This is the second in a series of posts on starting a band. The first was How To Start A Band.
Having been in and out of bands through college and having blogged about the music world for the last 8 years, I’ve learned a lot about the ways of promoting a band, both proper and absolutely wrong. Once you’ve formed your band and have a few songs and performances under your belt, the next logical step is promoting your band. No one will know about your band if you don’t get the word out. People are not going to seek you out (at first). You have to seek them out and spread the word that the next greatest rock and roll band has arrived…and it’s yours!
The Proper Public Relations Company
First off, do not go it alone. So many bands make the mistake of wanting to be their own PR machine. There are endless reasons and arguments as to why they do this, but almost all of them are wrong. Yes, a PR company is going to cost some money, but the band will reap the rewards of that investment many times over. Beg, borrow, or steal the funds necessary to hire a PR company. It is a solid investment in your band, your dream, and your future. It also frees up your time to do what’s most important---create fantastic music that others want to listen to.
PR companies are important to the life blood of any band, but the finding the right PR company is the most important aspect of all. Vet your choices thoroughly. Has the company promoted bands similar to yours? Have they been in the industry for a while, or are they just starting out? Are you able to visit with them in person on a regular basis? Who do they promote to? How do they promote? All of these questions (and several more) are necessary asks prior to hiring a company. Ultimately, you don’t want to hire a PR company that is going to do a shotgun blast of your music to anyone that writes a blog or website. The Rock And Roll Guru gets several requests a week for MOVIE reviews. Have you ever read a movie review on The Rock And Roll Guru? Clearly that is a PR company that does not understand the market they are promoting to. Avoid these type of companies and make sure the company you do hire promotes your work to the proper outlets.
Sending Out Your Music
Even if you’ve taken on a PR company to promote your work, don’t be adverse to still doing some self-promotion. If you come across a website or a blog that you respect and want to submit your music to them, do so! I have become a huge promoter/fan of Watts because the band contacted me directly about reviewing their albums. And every band that reaches out to me directly gets pushed to the top of my review list. If a band takes the time to reach out to me directly, I give them higher consideration for a review.
Just don’t make the mistake of sending your music over and over and over again. If you send a request once and don’t hear back after a week or so, a follow up request is okay, but after that, leave it. The Rock And Roll Guru gets hundreds of requests per week, and I’m sure that larger sites/blogs get thousands. Someone has to sort through all of those requests, listen to the music, and determine if it is something worth reviewing for their medium. So be respectful and give the site some time to respond. And don’t be offended if you don’t hear back at all. It most likely means that your music wasn’t right for them.
Flyers, Advertising, and Social Media
When I was in bands (back when Aqua Net ruled the music scene), promotion was much more challenging than it is today. There was no internet. There was no social media. Word of mouth and paper flyers were all we had to go on. Free ads in the musician magazines helped as well, but our outlets were limited. That is just not the case in 2017. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Craigslist, Snapchat, the list goes on and on. There are several social media outlets where one can promote their band, and your band should have an account for all of them. And it should be active! Post your upcoming gigs. Post pictures of your latest shows, or of the band recording their latest song. Post any and all positive reviews of your concerts and/or recordings. Your goal should to be post something daily to all of your social media accounts. In this instant age, going a week without posting is the same as announcing your retirement. Fans have moved on. Don’t let them forget about you! And respond to their tweets and comments. Retweet a cool tweet about your band. Post a cool Instagram pic to your Facebook page. Cross market all platforms and direct fans to follow your band on all outlets. And always encourage them to share. The internet age makes word of mouth move like lightning.
Have A Website
Nothing annoys me more than when I am reviewing an album for a band and they don’t have a website. How am I supposed to know who is in the band (or how to properly spell their name)? How am I supposed to know when their upcoming gigs are? And just like social media, in this day and age, having a website is easy and free. If your PR company doesn’t set one up for you (and they should, they are your PR company after all), set one up for yourself. And don’t rely on your Facebook page to be your website. That’s just lazy and shows a lack of commitment. Have a website and keep it current! Add all your upcoming gigs to the website under the “tour” section. Is there new music being released soon? Add that to your “music” section. If possible, have a song or two featured on your website. If someone stumbles across your page it would be good to have music for them to check out. They might become your biggest fan.
Nothing helps a band succeed more than live performances. Live concerts are the best way to promote your band as potential fans can hear what you sound like in the live setting. It also provides an opportunity for immediate excitement and bonding --- associating feelings of joy with your band. Performing as many shows as possible, wherever possible, is the mindset that every member of your band must have. And when you are just starting out, there is no gig that is beneath you. Little Joey’s 8th birthday party? Play it! The local elks lodge annual member reunion? Play it! Open mic jams? Play them! Your band should strive to perform wherever and whenever they can.
There are countless bands that made their name, as well as a decent living, by constantly touring. When your band is just starting out, it is crucial to get your music in front of as many people as possible. The best way to do that is to play live. And don’t worry about the size of the audience to start. You never know who will become a fan, and that fan may tell two friends, who tell two friends, and so on. Before you know it, people will be lining up to see your shows.
Self-Promotion, Self-Promotion, Self-Promotion
There’s an old adage that states “no one cares about your money more than you.” That same adage needs to be true for your band. No one should care about your band more than you. Throw any and all humbleness out the window when it comes to self-promotion. That’s not to say you can be obnoxious, but you cannot be afraid to discuss your band – anywhere and with anyone. You never know who knows who and where a small conversation can take your career. And if you’re not comfortable and excited talking about your band, how do you expect others to be? You have to show your passion whenever the conversation of your band comes up. Anyone that is near you talking about music should know that you are in a band. If they don’t know at the start of the conversation, they definitely should know by the end of the conversation. And you should invite them to check out your next show as well. Friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, the mailman, the guy who sells you your morning coffee---they all should be aware of your band and your passion for your band.
There is nothing as important as confidence. If you don’t believe in your band and your music, no one else will either. You have to be your toughest critic, but you also have to be your biggest believer. You must have the confidence to talk about your band in the hopes that people will want to hear your music. Believe in yourself and know that the hard work you have put in will pay off. Have the confidence that your music is spectacular and everyone should want to hear it. Just don’t be cocky. I know that’s easier said than done and it’s a fine line to walk, but the masters do it with ease. Have the confidence to know that you can perform in front of 20 people as well as you can perform in front of 20,000. That type of confidence will take you and your band very far.
With the right amount of confidence, belief, and promotion your band could take off in no time. If you don’t get the word out though, no one will know about your band and you may as well stick to playing your garage. Be outgoing, surround yourself with the appropriate people, and do whatever it takes to promote the music. You are in a band and it is going to be the next greatest thing. Be sure to shout it from the rooftops. Your talent and dedication will take care of the rest. And if you tell them, they will come…in droves.