Tonight I had a meeting with a promoter who works around the Yorkshire area and beyond regarding self-promotion. This gentleman had some brilliant things to say regarding independent artists and I found myself agreeing with a lot of the things he had to say. Once again this led me to some thinking and in an effort to keep them fresh in my mind I thought I would share them.
This gentleman has been working as a promoter for over twenty years and it was brilliant to see that it was about his love for music, and not money, that has made him good at what he does. The first thing that any musician should realise is that you are not going to just "make it big" at the drop of a hat. It takes time to develop, nourish and mature your sound and years of hard work to let your music reach its potential. Remember, the end goal is about sharing your music that you have shed sweat, blood and tears to create with other people across the world who want to experience that journey with you; it is not about becoming a millionaire on a whim.
One of the most important things with self-promotion is to have a musical product that you can engage with your audience. The internet has opened this potential up to all corners of the globe. There are people out there who want to listen to your music, who want to be inspired by the things you do and the sounds you create. I had an email a while back from someone in South Africa asking me what it was I did as I seem to be constantly on the go . . . Never in a million years did I think someone from South Africa would be contacting me this time last year. However, this proves my point, that something can click and connect with these people; they really are interested in the things that you are doing!
Everyone knows that bands starting out will find it hard to get gigs. With Sawsound I gig on a regular basis yet we struggle to get gigs to anyone other than our friends. We have recently been putting our own nights on in a club in Leeds, inviting bands from towns outside of Leeds that can then return the favour to us. Gig swapping can be a great way to meet new bands that you can play with and learn from, and if you're lucky, will expose you to their audience in return.
However, it is always one of those things trying to get people to come to your gigs. What is it that makes your night so special from someone else’s? Or stopping your mates going down the pub and ignoring that you asked them to come along and support you? When inviting people to gigs it can be very easy to invite your mates via a generic text message or Facebook event asking them to come along so that they will come to your gig because you need people there. How many people send you these kinds of events and you look at them and ignore them?
The beauty of twitter is that if someone contacts you you are able to reply directly to that person; it is all about access and a personal relationship with an individual. Don't promote your gig as an evening where you need support to show a promoter that you're bringing people and making them money. Write a list down of your friends and get you and your band members to ring them or send them a personal twitter message telling them that there is an incredible social night that is happening. Explain there's going to be a really good series of bands that are on and everyone is going and it will be an incredible night . . . This is more likely to get a response than just sending someone something generic that they can ignore. Never underestimate the power of word of mouth. If each of your band members could write a list of the people down who they would invite to a gig they will soon see that their fan base is a couple of hundred people – just a quarter of those people that can turn up means you have a big audience to play too!
Also research different places you want to play. Look and see if there is a particular place that you want to play at, wherever it may be. Get in contact with people who are in that local scene, people who can come along and review you playing. Invite people who can write a press release on you or who maybe interested in having you play at their night. Send your album to people via the internet and ask them to write a review of it. People really do take note of what others think of your work and if it is good they are most likely going to recommend it to someone who has never heard you before.
Be wary of playing for people/promoters who want you to pay to play. This can often lose you out of pocket and doesn’t help your band in anyway (except to line the pockets of the company you are playing for). Many promoters will give you a set number of tickets to sell for their evening; generally this will range between twenty and thirty tickets. However, don’t be in a position where you are struggling to sell these tickets to fans. Instead be in a position to turn down the gig to the promoter (whilst remaining polite about it) because you know that you will have fans missing out on your gig because the promoter hasn’t given you enough tickets to sell. This will hold you in better stead to negotiate with the promoter. If you’re able to bring fifty people instead of twenty you can negotiate a better night to play; or even better you can dictate which signed band you want to support.
This can work very well in your bands favour. Things like this will get you noticed by other people and when you are able to tell them of the different places you have played and the people you can bring you will gain more interest. If a local promoter is bringing a band to their club from out of town they are going to need someone local to bring a substantial part of that evenings crowd in. If you are known to be one of those bands then you are most likely going to be that local band playing the venue on that evening.
If you are looking for a label for whatever reason then research the labels that you think will be interested in your sound. Send them copies, emails and messages and don’t stop pestering them until you receive some kind of response. It is most likely that these people have a pile of CDs that have been sent to them that they haven’t had a chance to get through yet. Keen people want to work with keen people and they are only going to listen to your music if you pester them and ask them and keeping plugging away at them – something will click and they’ll realise that you are serious about your music. How many times have you heard someone say they sent someone something but had no response? That’s because they didn’t pester that person for the response.
Remember that nothing just happens over night and a lot of opportunities will not simply fall into your lap. It is hard work trying to get off the ground and get recognised but hard work ultimately will pay off. You may never get signed or become massive but it shouldn’t be about that – it should be about your passion for music and the love what the art you are creating. This doesn’t mean to say that you cannot be successful.