect them or to rely too much on them.

I would also recommend that you set up a Blog, like this one. It’s free and will help your Google ranking and can be incorporated into your website.Maybe its an idea to use a .com, .net, org etc address using a Blog style site.If your audience is youth based, this is a definite winner as it will give your fans a chance to reply to new gig dates, news etc.

Many people are still have the misconception that domain names and hosting cost a bomb, they don’t. Companies like www.doteasy.com offer domain names and hosting from as little as $25 a year. Plus they are very reliable and easy to use.

Your official band website is how the world will officially see you. It is an information point. Treat it as such. Keep the language clean, to the point and informative.

A lot of people seem to fall into the trap of believing the need to have a full Flash website. This is NOT the case. You need to have your website as accessable as possible. Flash can be blocked in workplaces and more importantly now a lot of mobile devices cannot run Flash. It is therefore recommended that, certainly at the moment, not to use a Flash website.

As well as having the usual about/gigs/contact pages it is vital that you have a page for a Press Pack. A page where the media can go directly to your website and download high resolution photographs, that you’ve had taken sporting your new image, and our well written biography. After you do this initially, keep it updated and it can be used for your physical presspacks and also across other online sites.

Think about having a passworded section where you can give selected media types access to download your mp3s. You have to make life as easy and simple as possible for the people you are trying to impress and getting on your side.

If you are using a .com address, it is pointless putting a fan forum on the site unless you are guarenteed you will get a lot of people posting. You could be the busiest band in the land but one look at an empty forum shows a lack of public interest. Using a blog style website gives you the option of getting fan reaction without the reader actually realising how much or how few replies you’ve actually had. Many blog style sites are now powered by WordPress.

Don’t forget to include an option for your fans, hoping you have some at this stage, to join your mailing list. You can get free mailing lists from www.ymlp.com or you can get a subscription based one. Which one you get will depend probably on the size of your mailing list.

One last thing, dont forget to put a music player on your website!

The more public and social media sites that you use and update to the more recognized your brand name will be.

Sending it out!

You have your music, you have your online presence, you want to start sending material to mediatypes and record companies.

Rule Number 1: DO NOT SEND UNSOLICITED MATERIAL TO ANYONE

There is absolutely no point in sending out 500 CDs to people who have never heard of you. While you are building up your web presence, it is time to get in touch with local journalists and tell them what you are doing.

This can be an informal, polite email asking their opinion. Always let people know that you are going to send them material. Some indie record labels will still accept material by post, most wont accept unsolicited material. Save the price of your CD, stamp and envelope, if you send it unsolicited, it’s going in the bun!

Currently a big falldown of many acts is emailing mp3s without prior knowledge. While some email providers like Gmail do take large files, DO NOT assume that the recipient has a large inbox.
Did the recipient ask you to send the mp3? Again if you send unsolicted material it will be deleted or be treated as spam.

You can’t just send someone mp3s, unless, of course if they request them, but again if you can build up a working relationship with your contact. Use free services like YouSendit.com to send large files if your contact requests them.

Which leads me onto your contacts! Respect them. They don’t have to be nice to you, they don’t have to give you advice or give you the time of day. Your local Radio Presenter or Journalist will more often than not, always like a coffee.

Keep an address book, not just in your phone. It can be an excel sheet on your computer. This will become invaluable as time goes on. Update it with names, numbers, email addresses and online publications. Journalists and Radio Presenters change jobs, its important even if you’re not releasing any material to keep in touch with your contacts, let them know what’s happening, take note of any employment changes.

When you are sending a physical promo CD to your contacts, it is important to make sure that you include any important information on the disc and the same on the cover and again on the cover letter. This includes: Band Name, Track Name, Phone number, email, website. Once your product reaches your contact, the disc will be removed from the case/cover. The two may never meet again.

If your material is playlisted by a radio station, the tracks are uploaded to a server from which they are played on air. No need for a cd anymore. For the sake of your pocket it’s important not to spend too much money on promotional cds but also to have them looking professional.

YouTube is also a great way of interacting with your potential fanbase. Videoblog and messages can be recorded easily via webcamera and uploaded. For every news story or gig date announced, a video message of the same is a great way of personalizing everything.

These tips are just for starters, everything is linked and depends on each other. If only one member of the band is doing all the work, it will all break down, co-operation is needed. It can be a lot of work, it can all seem a little overwhelming, if you sit down with your bandmates you can come up with a plan that will mean every aspect of this is covered and updated regularly.

It might be a bit of hard work but it all can be done without breaking the bank.

Why did I write this?

I’ve worked in the Music and Entertainment Industry for nearly 20 years, I’ve seen the mistakes people have made from both sides and hell, I’ve made a few too.

During that time though I have secured National and International Radio Play and Press for Irish Bands. I’ve also secured Worldwide Licensing Deals and worked with bands while they chart their singles. I’ve also acted as Irish Booker and Public Relations rep for International acts including one who had a Grammy Nomination and US Chart Success.

I also worked as a promoter of gigs for a spell and received hundreds of CDs by mail and unsolicited mp3s by email. Those that weren’t labelled properly were binned.

I am available for private consultation.

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