Five Bits of Friendly Advice for Up-and-Coming Bands

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Building a band and an online presence that catches the attention of not only a loyal fan base but managers, booking agents, record labels and other industry insiders is hard work. The startup period can be rough, but worthwhile in the long run; building a musical brand that people want to invest in takes a lot of work. Sure, some may raise objections to this advice and claim that following industry standards means little more than leaving music's cool, rebellious and creative aspects behind. Argue if you must, but reaching fans isn’t about being creative; it’s about effectively using the tools you already have. So keep in mind these simple tips to activate the following you know you deserve. If all else fails, just remember the Golden Rule of Mullet: Professionalism up front, party in the back.

5. Stay on Top of Your Online Presence
You never know who may be browsing your band pages at any time — a new fan trying to find your next gig or a booking agent looking for current contact information. An outdated media platform could make it appear as if the band is no longer together, that you don’t care about promotion, or just that you’re unprofessional and unable to handle the business side of music.  Remember, an active page with lots of professional photos (including appropriate accreditation) and constant updates with links (see No. 4) is more than helpful to anyone interested in getting to know you. If you’re using Facebook, utilize the “About” tab to your advantage. While some bands take the platform as an opportunity to remain ambiguous and sarcastic, it does them no good. List your members and their full names, and remember to link your website and your merchandise. Leave a number for booking agents to reach you.

If you’d rather concentrate on playing and writing music, great. Do that instead, but delegate the responsibility to someone who has a talent with online platforms. There are plenty of social-media managers and publicists for hire who will update your pages in a timely and professional manner for you. If you think the money is not worth it, what’s the price of success for your band? These are serious discussions you and your bandmates need to have. You don’t want a negative impression with a sloppy social-media presence. Think of it as a public résumé.

But speaking of negativity, your band page is not the place to vent about your frustrations in the scene or disagreements with other creatives, nor is it a place to trash ex-members or anyone, really. Sure, it’s tempting if you think you’ve been wronged, but just don’t. It reflects poorly on your band and makes you appear entrenched in petty squabbles. Best to keep that stuff out of the public eye, just in case that one record-label executive is perusing your site that day.

4.. Get the Most Out of Your Social-Media Posts
If a publicist is not in the budget, then you must be social-media savvy. A Facebook invite is not enough and, more often than not, will be ignored. The more old-school among you may want to flyer every telephone pole in your neighborhood, but let’s face it, this isn’t 1990. A catchy, viral social-media post can reach thousands of people.

Unfortunately, most people are inherently lazy. A post touting this weekend's gig at Venue X will bring no more hits than a post proclaiming what you had for lunch that day. Remember to post links to the venue, times of the gig, who else is playing, ticket prices, the theme of the evening (if there is one), or any giveaways or special offers. Without links, people will not look up information themselves, which also applies to online merch and music purchases. Always, always, always provide a direct link. The words “click link here” are perhaps a fan’s best way to make plans to attend your show or buy your stuff. Make it easy for them, and they will come. In addition to links, pay attention to not only what captures fans' attention, but what they share. Funny memes, exclusive photos, free merchandise or discounted tickets are a few attention-grabbing ways to capture not only a "like" but a "share"; that's what you really want.

Whatever you do, though, don’t annoy fans through social media. Keep opinions, politics or other hot topics out of your posts unless your goal is to become the next Dixie Chicks or Ted Nugent. Then, by all means, godspeed. But most of you are not running for office, just promoting your music, so best to pick one and stick with it. Another annoying issue to avoid is insisting fans “like” your page through repetitive invites or tagging hundreds of people in your event or post. That puts an awkward pressure on your friends to respond; chances are your friends already plan to attend, or at the very least already know about the gig. Your goal is to reach people who don’t know about the show. That’s where press comes in.

3. Treat the Press Professionally
While this may seem self-indulgent or self-serving, you’re right. But the fact is, some musicians just don’t know any better. Like it or not, press is an integral part of publicity and exposure, so it's in your best interests to be as professional as possible to print, radio, TV and online press at all times. That means treating people with respect by answering calls, emails and texts in a timely and kind manner during business hours if at all possible. And please arrive at interviews on time, sober and ready to give an interesting story. Sure, it’s rock and roll and that’s fun, but calls after midnight and rude or curt responses to interview requests will be remembered even when you start a brand-new project years later. Press are people too. And let’s face it, every town is a small town made up of even smaller circles within circles. Best to be on everybody’s good side as much as you possibly can.

2. Be the Easiest Person in the Room to Work With Every Time
While the rock-star ego may be a stereotype, plenty of creative types either live under delusions of grandeur and treat others as underlings, or nurse such deep and scarring insecurities that they come off as aloof and rude. Be neither, but instead the kind of talent that people enjoy working alongside. Pitch in to help other bands, and speak kindly of others in the scene, whether they deserve it or not. Always be accommodating instead of demanding, and be considerate of everyone’s workday by making it as pleasant as possible. Playing nice could fetch you not only bigger gigs, but collaborations with other creatives you never before imagined. When you’re the easiest person to work with, people will respond to your calls to collaborate, too.

1. There Is No "I" in "Band"
Most important, give credit where it’s due and share the wealth of flattery and accolades with the people who deserve it, because you didn't do everything. (If you did, my hat's off to you.) Credit the producer, the photographer, the videographer, the cover artist, the mixer, the promoter, the T-shirt guy at the print shop, the poster and flyer designer — it's a team and a community. That's a big deal. Make people feel appreciated, even down to the person who watched your kids so your could pile on the hours of rehearsal and recording. And when promoting your band, be sure to mention those who have helped. Chances are that not only do they need the promotion, but there's probably another band out there who could use their talents too. Last, if you owe any of these people money or favors, make that happen yesterday. Nobody wants to work with flaky bands who disappear on payday or offer up a million excuses why they can't cover costs.

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