Follow these 7 simple steps to set your band apart from all of the other indie acts around:
1. Pass out business cards. – Get band business cards printed professionally, NOT the print-at-home variety! Make them colorful, eye-catching, and include important information, like a contact name and phone number, the band’s name, logo and preferably location, an e-mail address, and your URL. Pass them out to everyone that can help spread the word, such as fans, club owners, members of the media, employees at your local music shop, or anywhere else you’d like to get your name out.
2. Make your web site interactive. – It’s not enough for your band to have a web site. You need to give people a reason to keep coming back. Stream your own mp3s, share video clips, keep an updated tour or show journal, run your own forum, run your own store, have street team sign-ups, have your EPK on your own site, and have contests or give-aways. Don’t outsource all of your interactive features to places like Purevolume, MySpace, LiveJournal, online CD retailers or outside forums and message boards. Those things are all fine if you’re using them as supplements. You should never have anything on one of them if it’s not also directly on your site!!! Far too many bands make this mistake. You’ll see a lot of indie labels using these services, but you’ll find more on their own sites generally. Use these things as a way to lead people to your virtual front door, don’t use them exclusively where you have to tell people to leave your site to find what they want! That’s nothing but unprofessional, and it can represent a lousy image to the people you’re most trying to impress.
3. Develop your stage presence. – Most bands I see perform live are one of two things when it comes to being on stage: 1. They’re uncomfortable. or 2. They’re cocky. You can’t afford to be either if you really want to set your band apart. You need to talk to your fans, which most bands get. What they don’t get is that they’re “performing.” It’s not so much about what you say, but how you say it. You have to make people listen to you. You have to make them care. You have to wow them, and make them think you’re the greatest band on Earth, even if it’s just until the next band gets on stage. If you’re not leaving your fans feeling anything about you, you’re not doing your job. Take an acting class if you have to. Just learn how to get comfortable working the crowd. Just being yourself is usually not enough. Everyone does that. Watch some of the greatest performers in history. Forget all the new cookie-cutter BS you hear on the radio. Look back a few decades to the “real” performers like Sinatra, Armstrong, Elvis … just to name a few. Why do you think people still love them after all this time?
4. Answer every email. – I don’t care if you’re playing shows in your friend’s basement or if you’ve just signed to a major label. You need to be accessible to your fans. No, not your manager. Not your booking agent. YOU! I don’t care if you’re in the middle of a huge tour. You would be nowhere without your fans, and at the end of the day, you owe them something … respect. If a fan emails you, answer it! I don’t care if they ask you the dumbest question in the world, that’s answered 50 times on your web site. Answer them! And do it within a few days. Set aside at least 20-30 minutes a day to interact with fans either via email, your blogs, or your site’s forum. You don’t have the the time? Guess what. I don’t care! Make it!
5. Spend one-on-one time with your fans. – This goes hand in hand with what I said above. When you’re at a show, don’t hide backstage somewhere. When you’re not performing, mingle with fans. Sell your merch yourself. Get out there and enjoy the other acts with them. Don’t ever snub your fans. You never know when someone “important” is going to be around. You wouldn’t want to accidentally turn your back on that A&R rep, now would you? If someone’s at a show scouting you, they want to see how you handle your performance, how you handle your fans, and how you handle your business. Always act like you’re trying to impress someone, and you’ll never let anyone down.
6. Don’t make contacts, build relationships. – So you just met the hottest DJ on the NYC airwaves? Woohoo! Guess what. They’ve met hundreds of bands. Are they going to remember you? Probably not. Just making a contact is never enough. When you meet someone in the industry, whether they helped you out at the time or not, send a quick thank you note or personal invitation to your next big show. Do something to keep your name on their minds. They might not be able to help you now, but you’ll want them to think of you if something eventually does come up.
7. Embrace a true DIY attitude. – Learn to do things for yourself, and learn to do them well. You really don’t need to hire a manager as an indie band. Every member should know how to run every aspect of the band’s business. Even if you do go the manager route, every member should still know! They also need to take an active role. Music is only 50% of the equation. Making yourself marketing, handling finances, and dealing with administrative tasks is the other 50%. Get used to it. Learn to love it. A label loves a band that can already take care of themselves. While it’s OK to outsource certain one-time projects, like getting help to promote a major event, you rarely need to have anyone on your side full-time. By showing that you can handle being an outstanding DIY artist, you’re also showing that you can handle the music business, and professionals and fans alike will respect you more for it