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Its common knowledge that writing great songs and having a great live show is only half the battle when it comes to succeeding as a band. Standing out from the 1000's of others trying to do the same thing as you takes dedication, a lot of hard work, and a strong set of marketing tools to promote your music from multiple angles. Below are a few keys things that you NEED to do to succeed as a band.
Let me be clear – baring a few extreme examples, posting on Myspace or your local “scene” message board will NOT break your band. Nor will sitting tirelessly for hours on any of these sites adding friends or spamming other users about how great your new demo is. Social media sites such as Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, & others are great tools to compliment your other methods of promoting and marketing yourself. Far too many bands use these sites as their primary means of reaching out to fans and this rarely succeeds. Do yourself a favor and limit your time to about 10%-20% of the total time you spend marketing your band. Use your new found time to hand out flyers, go to shows, or to writing some new songs.
You know your supposed to do it but even the best of us are slackers when it comes to building our contact list at shows. Make it a goal to put out a sign up sheet at every show. Even better – walk around after your set with a clipboard and ask people to sign up. Give them something free, like a sticker or demo, to make the offer sweeter. Be sure to try and ask for name, email, myspace, facebook, twitter, hometown, and phone number.
One of the most effective ways to promote yourself is through printed promotional materials such as stickers, flyers, posters, and postcards. Before the Internet really exploded, this was one of the ONLY ways a band had to promote themselves. While it's become somewhat of a lost art form, I still think it the most effective means of marketing yourself. Print up stickers and put them on everything – telephone poles, bathroom walls, venues, tollbooths, etc. Make some tour posters, flyers, or 4x6 Postcards and hand them out at shows, put them in record shops, coffee shops, venues, bars, and anywhere YOU might notice a flyer. Before any shows send a club some promotional materials about 2-3 weeks in advance. Get your material out there any way that you can.
Again, you know you're supposed to do it but all too often you skip out to go to a party, bar, or home to hang out with your girl/boyfriend. Make it a goal that at least one person from your band will show up early to see the openers and stay though the end of the show. Talk to the other bands and start to build your network. Stay in touch with these bands and swap shows with them. Introduce yourselves to promoters and club owners and give them something to remember your band. You may have noticed that it seems like the same bands are always getting the opening slots for all the big shows. As a former club owner and promoter I can attest that 9 times out of 10 I booked bands that I had met personally and had somehow made a positive impact on me. I also noticed what bands stayed and supported the other bands and the ones that packed up and were out the door right after they played. Do you want to guess which bands I gave the opening slots to?
Its simple. It's easy. Now just do it. Make it a goal to play a show every weekend. Do you have problems getting booked by clubs or bars? Don't let that stop you – book your own shows. Backyards, basements, colleges, & coffee shops all make great venues. Use your network of bands and help book each other. Check out sites like SonicBids for festivals in your area and apply to be a showcasing artist. There are so many avenues to playing shows so don't let “we can't get booked” stop you from playing.
One of the most underused means of promotion is using the local media to help promote your event. Many of these organizations NEED event listings, artist interviews, and other “local” news items. I suggest making a media contact list that consists of local papers (both music related and just general papers), zines, college radio stations, blogs, & labels. Send out press releases and updates at least once a month but be sure not to over saturate them with information to the point that it ends up being skimmed over. Contact your local college radio stations and try and set up in studio interviews and performances. Get creative – the sky's the limit.
Bret Morgan is an owner of and web developer for BandsOnABudget.com, SwimMerch.com, ZenMerch.com, and DBLSystems.com. In his free time he enjoys surfing, ashtanga yoga, riding bikes (both motorized and foot powered), and reading. His current beer of choice is Carlsberg. He can be contacted at bret [at] BandsOnABudget.com or you can follow him on Twitter