10 Things I Tell Musicians/Bands
Hi all! I know it’s been a while since I blogged anything. Just been busy working with my band, Dead Love Club. It’s been a pretty fun run so far and we’re ramping up. We’re the featured band in the February issue of Rockstar Magazine here in Austin and have released an EP free for download on our website. I’m so thankful!
In my time of working in entertainment and getting to know other musicians here in town, I’ve noticed that many of us have the same issue. How do we get seen? How do we get more shows on our calendar? It’s a tough industry to work in that requires work, perseverance and sacrifice. Of course, we would all love to be discovered and swooped up by someone powerful and made into a star…it can happen, nothing is impossible, but you can do something to gain traction while you’re waiting for that breakthrough.
For the record, I am not an industry expert, nor do I know everything about the ins and outs of how it all works. This advice is purely from my own experience as a graphic designer and time I’ve spend shaping my own career as a drummer.
1. BRAND YOURSELF – This is so important and will help differentiate you from the other bands/musicians out there. Figure out a look and feel for your band that’s uniquely you. It’s best if you do something that will make people remember you….have a great, easy to remember (and spell) band name. Create a cool logo (that you can read) or use a font (that you can read) that represents your style and try to be consistent with it on all materials, web and print. Get a great promo shot and don’t be afraid to use it over and over again. Repetition is what makes people remember you. It’s also what makes people curious. If they keep seeing your band name/image where ever they go, they’ll investigate who you are and listen to your music. It’s image, it’s exposure….of course, do not over do it where it gets annoying…plan a course of action for your marketing, but make sure you’re BRANDED!
2. GET A GREAT WEBSITE – A website is key because everything is on the internet now. Have a place where people can:
- Listen to your music
- Read a short bio on the band
- See images of the band
- Watch a video (live or music video)
- See press items (if applicable)
- Get your contact info
Make sure the website is easy to navigate and is in the style of your band’s branding (See above). Also, be concise with your words…especially the bio…honestly, no one has time to read (or scroll) too much when they’re trying to see who you are.
3. HAVE AN EPK (Electronic Press Kit) ONLINE – I always advise people to have a one pager on their website somewhere that’s an EPK. I would send links to that page to industry people, clubs that you want to book shows at or bands you want to pair up with (which I talk about next). People’s time is limited and attention spans are even shorter. You have one chance to make a great first impression. It’s more effective to send people one page that has everything listed above in #2 rather than just a general link to your website where they have to look around to find things. Make your EPK short and sweet and give your best right up front. This is also a good thing to have if you want to connect with other bands that you can trade shows with (which I’ll talk about next).
4. CONNECT WITH OTHER SIMILAR BANDS – Get rid of the competition mentality and start connecting to other bands that would pair up with yours. The world is a big place and there’s room for all of us. I’ve found that it’s more effective if you meet other bands and get to know each other so you can trade shows and help each other move forward. What I’ve done is gone online and looked at bands that my band could possibly share shows with and connected with them. First thing, LISTEN to the other band’s music and see what their scene is like before approaching them. Don’t approach bands that are nothing like you. Do what makes sense. You want to try and make friends with like-minded bands so that you can work with each other and share crowds. Also, you can make a point to connect with other bands when you go see them live. Tell them that you would love to play shows with them and give them your contact info…or better, yet, a business card for your band. Keep a running list of bands that you have played shows with that you paired well with together. Also, keep a list of bands that you want to approach to share gigs with. If you’re in a position to fill a bill, use your list and get connected. Everyone will appreciate each other more and there will be more of a community. Build something together instead of competing…it’s more productive for every one.
5. HAVE A BUSINESS CARD OR STICKER – It’s always great practice to have something to give to someone if they want to know more about you or want to have your contact information. Business cards are a great thing to have that has your band name, photo (if possible), website link and contact info. Have these on hand to give to other bands/musicians/industry people you meet either at gigs or when you’re out and about. There are so many times I’ve been out and met random people at stores or coffee shops and got to talking about music. Next thing you know, I discover they’re in a band that sounds like a nice pair for mine….we exchange info and start building a rapport.
Stickers are great because everyone LOVES stickers! Make it cool and fun…something eye catching that people would want to stick on their guitar case or whatever. One BIG rule for stickers…DON’T make them too big that it can’t fit in your pocket. I’ve found that a 3″x3″ works well or even a business card size (3.5″ x 2″) works great, too. If they’re too big, people won’t want to carry them around or they’ll get damaged from people trying to fold them up and stick them in their pockets. Make whatever you give them easy to contain.
6. TREAT EVERYONE WITH RESPECT & BE POSITIVE – Don’t have that attitude that you’re the next big thing and everyone around you are just lowly minions there to serve you. You never know what anyone you meet is going to be to you later….or in some cases, you never know how much power they have over you currently. And really, it’s a good practice to treat everyone you meet with kindness. Also, being positive is always going to win you points. If you’re negative and rude, people are not going to want to work with you. We’re in a time and place where playing Diva or Rock God doesn’t go over well with venues, promoters or supporting bands. Plus, people won’t take you seriously. Represent yourself as a professional musician with good business practices…yes, it’s Rock n’ Roll, but even Rock n’ Roll is a business. Treat other musicians as your co-workers and peers….essentially, that’s what they are. And PLEASE….this is one of my pet peeves – don’t make fun of other bands or musicians while your watching them. It’s cliche, but really if you don’t have anything good to say, keep it to yourself…and if you hate it, leave or go hang outside or somewhere you can’t hear them. It looks bad on you if you’re standing there trashing the band playing before or after you. It really makes you look like an a-hole….and really, they’re up there playing…it’s more than what some people are brave enough to do. Try to be an encouraging force to others….who knows, they may be new to the scene or they may have had to replace their drummer an hour before the show…hey, it happens, it’s showbiz.
7. MAINTAIN GOOD WORKING RELATIONSHIPS AND SAY THANK YOU – When you are invited to play a show, be sure you meet the people working in the venue you’re playing at…especially, the sound person. Be sure to remember their names and be respectful of them. You’re in their house. Yes, you’re there to help them make money and vice versa, but ultimately, they’re there to help you put on a successful show. Saying “thank you” goes a long way and it’s free. It’s always good practice to tell them thanks before you head out for the night. If you’re courteous and kind, they’ll remember you and want you to play there again. Also, if you’re sharing a bill with other bands, try to say hello to them as well. This goes back to #4. If you meet the other bands and the show goes over well, you may be able to do more shows together in the future and share crowds. Try to keep contact and maintain that good working relationship. It will help you get more gigs in the future. You don’t want venues to tell people how horrible you guys were or that you’re a-holes…you’ll be marked for life…and that’s never good.
8. FOLLOW UP!! This one gets overlooked so much, it makes me crazy. I hear people all the time tell me they can’t get anyone from xyz bar to answer them back or xyz promoter hasn’t called. My next question to them is, have you followed up? The answer is usually “no” or “I was gonna”. Remember, these people are bombarded with requests every day. They may or may not have seen your email. It’s YOUR job to follow up…and of course, give them some time to get back to you. Don’t be crazy about following up to where you’re on the verge of stalker. Give them some time and if you don’t hear back, write a friendly email asking if they’ve received your last email, etc. Sometimes it takes 2 or 3 follow ups to get an answer. If you ultimately don’t receive an answer, just move on to the next one and possibly try later. It may just not be a good time for them or it may be an overly busy time for them. You don’t have to write them or yourself off because of a non answer.
9. NO’S ARE NOT THE END – I know that hearing the word “no” is very discouraging…especially, when you’re in entertainment. The entertainment biz can be a wear on your emotional state, creating stress, self-doubt and just plain deflate your aspirations of ever amounting to anything. It can be painful. I hear stories of people not getting gigs, not getting heard, not getting paid attention to, snubbed, etc. It happens and it’s going to happen to all of us. It happened to The Beatles with Decca. Every single one of your musical heroes has heard the word “no” and has been rejected, not heard, didn’t get paid, etc. It will happen to all of us, no doubt about it. The best advice I give to people when they get rejected by someone is, if that person doesn’t want you, someone else will. It’s the truth…for every no, there’s a yes out there. I take my advice from a blog I read by business coach, Christine Kane. I’m not sure where this originated, but she wrote – SWSWSWSW – meaning “Some Will, Some Won’t, So What? Someone’s Waiting!” And that is the absolute truth. You are worth something to someone. They’re out there. You may not find them now, but you will…or in most cases, they’ll find you.
10. HAVE FUN PLAYING YOUR MUSIC NO MATTER WHAT! Music is a gift! Your talent is not a mistake or a coincidence. Creative minds are driven, we have to create, we have to play our instrument and express ourselves in our own unique way. We’re the “weird kid”, as my mom used to call me when I was young, listening to music in my room in the dark and wearing black all the time….ha, not much has changed. If you’re in the music business with the one track mind of “making it” or just for the money, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. I’m not trying to say you aren’t worthy of “making it”, but it really depends on what your vision of “making it” is. If you’re a hard ass and all you can think about is getting discovered, it’s stressful for you and your band members. It makes it where it’s not fun anymore. It takes the love and creativity out of it if it’s forced. I think doors open when you’re happy, positive and loving what you do. People are drawn to others that exude joy and happiness in what they do. If you’re crazed about being famous, it will show in a negative way…and it’s very off-putting.
Bottom line, be positive, love what you do and keep pushing forward no matter what. You weren’t given this gift of talent for nothing. You’ll find your place. Build a community in the music scene and bond with your fellow musicians. We’re all in this together! Have fun and be the best you you can be!