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Pushing your band online. The do’s and do’s!

I recently made the very difficult choice to quit my band and pursue recording and live sound for a living (hopefully). While a member of The Roving Crows I designed and maintained the website, and dealt with much of the online marketing campaign. Along with my own experiences and many conversations with my colleagues, who also book for Lakefest, I developed a good working knowledge of how the industry perceives online marketing, and how to best communicate with the public.

I recently put on a competition with Behind the Scene Gloucestershire and my studio, Sound Shack Studios. I had the task of choosing 5 bands from 40, with only online information to judge from. While a few bands had things spot on, it was astonishing how many bands out there are not meeting the bare minimum requirements for an online presence, and I decided to write this article to tell you all what I was looking for, and how easily it can be achieved.

 

My Criteria

To organise my thoughts, I broke down the judging process into different criteria. These were website, social networking, media, gigs, musicianship and writing. While writing and musicianship are relatively opinion based, the rest of the criteria are purely about effort, so I will talk about those first.

 

Website

While building and maintaining a website may appear to be daunting to the less technically savvy among us, there are several tools available to musicians to make the process easy and manageable. This means you have no excuses, and the lack of a website is often perceived as a lack of effort and ambition. The website can be a central location where anybody can go to get an overview of the band. At the very least it should contain a biography, music, videos, gig list and contact information. It should link to everything your band has online, and act as the hub for any newcomers to your fan base.

There are a variety of companies out there offering very good website building platforms for all levels of user. Here are some examples from the entries for you to look over. Just dive in and start playing around with the format, see what you can do. You don’t have to make anything public until you are happy with it.

The Hawthornes on Tumblr - http://thehawthornesband.tumblr.com/

Halfway to Nowhere on Wix - http://nowherehalfwayto.wix.com/halfwaytonowhere

Nycosia on artistecard.com - http://artistecard.com/Nycosia

Over the Hill on webs.com - http://www.overthehillband.webs.com/

Clay Gods on reverb nation - http://claygods.reverbnation.com/

 

Social Networking

Social Networking is a fantastic platform for communicating with your audience. Not only does it act as an easy to maintain blog, but they are forums for feedback, marketing, media and event management. The industry will use your social networking as a measure of popularity, but your audience will use it to obtain current information and to connect with you. Regular posts (at least 3 times a week) will keep your audience interested and help maintain a connection with them. It doesn't even have to be relevant! Just inject a little personality to your brand, and make your audience feel like they are part of something bigger. Pictures and videos are fantastic, and they do not have to be pristine or organised. People appreciate what is real, and social networking can take them behind the scenes and put relatable human faces and personalities to your band’s name.

Since I started working with them, I have been overwhelmed by the efforts of one band in particular, so take a look and see what they have done to keep in touch with their audience.

Foreign Affairs on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/foreignaffairsmusic?fref=ts

 

Media

Quite simply, you HAVE to have something. There were an astonishingly high number of entries to this competition with no music, no videos and few pictures. These bands were nothing but a name to me, already forgotten, and never stood a chance. Not all of you are ready for studio time or intricately produced videos, but you have to offer something. Anybody, audience or industry is primarily going to want to hear what you sound like, so upload something to Soundcloud or Youtube and make sure people know where to find it. If I have to don my detectives hat to hear you, you have already lost the interest of 99.9% of industry professionals and probably the vast majority of interested punters.

Hit record on your phone, wrap it in a jumper and dump it in the middle of your rehearsal room. Listen back and turn things up and down accordingly until it sounds half decent. Put it online and label it as a rehearsal recording. Nobody worth your time is going to judge the quality of a rehearsal recording. They will however get to actually hear your music, your writing and your musicianship, which is what you should be spending the bulk of your energy on.

Get a friend to record a track at a gig on their phone. Again, nobody you need to care about will judge the quality of the media. They want to see you perform and they will be able to see past the quality. Booking agents want to know you can pull off your music live. Everyone else just wants to see what you look like! If you feel you are ready for a studio or proper video, get in touch with people. It is free to ask, and you might find it is cheaper than you expected to move up to that next level.

 

Gigs

Do some! Make sure people know about them! Do not wait to be approached! Get proactive! Seek out gigs, anywhere and everywhere. Chase support slots, hone your repertoire and perfect your live performance. Have cards, and give them to everyone who seems interested.

There are platforms out there to list your gigs. Use them! My holy trinity were our own website, Bandsintown and Ents24. Your website should have every public appearance listed in date order. People need to know where to come and see you, otherwise, why are you even doing it? Bandsintown offer an easy platform for creating Facebook events and automated timed promotion which can be very useful. You can also manually make the events, but never spam invite people. I regularly “unlike” pages for that very reason. Use Facebook events as a list, not a marketing tool. If your website has no gig listings, or your Facebook events is empty, people are not going to come to your gigs, because for all they know there aren't any! Again, don’t make people have to be detectives to find a gig to go to. The vast majority will give up before they scroll your timeline looking for the picture of a gig poster you posted 2 months ago. Website & Facebook events are the 2 essentials, and the first places people look. Ents24 is worth a mention for pushing more national gigs, as they offer a free weekly postcode based mailshot to people in the target postcodes. Very useful for getting your gig listing to music lovers who have not heard of you in the areas you are gigging.

 

Writing and Musicianship

Completely subjective, but a few things ring true through all genres and all tastes.

Write, practice, rehearse, rinse and repeat.

Musicians love music. When you play, a scarily high percentage of the audience you are playing to are probably musicians. It is a judgemental and competitive industry and there is not much room for obvious mistakes and under rehearsed set lists. You have to be tight if you are serious about it!

Record gigs any way you can, and watch them back later. Really. Do this. You will be amazed what some of you do on stage!

Give everyone a microphone, whether they plan to use it or not. You will soon notice people slipping in odd bits of harmony which can really make a track. Most musicians can carry a note or melody and sometimes that is all it needs to make a track truly fantastic. Practice it. Put on some power ballads at home or in the car and just experiment with extra vocal parts. You will soon develop a good ear for it.

Read some articles on performance and stage presence and make sure you work on techniques to make your live performance something to remember. It’s more subtle than just moshing out on stage. Its about body language, demeanour and attitude. You can captivate an audience without playing a guitar with your teeth. Holding an instrument does not make you exempt from techniques used in theatre. Theatrical advice and basic training will help you fill stages much larger than your line up.

Learn your tech terms, read up on basic sound/light engineering. Be friendly to your sound/lighting engineers. You will get a better gig for it!

Learn to embrace your audience. When you are on stage, it is your show. You are in charge so act like it. Be confident and talk to people (loudly, your microphone is set for singing remember). Think about the time between songs and have a plan for how you are going to fill it. Learn to tailor your set list to the atmosphere. If in doubt, slag off the drummer. We all love common ground!

 

Checklist

If you are serious about your band, and you want to be remotely successful, the checklist below really is the bare minimum you should be doing to get yourself known and push your performing to a level that may make you stand out. Being good is not enough, and waiting for a lucky break is pointless. You get out what you put in. Make the effort.

Website - Bio, Gigs, Music, Video, Contact, Links to everything else

Social Networking - Regular posts, humanising & relatable content, event listings

Media - Get something up! Anything! Worry more about performance and content, and less about quality.

Gigs - Get some, list them. Website gig list + Facebook events bare minimum!

Writing & Musicianship - Get tight! Watch your own gigs, work on harmonies, work on stage presence, work on your set between songs.