Getting online press coverage

When you release an album, an EP, a music video, or have an important show event coming up that your fans should know about, as well as future fans and industry people, it is important to get coverage! In addition to promotion by you the press is very important for awareness. Online exposure especially, since that’s where most people get their news nowadays. There are many outlets all over the country and all over the world who do reviews, features, premieres, and interviews on indie artists and bands. There are also plenty of people online who are interested in listening, watching & reading about music stories, discovery get new artists or hearing about tours from known and unknown artists. Many magazines and newspapers have the majority of their stories available online now, whether they still print physically or not, and a lot of them now have their own music blogs.

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Things to get press coverage for:

⁃Important upcoming shows, tours, charity events, free events or appearances

⁃New album, New EP, or New single

⁃New music video

⁃Any important news item regarding your band/music

-Reviews

-New Tour dates

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The most important thing about getting press is: LEAD TIME & PLANNING!

*Tip & Examples: Let’s say you have an EP coming out in two months but no shows booked. Consider booking a release show near or on the EP release date. You could offer a local music blog a new song off the EP as a premiere on their site before it comes out. That way, the blogger can promote and mention your EP and your show to hype your audience and get people ready for the new music.

After your release, consider shooting a music video for a single. You could reach out to a local music blogger for a premiere. They can also mention your local show dates in the post… or you could consider approaching a national music blog for the premiere or online magazine for a review. If you have a tour coming up, you could tie it in with that as well! The ideas are endless.

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When pitching to online press, it’s important to keep in mind how to reach out properly:

⁃Send an e-mail to the official e-mail of the site or blog - usually listed in the “Contact” section on a website or will have a spot for “Submissions.”

⁃Address the interviewer or individual who is covering your story in a polite manner, and send all the important info in a very clear, concise and organized way.

-Keep the subject simple - or think of some clever wordings for your subject lines.

⁃Send your pitch 2-3 months in advance (This is just a suggestion as 5 weeks is a typical deadline for physical press, but online will vary site to site).

⁃If you don’t receive a response in a week-ten days, try following up.

⁃Keep in mind the audience of the blog/site/press you are reaching out to, would this audience appropriately suit your sound/vibe?

-Tip: The Hype Machine (http://hypem.com) is a great site that collects articles and you can search bands you think you sound like and find the related blogs that might be a great fit to contact.

⁃Reach out to press in the area you are from, or the place you play the most, and if you have any shows coming up in other areas, reach out to press there too!

-Reach out to national and international sites for interviews, features and reviews too.

⁃If one site is doing a feature for a new music video, or a premiere of a song, sometimes you can only limit this to one for the “Official Feature” of it. Ask if it is unclear - or if it’s possible to get multiple outlets to cover the same thing if it’s offering different things. This will vary and most blogs like to be the FIRST & THE ONLY ONE TO PREMIERE IT.

⁃Once you get a feature or any sort of coverage on a blog, be sure to promote it! Thank the person who worked on the press for you - fans will love to read all about it and share it with their friends.

-The difference between a “Feature,” “Premiere,”and “Review”

A “Feature” is an article or blurb devoted to the treatment of a particular work for promotional purposes.

A “Premiere” is the FIRST showing of a piece of work, usually includes some notes on the work from the writer.

A “Review” is a publication with critical articles about a piece of work.

-Tip: if you or your band has some money saved you can consider paying and hiring a PR company who already has relationships with blogs and magazines. That way you have a professional (who does this every day) helping you. Both ways work though and just because you hire a Publicist unfortunately things are not guaranteed.

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Typically a publicity campaign can run from $500-2500+ a month and can get more expensive the more high profile the outlets you’re going after. If you’re ever unsure ask the PR Company or publicist to provide a list of clients or ask around to any friends whom may have worked with companies to get feedback.

Tip: Where to search for press outlets, try google searching ‘the city’ your playing and ‘magazine‘, ‘Music Magazine’, ‘Music Blog’ or ‘news paper’ (example: Los Angeles Music Blog’. Recommended Site:http://www.abyznewslinks.com/ (this site lists news media outlets by city & state). 

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Merch (physical and digital)

Before you even consider going on the road touring, you might want to consider asking yourself who are you and what is your product? Aside from your amazing live show, what are you supporting? What is the product you’re selling? If you want to expand your fanbase and your connection to them -  both show goers and fans on social media, you will want to have something to sell that they can buy. Once you start touring it’s going to be a MUST - especially because selling your merch product will help pay and sustain your life on the road. Your merch is so important!

Merch is the music recorded onto CDs, vinyl, or cassettes that represent your brand. It’s download cards, t-shirts with your band or name, buttons, stickers and other thoughtful items with your art and logo. Things that someone who enjoys your music would want to purchase and bring home with them. At shows there will usually always (with the exception of some benefit shows) be a spot for you to sell your merch. If there isn’t, bring a table and make your own! Or at the venue ask someone who works there where you can set up your merch.

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When it comes to creating merch, think about what would make the most sense for your band to sell. Do you have songs and have they been recorded? Putting them into a physical form would probably generate sales! Along with having your music easily accessible for sale in the digital form online (via digital distribution that can be released through Tunecore or CDBaby or http://Bandcamp.com for example). Shirts are another important part of merch displays as people love wearing them and buying new ones. Sometimes even if a person doesn’t know your music but the design is cool and it translates to them, they will buy it! If you have a band logo or image that represents your music, or even a saying, or a drawing, consider putting this on your product. You can screenprint, find local shirt printing companies, or even paint your own that you can sell (suggested price is somewhere between $10 and $20). You can even look into wholesale shirt companies to buy them in bulk at a cheaper price per unit.

*tip: the fashion / merchandise districts in cities often have wholesale t-shirt businesses. They might even work with local screen printers too, that they can put you intouch! Even consider going to thrift stores & getting cheap one-off tees & printing on them.

Think of some clever items that you could sell that wouldn’t be necessarily expected. Sometimes this can generate a lot of interest from people stopping by your merch table. Think: necklaces, bracelets, lighters, scarves, bigger buttons, patches, bags, sunglasses, hats, one of kind jackets etc.

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*Tip: It is also helpful to have some form of merch that everyone can grab for free - in most cases this is either a sticker or a small button. These items don’t cost too much money to make, and everyone loves something free.

Once you’ve got a few physical merch items to sell, consider making an online merch store so people can order products online and have them shipped when there not able to make it to your shows. This is not difficult to set up!

*Tip: Squarespace.com offers great sites that you can customize and add a commerce section to. Facebook also offers a section on Music Pages and there are also a lot of other independent companies where you can sell merch. Once you have a site displaying your products, making posts about your online store can generate more sales and interest. Making one of kind or limited edition merch items can also get people excited to buy something that is unique and rare!

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Helpful Tips:

-cost of a one color design t-shirt run of 32-40 shirts could cost you between $250-300. Sometimes there’s an additional screen fee for t-shirts added in the cost or on top of costs usually running $15-30

-cost of vinyl could run 200 LPs for close to $2000 & cost of 100 tapes could cost close to $200

-Some suggested for sale pricing (depending on design & cost to make): Buttons ($1-$5), Stickers (free or $1-5), CDS ($5-15), Tapes ($5-10), Vinyl ($20-30), 7” ($5-10), One of kind items $25-100 (like a jacket or bag), patches ($1-5)

⁃Keep your merch in line with your image, colors, and sound

⁃Keep an inventory of your merch so you know what you have and if you’ll need more

⁃Make note of the most popular items, and restock once it gets low

⁃When you’re setting up merch at a show, keep in mind other bands have merch too, so don’t take up all the space!

⁃Don’t be afraid to push your merch - at the end of the day, merch is what fuels and funds a lot of bands

⁃Don’t always go the cheapest way out if you don’t have to - invest in quality shirts and items, and people will be more likely interested

⁃Charge more than what it costs you to make the merch

⁃Keep the merch organized and know where everything is, where each size shirt is, so it makes selling quicker and easier

⁃Don’t leave vinyl in a hot car! They WILL warp

⁃If your vinyl does warp, consider making arts and crafts with it that you can sell (clocks, bowls, hats, be creative!)

http://www.printrunner.com & http://www.stickerguy.com are great and cheap for quality stickers in bulk of various sizes and shapes

-http://www.halfpricebuttons.com offers great custom button

-http://www.hollywooddisc.com offers great pricing on CD manufacturing

-http://www.rainborecords.com for vinyl

-Bringing your own lights or lamps for your merch display is always a good idea! (wireless is always easier)

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Setting Up a Release

After playing some local shows, establishing yourself on social media, telling all your friends and new fans about your band or project, then planning recording, going into the studio, and finishing your first recording, (Single, EP or Full Length) you are probably ready to release some material! Even if you haven’t played out live yet and no one knows about the project you’ve been writing for or practicing with - releasing a song could be a great way to let everybody know about it as these days (depending on genre & direction) there are dozens of ways, both traditional and new school, to release material.

Whether it’s a single, an EP, or a full length album, the process could be looked at the same. You have the material, shows, you’re building your name and your image / music brand, and the object is to line up all the pieces so they work together. Getting the order of tasks so they start building and continue the building momentum is key! We’ll go over a few ideas in this post - Though keep in mind these ideas aren’t the only ways to do a release.

Before you release a song or an album (EP or LP), you’ll have to do some preparation and planning. Setting up a release is a lot like recording pre-production, but on a different front - time-line, social media, content, online promotion, digital distribution, and coordinating with numerous people. It’s pretty much thinking in terms of a musical “to do” list in order to get your newly recorded song(s) out into the world - and letting people know about it!

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Before setting up a release you could ask yourself these questions regarding the material itself:

⁃ do you feel really proud of the song(s), the direction, and want to share it?

*you will be the one pitching and promoting the material regardless if you hire someone to help with PR, Marketing or Radio promo (you want believe in it 1000%)

⁃ is it representative of you and what your sound is?

*make sure before you release music that the image and the music represents you in the best way

⁃ has your music gone over really well live, and has it gotten a good crowd reaction?

⁃ is it sounding tight between you and your bandmates when you play these songs live together?

- did you pick the right songs for a release?

*Ex. If you recorded 5 or 6 songs or even 3 but 2 don’t feel right (maybe a couple have a different vibe direction than the others or the performance isn’t as good as it could be) don’t release them yet do a single or a smaller EP of only your best work!

*No filler!! These days there are so many artists, so many songs and so much content overloaded online that it is important to remember if you work really hard on your songs and what you do it will show and eventually pay off. The cream rises to the top!

Once you have decided on the amount of songs, preparing your album/single artwork would be the next step (or could happen simultaneously).

- will your music be a digital release, physical release, or both?

*this is a big factor because of art design and manufacturing, as well as budget!

Digital Art - you will most likely only need a cover for the single or album, and a few different versions of the art that you could use for online promotion.

(Example: Social media promo pics, including posts ‘coming soon’ & ‘out now’ and cover photos)

Digital Distribution - there are many digital ways to release music, here’s a few:

Tunecore, CD Baby (these sites distribute your songs to iTunes, Amazon, Spotify & many others for a small yearly fee & will send you money monthly)

Others: BandCamp, SoundCloud (Free streaming)

Physical Art - This is more costly but imperative if you’re a live band so people can buy your CDs at shows as well as online.

*you’ll need to decide on a design (pocket, plastic case with insert, fold out, 8 panel, there are many options, and at different prices) but you’ll need to figure out your budget by researching companies to find out how much printing is, how many they can produce for your budget, and how long it will take to manufacture. You’ll also need to get templates from the manufacturer (often you download these from their site, for digital the distributor usually states the requirements)

*check out http://www.discmakers.com and http://www.hollywooddisc.com for free quotes and prices.

You will also need to get your ISRC codes from your masterer - or these can be created by the online distribution outlet you choose as they will make them for you.

*ISRC codes are used to track sales and if you have them you will enter them in a form when you’re signing up to distribute your music.

With this information you can start figuring out a release date, timeline, as well as accounting/budget (art, manufacturing, distribution etc)

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Here comes coordination and timing! The most important part!

- you’ll want to give yourself a good window of time to create the product (once you have the finished songs you’ll need to make a deadline with the graphic designer you’re working with and line up the time it will take for printing or online distribution)

- promote the product before its release

- release the product

- sell the product

- promote the product consistently thereafter

Giving yourself a large window of time will give you a deadline to get it done, it will generate excitement about the release, and will give you ample time to prepare.

Let’s say your window of time is 5 or 6 months for a record (with the suggestion of a minimum of 8-6 weeks for a single). Your deadline, or day of release is at the end of that time frame (release day for new music is Friday).

Additionally, if you have some extra budget, you can consider independently hiring out a company to do a collage and/or specialty radio campaign (typically radio campaigns start 4-8 weeks ahead of release), most campaign companies will have you print up an additional 100-200 physical CDs that they will mail to radio stations (or you will, depending on the budget) to you’ll have to account for additional costs. If you’re doing this, getting you’re music to the campaign people at least 6-8 weeks ahead of time (depending on length) before the release is super important. Coordinating with the organizers of the campaign at this time is imperative.

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You can also consider hiring a PR company to pitch your music to blogs, media outlets, magazines, newspapers, and TV. There are many PR companies both big and small. Typically a PR campaign runs $1000+ a month. At a minimum, most companies like to start working a release 6-4 weeks before (sometimes more depending on the release as well as company or campaign length).

If you don’t have a budget but have time and a good work ethic, you can do your own PR (which we’ll go over in another future post!). But typically news and media outlets need time in advance for printing, featuring and/or premiering (of course not all online music blogs are the same but this is a general time frame) are 4-6 weeks.

A few check list items for you or your band in preparing for the release (5-2 months ahead of time) you will:

- make a budget / keep track of your expenses and know how much you have to put into your music

- set up and ready artwork idea/find a graphic designer

- set up distribution

- consider coordinating and setting up a release show in your home town

- make an online posting plan (telling your fans and friends that a new release is on its way - tell them what day it’s coming out)

- create and share cohesive artwork to go along with the release on all your social networks, get people involved through social media in a creative way

- set up PR and Radio campaigns - or If you’re doing it own your own, put the song or record up on a private soundcloud link that will be used for sharing with blogs/newspapers/media outlets/reviewers as well as other industry people a couple months before the release to help generate interest.

- share the reviews/features/premieres/response online that you get from the campaign to further excite your audience (this is a huge part of momentum and activity) and use it as online posting content.

⁃ consider making a list of Spotify playlists you want to pitch the song to once it’s out

- consider making a music video for your most popular live song (or if you haven’t played live, consider getting some feedback on what your strongest song is) that you can release around the time of the album release to build excitement and activity!

*Tips: you can try to get premiere for the video, or after the song has been released consider doing a video release show.

Other factors and tips for a new release to take into consideration are:

⁃ make sure, just like the music, that the album/single artwork is strong and matches you/your band.

- maybe consider a new photoshoot / art direction for a release theme which can be tied into marketing.

(For example, say you have a single called ‘Red Rose.’ Maybe you and your bandmates could do a photo shoot and wear all red colors near a rose garden. Maybe for building up for the release you could do social media pictures of red roses in different locations! Or live, wear these outfits. Whatever it is be creative and true to you!)

- sign up with a songwriters society (ASCAP or BMI, SESAC* *is invite only) and register your song or songs so you can get paid when your song is played on the radio.

- sign up for soundexchange.com and register your song or songs so you can get paid for online streaming.

Setting up a release successfully comes down to preparation, promoting your product, and finding the right outlets to help keep pushing it forward. You can pay lots of money for companies to do this work, but you can also do it yourself! Believe in the work you’re putting out and tell everybody about it! Setting it up with ample time to prepare for promotion and to generate more response and hype is going to be integral and well worth the wait!

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​Booking & Setting Up a Show

A lot goes into booking a show for an artist or band from start to finish. From rehearsing and coordinating to online and grassroots promotion, and from negotiating and communicating about availability to confirming other acts for the bill (whether you or your band puts the bill together or booker does - someone does the work).

The terminology regarding shows can sometimes be confusing for someone just starting out (words like: hold, load in, line check, draw, room cap, cover etc.). Bookers will often ask questions like “what’s your market history?” and “what’s your draw?” or “how many people can you bring out to the show?”

Here’s a brief overview of some terms:

Hold - Sometimes artists or agents will put a “hold” on a date when their working on routing / booking a tour and waiting for other dates to confirm so in that case venues will put you on “hold” if they have other acts who have reached out before you for the specific date you reached out for. Sometimes the booker will tell you have a second or third hold, and if the other bands who have that date reserved end up cancelling it, the night will go to you or your band.

Load-in: The booker will give you a load-in time for the show, this will vary from venue to venue, but will generally be about an hour before doors open. This is the time you bring your gear in and set it near the stage or onstage before the show.

Line-check: This is another word for “soundcheck” but it’s more of a quicker one right before the band plays. Rather than doing a full 20 minute or hour long soundcheck before the crowd gets there, often for headliners, the opening bands will just do a line-check and check their levels minutes before their set.

Draw: A draw is how many people you can bring to a show. A booker or venue will ask this so they can figure how many people will likely be there buying drinks, cheering you on, and paying the cover to get in. This could also determine a guarantee you’ll be paid, bar % or door deal you’ll get. Bars and venues rely on this draw sometimes to cover their expenses for the night (security, sound people, door people, bar tenders). They want to know that hosting you is going to benefit them.

Room cap: “Room Capacity” This is how many people the room/venue holds according to fire safety laws.

Cover: Door price /  Ticket price / How much it costs to get in.

A lot of people are involved in a live show. In addition to your band and the audience, there is usually a few other people involved: The promoter &/or booker, a sound person, a door person, other acts (that a promoter, band or you will have added to the bill) and the people who work at the venue.

First, the booker is who you’ll have to reach out to for a potential gig. This e-mail is usually listed on a venue’s website contact form.

Helpful Tips:

- If there are two different booker contact e-mails: local & national - email the most appropriate one

- Address the booker by their name if you see there’s a particular person

- Introduce yourself, your act or bands name (if you are one)with a brief paragraph & include a short description of your band / comparisons and that you’re looking to book a show

- Pick a few dates to send as options for booker (prior if you’re in a band make sure all members could do these days as possible options, some people may need to get off work or change their schedules)

- Include a link to any CURRENT single or album & some live video if you have available.

- Include you or your bands career highlights (like if you have been featured on any blogs, news papers, magazines or on any radio, tv) & where you have played in the area (list a few venues & locals acts you have played with)

- Include your contact info & social media links

The booker will ideally get back to you (usually within a few days but sometimes a couple weeks, if not, try e-mailing again/follow up. Try following up a week-10 days later) and let you know if the date is available or sometimes they will recommend other venues that may be a better fit or other possible dates if the one requested is already taken. If the date is open and your band is given the gig, the booker may ask you to find other locals acts to support the night. Local bands will help bring in a bigger crowd especially if you’re not from the area. If you’re booking a show outside of your hometown, it’s integral to get local supporting bands. You can find other bands on sites such as http://reverberation.com, facebook music groups, local music blogs to the specific city, venue website’s show calendars, and fliers other artists have hung up at venues or coffeeshops nearby. Also google searches can be helpful by looking up city names, band & genres tags. Sometimes bookers will also have a recommendation band list, so always ask incase they do!

Reaching out to other bands is similar to reaching out to the booker: be specific, be respectful, and include all the info in a clear and concise way!

Sometimes and ideally, a promoter or venue of a show or venue will help push this newly booked show out to online outlets and upcoming show listings. There won’t always be a promoter, but even when there is, it’s important to do your own promotion. There are many simple ways of getting your friends, family, and soon-to-be fans to your gigs. Sometimes venues, bars, coffeeshops, or houses that host events will have a built-in crowd but you can’t rely on this. That’s where online promotion and grassroots promotion come in! Once your show is booked and you’ve found other fitting acts to join the bill, make a flier and an event page on facebook and push it out to everyone you can! Give yourself a good month to promote and remind people, in person, and on social media.

Also ask the booker if they have a press list. Often they do! This can be helpful as they may have good contacts at local radio stations, blogs, and news outlets who you can email/reach out to help promote your show. Invite them to your show or ask if they can feature you, do an interview or live in-studio performance (radio) before the show to help get people out :)

Once you’re at your show, it’s important to know the door person’s and the sound person’s role.

The door person will sometimes tally how many people come into the venue and take the cover from anyone entering the show. The sound person will do the soundcheck/line check for bands, and ask you what your set up is. *Sometimes when booking (depending on venue, a booker will request you send an input list & stage plot for production so they know what to expect as far as your setup ahead of time).  They will want to know what you need on stage as far as instruments, microphones, and necessary cables, etc. to get the best sound. You can tell this person how high you want the levels in your monitors, and if you’re singing - whether you want reverb added to your voice or not. Don’t expect them to read your mind! They’re there to make it sound the best it possibly can.

At whatever level you are at, it doesn’t matter, you have to start somewhere! If you are just starting out just know even bigger artists who have been playing for years also have their own booking or show / touring struggles. So regardless of the level, hopefully this post and some of these suggested steps and tips might help making booking easier!

Additional Tips:

- http://www.indieonthemove.com is a great database for bands and musicians starting out looking to book their next gig. There are listings on this site of music venues all over the country, and they will even tell you how many people fit in the room, what genres they host, and who to contact to book a show. We would highly recommend checking this site out and becoming a member! It will help you locally as well as country-wide once you’re ready to take your act on the road! The benefits of this site are great examples of what you need in order to book shows.

Photo: Samuel Bendix  

Photo: Samuel Bendix  

Setting up your social media sites

Being an artist in this day and age is surely not what it was decades ago or even just a few years ago. As we know, the internet is now where the main focus is. It’s a constant changing world of it’s own, spouting out new forms of social media platforms and new avenues of connection all the time. These doors are opening up avenues for artists and fans alike allowing us to grow our brand and art quickly, with a plethora of new ways every day to reach large groups of people everywhere all at once.

It’s pretty crazy how we can now find a venue’s name, address, and contact info within minutes. We can even research our dream producer, label, and sometimes find the right contact e-mail or Facebook profile to reach them. We can and should use these avenues to their fullest potential! All it takes is just a bit of understanding of the different platforms and methods to get the most out of them. Just like learning your instrument - social media and marketing today is an instrumental tool to help your music brand be successful.

Anyone reading this is probably already familiar (to an extent) with Youtube, Instagram, Spotify, Facebook Live, and Twitter. These are just a handful of the main sites that are constantly growing with the times and allowing artists to reach their fans, and fans to reach their favorite artists. These sites are all free and all have space for images, bios, content, and direct ways to connect with potential fans, bookers, industry people, and other bands and artists (of every level).

When setting up one’s Profile page for any of these sites it’s important to take time to provide good content for the core page. Posts aside, make sure the profile and cover photo are representative of the band. Consider branding your image across all platforms too so it becomes something signature and it’s how people recognize you. People see these first, so make them stand out. Having a good bio is important, and on Facebook it can be lengthier than Twitter or Instagram. Describe who you are and what you sound like. Add your contact info and links to your other sites to cross promote where it makes sense. When you’re first building, try connecting with other bands, people &/or brands online who you like by liking posts and interacting through your page. If you want to maximize your reach and effort then always post your shows and publish event pages through the music page to bring people there. Invite people and let them know you care about who you are and what you do! Take advantage of the apps within the page - you can set up your own merch store, you can import your upcoming shows, you can promote important posts for just $5 to reach more fans, etc. Make sure you invite all your friends to like the page so they can stay updated!

Twitter and Instagram are a bit simpler than facebook, focusing more on the postings rather than the core music page. So make sure your posts are relevant to what you’re doing and are strong. Keep people updated and keep them engaged - this is the main goal! Post often but don’t overdo it. If it helps, consider making a weekly schedule to plan out the time you spend doing posts and communicating online. If you have a lot going on in you or your bands schedules this is helpful as well as finding a natural rhythm to when people are engaging.

The use of hashtags on a post can reach people far and beyond. Users can now follow specific hashtags, so be specific with them in choosing them. Social media platforms work hand in hand as well. When you sponsor a post on facebook, and you link your instagram or twitter account, the sponsored post goes out to your followers who are within the demographics you set, and this can double, or triple its viewership.

That direct artist to fan contact is what helps us build a grassroots fan base to something far beyond that, when people are interested in the upcoming shows, new releases, live photos, and happenings.

Having a place to go to see all the news and upcoming events from an artist one follows is extremely important. Having multiple places to go and see different, new, exciting things will keep people engaged. It’s important to keep these sites current, relevant, and cohesive. Contact with your fans can build tenfold when you maximize an incredible live show and quality music with your image and activity online.

Having all the pieces is a lot of work, but your activity online can really boost your career as an artist!

Tips:

-Be present on all main social media sites, and post differing content, (videos, live videos, pictures, press shots, event pages, posters, etc.)

-Keep all sites current - When something isn’t up to date, the fans will know

-Be conscious of the time of of day you’re posting and what time gets the most reactions

-Keep your pictures clear and high quality, don’t just post for the sake of posting

-Connect with other bands and artists as much as you can through your music pages

-Respond if you can to your fans if they reach out to you on these sites!

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Tales From the Road Part 2 (with tips)

The First Night of my First Tour

The first night of my first ever tour was in Burlington, VT. My band set out for our first show of a small week-long run around New England with all our gear in our Ford Escape. It was a great show in Burlington, we played late, made some friends, sold some merch, and the college town downtown was hopping. We loaded our gear back into the car and went back into the venue to watch the headlining performer. We locked the doors - from what we recall - and loaded everything safely into the vehicle around 12:30am. We finish watching the show and about an hour later we headed back to the car to find the door wide open and the inside lights on! Unfortunately, while unattended and while we were inside enjoying the show, someone found a way in the car. The intruder rummaged through our belongings and took my bass and my bass amp from our vehicle. I couldn’t believe it. The first night of my first tour, someone stole my bass. We notified police and the venue owner and we drove around town until the sun came up hoping to find it laying in someone’s yard or on the street. No luck, and we were beginning to feel delirious from being up for so long. We headed to the hotel and were trying to figure out how the rest of the tour was going to work without a bass. After a very long restless night I accepted that my bass was gone forever and we headed to Western MA for our next show. Thankfully a kind member of the first band let me borrow his gear and we were able to play our set. That night we were staying in Western MA (next day’s show was NYC) we were still trying to sort out what to do about the missing bass scenario. Unexpectedly after the show we got a call from the venue owner back in Burlington about a call they received from a mother reporting her son, who had stolen a bass and an amp from a band at the venue. The bartender answered this call and unfortunately did not get any info, so the call went untraceable. We knew it was our equipment the mother was reporting so we began to feel hopeful that we’d get it back! Early the next morning instead of heading to NYC we drove back to VT to see what we could do about the bass. No one called or knew how to retrace that mother’s phone call. We went and waited at the venue for a few hours but had to eventually leave to get to our show which was now about a five hour drive away. We left, again accepting we wouldn’t get the bass back, and headed for our show in NYC. We decided to do a stripped down version of the songs that night and had a great acoustic show on St. Mark’s St. There were only a handful of shows left - but we managed to do them all without a bass or by borrowing gracious bassists’ equipment at the shows. The kindness of strangers can sometimes come out of nowhere and mean so much!

Unexpectedly on the second to last day of tour we got another call from the venue in VT saying the bass and amp arrived safe and sound and would be driven to my house in MA by the end of the week. I really couldn’t believe it. I felt so grateful that somehow someone connected to the person who took the bass decided to do the right thing! Not only that but a performer who was playing that night while on tour was passing through my town the next day, and dropped it off for me to pick up the day I returned from tour. I went my whole first tour without my bass, or amp, but through the kindness of strangers, a little luck, and a miracle, it was all okay. Now at shows I am sure not to leave gear unattended, or in a car that I may or may not have locked! Lessons learned!

Tips:

- Keep an eye on your equipment at all times.

- Double check that you locked the car, hotel room door or anywhere else where equipment is left.

- Consider not loading all of your expensive gear into your car until you’re leaving the venue.

- Try to always be aware of your surroundings and if you’re in a place you don’t know.

- Travel as lightly as you can - the less you carry the less you have to misplace or worry about.

- There are great people in every town who are there to help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

- If there’s ever a scenario to help another band out with sharing backline do it! The kindness can go so far!

- If you can, always stay to see the headliner, even if it’s past your bedtime to support the whole show and other bands

- Support your bandmates on tour - you are a unit and should be there for one another through the thick and thin.

- Unexpected things can happen on the road, like anywhere, and sometimes you’re not prepared. Try to go with the flow if you can. Remember there is a solution for everything! There is always some type of work around!

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Pre-Production and preparing for recording

You and/or your band are sounding like a solid unit, you’ve practiced multiple times on a regular basis, and you’ve possibly even played your music out in some venues. The songs are sounding good and you’re really happy with how they’ve come together - the next step could very well be stepping into the studio to record!

The first step for preparing for recording your songs is pre-production. Pre-production is one of the most important things an artist or band can do and have an understanding of, especially in this day and age when both money and time are such factors. Just like first promoting your show and then playing the show happens in two steps, so should pre-production & recording.

Pre-production is the time you spend to prepare your songs, practicing your parts as a band or artist, checking arrangements, breaking the songs down so you make sure everyone is playing the same notes, checking all the musical parts, practicing harmonies, refining lyrics, making sure the key is right, finding the tempos (whether you’ll play to a click or not, depending on your music) before entering the studio.

*A lot of us artists have some sort of home studio or computer recording setup available to us, and even with technology at our fingertips (which is a great luxury we have these days!) it can be overlooked. There are many opportunities to take your time to figure things out on your own for finding the best result - so take advantage of these things so when you spend your time and money on a great studio or great producer you are prepared!

When practicing your songs, you could even time yourself and see how long it takes you to set up all the instruments, play through the song(s) you want to record, *plus factor in the engineer mic’ing instruments and testing sounds (that will give you an idea of how long it might take in the studio to set up even before tracking). Find the BPM (beats per minute) of the song and try practicing to a click track, this will further tighten up the band and the song, speed up time in the studio, and when it comes to tracking it (especially via the computer), will give everyone a guide, allow the producer and everyone involved some more flexibility and creativity to build the song into something really cohesive and wonderful!

Tips:

- There are multiple tempo / click apps (try TEMPO) available for free or for a couple dollars online for iPhones or Smartphones that you can tap tempos out to.

- When you find a tempo for your song try it a couple beats slower and faster to see which sounds best!

- Try using a Phone or Computer mic to record your band or your songs to see how songs are sounding! This is a great way even if it’s rough to hear your songs.

- Typically full production indie band songs can usually be fully tracked in 1-2 days (of course depending on a lot of factors: if a band or artist is well rehearsed, instrumentation, style of music, budget)

- Typical studio rates can vary from $250-up (maybe cheaper depending on the place/location)

- Most average studios run $350-700 and up a day in major cities. Sometimes the rate includes the engineer if he or she owns the studio.

- Engineer rates average w/o a studio usually run $150/$250 a day and upward -or- $35 and up an hour

- Assistant rates run usually $100/150 a day

- Typical tracking hours in professional studios run 8-12 hours varying on the studio and engineer rates

Your friends, family, and fans are all going to want to be able to take something home that you created and that they can listen to over and over again. (Plus as a touring artist, CDs are a must have and merch sales help to pay for lodging, gas, and food. Recordings are also important for any band or artist who is serious about wanting to be a professional musician as it is an opportunity for online sales and a way for fans and industry folks who don’t live in the same city or country to hear you.

This is just a small glimpse into preparing for recording but above all, have fun and enjoy the process, learn who you are and what you like as you go - make sure to communicate how you want things to sound when you work with people; the more direction as a band or artist the better. Also, being flexible during the recording process will make things easier and less stressful. In pre-production, if it’s not sounding the way you want, experiment with some different pedals, amps, instruments, or even better - try different things out (second guitar parts, solos, arrangements, drums fills). Have a few great options and a couple ideas you can bring into the studio or to the producer so you can try things until you find your desired sound.

Recording can be a really great process and experience. Like anything though, it can become frustrating or present challenges when you least expect it - especially if you’re not prepared - so doing so will really help! Be patient, and understand that the recording process may take longer at first, but once you get familiar with how it all works, and familiar with a studio, it’ll get faster and become even more fun. Be respectful to the equipment, the people you’re hiring on the songs, whether it’s the engineer, assistant engineer, producer, mixer, etc. or hired players if there are any. They are all working with you to carry out your vision, and it can be a really rewarding experience for everyone when everyone’s on the same page!

  (Photo by Greg Jacobs)

 (Photo by Greg Jacobs)

  (Photo by Doug Batchelder)

 (Photo by Doug Batchelder)

Preparing for a live show

You’ve got your goals, you’ve found your band (or are flying solo), you have some songs, maybe you have some songs recorded (or in the works and ready to test the new material with a audience) and now wondering what is the next step. Live shows! Once you have your first show booked this is something you’ll really need to prepare for and some of these steps you’ll continue to use to prep for in the future as you continue to play more live shows.

So how does one go about bringing their material onto the stage and into these venues? How does one begin in a market, promote and start to make a name for themselves?

Let’s focus on the music and Preparing around that!First you have to make sure that what you’re bringing to the stage is a good representation of how you want to sound and how you want to be received by your audience.


Music: You’re going to want to rehearse with your band, going through all your songs one by one and making sure they sound good. Are all the instruments lining up? Is everyone singing in pitch? Are you getting the right tones out of your amps?

Tips:

- When rehearsing try breaking down the songs instrumentally or just vocals & harmonies or just bass & guitar. Any wrong notes or off parts will stand out! Also this will help tighten everything.

- Practice running the set, time it & make sure it works for the time slot allotted.

- Practice optional transitions into songs if you’re planning not to talk.

- Practice moving and try video taping you or your band rehearsing so you can see how you look.

Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse! Until it sounds good. If it doesn’t sound the way you want it to, then you’re probably not ready for the live show yet. You will know when this moment is!

Stage clothes: (*Refer to what we mentioned in our ‘Intro to Imaging’ entry). The biggest question should be image-wise, does my image / look and represent my music? Does it represent me? Or us? Wear something that sets you apart from the audience. Show that you’re IN the band. Be a unit! Or stand out as an artist. Be and look more than a person who plays on stage with jeans and a t-shirt. What inspires you? Have fun! You could even go to thrift / vintage stores with your bandmates and find some cool, cheap outfits together! Or maybe you have some friends who are clothing designers? Whatever it is - think about it and plan it out.

Tips: Look at magazines, old records, YouTube videos of your favorite artists, look at art! Anything to inspire image.

Banter on stage: Whether you’re a talkative artist or not, and even it if it’s not part of your image to say much, that is fine; but do at least acknowledge and say hello to the crowd and thank them for coming/being there. Your audience, the venue staff, bands, bookers etc., just like you, all took their time to come out and be there. If it’s a new market or new venue, know that your representing yourself and these people are taking their time to listen to you.

Tips:

Without being too rehearsed - so it doesn’t feel unnatural, think of some things to say to the crowd that you can fit between songs. Funny things that happened that day, brief stories behind the songs, ask the crowd how they’re doing, thank them for coming, tell them about the merch you have for sale, tell them about your next show, what you have in the works, thanking the other bands and the promoter who booked you, thanking the venue, be creative! (*Also you don’t have to talk after every song either - this will get tiresome for both you and the crowd. Find a natural flow and read the room!)

Product: You’re going to want to prepare to give your audience something to remember you by. They will want to take home something if they liked your performance. Before you play your show get some stickers made, buttons, wristbands, lighters, or even something small along these lines that are cheap to produce and cheap to sell with your name on it.

Tips:

- If you’re first starting out try a small run of t-shirts to see how they do! You can always print more. You can also try painting them yourself with a print screener or fabric paint.

- If you don’t have a recording finished yet, make sure all your social media sites are up so people can find you in the meantime and you’ll be able to tell them the url at the show.

- You could make a small home demo tape or even just one acoustic song single on a CD that you could give out or make into a free download to give to your new fans. You could also put a couple acoustic videos of songs up online and give out music business cards with your social media links and a link to the videos as well.

Website Tips & Social Media site suggestions:

- Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, SoundCloud, Squarespace (custom websites), Wix, GoDaddy & Register.com

- Merch & Duplicating Sites: Halfpriced Buttons, Sticker Guy, Hollywood Disc, CD Baby

Prep before show tips: Do all the guitars and pedals have charged batteries? Find out what the backline is at venue (do they already have a house drum kit or amps). Make sure to pack your tuner, extra strings, your capo, extra cables that you know work, and that your stage clothes are clean in time for the gig!

Before you step on stage for the first time Ask yourself these questions:

⁃ Are the songs sounding good and is our gear sounding good?

⁃ Have we rehearsed recently? Is the band all on the same page?

⁃ Do we have a setlist that is cohesive and flows nicely?

⁃ Are our instruments in working order and comfortable to play?

⁃Do we look like a band?

⁃ Do we have stage banter/things to say to the audience?

⁃ Do we have a thing or two that is cheap to sell or give away at our march table?

There’s nothing more magical than playing music live and sharing that with people - so put your heart into the process - you probably did when you wrote your first song! Also recall the first time you saw your favorite band or artist live. It was probably a night you’ll never forget - give YOUR crowd that same feeling!

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Photo: Concretegrey  

Photo: Concretegrey