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.