I have written a couple blogs about the need and responsibility for promotion in an artists career, “Self Promotion – Why It’s Must” and “Creating A Buzz – It’s Your Responsibility,” but even with local artists that have read the blog, it seams to have fallen on deaf ears. When an artist builds a team around them to try and make things happen (especially if there is no money behind them), it is absolutely critical than the artist/band have an amazing handle on promotion.
I had a couple meetings recently with an artist that completely and totally gets it. It was so refreshing, but after talking about our pasts, we grew up in exactly the same camp so it was no wonder. I want to talk about the need for a committed, determined and long-term plan. If you are an artist with no history of success in the business, no name recognition and a very small fan base, there is no getting around this, and almost no team can make things happen for you with out it. Independent artists can do this for themselves and should as it is their responsibility, but many rely on others on their team to do it and don’t pay them at all for the work being done.
This isn’t the same scene it was 20 years ago for your team to gets big commissions on label deals and teams of people who are paid to do this once you get signed. Be prepared to do it yourself or be prepared to pay someone to do it for you. Most managers today are charging a retainer for small bands for all this extra work as this is a lot of work to break an unknown band. They are consultants like any PR or legal team and they deserve to get paid for their work just as much as any other consultant. Your team should be free to focus on the big deals based on your marketing, promotion and buzz, they should not doing all this little stuff they don’t make money on. You and your band should have this in hand especially if you can’t afford a team to develop your buzz for you. Trust me a small percentage of a bands door guarantee or $250 gig, is NOT getting paid for all this extra work. This band is YOUR business; you should be taking it on the chin for the extra work not your team.
So what is good promotion? I can tell you what it’s not. It’s not a couple Facebook posts or tweets. That is almost no promotion what so ever. Promotion covers so many things. It’s the art of branding your band, name and artistry. It’s a 24/7 job and it takes form in all media, merchandise sales and performance. You have social media, print media, radio/tv and live touring. All these have to be covered all the time. Let’s take some time with each.
Social Media: Having a consistent online presence is absolutely critical but is only a part of your overall media campaign. Unfortunately too many artists use this as their only or main promotion and even then do it very poorly. They only post a show a couple times or post it to late for it to matter. They don’t promote their interviews often enough before and after the fact. This goes for their press releases, newsletters, articles etc… Remember the latest statistic on Facebook is that only 7% of your audience sees your post so to post it once is very poor marketing and if you have a small fan base which means under say 100,000 followers you aren’t hitting many people. Promotion is all about the number impressions you can make for your band name. A social media strategy is necessary and it must have great content, be creative and be consistent without the artist getting trapped at the computer all day.
Print Media: Print media is everything from posters, flyers, table tents, cards, business cards, signs, pamphlets, brochures, one pages, advertising in the local rags, articles, basically anything on paper. This is VERY necessary still today. You name needs to be everywhere at every gig, on your merch table with signs, cards etc…. You should have contacted all the local media about your upcoming shows in print media to make sure it’s listed. With ArtistData.com this is much easier to make happen now and not time consuming at all. All of your interviews and articles should be reposted many times and printed out and left out for people to find and read about you. This isn’t rocket science kids, those that want it bad enough will do what it takes.
Radio promotion is another huge part of promotion whether it be having a single on the radio, touring stations in the cities you are playing to get them to play your single, promote the show, interview the band and talk about you over the airwaves. Radio is still relevant enough as their audience is much bigger than most of the bands will ever have on their own. Learn to utilize this tool and work it for all it’s worth. Create great relationships with Program Directors and always be very respectful and thankful that anyone cares enough to say anything about your band.
TV is the same thing. What is your story? Can you utilize that to get press coverage on TV? Are their local shows or shows in the cities you will be playing that your story makes sense for them to air?
When most bands tell me they are working their ass off, all I have to do is take a couple minutes to look at this and then I know the truth. Most artists have no idea what that really means and usually if a band or artist is doing all this, it is almost always to left one person in the group while the rest sit around with their thumbs up their butt expecting things to change for them. Then they find everyone else to blame their lack of buzz instead of realizing they simply didn’t do or have what it takes from a drive level to make things happen.
You have to understand what promotion, marketing, branding and buzz truly is. Branding is having your name or logo everywhere. People should be thinking that all they see is your name everywhere so this band must be doing something. If you do everything you can, you will see an uptick in your bookings and ability to get more yeses then no’s, which is what it is all about.
If you tell me that print media is irrelevant or nobody does this anymore, then I know you don’t understand anything about promotion, branding or marketing. Your fliers most of the time probably aren’t going to bring people to the show that first time they see it, but after seeing your name everywhere enough times, people will start to come check you out. It’s a process, sometimes a large arduous one, but it’s the way most things happens.
So here is my challenge to you. Quit blaming everyone else for what you are not doing. Quit making excuses as to why you can’t do it. Quit expecting people to work for you for free and thinking that a tiny percentage of your door is going to pay a manager, promoter or booking agent enough to do what you are unwilling to do for yourself. Build a budget, find a way to fund the budget so you can afford your promotional campaign and actually go work you ass off to make things happen. Remember, you can’t control or rely on what other people do to promote your band whether it be a venue, promoter or local rag for your shows or events. It’s up to you to really drive this. You will drive yourself crazy and blaming others is never going to change things. Take it upon yourself to run your business and promote as much as you can to ensure greater success.
It’s a brave new world out there for those that are willing to take control of their business and future. Respect the work ethic, make it happen and give your team something to work with otherwise quit complaining about what every other band is making happen and get out of the way of those who actually give it everything they got. You are just watering down the field and making it harder for everyone else with real drive to achieve the success they are looking for.