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Promoting Your Band
By Chris Long
One of the most productive and most fun things that an unsigned artist (or band) can do to further his career is to work on finding new and imaginative ways to promote and market his music to the public. But before we go any further, you need to know that promotion and marketing consist of a lot more than passing out flyers and talking smack at your favorite watering hole.
Chris "Hot Rod" Long (aka Chris Ellington), is now the manager of the platinum act Crossfade (which he found through TAXI). Chris was Special Events Marketing Rep for the Los Angeles Times. A former music journalist, concert promoter and A&R Manager for the now defunct Chameleon Records, Long has been a member of the TAXI A&R staff since 1994
Music, like New Coke or a Chevy Suburban, is a product that needs to be marketed properly if its to be accepted. While most companies have the challenge of marketing their products to the world at large, you, as an unsigned artist, need only be worried about reaching a much smaller segment of society—those in the music community.
But, as you already know, with the exception of the Spice Girls, marketing campaigns don't usually make people want to go out and buy records. Great songs and new musical ideas do! So, before you start spending money, spend a little time in the studio making sure that what you are putting out there is a quality product (see New Coke).
One of the best ways of promoting yourself is through live performances. It's a surefire way to sell your product (your music), promote your band and earn additional money by marketing your merchandise (CDs, Cassettes, T-Shirts, etc). Though it's not always possible to hang out with the right people who will help you get a good gig, there are other, more ingenious ways of getting a good booking.
When I was growing up in a small town in Virginia, some of my friends were having trouble getting their band booked in the Richmond club circuit. After a little brainstorming, they decided to do a "Day In The Park" concert to raise money for a local children's charity and to play for their friends as well. After getting coverage in no less than five community newspapers, the band had to turn down gigs in both Richmond and Roanoke. A small step, but one in the right direction!
Another Virginia-based band couldn't buy a gig until their imaginative "Captive Audience" tour of local juvenile detention homes landed them on the six o' clock news and garnered them a Certificate of Achievement from the Governor. After that, it was gigs galore!
Now based in Los Angeles, Rude Awakening just released a three-CD boxed set on a European indie label and will be touring that continent for the second time very shortly.
Although flyers are a great way to promote, I don't know many people who look at a flyer more than once. But what if you could put that same important band info on another product—say a bottle opener, refrigerator magnet, matchbook or the newly-invented CD openers? They last a lot longer than flyers, are more useful and just as cost effective. Every bottle I've opened during the past five years has reminded me that Bottom 12's "Shitfaced & Pissed Off" CD was a vastly overlooked record.
Another nifty promotional idea is to set up a band Hotline. Not only is this a great way to get messages on the down-low from your girlfriend (I doubt that your wife would let her call the house), but it's also a great buzz building opportunity. Simply put your Hotline number on all of your promotional material and always encourage fans and friends to call. Use a snippet of your latest song as the message and let people know about upcoming shows and other band events. If you also mail your promo items to A&R Reps, they might call and like what they hear.
The Internet, although available in only 1% of all homes worldwide, is another way to reach fans. But don't count on that Albanian web surfer to make it to your town for the next gig. Unless your band is established on a regional level, there are more useful ways to focus your website.
Hopefully, you've now realized, that promoting and marketing your band, although not as much fun as turning up to 10 and blowing down the walls, is an integral part of becoming a successful artist.
Whereas TAXI's job is to get your music to the right people, the purpose of promoting and marketing is to help create a buzz and gain some much needed recognition for your act. And for an up and coming artist, nothing is more rewarding than a little recognition.