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 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.

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.

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