Band Promotion 101

I got asked not long ago what it takes to promote a band. The truth is: not much. With social networking sites taking over our lives, it’s easier than ever to listen to music and to source good bands from bad bands. From a manager’s point of view, it’s been made very easy. The hard part is setting up a show, putting bands on, hoping it will work out and that you recoup your losses. There really isn’t any excuse for promoters, to suck at promotion. But it happens so often.

Obviously, Mannequin Republic is in a great position with a steady of flow of ‘likes’ on Facebook, heaps of followers on Twitter and a cracking website. I’m extremely proud of the website and am constantly surprised at the amount of hits it gets each day.

I used to put on heaps of shows; punk, rock, hardcore, metal, you name it. In recent times I realised that less is more. Why over-saturate the music scene even more? Take a step back, try and work with other promoters and managers where you can.

To make a gig work, you need promotion. Promotion should work at all levels. From promoters, to band managers, down to the bands. In fact the bands are one of the key components to promoting a gig because they are the ones with the ‘fans’. A band’s fanbase isn’t always going to listen to a promoter or a manager. Band promotion is where it starts. A band can’t judge what their fanbase is like just by looking at their own Facebook page because, let’s face it, if you live in Brisbane and your fanbase is in Sydney, well your 2000+ fans aren’t all going to come see you.

Promoters do this a lot and I think bands need to do more of it as well. Start off with simple promotion in the local press magazines. Rave, Time Off, Tsunami Mag, Noise Mag, you name it, there will be gig listings. Most of these listings are FREE. That’s right! As a band you don’t need to spend a buttload of cash on a full page add for every show you do. It would however be wise to save up so your band can put a nice glossy ad in the paper, advertising your CD launch or something like that.

Rave and Time Off in particular have decent rates for indie bands when it comes to CD launch advertising or tour adverts.

But my point is, as a band, source out the different media outlets, see which ones offer free gig listings and list your up coming gigs. I find Faster Louder is a great place to list your gigs because a lot of people hit that site to see what’s on. Brisbane, and I’m sure the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, have all got local media outlets where you can list your gigs.

Another fantastic thing that bands can do is print out flyers. Flyers aren’t really posters. I guess they’re a smaller version of the full size product. Handing out flyers at various shows when you’re out and about is an option, but most of the time, on a Saturday night, no one gives a toss what you’re giving them and will more than likely throw it out.

An option with such flyers is to print a thousand or more and leave them in stores in your local entertainment precinct. We often get flyers printed on a low quality card rather than straight paper. People are more likely to hold onto a card than a piece of paper. It’s like business cards, if you have a great looking card on excellent quality card stock, the person you give it to is more likely to keep it. Paper is easy to dispose of and flyers and cards of poor quality often end up at the bottom of a handbag or backpack.

Leave your gig flyers in the independent CD stores. You will be amazed how fast they go. Maybe even ask the shop attendant if they’d be kind enough to pop a flyer into a customer’s bag with their purchase.

Clothing stores, food places, and even venues are great places to put your flyers. One key thing to remember when making your flyer: make sure people can read it. Don’t try and cram every last god damn detail onto a little piece of paper. Get to the point, let the people know what the price is, where it is and at what time. That’s all people really care about. An eye catching yet simple design would make it the perfect promo tool.

This gets me to the next thing: Online promo. Not just listing gigs on different media outlets. Simply plugging a show on Facebook is a big factor. Create an event on Facebook, invite your friends and tell your fans. Remind them from time to time, but don’t spam people because that’d piss them off and they most probably wouldn’t come to see you.

If it’s a gig that you are running, or even if it isn’t, think of ways you could get more people to the show. Offer a competition, “best throwdown wins a shirt from us” or “worst dressed person in the venue gets a free EP and a shirt”. Basic stuff like that. Always remember, people love free stuff. Humans are suckers for free things. If it has free on it, they will want a piece of the action. If you feel you need to include alcohol, order some cheap shotglasses, get some small stickers you printed up (we’ll get to that soon), and  have a shot drinking competition. If your fans love you, they will do anything for you. If that means getting stupidly drunk for a shirt, then hell yeah, why not?

Some other basic things for bands to remember as far as self-promo is concerned:

Source cheap, but good quality, avenues for threads. Asia is an option for shirts and clothing but the shipping is often a huge problem. It’s hell expensive in some cases. The USA is a fantastic alternative. Not only is it cheap over there, the dollar is so strong right now you’d be stupid not to go and get your design printed State-side.

As much as I like to support local designers and printers, overseas is simply cheaper. Why pay $15-20 per shirt when you can get it for $3-6 overseas?

Also, get stickers. They’re as good as a business card. They’re not necessarily expensive, either. Have a sticker with your logo, and a website that fans can go and listen to your music.

Make sure you promote the gig AND the venue. Venues are taken for granted these days and unfortunately there aren’t as many to go around either. Respect the place where you play, whether it be the Tivoli or a gutter. You’re in a position that many people dream about. I feel that it is so easy to create a band and gather thousands of “likes” on Facebook these days that the actual idea of having a band is taken for granted as well.

Promote your band and the venue you play in because you want people to come to see you. Also respect the venue and the bands around you.

When the time comes to play that gig you’ve been promoting, remember to respect your peers. Respect the bands playing before you and/or after you. They would want the same sort of respect. With people working as well as gigging, it can be hard for bands to stick around later in the night for the others and the headline act. The kind gesture of staying and watching the other bands who are on the bill with you has slowly disappeared, which is a shame.

Remember to thank your fans and the audience at the end of the show. Often the best promo a band can do after a show is mingle with the people who’ve come for the gig. Leaving right after you finish playing can be seen as disrespectful and at the same time not really beneficial for your band. Thank people, ask them what they thought. It’s the best form of feedback and often the only form you will get. At least then you may live life with your head not stuck in the clouds. For younger and newer bands that no one has heard about, this is a must. Learn from your peers, learn from the older bands that have been doing for alot longer. Yeah sure they’re not the Foo Fighters, but they sure as hell have done the hard yards.

Talk to other bands, you never know, you might be able to set up more gigs with those bands in the future. Basically, by talking and meeting people after your gig, it will help create more opportunities for your band. It’s a simple, flawless technique of promo for your band.

You don’t necessarily need a promoter to do this for you or to tell you this. It can all be done by you. There are probably other things that I have left out, but at the end of the day it’s all common sense and a matter of finding the time to source where you can place ads, gig listings, flyer handouts etc. There are so many printing places now as well.

Don’t take my word as gospel. The future of your band is in your hands. Think about what your fans would want from your band.

If you get chucked on a bill with some awesome bands and you’re opening, even though you’ve been playing for years, still be thankful you were even considered to play. Too many bands that haven’t done the hard yards are growing big heads too quickly.

And here’s another thought that someone raised during conversation with me last week. Some venues require a hire fee. What if the 4-5 bands playing that show were to chip in a few dollars to cover the hire fee? Surely that would make bands actually promote themselves, their gig, and the venue they’re going to be playing at, right? It might even limit the bands’ door list, too!

I hoped you enjoyed my waffling.

Tom Byrnes

Managing Director

Mannequin Republic

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