Ajax Garcia on Proactive PR

January 10, 2008

Ajax GarciaDo you know what I love about The Napoleon Blownaparts‘ frontman, Ajax Garcia? He knows how to take action when it comes to artist PR. He doesn’t simply follow the crowds… he leads them.

Indie bands across the globe make an incredibly common mistake when promoting their music – they do what everyone else does.

Is it going to hurt your band to have a Myspace profile? No. Is it going to hurt your album if you have it on iTunes? Of course not. Is it a good idea to have your own website? Damn straight. But what else are you doing as a band or indie musician to set yourself apart? Chances are… not much. Read more

How to Write a Press Release for Your Band

January 7, 2008

At some point during your career as an indie band, it’s likely that you’ll need to learn how to write a press release. A press release can be used to improve your media relations, by sending newsworthy information about your music to newspapers, TV, and radio stations. The idea is to only send a press release when something is truly newsworthy, in the hopes that media outlets will pick up the story, providing you with free publicity. Here are a few things that might be considered newsworthy as an indie artist:

1. You’re releasing a new CD.
2. You’re about to go on tour.
3. You’re opening for a huge act.
4. You’re putting on, or performing in, a benefit show for a charity.
5. You’re making a donation to charity as a band (ex. donating a portion of CD sales)

Now learn how to write a press release by following the outline here:

Contact:
Your name
Your address
Your phone
Your email

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Put an Informative Title for Your Release Centered Here in Bold (Not CAPS)
Include a More Catchy Sub-Title Below (not bolded) if Needed

City, State – Date – Start the first paragraph of your press release here. Don’t try to make your press release sound catchy, like an advertisement. It should read more like a story printed in a newspaper, and the first paragraph should answer the questions of Who?, What?, When?, Where?, and Why?

The second paragraph of your press release should provide further detail necessary to the reporter, such as more specific location information, particular cities you’ll be visiting while on tour, etc.

The third paragraph, if needed, can include more information, especially that pertains less to your music. This might include some background on a charity that you’re working with or donating to.

For More information, please visit Your URL, or contact Your Name at Your Phone, or via email at Your email address.

About Your Band
This section of the press release is called a boilerplate. It would be the same on every press release that you send out about your band (until, of course, it needs to be updated). Use the boilerplate to provide a short bio of the band.

Always end a press release with ### centered at the bottom of the page, to let the reporter know that they’ve reached the end of the press release.

Does Your Band Have an Elevator Speech?

January 7, 2008

Most business owners have what’s known as an “elevator speech.” Does your band have one? You should! So what’s an elevator speech anyway?

Definition: An elevator speech is a very short and concise description of who you are and what you do, which you should be able to convey to a total stranger in the time it takes to ride an elevator.

Don’t think of an elevator speech as a sales pitch, saying how great you are. Think of it as being similar to the opening paragraph in your band bio. You should be able to say what your music sounds like (not “well, we’re completely unique and don’t really fit into a genre”), who your band sounds like, and what set you apart from the thousands of other bands who probably sound a lot like you.

Your elevator speech should last no longer than a minute, but I’d generally recommend having 2 or 3 versions. Write and familiarize yourself with the one-minute version for when you come into contact with someone who has a little more time to listen to you. Then, create a 30-second version for when someone asks about your band, but you’re in a more rushed scenario. Finally, create a 10-15 second version that you could spit out if you’re just in passing.

Don’t just wing it when someone asks about your music. Be prepared. And don’t think that you can just write up an elevator speech and memorize it. The key is to be natural and passionate about what you’re saying. If you can’t get into it, neither will the person you’re talking to.

Is Your Band Newsworthy?

January 7, 2008

If you’re a musician, chances are you’d jump at the opportunity for some good press. But how do you get it? How can you convince newspapers, radio stations, magazines, or other media outlets to not only feature you, but even so much as mention your name? That’s easy: just make yourself newsworthy!

Most media outlets aren’t interested in running a general profile of your band or talking about your music. If you’re just looking for reviews, read no further. I’m talking to artists who want “real” press, mentions in stories not entirely related to indie music, in major sections of your city’s paper for example. For those artists who truly want to go above and beyond, here are a few tips to making yourself newsworthy in the eyes of the media:

  • Find your cause. Pick one cause, whether it be the environment, homelessness, fighting a disease, etc., and support it as a band. Play shows (or better yet, organize your own) to benefit the cause financially, or to raise awareness. Putting together a running series of benefits is even better yet.
  • If you live near a major metropolitan area, where often many schools can’t afford strong arts programs, contact the school and offer your time to give free music lessons to students who may be interested in whatever instruments you have the ability to teach them.
  • Get involved with your local community. The key here isn’t just to do one thing, but to be regularly involved. Work together at a local soup kitchen, help organize a bus trip available to community members, help to clean up an unkept park. Keep busy as often as possible. (Can you imagine a hardcore screamo band going to visit people in nursing homes with no family just to brighten their holidays a bit? Now that’s newsworthy! It’s a complete contrast to the preconceptions that people likely already have.)

The real key in making yourself newsworthy is to stop thinking about yourself. The media loves a good heartwarming tale once in a while, and let’s face it, people don’t exactly expect these things from bands. Be the complete contrast of the “punk kids” who don’t have any respect, and you’ll be surprised at how people just might start changing their tune towards you. Getting involved with helping others is better for your music, and better for you, 99% of the time over running some stupid publicity stunt. Don’t just say that you’re different. Actually BE different. Then tell the local media about it!

Designing the “Perfect” Press Kit

January 7, 2008

The “perfect” press kit can get your gigs, radio airplay, media mentions and more! But what makes a “perfect” press kit? Here are the basic dos and don’ts for making your kit the best it can be:

DO make your kit adaptable. The kit you send to the local clubs’ booking agents may not be the same kit you should send to a major commercial radio station. Pieces of your kit should be interchangeable, so you can add and remove pieces when you want to.

DO keep the packaging generic. Your name, logo, and contact information are more than enough. Don’t include photos that might become outdated too quickly or anything relating to a specific album. This way, you can get better printing prices by printing in bulk, and keep the packaging consistent from one album release to the next, with only the interior items changing.

DO include a cover letter, and make sure it’s addressed to the correct person!

DO include your contact info on everything. That includes the packaging, CD case, CD face, and anything inserted into the kit.

DO include a well-written bio. A full bio should be no shorter than a half of a page. Always describe your music first. People don’t want to wait until the end of your bio to get a hint about what you sound like.

DO include a photo. An 8″x10″ glossy is best. Some media outlets prefer black & white for printing, so you should keep some available, and always ask before you send your kit.

DO include positive press quotes if you have them. You don’t need to include full articles – it’s actually usually preferable if you don’t. Just pull the best quotes.

DO include a business card! It makes it easy for them to staple it to a rolodex or keep it in their card file.

DO include a list of your equipment, when you’re targeting a venue for a gig.

DO include a quality CD of at least 4 tracks. Anything less than that probably isn’t worth media attention. Also be sure to highlight the one track that you most want them to listen to. Larger venues and media outlets only have time to listen to one, and if you don’t tell them exactly which one to listen to, by marking it on the CD packaging and the CD itself, they’ll choose whichever track they want. It might not be the one you want presenting your first impression.

DON’T include a demo CD that’s hand-written. It’s just unprofessional.

DON’T send out a kit to a generic address. If you don’t have a specific contact name, call first and get one!!!

DON’T include ANYTHING that doesn’t have your full contact information on it.

DON’T print a photo on regular copy paper. It won’t scan well enough to be used by websites, newspaper or magazines.

DON’T make your kit too extravagant. Your kit needs to be professional, so that it doesn’t drag your image down. But, it can’t make your image on it’s own. You need to let your music speak. I’ve received incredible-looking kits that were entirely original, but whose recordings sounded like crap. Guess how far it’ll get you. At most, you’ll just pay far too much for postage.

DON’T just shove a CD and a sheet of paper in an envelope and call it a press kit.

DON’T include quotes from fans. The person receiving the kit doesn’t know if the “fan” is your girlfriend or your best friend. They’re not going to care what an anonymous person has to say. If you don’t have quotes or reviews from professionals, don’t include any!

DON’T say, in your bio, that you’re “unique,” or that you’re unlike anything out there. You’re really not. Every band thinks they are. But in reality you do sound at least a little bit like something else out there. By explaining how your music is like a combination of two genres very different from each other, you’ll get their attention. By showing that you pull together the best of several major artists, you’ll get their attention. By saying you’re completely unique, in their mind you’re saying that no one’s been interested in your style before, so you’re unmarketable.

Your press kit is like your calling card. An unprofessional kit will find it’s way to a trash can before you CD is ever even listened to. A professional kit, whether flashy or not, included with a quality demo may just be your ticket to that great gig, interview, or deal!

Ten Band Publicity Tips

January 7, 2008

1. Create a great website.

Make sure your band’s website is easy to navigate. Include a collective band biography, and information on each band member. Include plenty of mp3 samples, and video clips if you have them. Add links to, or copies of, any press quotes or reviews. Exchange links with music-related businesses and other bands, to help build traffic to your site. Include a sign-up form for your mailing list, and a link to purchase your CD and merch. It’s essential that you have your own domain if you’re striving for a professional image, so don’t use free services that use your site as an ad-board or that make you use their long url. If your band name isn’t available as a domain, find out why. If it’s being used by another band, you’ll need to come up with a new name. Otherwise, you’re very likely violating someone’s common-law (or even registered) trademark, unless you can prove you were using the name first. It’s usually not worth the hassle now, and it’s definitely not worth the hassle later if someone waits until you’ve finally made it big in order to sue you.

2. Design a professional press kit.

You should have copies of your press kit ready to be sent out immediately, if someone requests one. Make sure you can adapt the press kit to fit the audience, and don’t forget to include your contact information on absolutely everything!

3. Make nice.

Make contacts with area venues’ booking agents and managers, radio station DJs and Music Directors, and the Music Editor of your local newspaper. Just call and introduce yourself. If you have a big event coming up that you’d like to promote, ask them specifically how much notice they need, who you should address your press kit to, and whether they would prefer if you contact them via phone or e-mail in the future. Apologize if you accidentally called them “on deadline,” and make note of their schedule, so you don’t do it again. Also ask where you can get a copy of their editorial calendar, when you call a newspaper or magazine. That should give you details on deadlines and let you know if they have any specially-themed issues coming up that you may fit into well. Put the media and professionals first, and they’ll love you.

4. Create a mailing list.
Always have a mailing list sign-up sheet with you, when you play shows. To help increase sign-ups, try give-aways. For instance, you could give the first 5 sign-ups a free CD, and the next 20 a free sticker. Have a sign-up form on your website, and make it very easy for people to unsubscribe if they want to. You don’t want to get yourself labeled as a spammer. Finally, make sure you don’t constantly crowd your fans’ e-mail boxes. Pick a set time, such as weekly or monthly, to send your updates. Only send additional e-mails if you’ve got sudden and important, like you just got a major gig for the next night. For a great mailing list service, check out Constant Contact.

5. Form a street team.

Get your friends, family, and fans to help support the band by distributing flyers before events, wearing your merch to help advertise the band name, passing out your business cards to music-related businesses or potential fans, or by having them recommend you for airplay, reviews and feature stories to websites, radio stations, and local papers.

6. Sign up with mp3 websites and artist communities.
Join sites like www.PureVolume.com, www.MySpace.com, or www.Artistopia.com, where you can generally distribute mp3s and short band bios for free! While you may not want to be a total publicity whore, “selling” yourself to every website and music community under the sun, you should at least choose two or three that you want to target. MySpace is fine if you’re just trying to reach your fans on a more personal level. If you’re looking for broader exposure, join sites that feature new bands on their main pages either monthly or weekly. Ask how you can get considered for one of those spots! Also, try to find out some of the site’s stats to let you know how valuable they are to you publicity-wise.

7. Create an EPK.
Every band should have an electronic press kit as a last resort. Many venues, media outlets, or music magazines only want to see a hard kit. However, there are a growing number that will accept your EPK. If you have the option, choose your EPK for the sheer fact that it’s cheaper than mailing a bulky kit. It’s also great, because you can include your EPK’s url on your business cards. And if a venue or media outlet “loses” your press kit, send them a card with a link to your EPK the second time around. Make your EPK easy to navigate. It should be available directly from your own website whenever possible, rather than an EPK service. It’s simply more professional, and allows you total control over the look, so you can keep everything streamlined. Have an online version, and create a printable .pdf version that you can include a download link for. It should include all of the same information as your press kit. If you prefer not to make all of your mp3s available to the public, at least make them available here. You can password-protect the EPK if you need to, but it’s usually preferable that you don’t.

8. Design knock-out business cards.
They’re small, simple, and not too expensive. So, why don’t more bands use business cards? Who cares! Give yourself the professional edge and just do it already! Choose a contact person for the band, if you don’t have a manager. Include a day-time phone number, cell phone number, e-mail address, and web address. Include your EPK link if you have one. If you’re really not ready to commit to your business cards, try the free card offer from VistaPrint. They print a logo or something similar on the back, and you won’t have complete control, but it’ll give you something to start passing out to broadcast your name and web address.

9. You need killer merch.

Your fans are just dying to be your walking billboards! If you don’t give them the opportunity to buy your merch, they can’t publicize you to their full potential. And let’s face it, a little extra income never hurt an indie band before! If the thought of order and stocking your merchandise, running an online store, or dealing with shipping makes you wanna run and hide under your bed, try services like www.CafePress.com, where you design your merch, set up a free online store (or one for a small fee if you want to customize it more), and let them deal with printing on-demand, shipping, and paying you you’re profits – no upfront costs for you. Another worthwhile service is www.PrintMojo.com, where you pre-order your merch, and they print it up and stock it for you, and you can run your store from their site. They handle billing and shipping. The only catch is that you pay for your merch up-front when you order it, but the print quality can be better.

10. Get involved with a non-profit organization.

There’s no better way to build good publicity for your band than doing benefit shows! However, they do take some work. You can’t just do a show and expect the media to care. You have to tell them about it! Learn how to write press releases and compile your own media contact list. While you could participate in benefits for various organizations, it’s always better publicity-wise if you actually organize them. So, take some initiative! Don’t just jump on any charity bandwagon that comes around. If there’s a major natural disaster, everyone wants to help. It’s great that you do too, but it’s not really news if everyone’s doing it. Choose a charity that truly means something to your band, and that you can try to help year-round. Set up a series of shows to benefit the organization, instead of just one. It shows you really care about the cause, and with several shows, you’ll actually be doing more for the charity. By building a relationship with them, they may even be able to help with promoting the event.

The Music Promotion Master List

January 7, 2008

Here’s a list of 30 music promotion tips that you can start implementing right now:

1. Create a great website.

2. Design a professional press kit.

3. Network to build your contacts.

4. Create a mailing list.

5. Form a street team.

6. Sign up with mp3 websites and artist communities.

7. Create an EPK.

8. Design and use business cards.

9. Design merch for sale and give-aways.

10. Get involved with charity events, like benefit shows.

11. Post flyers before all of your events.

12. Distribute coupons for your CD or merch to your best fans.

13. Give away, or sell, stickers or window decals.

14. Design postcards to send notice of a release or url to an EPK.

15. Get birthdays from fans on your mailing list, and send e-cards.

16. Work out joint-promotions w/ other bands or businesses.

17. Hold contests on your site or at shows for your fans.

18. Produce magnetic signs band members can use for their cars.

19. Have a large banner printed for bigger shows.

20. Exchange web links with other bands and businesses.

21. Optimize your website for search engines.

22. Provide graphics on your site for fans to make their own merch.

23. Write articles and contribute them to indie music sites.

24. Search for niche media, like local cable stations or college radio.

25. Donate equipment for others’ shows in exchange for publicity.

26. Send all of your news to your local papers.

27. Pay attention to how other bands promote themselves.

28. Run a survey on your site to see what your fans really want.

29. Develop a complete business and marketing plan for the band.

30. Include your name and logo everywhere. Consistency is key.

Dos and Don’ts for Writing Your Band’s Bio

January 7, 2008

Here are a few dos and don’ts for writing the always-important band bio to include in your press kit. Don’t underestimate the value of a well-written bio. I’ve seen unsigned bands write brilliant bios, and label bands who make themselves look like a bunch of morons. Your bio is your chance at a good first impression when someone receives your kit. Follow these guidelines so you won’t blow it!

DO

Tell people what you sound like right up front.

Note similarities between your own work and that of more recognizable artists.

Add enough substance to your bio that a reader feels like they know you a bit as people, not just a group.

Remember to list each band member’s name and a little background on them. Keep it brief, but don’t ignore it.

Put your bio on band stationary, directly printed on your press kit folder, or something other than just a plain white sheet of paper with your band’s name on it.

Add your contact information to the bio where it can be easily seen.

Be yourselves. It’s ok, and even great, if your personalities shine through.

Have fun with it! The bio can be completely fictional and/or humorous if you want it to be, just so long as you tell us what you really sound like!

DON’T

Say that you’re completely unique and don’t fit into any one genre. You’re not unique. You do fit into a genre. You’re just going to piss people off if you don’t tell them who you sound like. Even if you think you’re different, I guarantee the reader can compare you to someone. And that just makes you look stupid or egotistical … both bad.

Wait until the middle or end of your bio to tell people who or what you sound like. Bio, comparisons, influences … all need to be up front.

Print your bio on a plain piece of paper and throw it into a press kit or envelope.

Fold up your bio and stick it in your CD case.

Mail a bio to anyone without your CD with it.

Forget about adding contact information.

Turn your bio into a book. A half page to one page is more than enough.

Planning Your Own Radio Campaign: Part 4

January 7, 2008

Working with the Media

In this series of articles, I’m going to walk you through the basic procedure for planning your own radio campaign. We’ll cover topics such as choosing your target radio stations, creating a radio-friendly press kit, how to find media contacts, how to write a press kit cover letter for your radio campaign, how to handle follow-up calls, and more! Let’s continue this week by learning how to approach and work with members of the media in a way that will set you apart from other artists, and increase your chances for having your album picked up by a radio station.

Members of the media don’t work for you. Generally, they work for advertisers. Radio (at least commercial radio) is an advertising medium. What that means is that DJs, Music Directors, Program Directors and other radio station staff members have two primary responsibilities when it comes to dealing with indie artists: 1. To bring in enough listeners to satisfy their advertisers, and 2. To sort through the hundreds, or even thousands, of press kits they receive to find that “next big thing.” Every station wants to be the first to break the next hit artist. So, how do you approach the media and convince them that you’re more than just another local band, and that you’re not wasting their time? Follow these suggestions, and you’ll be well on your way to making a positive impression:

Find out the specific press kit requirements and correct contact person at each radio station, BEFORE you prepare anything to send out. If your press kit isn’t 100% adaptable to the requirements of each station, you need to start over. You’re missing the most important point: what you like doesn’t matter. Just because you think something looks good, doesn’t mean anyone in the media is going to agree. If you just send your standard kit without abiding by their “rules,” you’re telling them you don’t care enough about their needs to follow some simple instructions. So, why should they care enough about you to put you on the air?

Understand that members of any media outlet, including radio stations, are busy. They don’t have time to take your phone calls every day when you want to follow up. They don’t have time to stop what they’re doing and listen to your music to decide if they like you. They don’t have time to answer the emails sent by all the indie bands who have submitted press kits. They don’t have time. Get it? Good. Now, respect that. Never keep a member of the media on the phone for more than a minute or two. Try to schedule your phone calls with them ahead of time if you need to do a follow-up, and definitely leave a message for them. They’ll get it. If they like your work, they’ll get back to you. If they don’t, there comes a point where you just need to back off a little bit. Send them a letter instead of calling them continuously. Better yet, have band post-cards printed up with a link to your EPK. If you can’t get in touch with someone at the station, mail it. Remind them they can check out your work there or get in touch with you to send them another kit if something happened to the first one.

Know that it’s not the media’s job to be your friend. Don’t ask them for favors or special consideration. Don’t give them sob stories. You’ll just piss them off.

Kiss ass a little bit. No one likes to do it, but in this business, get used to it. If you’re working directly with a DJ, compliment their style. If you’re working with an MD, compliment them on some of the past choices they’ve made regarding indie acts.

Know the station you’re sending your press kit to. Don’t just pull up a list of contacts and send things out. Focus locally first, with stations you’re familiar with. Know what kind of genres they tend to feature. Know past indie artists who have gotten airplay with them. Contact those artists. Ask what they did to get on the air. Don’t send your kit to a station that doesn’t work with bands like yours. No one likes their time to be wasted.

Always be respectful. Members of the media don’t always get the respect they deserve. They do a difficult job every day, are under an enormous amount of stress, and the last thing they need is to be hounded by every local band in their area. Being respectful in general will require you to follow a few of the steps I already mentioned: following their submission guidelines, not hounding them with constant calls, and knowing the station’s style. But it also includes making their life easier. If they make a request, do it. If they give you a compliment, thank them. If they give you a suggestion to improve your work, thank them again … then do something about it. Their work can be a pretty thankless job, and showing them you really appreciate their time will matter more than you know.

Be prepared to tell them what you can do for them. The radio station staff already knows what you want from them. You want exposure. But why should they care? What’s in it for them? The most important thing you can possibly do is tell them what your band can do for the station. Do you have a lot of press built up around you (magazine and newspaper articles for example)? Did you just sign a record deal, even with a small label? Does your music deal directly with something going on nationally or even locally? You have to be able to tell them what makes you timely. Why should they be playing you right this moment, instead of 6 months from now? If you’ve got nothing to make you attractive and newsworthy to them, you’re just another indie act. Do something to set yourself apart. Then, let them know about it!

Just remember that working with members of the media can be time-consuming, sometimes frustrating, but most importantly it’s about building relationships. Care about the station. Care about your fans. Care about your music. If you’re truly dedicated, and you’re willing to put in the time and work, you’ll find that members of the media aren’t so difficult to deal with after all.

Planning Your Own Radio Campaign: Part 3

January 7, 2008

The Budget

In this series of articles, I’m going to walk you through the basic procedure for planning your own radio campaign. We’ll cover topics such as choosing your target radio stations, creating a radio-friendly press kit, how to find media contacts, how to write a press kit cover letter for your radio campaign, how to handle follow-up calls, and more! Let’s continue this week by learning what items you’ll need to budget for, and how you can save money while still running an effective campaign.

If you’re interested in planning your own radio campaign, you certainly can’t afford to neglect a budget. There are a lot of costs involved, whether you’re hiring help or doing everything yourself. While you could easily spend several hundred dollars a month (or even in a week!) hiring a radio promoter to handle your campaign for you, I’m going to assume that you plan to do most of the work yourself.

In that case, here is a list of the primary costs to running a successful DIY radio campaign:

1. CD Production
2. Press Kit Design & Production
3. Postage for Press Kits
4. Media Contact Lists
5. Long-Distance Phone Calls for Follow-ups

Obviously the costs mentioned are going to vary greatly based on the size of the campaign you plan to run, whether you already have your CDs pressed and ready, and whether or not you already have a significant number of press kits produced. But, even if you already have those two major costs covered, you can’t neglect the others, which may seem more insignificant.

Postage – I receive press kits on a regular basis. I’m always amazed to see how much some bands are paying for postage. I’ve seen reasonable postage come through at around $.60/kit, and larger kits coming in at over $2.50/kit. So, what’s the easiest way to save money on postage for your radio campaign? – Your Press Kit!!! Keep the kit as small as possible, while still providing the necessary information. Look into smaller (or just lighter) CD packaging methods. Just remember not to sacrifice quality.

Media Contact Lists – I gave you a few resources for free media contacts in Part 2 of this article series. Go back and use them! If you still can’t find the contacts you need, spend some time searching online. You’re better off getting information directly from stations than spending money on indie music contact books and CDs, which are notoriously inaccurate.

Phone Calls – The easiest ways around this cost would be to either keep your radio campaign local or regional, or to get set up with a phone plan (land line or cell) that will allow you to make unlimited long-distance calls during normal business hours.

By completing the work involved in your radio campaign yourselves, you’ll save a small fortune in fees you’d be paying to someone else, you’ll be making your own contacts in the industry, and you won’t over-extend your resources. Just make sure you set realistic goals based upon what you can afford.

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