Hurt Squirrels
Promoting Your Band 101
6/22/2007 12:41 PM
One of my many side jobs involves maintaining a web site for a local music establishment. One of my duties is to put together little promotional blurbs about the acts coming to the club. Sometimes the managers or promoters will provide pictures and bios, but usually I have to scour the Internet to find stuff I can use.

It amazes me how difficult it can be to find any sort promotional materials for some bands. The Internet is basically free (or at least low cost) advertising for your band -- use it! Jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick, if some of these acts knew the amount of publicity this is costing them...well, I don't know. Sometimes I wonder just how serious they are about their music careers. I've seen more than a few bands that are in love with IDEA of being in a band but they're not willing to do the work.

There's a few simple things that bands could do that would make my job a lot easier. (Remember, my job is to get people to come see you and give you money and throw their panties at you.) Additionally, it would make you look more professional and respectable. If you're really serious about this whole music career thing, read on.

Get a web site
And I mean a REAL web site. Nothing screams "amateur" like a MySpace page. Sure, the MySpace thing is fine as additional promotion, but if you really want me to take you seriously, get a web site. Domain names and hosting are ridiculously cheap these days. Programming the site is so easy that a ten-year-old could do it. If you don't have access to a ten-year-old, chances are you know someone with basic programming skills. Hell, you probably have fans that would be THRILLED to run the site for you and they usually work cheap. Passes to shows, t-shirts, CDs and bragging rights go a long way.

Let people know about the web site
Plaster the URL all over the damn place. Slap it on every piece of promotional materials you have, add it to your email signature, stencil it on your guitar. The more visible it is, the more valuable it is. The more valuable it is, the more valuable YOU are.

Also, learn how Google's page ranking system works so when someone searches for you, its one of the first -- if not the very first -- results. This is especially important if you made the questionable decision to name your band after a common word or phrase. If your band is named "Cars" or "Green Tea" or "Leo Laporte" then you have a lot of work ahead of you.

OK, you have an easy to find web site...what now?

Create a press kit
...or media kit or EPK or whatever you want to call it. Just have an obvious section of your site where promoters can find the stuff they need to tell the world of your upcoming appearance. At the very least, have a bio page and an image gallery. Even better, have both; too much promoting won't kill you.

What should be in this press kit? Read on....

Who are you guys? What kind of music do you play? What are your influences? How did you meet and how long have you been playing together? Why the hell should I come to your show? The band biography is a great place to answer these questions and when you're done you'll have a nice little blurb that promotors can put on their web sites. By the way, keep it short, Tolstoy. Or at least have a short version; some people just don't care about that time you were swimming around your mom's Fallopian tube.

Personally, this is the type of bio I prefer: a brief "get to know the band" thing. If you really have the urge to do a bio of every member of the band, that's fine as long as you also have the band bio. That way, promoters get their nice little band blurb and anyone who wants to know more about you guys can come to your site. The promoters' sites get traffic, your site gets traffic, they promote you, you get promoted, and everyone is happy.

One thing that really pisses me off is when a band's "bio" is just a press release about their latest CD. No, I want to know about THE BAND, not their frakking CD. I understand that you put a lot of time and money into this CD, but that's not the information I'm looking for. The fact that you decided to use jangly guitars on this latest album means nothing to someone who isn't already a fan. Pretend that I've never heard of you before and what I read in your bio will decide if come to your show or not. Get them to your show. If they like what they hear, they'll buy the CD. I've never bought a CD because it had an awesome press release. If you really MUST put up the CD "bio", do it in addition to the band bio. Unless you got really crappy web hosting, there should be room for both on your site.

Also, stop using that "jangly guitars" description; it's really overdone.

Get some damn promotion pictures taken. Professionally, if you can afford it. That blurry picture your girlfriend took with her cell phone from 500 feet back just isn't cutting it. If you can't afford a professional photographer, recruit a friend who has a real camera and some basic competence. Gather the band together in some funky location for 30 seconds and snap a few. If you can only get the pictures taken at shows, find one where the camera was actually close to the stage, things were semi-well lit and everyone was visible in the shot.

These are the pictures that promoters will be putting on their web sites, the walls of their venues and in the local newspaper. Have at least ONE good one; a variety is better. And you'll get bonus points if actually have a high resolution version available as well. Low resolution photos can look great on the Internet, but if someone from the print media wants to use it, there's a good chance that same picture will look like crap when it appears in the newspaper.

Personally, I don't use it. With all the copyright hand-wringing that goes on these days, it's a can of worms I don't even want to open. However, if you're OK with some of your songs floating around the Internet freely, I think it's a nice option. As I said before, if I've never heard of you before, this gives me the chance to check out your music and see if it's something I want to hear more of.

Also, there's the chance that you could be getting promoted on local radio and television. Audio works great in those mediums and having your song playing during the ad (or whatever) would be a real plus. If you're reluctant to have your music available to just anyone, have a note somewhere in your press kit that song samples are available to promoters and media on request. Remember to include contact information so they can make that request.

Oh yeah, DON'T have your music play automatically when I visit your site. I'm already listening to something, thanks. If I want to hear your mellow sounds, I'm perfectly capable of pushing the play button.

OK, my bitching is done. If you follow these suggestions, I'll do what I can to make you a freakin' rock star. Party on, dudes.

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