Monthly Archives: November 2007

Promote Your Indie Band (and make every gig count)

[ad#inpost]When my band was at its busiest, we had almost every promotional front covered: t-shirts emblazoned with the band logo, a custom banner behind us on stage, posters up throughout the venue, handbills on the tables, and we even incorporated our name into a stencil at the front of the drum riser that would illuminate with a strobe light.

Can you believe we’d still be asked at times what the name of the band was?

If you’re not promoting yourself to this extent, you’re going to have even less chance of making a lasting impression. Most people that frequent bars aren’t necessarily there to catch your act; often it can be just a happy coincidence that they happened to be there and liked the band.

Building a large following can be viewed as a lot of minor occurrences that were successfully acted upon. You need to let people know who you are, what you do and where and when you’ll be doing it – in short, you need to promote yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the greatest band in the world – if nobody knows you exist, you’ll never get far.

Make sure you have these promotional basics covered:

BAND PHOTO: They say a picture is worth a thousand words and this is especially true for your band. The band photo can appear on everything from your web site, band bio, posters, flyers and even merchandise. Live shots that capture the energy of the band are great for starters. You can usually hold off on the higher quality studio shots until you’re becoming newsworthy.

POSTERS: If you’re not putting up posters for every show, you’re wasting a tremendous opportunity to announce your presence. Posters aren’t for the 5 – 10 ‘cheerleaders’ that come to every show you do, they’re for the thousands of people are oblivious to you. A well designed poster tells people the name of the band, and where to find you. Avoid the temptation to make your poster a piece of artwork – if the information isn’t easy to see from a distance, start over. Make the name of your band as large as possible so that it’s easy for the casual observer to notice when they pass by.
Put your posters up inside the venue about a month prior to the show. You can do the same for the street – but prepare to put up more posters each week since they’ll often get torn down or covered up by other events.

YOUR WEB SITE: If you’re crafty, a web site doesn’t have to cost you a fortune to have a functional site that tells everything about you while linking to music and video clips of the band. Once again, function has to come before style. Update often, make it easy for people to find what they want and put your URL on all promo materials!

FLYERS/HANDBILLS:: These come in handy for the day of the show. ‘Paper’ the venue by leaving two or three of these on every table-top in sight. You can also leave them near the entrance or where the cover charge is collected. Incorporate a band photo and other upcoming shows to maximize your impact – this way anyone interested in you knows what you look like and where to find you again. They also work great as scrap paper for socialites who collect a phone number or two while they’re at the bar – they might go home alone, but they’ll have your band name and info with them when they sober up the next day!

• ALERT THE MEDIA: Don’t expect to get the cover story in your local paper or urban weekly until you’ve generated a buzz. However, any coverage is great– even if it’s just having your name printed up in the calendar section. Give them at least two weeks notice, and preferably a months notice if you feel that your show is newsworthy enough (i.e. CD release and Canada-wide tour kick off) to garner some sort of write-up.

RADIO PLAY:: Getting commercial radio air-play can take years of persistance, but College radio is attainable. Search for radio shows that focus on your style of music in your immediate touring area and get in contact. Savvy DJs will spin more of your music when you gig frequently, and may also plug your show on the air or invite you in to do an interview. It’s a smart move to update them when you’re performing in their broadcast range.

• ONLINE PROMO: Posting your site details on multiple web sites like Myspace, Facebook and overhear.com won’t cost you anything but a little time. The more sites you’re on, the more likely someone is to stumble onto it. Many of these sites allow you to create an ‘event’ which you can invite people to which also helps to raise your profile by engaging people directly. Make a JPEG or GIF file out of your show poster and post it at the above mentioned sites or on related forums for extra impact.
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If you promote yourself in these ways consistently and often – you’ll start showing up on the radar in your scene(s). Keep at it and with hard work, kick-ass performances and a memorable song or two – you could be the next big thing.

Indie Bands and Electronic Merchandise

By Mike Ippersiel

Want to know a great way to make money that bands of today have over the pre-internet acts of yesteryear? Please read my Electronic Merchandise Primer for bands.

So what is electronic merchandise (or E-merch for short)?   They’re digital downloads like MP3s, E-books, screensavers, desktop wallpaper, JPEGs, movies and even online tickets are some great examples of E-merch; in essence you’re selling computer files as opposed to a phyiscal item. The reason E-merch is so profitable is you pay the cost once, but can continue to sell the item forever. You also don’t have to pay any shipping or customs fees and the time to send and receive it is almost instantaneous.

For indie-bands this means that when you record your music you now have a choice: press CDs for an added cost or make your newest songs available as a .99 cent download.  This is great for the cost concious because manufacturing costs often eat up anywhere from a third to half of the cost of making a new release.

Rather then pay upfront to manufacture a thousand CDs that may or may not sell, now you can release the MP3’s and gauge the response before committing to spending money.

Every musician out there already knows about MP3s, but consider thinking outside the box: you can also sell autographed photostickets to upcoming shows, or perhaps even more daring – an all-access VIP pass for a year.

Whether your band is popular enough to pull these ideas off is up to you to decide, but they are legitimate. Even if you don’t make money from these E-merch ideas, you can hold contests online and use them as prizes among your fanbase.

Having E-merch isn’t going to make you a better band, or increase a fanbase by itself. If you’ve established a following already, it can mean the difference between getting a producer for your next album, or touring across the province without starving (as much).

If you suspect that there could be demand for E-merch from your band, you owe it to yourself to set up a Paypal account and look into methods of delivering electronic goods to your fans and friends.

Thanks for reading my Electronic Merchandise Primer for Bands.

Indie Band Strategies, goals and tips

By Mike Ippersiel

[ad#inpost]Everyone needs a strategy. Whether you’re on a reality TV show, trying to survive a Halo 2 death match or starting up an indie-band, you need to have some goals and an idea of how to get there from here.

As I mentioned in my article Why You don’t Need a Record Deal, the strategy of trying to get a major label record deal is becoming less attractive each day. Doing it yourself with a viable online presence is a good alternative, but you need to do more than just put up a dot.com site and cross your fingers.  You need a plan.

For starters – how do you plan to earn money?

In the ‘good old days’ (he said sarcastically) artists earned most of their money from CD sales and royalties from radio play with some extra scratch coming from touring and selling merchandise. That was a viable strategy until CD sales started to plummet with the onset of MP3 downloads. As a result, even established artists are feeling the pinch from the loss of CD revenue. Touring is now becoming a main source of income for major acts and serves as a partial explanation for the increase in ticket prices.

What does this mean for the independent band or artist?

Unless you’re established enough to gain interest from a major label, chances are you’re working on building up your fan base.  While your end goal may be to ‘conquer the world’ with your music, you need to set some attainable targets to get on the right track.  No single strategy is going to take you from nothing to a superstar; you’ll have to set attainable goals (like selling out your local 150 seat venue) and revise them  as necessary. 

The following tips can help you to get started in the right direction.

Instead of saying “I want lots of shows this year” say “I want fifty shows this year” or “I want an average of 5 shows per month”.

Break down goals to smaller tasks.  To achieve fifty gigs this year you need to start by booking just one. Another task could be emailing other bands to see if they need an extra band at one of their shows. Remember that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.

Focus on the outcome of your actions. Booking shows for your band is not fun for most musicians, but if you want to play it’s inevitable. Rather than waste energy avoiding it, focus on the end-result of your actions rather than the actions themselves. Don’t think about how much you hate making cold calls to clubs; think about how happy you are when you add a new gig to your web site.

Write songs and play out as much as you can – not only will this help forge the sound and chemistry of your band – it gets your name out there as part of the scene.

Whether it’s with an antique ghetto blaster or the latest version of Pro Tools, you need to hear what you sound like when you’re not performing the music yourself.  Do yourself a favour and rent or borrow a camcorder so that you can SEE what you look like while you play – this is crucial to polishing your live performance.

Promote yourself. Once you’ve chosen a name, get it out there and on everything: t-shirts, a back drop, the bass drum, on posters, handbills and stickers. Online, make sure your website is up to date, that you put gigs on relevant sites (i.e. overhear.com). Also consider putting up live footage on Youtube or Myspace to give people a taste of your show.

Sell your music. It’s easier than ever to burn CDs, or upload MP3’s to the web.Check out Paypal for some free tools to get started.

Pat Yourself on the Back. It’s easy for most of us to get hung up on the things we did wrong or could do better. Being self-critical is great as a tool for improvement, but don’t forget about all that you’ve achieved. Celebrate the small victories whenever you can.

Live Dangerously. Once you’ve been performing for a while you may think you’ve come up with the perfect set. Avoid the temptation to fall into a rut with a set list that you can do in your sleep. Switch it up every now and again, throw in a new cover or pull out an old tune and live dangerously. Give the audience a reason to see all your live shows, make it a different experience than listening to the CD.

Be Patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was U2, Metallica or The Rolling Stones. Persistence pays off – this is also called paying your dues. In the immortal words of AC/DC ‘it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll’ (sorry, I couldn’t think of any appropriate Red Hot Chili Peppers Lyrics off the top of my head!). The only thing in common with those that succeed is that they didn’t give up.

As a result of all of this effort – you will earn money and meet any realistic goals slowly, but surely.
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