The early stages of a band’s life are usually the most precarious. For most young musicians, the key focus is writing and finding their craft; but soon enough the reality will hit that there is a whole lot more to it, the foremost being how to promote your band.
Thinking about how to promote your band can be fairly daunting to the uninitiated musician. For some, this might appear within the ‘business’ side of the creative realm, but the truth is that every budding musician will have to thinking long and hard about this at some point.
Thinking about how to promote your band in those early stages can be pretty daunting for young musicians. We asked some of Australia’s top publicists to share some of their sage advice on the matter.
Of course, there are countless ‘how to promote your band’ guides, dating back decades. A quick search on the Net will leave you snowed under with vague, dispensable articles on basic marketing techniques that could be applied to almost any creative venture.
We think this is entirely unhelpful, so we decided to reach out to those who know the most about how to promote your band in those early stages – publicists – to share some of their wisdom (pro-bono).
Vivienne Mellish – Mucho Bravado
It’s one thing to make great music, but if you wanna get recognised EVERYTHING else needs to hold it up and be ready to go before your song is released into the world. This includes making a timeline for your release, planning when and where you want to do shows, getting a good band bio together, making a plan for what you’re going to post on your social media, making sure you get professional press photos taken etc.
This will help you manage you and your band’s expectations. Know where you fit, where you’re at and set achievable goals. You’re probably not going to get a #1 single straight away, you might not even get radio play straight away. It’s a hard and long road for most bands – sometimes it takes years to cut through, so be prepared to put in some hard work. Don’t get discouraged as you’ll get a LOT of no‘s across your career but the times you get a yes make it all worthwhile.
Get Out There
If you’re totally fresh and you’ve never released a recorded song before, it could be good to just test the waters and see where you fit in the media, and industry landscape. Play shows to get your live chops up and send your track around to a few industry peeps, radio stations and blogs that you like first to get their feedback. Include as much information as you can about your band.
DO include private streaming links. DON’T attach big audio files to emails
Get a Publicist
I know right… a publicist saying you should hire a publicist…but it’s true! Choose a PR company that works with artists that you like and choose a publicist that’s as passionate about the project as you are. Yes, it does cost money but it means you’ve got an extra person (or people) vouching for your music who already have strong relationships with the people you want to get it to. A publicist will be able to help you roll out your release professionally instead of just throwing a track up on Soundcloud/Spotify and help shape you and/or your band’s story.
Sammie Anschau – Beehive PR
The Music Comes First
Don’t put out something just for the sake of it – make sure you are happy with your work and it reflects your sound now and moving forward. Don’t make music for a specific audience – make music you love and are proud of – if it translates – great! If it doesn’t then you have still have an awesome body of work to be proud of.
Have a Plan
You have worked hard to get here – make sure you get the most out of your music. To do this you need to have your shit together – make sure everything is sending the same message, from socials to website to art, get everything ready before you push the button. Plan not only for this release but the next and have annual goals.
Get into the Scene
Don’t be backwards in coming forwards. Don’t be shy to put yourself out there when it comes to supports, media, and collaborations. People are often stoked to hear from the artist and if it doesn’t work out first time it might later down the track but either way you have started to build a relationship. Have your elevator pitch ready!
Fiona Peacock – On The Map
The easiest way to reach fans and for you to share details about yourself, your music and upcoming shows/releases. Be sure to ‘like’ other artist pages so that your fans can get an idea of what your music is like and who your influences are. Post engaging content, made up of a mixture of personal things and music type posts, fans want to be able to relate to you and like a good gossip magazine, like to know who the people are behind the music.
Be sure to post often, but don’t go overkill, one post every two days is usually engaging enough to keep people interested and not too often that you’re going to get on peoples nerves. Try to mix up the time of day you post also, one day post at midday for the lunchtime readers, the next post at 8pm for the evening scrollers, next post at 8am for the early risers, you’re bound to reach a broader audience this way.
Tools and Assets
If you’re releasing a single/EP/album or have a few gigs coming up, make sure you have all your “tools/assets” ready to go. There’s no point reaching out to media unless you have music that has been mixed and mastered (Soudcloud links), decent promotional images, a logo, tour dates with ticketing information, artwork, social media links, website link and a bio or press release, this is a great start.
Make a Media List
Create a list of what sites/blogs/street press/print media you would ideally like to see yourself in, search their sites for their contact information and reach out. Familiarise yourself with their content and pitch your music uniquely either on the phone or over e-mail. Show your personality in your e-mail and don’t send the same pitch to all media, it’s lazy and obvious, if you’re not taking the time to e-mail them uniquely, then why should they take the time to listen to your music and write editorial about it?
Amanda Vitartas – Future Popes
Just the One….
There are so many things that I could write for this, but I’m just going to give you one piece of advice, because this is kind of the grounds to all else, which would be: networking is essential… that old saying of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is so damn corny, but so damn true. Be it with other bands, or ‘industry’, just get involved.
Charlie Ellison – Rice Is Nice / Brain Drain
Be active – it’s the easiest way to engage with your fans and people love to see the personalities behind the music. Post about new songs, upcoming tours and photos of what you’re up to – “back in the studio today” etc…. Also utilise sponsored posts! As we know our posts don’t travel as far as they used to so it’s totally worth putting a spend and target on posts you want everyone to see.
Get Out There
Get out there and play – music journos, radio presenters, labels heads, bookers and radio presenters etc all love to see live music. And obviously, so do your fans! Playing lots of shows is great way to grow your audience, whether it’s supporting your mates or bands you admire, or playing your own headline shows. It shows that your band is active, plus you never know who could be watching.
Thank Your Supporters
This is an important one – who doesn’t like being thanked! If a publication chooses to share your track or review your album – thank them by sharing the content. If a radio station or presenter plays your new single – thank them and tell your fans to tune in! And thank your fans for coming down to your shows. If you show your gratitude and support for the people supporting you, they are likely to keep doing so.
Melody Forghani – Twenty Three Management and Publicity
Know the Industry
Get to know your local media outlets, radio shows and presenters before you hit them up to play or write about your music.
Keep Things Simple
Sending a burnt CD with clear track listing to community stations is more useful and enticing than unnecessarily long bios printed on fancy paper stuffed inside a bejewelled cases. Keep it simple, include your social media links and service your music digitally wherever possible.
Sarah Chipman – Title Track
Do it yourself – I think it’s really important for a young band to have an idea of their audience, and how they present their music to the world, before they approach a publicist. How do you want to talk about yourself? How do you brand yourself? How important are press images and consistent branding? How do you most effectively use social media? These are all things young bands need to learn for themselves. No one should tell you.
Social Media is a really useful and important tool in a young band’s career – it’s where you’re going to get the most interaction with your music (apart from live shows) and it’s the first stop for a fan to check out what’s going on. Keep it updated, keep it consistent, keep it genuine. The majority of successful modern bands/artists have great social media presence, so log on and check some of them out, you might get some ideas.
Use the Tools Out There
Take advantage of what’s available to you. There’s a whole stack of self-promotion tools available to Australian artists – it’s worth taking the time to google some and get your music out there. Whether it’s Bandcamp, or Spotify, or Soundcloud – having your music on multiple platforms means more people will come across it. And there’s great radio tools like AMRAP AirIT and triple j Unearthed, too.
Not to mention that your local community radio station will have an email or address on their website – send them an email or CD, or even better – drop by and say hello! Community radio in your area are likely going to be your first radio supporter, and they are always behind local music.
Don’t expect the fans to come to you. A common thing I hear from young or emerging bands is their hesitance to play live until they have a big audience or considerable radio play. I think it’s incredibly important to do it the old school way – get out there and tour. Even if you play to 10 people, or 50 people, be grateful that’s 10 or 50 people that paid to come see you and give them the show of their lives. Maybe next time it’ll be 100 people?
Some of Australia’s most successful artists and bands slogged it around the country countless times before you started hearing them on high rotation, or selling out massive venues. Contact local venues, and ask if they have any support slots that might suit you, make friends with other touring acts and see if you can jump on a tour with them, be supportive of your music community and they will be supportive back.
Victoria Ciesiolka – Alpha Entertainment
Be Proud of Your Music
It all starts with good songs! Your songs! Work on them and keep working on them until they are your perfect masterpiece. The record you want to hear and the one you’ll be proud to look back on in 20 years time. Share this process with your fans. Remember to start to engage them from the outset. Invite them into your world and let them share your journey.
Engage Your Fans
Know who your potential and existing fanbase are. Educate yourself on how to connect with your existing fans and engage with potential new fans. If you have uber fans, tap into them, interact with them and always treat them with the respect they deserve. Make them part of the process. Collaborations with other artists and free downloads can also be a great way to connect with new fans.
Build Your Team
Surround yourself with the right team! Seek out experts in all areas of promotion and marketing and then take the time to choose wisely. Don’t rush at the first people you encounter or those that seem to be making the most noise. Quite often they are the wrong choice. Ask about their previous campaigns. Their success stories and their failures. They must be 100% committed and passionate about your music.
Before officially launching any of your music, have your team and a long term strategy in place. A good campaign continues way after your release and a competent PR person will have a long term and holistic view on a strategy encompassing all elements of your campaign and going well beyond a single release, album release or a few show dates! Ensure you launch with full campaign assets in place and a budget mapped out. Take the time to get it right the first time in order to give your band and your music the best possible chance.
Monique Rothstein – Positive Feedback
Use Your Data
Don’t engage a publicist until you’re ready – you’re far better off creating early grass roots support through social media, streaming services and your own networks. You may also find out via Soundcloud, Spotify or Facebook analytics that your key audience is actually based in the UK (for example), in which case it may be worth looking at doing a small online PR campaign in the territory rather than a sole focus on Australia. Use the data provided to you to make educated decisions.
Get the Right Publicist
If you do get a publicist, ensure that you have strong tools, a 6-12 month plan and a clear strategy. Tools include bio, press shots (a variety of vertical and landscape), content, remixes, artwork, tour dates.
Ensure your social media is up to date, regularly updated and re-skinned, ready for your release.
Keep on Chugging
Make sure that you can keep maintain momentum! Artist’s careers develop over time and the role of a publicist is to create, amplify and develop the ‘story’ for the artist. Once you get moving, ensure that you have an idea of your next chapter.
For example, if you’re doing a big promo push around a single, ensure you have additional tools to maintain momentum (i.e. remixes, tour dates, content) as well as a plan for your next release (is it an EP, LP, or single?) so that you can keep building your profile.
Nicole Stringer – Chugg Entertainment
Find the Right Manager
Get a good agent, or a manager that has great relationships and can get you onto relevant tours as a support act – I think this is a great way of building up a loyal grassroots following, and is also really good practice for a band. Getting in front of audiences each night and learning everything that comes with being on the road.
Great practice for when a band finally headlines their own tour. Nothing worse than going to see your favourite up and coming band, only to discover that although their recorded music is fab, they are rubbish live.
Try and come up with unique and engaging content ideas. And try to follow up great content with more great content. There isn’t a rule book, play around with ideas. I know everyone says this, but I think it’s really important to proliferate interesting content online, new media is so powerful a far-reaching.
Get good at doing interviews, making sure you’re getting your message across (whether it’s a new single, video, or tour) and learn to deliver great written pieces like Q&As and playlists – Back to great content again. Giving a good interview isn’t a natural talent for most people, so do some media training if you think it might help.
Thanks to everyone involved for sharing their advice on how to promote your band.