Band Aid: Marketing Your Band By Jim Gleason (©2011)
If a band is alone in the woods and plays a song, does it make a sound?
lf you want to be a successful songwriter, independent singer or even member of a band, you need an audience. And finding one can be a little scary because a) you probably don’t have much experience in things like marketing and advertising, and b) that’s not really your main interest because c) you’re an ”artist.” But it’s important because you’re in the music business now, and it’s your audience that makes it possible for club owners and others to hire and pay you. lt’s not a difficult process and doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, but it does require some forethought, planning and, most of all, persistent execution. Let’s look at what it takes.
Who Are You?
The first step is to really understand who you are and what you do. You must be able to clearly (and objectively) describe what you deliver as an artist, whether it’s your recordings or your performances. And don’t expect anyone to buy that “we’re completely unique” bull because it’s just not true.
Everyone has influences, and it’s fine to use them as a starting point for your description , whether it’s Finnish pop with a delta blues spin, Christian-oriented speed metal or Dixieland-punk fusion. Help people get a handle on what to expect when they hear your music. That’s what they’ll judge you on. (Well, that and whether you’re late, drunk, too loud, or generally behaving like a butthead, but that’s another column.) Here’s an example. My band The Johnson Brothers is noted for doing big, complicated and accurate renditions of material most bands won’t touch – evenings devoted to Steely Dan or the Allman Brothers, rock musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar or Tommy, or whole albums like Sgt. Peppers and the White Album. We describe ourselves as’”Kentucky’s Rock &Roll Repertory Orchestra” and think of ourselves
as a cover band in the same sense the Philharmonic is. People shouldn’t expect “Mustang Sally” or “Margaritaville” from us. If that’s what you want, there are lots of great bands out there who specialize in that stuff. They’re perfectly fine songs, but that’s not what we do. By the way, it should be obvious that you must actually BE the band you want to be and are describing. lt’s ok to aspire to be the best, fastest or most innovative, but unless you already are, don’t make false claims. People will bust you, and once you lose your credibility, it’s really tough to earn it back. Once you have your story straight, write (yes, actually write it down) your “elevator speech,” a standard,
very brief description of what you are. From then on, make that the description you always use.
What are your goals?
Like George Harrison said, “lf you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” So, what are your goals? Gather a bigger fan base? Get better gigs or sell tickets? Sell more cds or merch? Get a spot on Letterman? Be realistic about what you want your publicity to accomplish.
Get your priorities in order because the best approach will depend on your expectations. Ask yourself “What will it look like when l’ve reached my goal? How will I know l’ve reached it?” Use that as your ”yardstick” and roadmap to success. lf the steps you are taking don’t lead to those outcomes in some kind of concrete way, dump them for something more profitable.
Who is your audience?
You can’t be all things to all people, and you shouldn’t try. You should be worried about who you want to be your fans. What do they like? Where are they? How do they want to be reached? Think of your publicity as a conversation with them. Make sure they can hear you, and be sure you’re listening when they answer.
Where should we play?
Arguably, the best way to get more visibility is to play in front of an audience. This isn’t as obvious as it sounds, because you’ll quickly find that just any gig isn’t necessarily a good one, even if it’s “for the experience.” There are lots of choices when starting out beyond the usual crappy bar, especially when you donate
your services. What are the best kinds of alternative gigs or showcases for you? lt depends. There are benefits, in-store shows and even festivals that will offer opportunities, but this is;/here your ”yardstick” comes in. Will our desired audience come? Will the effort move us closer to our goals? lf
yes, go for it.
Finally, reaching your target audience.
I won’t spend a ton of time on this nuts and bolts stuff because there is a ton of information on the lnterweb to help you along. But here are a few quick tips: , A decent logo – Yes, get one designed and, if possible, have a trained graphic designer do it for you. That way it’ll be easy to read, memorable, work on everything from a business card to a van to a t-shirt, and will be usable for years.
Media lists and press releases – Gather the names and contact info for every possible media outlet (Arts and Community editors, reporters and critics, music calendars, disk jockeys, talk show hosts, bloggers, etc.) and keep the list up to date. Keep everyone informed about upcoming shows. Make sure you give
them about two weeks notice or more.
Email blasts – Build an additional contact list for all your fans and use email to keep them up to date.
Facebook/Twitter- Use both. A lot.
Web site – Keep it clean and up to date. Include a digital press kit with bios, photos (including high res), audio clips, and other marketing materials in downloadable PDF format.
Posters – Design them so they can be read from your car as you drive by. Simple is better.
The nuts and bolts part is the stuff everyone talks about first and focuses on most. But remember, unless you follow the previous steps to figure out who you’re talking to and what you want to tell them, the best website or tweet won’t do you any real good. On the other hand, if you concentrate on
communicating the right messages, your efforts will be much more likely to pay off.