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.

Planning Your Own Radio Campaign: Part 2

January 7, 2008

Finding Media Contacts

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 where to find media contacts.

Once you’ve decided what types of radio stations you want to target for your band radio campaign, what locations you want to target, and how many radio stations you can afford to target, you should have a pretty good idea of the specific stations that would potentially have the biggest benefit for your band. But now that you know what stations you’d like to send your CD to, how do you get their contact information. Here are a few free resources that you can use:

BurrellesLuce Media Contacts

Burrelles is one of the best-known media companies in the PR world. Their media contacts database will include everything you could possibly want to know about the radio stations you plan to target. While this resource can be very expensive, they do offer a free trial of Media Contacts, which should help to get you started. Then, if you find that Burrelles worked really well for you, and you intend to continue with any kind of media relations efforts, you might want to consider a subscription. You’ll not only find commercial and non-commercial radio stations, but also newspapers, magazines, and TV stations.

Radio-Locator.com

This free resource was formerly the MIT List of Radio Stations on the Internet. You can search for stations by city, state, ZIP code, station call letters, station format, Canadian province, genres for Internet streaming stations, and even world radio. Or, use the advanced search feature for even more options.

TheRecordIndustry.com

This site offers college radio station listings. While a few of the states’ pages produced errors on last check, overall, this is a nice listing of college stations by state. You won’t find a lot of information, other than an address, but the good thing is that you can be linked directly to a station’s web site, if they have one, so you can verify any contact information yourself, and find out press kit submission guidelines. Right now, there are searchable college radio stations listed for the US and Canada, but European and Web radio stations may be listed in the future.

There are countless other radio station directories available on the Internet. These three resources should be great for getting you off to a good start though. But remember, having the mailing address for a radio station isn’t enough. If you want your press kit to get into the right hands, you’ll need to do a little bit of legwork to find out the following information:

The name of the station’s Music Director

The station’s phone number

The station’s policies and requirements for sending press kits

The MD’s (or other contact person’s) e-mail address, if possible.

The station’s web site

The more targeted your press kit is to appropriate stations and appropriate people, the more likely it is that your CD will end up in the hands of someone authorized to make a spin or scrap decision, and not just into the hands of an assistant or intern. And don’t think that one press kit fits all. It doesn’t. Make sure your press kit is adaptable to any requirements or suggestions of each station, and you’ll start pulling on their heart-strings the moment they see that you actually cared enough to take their “rules” seriously.

Planning Your Own Radio Campaign: Part 1

January 7, 2008

Choosing Your Stations

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 start with choosing the target radio stations for your campaign.

Before you can jump into a radio campaign, you need to know who you should be targeting. The specifics of your campaign will rely heavily on the choices you make now, so consider the following questions carefully to decide what radio stations would work the best in your particular case:

Commercial or College Radio?

While these aren’t your only two options (you can target other non-commercial stations, such as your local NPR station, internet radio or satellite radio stations), they are the two most common for indie bands and other artists. The two main things you need to consider in this choice are exposure and accessibility. Commercial stations tend to give you greater exposure, but they’re often much more difficult to infiltrate. College stations are much easier to reach, more likely to give you a shot, but they reach a much smaller audience in general. You’ll also need to consider the timing of your campaign when you make this decision. Keep in mind that college stations are often off-air during summer breaks, and other holiday vacation periods.

What Locations Should you Target?

You have several options for locations. If you’re in a large metropolitan area, you may have several local stations that would make for a great start. If you only have one or two stations in your area, you may want to go with more of a regional target base. For instance, if you’re located in New Jersey, you may want to expand your target group to include New York City and Philadelphia radio stations. You always have the option of running a national radio campaign, or even an international one – depending on your genre, and of course your finances.

How Many Radio Stations can you Afford to Target?

A successful radio campaign can be extremely time-consuming and is often expensive. You need to keep costs in mind. If you don’t have a band member available during regular business hours to make follow-up calls, you may decide to hire someone else to handle that or your mailings. Can you afford to? You also need to have a professional-looking press kit. How many can you afford to have created? Do you need to pay for more demos, or do you have enough on-hand? Have your finished press kit weighed to get an idea of the shipping cost for each kit? Now considering the costs, decide how many radio stations you can afford to target.

Do the Stations you Want Have Specialty Shows Related to Independent Music or Your Specific Genre?

This is especially important if you chose to target commercial radio. Many stations have local radio shows, so it’s worth looking into that if you’re a local artist. College stations also have similar situations, usually breaking up their programming by genre during the days. Make sure there’s a DJ covering your particular style.

Making the Final List.

Once you’ve answered all of the questions above, you should have a good idea of how many radio stations you’ll be targeting, what type of stations, the locations you’ll want to target, and any specific shows that might be relevant to you. Now, look for specific stations that fit every one of your answers above, and create your master radio campaign target list. You’ve just finished the first step to a successful radio campaign!

Music Publicity 101

June 22, 2007

Some of the hottest questions asked by indie musicians are “How can I promote my music?”, “How can I get more people to listen to me?”, and “How can I get the labels, venues or radio stations to take notice?” The answer is simple: You need to understand a few basic things about music publicity. Once you have a better understanding about what publicity is, you’ll have a good head start. There are a few basic lessons you need to know up front: Read more

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