Simple ways to promote your music on Soundcloud

Soundcloud

With over 175 million monthly listeners, Soundcloud is one of the most important sites that you can use to attract new fans to your music project. But how do you locate the ears of listeners and convince them to follow you? In this post we provide a few tips.

1. Make sure your Soundcloud content sounds great

An obvious point perhaps, but the music you upload to Soundcloud should sound as good as possible. Ok, fair enough, a lot of people use Soundcloud to showcase demos and alternative mixes of tracks with a view to getting feedback on work in progress, but the point is that whatever condition your track is in production values wise, there has to be something great about it – or it’s not going to attract attention, likes or shares. Posting demos is fine – so long as the tunes are good.

2.Make sure your SoundCLOUD content looks great

Many artists think it’s enough to upload a song or two to their Soundcloud profile and leave it at that, but don't neglect the visuals:

  • Use strong 500px x 500px artwork or photographs to accompany tracks
  • Include information about the band and relevant website info in track descriptions.
  • Make sure you use the space provided on your profile page to provide a biog plus links to your social media presences and official website.

3. Use tags

Ensure your content is tagged well. Tag your songs with any genre name that is relevant to your track; include similar artist names too (i.e., if you have a track that sounds like Frank Zappa, tag it as Frank Zappa). This is vital for ensuring that your music gets discovered via search.

4. Embed

If you’re providing audio streams on your website, use Soundcloud to embed your tracks (rather than using any built-in streaming tools or widgets). This immediately lets any site visitors know that you are on Soundcloud, allows them to follow you and provides you with the opportunity to get more plays. Furthermore, if you are sending your music to blogs and music sites, consider asking their owners to embed your tracks directly on their sites (i.e., rather than referring people to your website to listen) as this can greatly increase the number of plays you receive, and the visibility of your Soundcloud content in general.

5. Engage

Don’t just upload your music to Soundcloud and wait for people to discover it: it’s not quite as simple as an ‘if you build it they will come’ scenario. You’ll need to make yourself more visible to Soundcloud users in a more proactive way: by listening to other users’ tracks; commenting; and resharing them. Avoid doing this in a spammy way – if you’re sincere about things, you’ll have a much better shot of other users checking you and your content out (and sharing it with others).

6. Add a Soundcloud icon to your site

It’s quite common for bands to include cute little icons with links to their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages on their websites…only to forget to include one for Soundcloud. Make sure you make your Soundcloud icons as visible as all the others – given that you are a musician and Soundcloud is specifically about music sharing, it’s potentially a more valuable use of your website’s “real estate” than other social media icons.

7. Use groups

Soundcloud groups offer you a way to share music with like-minded creators / listeners. Locate groups that might dig what you do, then post tracks to them (you can also create your own groups). It’s very important that you post to groups in a respectful, non-spammy way, and ask for genuine feedback. If your music is appreciated, it will attract reposts, which will obviously help generate more exposure for and plays of your music.

8. Repost other music

Don’t just focus on promoting your music on Soundcloud – promote other artists’ music too: in effect, become a curator of musical content. If you are regularly posting interesting tracks to a growing audience, you have the potential to be a ‘tastemaker’ of sorts, with an audience that may therefore be more receptive to any of your own original music that you share.

9. Reply to comments

If people comment on your music, reply to them: this can foster a good relationship between you and people who like your music and this conversational approach may ‘convert’ somebody who commented on one of your songs to becoming a follower.

10. Be an active user

Whether you’re posting your own music, reposting somebody else’s or commenting on tracks you like, try to do it regularly. This increases your visibility as a Soundcloud contributer, makes you more noticeable and increases the chances of people listening to your music and following you.

11. Use Spotlight

If you’re on a Pro Plan, use Spotlight to pin up to five of your best tracks to the top of your profile. This ensures that you’re showcasing your best material to Soundcloud users, and potentially increasing the number of followers.

 

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Automate your band!

Marketing automation tips for musicians

by Chris Singleton

Whether you’re a wildly successful musician or a complete unknown, you are probably ‘time poor’ - you are either very busy with a successful music career, or subsidising an unsuccessful one by working round the clock in an unloved day job. Either way, you won’t necessarily have a huge amount of time on your hands to promote your music. This is where automation can come in really handy – and in this article, we’re going to look at ways you can automate your band’s marketing efforts and save a truckload of time.

1. Consider online advertising

Using online advertising isn’t a free way to automate your marketing – but it can, when done well, be very effective in driving traffic to your site while you are working in a call centre. If you are lucky enough to have some budget to put into Facebook, Twitter or Google ads, then it’s definitely worth experimenting with them to get more visitors to your band’s site or social media profiles (the aim, of course, being to convert these visitors into social media fans or subscribers to your mailing list). Usually it’s best to target fans of bands that you think your act would appeal to and offer some free content in exchange for a like, follow or email address.

2. Automate your e-newsletters

I’ve written about this regularly on this blog, so I’m not going to wax too lyrical about it again…but basically,  if you use a tool like Mailchimp or Mad Mimi to send out e-newsletters, then you have the ability to program in a sequence of automated ‘follow up’ emails to your fans. Everybody who signs up your mailing list can therefore automatically receive encouragements to follow you on social media; buy your merch; come to a gig and so on – without you having to worry about scheduling e-newsletters in automatically. You’ll find some more in-depth information on autoresponders here.

3. Use RSS to disseminate content

If you have a website worth its salt, it will contain a blog with an RSS feed. This RSS feed can be used to power all sort of stuff automatically – if you set things up correctly, your RSS feed can:

  • convert your blog post into an e-newsletter which goes out to your mailing list every time you add a new entry
  • share your new posts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media feeds
  • allow others to display links to your articles on their websites which are automatically updated every time you post new content
  • ‘ping’ news services and blog directories with new content
  • display your new posts to anyone using an RSS reader.

4. Be a slave to the algorithm: optimise your site for search

Every second of every day, algorithms are trawling the internet, sifting through sites and picking the best ones to plonk at the top of search results. Setting up your website in a way that gives it the best chance of being automatically discovered by one of these algorithms means that you may end up on the receiving end of a lot of web traffic without much effort . For some tips on how to go about this, you can read our article about SEO for bands (I’d also recommend that you check out our inbound marketing tips).

5. Split test to find out what content works best

You can use split testing algorithms to test what content works best for your band. Whether you want to find out which version of your website works best, what subject header for an email generates the most opens, or even which mix of a song appeals most to your fanbase, A/B tests can automatically ask the question and give you the answers.

A/B testing tools work by

  1. showing two different versions of a web page or email to a sample of your visitors / subscribers
  2. evaluating which generates the most engagement (be that in terms of how long people stay on a website or how many people open an email)
  3. automatically rolling out the best performing version of your content to the majority of your web visitors or subscribers.

Most e-newsletter tools allow you to split test out of the box; for running A/B tests on websites, check out Unbounce or Instapage.

6. Promote your gigs with Songkick

By using Songkick you can automate your gig publicity efforts to a degree. First, it allows you to make use of a widget that you can embed on any number of online presences (i.e., your website, Facebook, Bandcamp etc.) – meaning that once you’ve added a gig to the system it will automatically appear anywhere your widget is displayed.  Second, Songkick have a partnership with Spotify, Youtube and Soundcloud, so your gigs should automatically appear on those sites when people are listening to your music on them.

7. Use Hootsuite to schedule social media posts automatically

If you know that you’re going to be too busy to post on social media during a certain period, you can use tools like Hootsuite to schedule posts in advance – on multiple networks –so that the posts still magically appear even whilst you’re doing something else.

Not convinced by the power of automation yet? Well, you’re probably reading this post because one of three things happened:

  1. A search engine or social media algorithm automatically decided that you should.
  2. Our e-newsletter system automatically sent you an email about it.
  3. Our RSS feed and an automated tweet sent news of the article’s existence to the Twittersphere.

Automation rules...

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Five spring cleaning tips for bands...

gloves.png

by Chris Singleton

Spring seems to have finally arrived at Prescription Towers, with sunshine making a brief appearance and bunny rabbits running rampant around the office. As such we’ve been indulging in some spring cleaning (chiefly to get rid of the rabbits) and thought that you might like to do some too. So here are five things YOU as a musician can do to clean up your act...

1. Get rid of social media accounts that are no longer of any use to you

Given that there is a ‘next big thing’ in social media popping up every 5 minutes, it’s not surprising that artists have many disused social media profiles kicking about. I bet you a tenner that your band has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Myspace, Reverbnation, Bandpage, Bandcamp, Tumblr, Instagram, Google+ and quite a few more social networks…but chances are, you’ve forgotten about most of them and you only keep one or two profiles updated. This means that you run the risk of potential fans or useful industry contacts doing a Google search on your act and encountering really out of date material and goofy pictures that you’re now embarrassed by. If you’re not using it, consider losing it; however, if you have a big following on a particular social network, it’s probably best to keep the relevant page alive – but bring it (and keep it) up to date.

2. Unfollow a load of people on Twitter

Most bands start off their life on Twitter by following a truckload of people in the hope that everybody will follow them back – but only a small percentage of users ever do. This leaves you with a huge following to followers deficit. So take the time to go through the list of people you’re following on Twitter and unfollow as many people as you can - you should unfollow people who don’t ever tweet or people who aren’t particularly relevant to you or your band. Doing this is beneficial for three reasons.

1) It makes your ratio of followers to following considerably better (which is helpful from a reputational point of view – it looks a bit rubbish if you’re following 2000 people and have only 100 followers).

2) It makes your Twitter feed more useful – it’s next to impossible to discern useful information from Twitter feeds when you’re following absolutely everybody.

3) It makes Twitter algorithms more effective for you – if you are only following people that are particularly relevant to your band (sympathetic radio DJs or journalists for example) then the suggestions that Twitter makes to you regarding who to follow will actually be useful ones.

For the record, you might want to check out a tool called Crowdfire (formerly Justunfollow) to help you with the above tasks – it allows you to identify people that haven’t updated their profiles in a long time as well as do one-click unfollows.

3. Update your website

Even if you have the swankiest website going, it will still look rubbish if you haven’t updated it in ages. Make sure it’s got all your latest gigs on it; a nice blog post or two; current photographs and so on. And if you know that you simply don’t have time to update a website (shame on you!) then delete any pages on it that require regular updating: it’s better to have a very simple website that is not out of date than a flashy one that is.

4. Sort out your file storage

I feel slightly ridiculous and not a little un-rock-and-roll in writing this, but simply because everything related to the music industry seems to be digitised these days, a band needs to have as good an approach to file management as possible. The one thing I have consistently found both as a musician and a PR person is that you will inevitably end up needing to access and send files relating to your band on a regular basis – A&Rs, journalists, fans, radio pluggers will all need digitised material from you regularly. If you haven’t got a cloud file storage solution, get one (Dropbox is probably my favourite for bands). And if you do have a Dropbox or Google Apps account, make sure all your folders are neatly organised and that key content is easy to locate. Again, not a very rock and roll thing to be thinking about, but you’ll be grateful for a nice folder structure when the Head of Music at Radio 1 comes calling asking you for new material pronto…and you can locate and share it with him immediately. Well hello, Mr Ergatoudis - another track you say? Certainly...

5. Clean up your mailing list

Take the time to go through your mailing list, ensuring that

  • all those email addresses collected at gigs on scraps of toilet paper are actually added to it
  • you are not using Excel or Word to store addresses and sending out emails manually but have invested in a proper e-newsletter broadcasting tool such as Mad Mimi, Getresponse or Mailchimp
  • your list does not include people who perhaps shouldn’t be on there: think twice about including friends and colleagues on every email about your band (here’s why).

There, that feels better doesn’t it. Nice and clean.

 

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Youtube for Artists is announced

Youtube for Artists

This week Youtube announced “Youtube for Artists”, which they describe as “insights and tools to help you share your music, engage your fans, and build a career”.

In reality, Youtube for Artists currently amounts to a small website containing

  • a suitably inspirational (if not madly informative) video about how every artist has the power to ‘make it’ thanks to the internet (if only it was quite that simple)
  • a brief overview of some Youtube features specifically for artists (some of which aren’t entirely ready yet)
  • some general tips on promoting your music videos.

The site feels a little half-baked right now BUT it is clear from it that there are definitely some potentially useful things on the way, chief amongst them a new ‘music insights’ tool which allows you to get an overview of where, geographically speaking, your videos are being watched – the idea being that you can take note of this big-brotheresque piece of information and plan tours accordingly.

Additionally you’ll find quite a lot of tips on Youtube for Artists about how to keep fans engaged with your videos, optimise them for Youtube’s search engine and access / make the most of statistics. When it comes to providing these tips, the Youtube for Artists site often points you in the direction of existing (and non-musician specific) help pages – this in particular helps give the whole enterprise its ‘half-finished’ feel, but these articles are useful nonetheless.

Finally, Youtube have also recently created a new feature called ‘Youtube Cards’ – these are not being introduced specifically for musicians but they are potentially very useful to them. These cards are essentially pop-up messages which you can use to add call-to-actions to your videos; Youtube somewhat hilariously describe said pop-ups as being ‘as beautiful as your videos’ (frankly, if your video is only as beautiful as a pop-up card, I would seriously worry about its quality). Despite this hyperbolic description, the cards do have the potential to be quite useful: you can use them, for example, to drive people who are watching your video back to your website, or encourage viewers to contribute to a crowdfunding campaign. If you are familiar with Youtube annotations, you can think of the cards as an evolution of those – they look better though, and are responsive (meaning they’ll display nicely across all devices).

Youtube for Artists currently feels as though it's in its infancy, and the Youtube Cards idea needs some development too - but it's good to see Youtube create resources specifically for musicians, and improvements are promised to both products. Any musicians keen on staying up to date with what remains the world's biggest music streaming site would be well advised to keep an eye on developments.

You can find out more about Youtube for Artists here, or click here for information about Youtube Cards.

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A neat trick to make ANY website promote your band

In this article we're going to share a little trick that will let you make any web page shout about your band. Sounds too good to be true? Well, actually, for once you can (mostly) believe the hype.

A quick follow-up this, to last week’s post about solving the ‘lack of content’ problem. In case you didn’t read it (shame on you), the post was chiefly about how to come up with content that regularly keeps your fans entertained and makes you look, to industry contact eyes, as though you are serious about building an online presence and making the most of it.

A lot of the post focused on how you can create your own content, but those of you who were paying close attention probably noticed that there was a little section on ‘content curation’ – some tips on how time-poor bands can use content from other websites to keep their own social media presences looking fresh, keep followers engaged and create a ‘vibe’ about their act based on a shared band-fan interest in certain types of content.

Well, a few days ago I came across a tool that potentially multiplies the usefulness of any content you share significantly: Sniply. This is because it allows you to add a message and a call to action of your choosing which then gets placed on that page.

For example, say your band shares an article from a well-known news site about some topic close to your heart. Using Sniply, you can generate a link which places a banner on that page with a picture of your band, a call to action, and a button taking the user to your website / Facebook / Twitter. Or, even better, you can use Sniply to place a little form on the page that readers can use to join your mailing list. If this all sounds a touch confusing, take a look at the above screengrab, featuring  a Guardian exclusive album stream that we secured for one of our clients recently (sorry, couldn't resist a little plug for our music PR services...). At the bottom of the page, you’ll see a nice little form advertising Prescription PR and encouraging readers to take the very wise step of joining our mailing list. You can click here to see the above Sniply example in action.

If you’re feeling underwhelmed by what on the surface looks like just another pop up box, well, think about the implications of this tool when you share a piece of viral content with a large Facebook audience. With a strong piece of content  particularly if you are quick to share it the resharing potential is large...meaning you may end up with a lot of eyeballs looking at your mailing list sign up form (which, you’ve got to admit, looks damn pretty sitting on The Guardian website). Previously, they would have just seen the content: by using Sniply, you have turned it into a promotional opportunity for your band.

How useful Sniply is to you will depend on the kind of content you share, and how ahead of the game you are in sharing it, but it does represent a very interesting tool for bands that regularly share content with their fans online. If you're interested in using it, you can get a free trial here.

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Four ways to tackle the 'lack of content' problem

Content problem

by Chris Singleton

Back in the day, ‘content’ wasn't a problem for your average rockstar, or wannabe rockstar. Producing the stuff generally boiled down to doing what most bands are meant to do: releasing an album and playing some shows. Things got worse in the 80s with the invention of the pop video, but even at that, this sort of content creation was just a case of accompanying 3 singles from your album with some poorly-shot clips of you parading a mullet and a pair of leather pants in front of a some par cans and a smoke machine. Oh yes, whilst locked in a cage and playing a guitar with your teeth. Easy.

Fast forward to 2015 and it’s a different kettle of fish. Mullets are out, and content is now, to pardon a much-overused phrase, king. It’s not enough to record songs, make videos or play gigs: on top of that we have to ‘engage’ our audience with blog posts, photographs, live videos, vlogs, viral games, tweets, status updates, online gigs, alternate acoustic versions of album tracks…you name it.

As exhausting as making / doing all that stuff sounds, there is actually point to it – it can generate interest in your band, drive traffic to your website and help you make new fans. It also gives any industry contacts checking your act out a sense that you are serious about what you do online in an era where the music industry and the internet are increasingly joined at the hip. But how on earth do you tackle producing such a mountain of content? For most aspiring artists it’s hard enough to fit in recording music and playing gigs around a time-consuming day job; as such the thought of even keeping a Facebook page up to date – let alone writing a blog post about what the band cat gets up to on tour – simply instils dread (and doesn’t get done; probably a good thing though, as what the cat gets up to on tour stays on tour).

There are a few things you can do, however, which make climbing the content mountain easier:

1. Create a ‘content bank’

Don’t wait until you’ve got something to release before you start thinking about what sort of content you’re going to accompany that release with. Have it all ready beforehand. This means devoting a week or so to content well before you release any music. Try

  • going into a studio for a day and recording a load of acoustic versions of your songs
  • spending a day in front of your computer writing a truckload of blog posts about music or art that's inspired you
  • taking a load of ‘behind the scenes’ images of rehearsals, gigs, recording sessions and so on.
  • capturing footage of recording sessions and editing them into little ‘making of’ videos.

Polish it all up / edit it nicely and whack it in a Dropbox folder: this means that you have a 'content bank' containing a multitude of items that you can share regularly during a music promo campaign. By the time it comes to releasing your album, you won't be worrying that tumbleweed is blowing through your Facebook page at a time when it’s clearly meant to be conveying a sense of much-sought-after ‘buzz’. Having a content bank takes the stress out of content – bigtime.

2. Curate content

If you’re struggling with the content bank idea, or even if you DO have a lot of content ready to share, think about being a ‘content curator’. This means sharing other people’s content via your social media presences - this obviously takes a lot of the legwork out of content-sharing. The kind of content that you share can say a lot about your band though, so think very carefully about the links you post and how frequently you post them – but done correctly, content curation can create a ‘vibe’ about your band, convey a sense of activity and make your followers keen to stay posted to your feeds, simply because they’re interested in what sort of crazy / interesting  / downright disgusting link you’re going to post next.

3. Make some live videos – and kill four birds with one stone

It’s a good idea to make a live video of several tracks. Done correctly this can gives you up to 4 pieces of valuable content:

  1. Live tracks that you can give away or use as bonus tracks on releases
  2. Several video performances that you can whack up on Youtube and include in electronic press kits
  3. Well-lit photographs of your band (assuming you can convince a photographer to hang out that day)
  4. An experience that you can blog about (complete with lots of nice images and embedded videos)

4. Use Instagram

Being in a band is as much about the visuals as the music. This is generally speaking a bad thing (in my old fashioned book at least), but there is an upside to it: thanks to Instagram it’s dead easy to create and share very funky visuals that arguably say a lot more about who you are as an artist than a 1500-word blog post on your favourite type of guitar pedal. Don’t just take pictures of your bandmates though: share images of stuff that represents your act and its ethos – whether that’s pictures of vintage microphones or dramatic skylines. This means that when you’re completely stuck for something to say, or simply too pressed for time to come up with a Stephen Fry-style witticism, then you can still make an impressive statement about you and your music in a few seconds by posting a good Instagram picture. 

Finally, there’s always the mullet-cum-guitar-cum-cage video to think about too – that sort of stuff is probably due a revival.

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8 'band hacks' to make your musical life easier

Band hacks

by Chris Singleton

Maybe it's the age I'm at, but I’ve been reading a lot lately about various ‘life hacks’: little tricks such as putting glow in the dark paint on your phone charger so that you can find it easily instead of having a fumble in the dark, or dipping the top of your keys in paint so that it’s easy to differentiate the back door key from the front door key. These sort of things are meant to make us fitter, happier and more productive – but may spell an end to those late night fumbles. Ah well.

Anyway, in this post I thought I’d have a go at suggesting some 'band hacks' – some simple tricks to make running your band a little bit easier.

1. Automate your e-newsletters

When a new fan joins your mailing list– either at a gig or via your website – there are probably a few things you want to let them know about: for example, where to find you on social media; the URL for your merch store; and forthcoming gig dates. Rather than send out emails manually to every new subscriber, use autoresponders (provided by tools such as Getresponse or Mad Mimi) to schedule these in automatically - i.e., so that X number of days after signing up to your a mailing list, your new fan gets email Y. For example, a subscriber could get an email immediately upon sign-up with details of your Facebook and Twitter pages; a week later they could receive a link to an online store full of delightful t-shirts and so on.  All this saves a lot of time.

Additionally, if you know that you are going to need to publicise various activities at specific points in the year, you can also schedule in e-newsletters to go out on relevant dates with relevant information. This saves you having to panic about sending tour-related e-newsletters when you're in the middle of a rehearsal for said tour - it will go out automatically in the middle of that slightly-too-long guitar solo.

2. Use RSS to power e-newsletters and social media posts

RSS (Rich Site Summary / Really Simple Syndication) is a feed from a website that another website can use to publish content...and it’s your friend. If you have a blog on your site, for example, you can use its RSS feed to trigger e-newsletters, meaning that when you update your blog, your fans receive the latest content from it in their inbox. You can also use your RSS feed to send your content automatically to your social media profiles, meaning that when you add new posts to your blog, or images to your gallery, your Twitter followers see a relevant tweet as soon as the new content is live. And, if you make your RSS feed publicly accessible on your website, your die-hard-technically-savvy fans who naturally use an RSS reader (a ‘news aggregator’) to stay up to date with the music scene can enjoy news from your site in the list of publications they follow.

3. Use Google Alerts to find out when people are talking about your act (or not)

Google Alerts allow you to monitor the web for new content about topics of your choosing: in your case, the 'topic' is whatever your band happens to be called. Google Alerts is very easy to use: you just enter your act’s name and pick when you’d like to receive updates regarding any online mentions of the band (as-it-happens, daily or weekly). This means that whenever an influential blogger is giving your band a bad review, you’ll get a notification. The other thing that Google Alerts is good for – and I’m slightly reluctant to tell you this – is for keeping your music PR company on their toes, because you can use it to see how well they are doing with your online music PR campaign…

4. Use social media management tools to manage several profiles at once

If you are managing a multitude of social media presences, it makes sense to avail of the various tools that are available to manage them. I’ve talked about Hootsuite in the past as a way to administrate all your social media profiles in one place, and schedule posts in advance, but there are other nifty tools that can help you manage other aspects of social media. For example, Justunfollow is good for identifying people who might be particularly worth following (or unfollowing); it also allows you to create automated direct messages to new followers (be careful with this option however – the potential to annoy with it is large). Tweetadder is also probably worth a look too. There’s a plethora of tools out there to streamline your social media activity though – research them and pick the best one for your band’s needs.

5. Use a mobile device to capture data at gigs instead of a pen and paper

Using a pen and paper to capture email addresses at gigs is getting a bit passé. For a start, it’s often hard to read people’s email addresses when they are written using old fashioned hands that are under the influence of alcohol and operating in a dark and dingy gig venue. Secondly, assuming you can actually decipher the handwriting in question, you’ll have to waste time typing all these addresses all into your e-newsletter database at a later stage. A way of getting around this is to use a tablet at gigs (operated and safeguarded by a responsible individual) to capture the email addresses of attendees. The best option is to provide people with an online form that links directly to your e-newsletter service (Mailchimp etc.) but even if you don’t have a connection to the internet at the venue you're playing in, it’s still worth getting people to tap their details into an iPad – they can always be copied and pasted into your e-newsletter tool at a later stage and it’s a damn sight quicker than you typing up all those email addresses.

6. Use a project management tool to keep your band on track

Project management tools are not just for the office – they can be surprisingly useful for rock and rollers too. Web applications like Basecamp allow you to allocate a load of tasks to each of your bandmates (learn how to play in time, update the website, book the venue, chase the graphic designer – whatever applies), store files that are relevant to a project in one place (lyrics, chord charts etc.) and use automated reminders to cajole your fellow musicians into actually doing what they’re meant to be doing. Even something basic like a Google Sheet is useful for band project management - particularly if you make use of this funky 'reminders' add on.

7. Map out where your fans live – and plan your tours accordingly

If you’re being smart and capturing not just email addresses but postcodes onto your email database, you can use this data to view a map of your fans’ locations on Google Maps. This is very handy if you’re planning tours – you can focus on the locations where you are most likely to attract an audience, and book venues accordingly. There are various mapping tools available – Map a List is a good starting point.

8. Find out if music industry contacts are opening your emails using Sidekick

There’s a sneaky little tool called Sidekick which allows you to see who has been opening your emails and what they’ve been clicking on (either via real time notifications or a reporting tool). It’s very big brother in nature...but if you can put any moral qualms aside it’s very useful for working out whom to chase about your music (and when). For example, if you sent an email about your music to a blogger, you could used Sidekicks to see if it has been read and if your Soundcloud link has been clicked upon. Using that information you can decide whether another nudge is appropriate or not. If you're using the real-time notification option, you can see when somebody's opened or re-opened one of your emails, and use that information to send a seemingly coincidental 'Hi how's it going' chase a few minutes later...

Well, there we go - 8 band hacks to make running your band as straightforward as possible. Actually make it 9, as I have a final band hack for you: get more songs written by not spending all the time you saved as a result of these band hacks in the pub.

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In a band? Here's some new year's resolutions for you

2015 graphic

Happy New Year from Prescription PR! It being our first post of the year, we thought we’d suggest a few new year’s resolutions for bands and musicians.

1. Build a marvellous website

Keen readers of The Prescription will note that this was our first piece of advice to you at the start of 2014, but it’s as relevant as ever in 2015. It amazes me how many bands (including some rather well-established ones) think that whacking a few tunes up on Bandcamp and setting up a Twitter profile constitutes a decent digital presence, when a good music website allows you to do so much more (and says much more about you too). A strong website...

  • marks you out as a professional act that takes its career seriously
  • if SEO’d well, it allows you to be discovered by new listeners more easily
  • allows you to fully control your band’s online image and identity
  • facilitates blogging
  • allows you to incorporate more advanced functionality than you generally get on third party platforms like Facebook or Twitter onto your site.

If you don’t have a website, get one; and if you do, review it to make sure it’s looking as good and working as well as it possibly can for the year ahead.

2. Get your computer’s sh*t together

If you’re anything like me, you have a folder on your PC dedicated to your band…and it’s a mess. It contains a bunch of files that are strewn all over the place – you have band images in the audio folder; audio files in the gigs folder and so on. This situation is going to slow you down – so sort it out (I certainly intend to). Although file management is probably about as far away from rock and roll as you can imagine, if you do a bit of it at the start of the year, you will 1) feel smug and clean inside and 2) be able to lay your hands on that fantastic shot of your band standing against the wall looking miserable quickly when an A&R guy asks to see some photos of your act immediately.

3. Get tooled up

Make 2015 the year that you start using the right online tools to manage your band’s career. You can save a truckload of time by picking the right application for the job – here’s a few of our favourites to get you started:

  • Email and calendar management: Google Apps
  • File sharing: Dropbox (note: Google Apps allows you to do this too – not as well in my view but if you are paying for Google Apps, it’s probably worth using the file storage that comes with it)
  • E-newsletters: Mad Mimi or Getresponse
  • Ticket sales: Mitingu
  • Websites: Squarespace or Wordpress (or us!)
  • Social media management: Hootsuite

These are just a few examples: the point is that it is worth investing in some kit that reduces as much as possible the amount of admin associated with running a band. Don't work off a bunch of Excel spreadsheets to send e-newsletters, or an email system that clogs up your inbox with spam: get proper systems in place to make communicating with fans and music industry contacts as straightforward as possible.

4. Revisit your image

Given that the music industry often cares more about how its artists look than the actual music they produce, it’s remarkable that a lot of bands pay scant attention to image. Now I’m not suggesting that you devote 2015 to making yourself look more beautiful but it is definitely worth taking a moment to review how your band wants to present itself to the world this year – not just in terms of physical appearance (although sadly that is important) but in terms of the visual ‘assets’ your band produces – i.e., photos, websites, artwork and so on. What do they say about you? What do they say about your music? In an era where bands are increasingly doing everything themselves, from music production to website build right down to artwork design, it’s easy to lose an objective approach to image and imagery. So perhaps a good start to 2015 would be to do a review of all this, perhaps involving a third party who is not in the band (and ideally experienced in the field of fashion and design), with a view to defining your band's image strongly (and in a way that won't send potential fans and labels running for the hills).

5. Capture data – religiously

I can be pretty confident in saying that music sales are going to decline in 2015, with streaming becoming an ever more popular way to consume music. As musicians are making diddly-squat from streaming, this is going to make touring an even more important source of income for bands – and a huge component of a successful tour is a well-stocked database of email addresses. So don’t let any opportunity to capture data pass: be it on your website, at a gig or in a Facebook update, always ensure that you are encouraging people to sign up for your mailing list. And, with touring in mind, be smart about data capture too: make sure you’re capturing not just an email address but a postcode / location too.

6. Stay on top of the latest developments within the music industry

The music industry is now umbilically linked to the internet, and as such it is subject to a hell of a lot of technology-driven change; so much so that it is getting bloody difficult to stay on top of the latest developments in music promotion techniques (and the industry in general). There are several online publications however that you can follow to stay up to date on things – obviously we’d recommend that you subscribe to The Prescription (sign up form below), but there are some other great blogs which are regularly updated with very informative posts about the current and future state of the industry – some Prescription favourites include Make it in Music, the CD Baby blog, Music Week and CMU. Subscribe to or bookmark sites / blogs like these, because the more information that you have at your disposal about music promotion, and the more research you do on it, the better you're going to get at it.

7. Make a plan for the year

The start of the year is a great time to think about what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. Get the band together, and rather than going down the boozer, sit down with a coffee and try to map out a roadmap for the year. Maybe February could be the month you build a new site; March the month you plan a tour; April the month you start working on new material and so on. It’s easy to amble along and never achieve anything – this year, give yourself some clearly defined goals, and try to meet them.

8. And finally…do less

Yes, yes, I’ve just given you 7 extra things to do in 2015. But in general, try to do less. I’m not suggesting that you lounge about the house in your pyjamas all day (which admittedly is a jolly good lark) but that you look at all the efforts you put into your music (be that making or marketing it) and identify any areas where you’re wasting time. Are you agonising too long over mixes? Are you maintaining 10 presences on social media when perhaps focusing on 3 will do? Are you posting too many updates to your band’s Facebook page rather than spending time on the studio? In 2015, cut out or cut down on any activities that are getting in the way of making and sharing great music.

Good luck!

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Steve Albini on the state of the music industry

Steve Albini

by Chris Singleton

It's been a little while since I posted in The Prescription: many apologies for that, I've been very preoccupied with the build of the new Prescription PR website (we hope you like it). 

We're still beavering away on certain aspects of the new site so actually, you're not going to get a series of useful tips from me today. However, what you ARE going to get is a very interesting speech from Steve Albini - the keynote address at the 2014 Face the Music event in Melbourne - where he ruminates on the 'surprisingly sturdy state of the music industry.' In the speech he discusses the changes that the internet has brought to the music industry, and how he feels they've been overwhelmingly positive in nature for bands:

In short, the internet has made it much easier to conduct the day-to-day business of being in a band and has increased the efficiency. Everything from scheduling rehearsals using online calendars, to booking tours by email, to selling merchandise and records from online stores, down to raising the funds to make a record is a new simplicity that bands of the pre-internet era would salivate over. The old system was built by the industry to serve the players inside the industry. The new system where music is shared informally and the bands have a direct relationship to the fans was built by the bands and the fans in the manner of the old underground. It skips all the intermediary steps
— Steve Albini

You can read the full text of the speech over on the Guardian website or watch the video of it below. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Albini's optimism for the future of the music industry, the way he describes its past, present and potential future amounts to a fascinating read and I'd recommend that any band or artist currently working on a music project check it out (unless you're a Prince fan, for reasons which will become clear towards the end).


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Why bands shouldn’t put all their eggs in Facebook’s basket

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by Chris Singleton

An article in today’s Guardian caught my eye: “Ello might or might not replace Facebook, but the giant social network won’t last forever.” To save you the hassle of actually reading the article, Ello is a relatively new social network (an ‘anti-Facebook with a conscience’ apparently – given that it’s funded by venture finance capital, I won’t hold my breath about the conscience bit); it is growing at a rapid rate and might one day replace Facebook as the world’s dominant social network (or not).

I suspect that reports of Facebook’s death are likely to be much exaggerated at this point – however, it is worth thinking, from a band’s point of view, about what would happen if Facebook did pop its clogs; it could have serious ramifications for an act.

Right now, bands often focus on building up a Facebook following at the expense of a lot of other stuff. This is usually because a label wants to see a big one before getting the chequebook out (ooh er). As such bands go to huge lengths – sometimes spending a lot of money on advertising – to ensure that they have a healthy number of fans associated with their Facebook page. It makes sense on paper to do this: you get the ability to communicate with a group of people who might one day fork out for a t-shirt, and an A&R guy gets to think that you’re actually popular.

But what happens if Facebook disappears? It sounds like a crazy thought, but it’s not. We’ve been here before after all - remember getting RSI from clicking ‘add friend’ repeatedly on Myspace, and building up an impressive number of said friends…only for those friends (fairweather at best; saucy ladies punting saucy services at worst) to bugger off to Facebook a year or so later?

If Facebook does get supplanted by a newer, hipper network then you may find yourself in the situation of having spent thousands of pounds developing a following that is no longer there. You may have promoted your Facebook page religiously whilst on tour…only to find that the fans you made on tour can’t be contacted, because the only relationship you had with them was one that took place on a now defunct Facebook. This is not a good place to be in.

So how do you protect yourself? Well, by all means continue to advertise your band on Facebook; but don’t just focus on using advertising spend simply to generate ‘likes’ (this, after all, sort amounts to paying Mark Zuckerberg so that YOU can segment his database). Try to capture email addresses as well, by offering people content in exchange for their email address (at the moment, most bands just offer this content in exchange for a like). Or, if you are dead set on generating likes for your advertising spend, follow this up with some Facebook ad promotions aimed at converting the new ‘likers’ into subscribers to your mailing list (run an ad which offers them a second free track by going to your website and joining a mailing list, for example). At gigs, prioritise capturing email addresses over Facebook likes.

The reason it’s so important to capture email addresses is because 1) you are future-proofing yourself somewhat from the doomsday scenario of your Facebook following disappearing and 2) you gain more ownership over the artist-fan relationship – you are in control, generally speaking, of whether somebody sees a communication about your band or not (i.e., you are not relying on a Facebook algorithm). And email addresses allow you to invite people to follow you on other social networks too – you can generally just import your list and send out invites automatically. It’s much easier to convert an email address into a ‘like’ or a follow than the other way round.

I reckon our Facebook followings are safe for a little while yet; but it is worth thinking about what’s round the corner, and considering other ways to bombard people with information. Speaking of which it would be rude at this point not to invite you to join Prescription’s mailing list (please see below).

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Should bands bother promoting albums?

vinyl-breaking.jpg

by Chris Singleton

The music industry is in a constant state of flux. Streaming is taking over from downloads. Vinyl is making a comeback. Hi-res audio is on the way. Live promoters are becoming record labels. Record companies want to sell t-shirts. To quote a certain AOR band from 2004, everything’s changing. And yet despite all this change, one thing seems to stay the same: the notion that the album is the be all and end all. 

Yes, despite the fact that people are consuming music in all manner of ways, on all manner of devices, and often in some sort of shuffle mode, we musicians seem wedded to the idea that at some point we should get 12 songs together, stick them on a shiny piece of plastic, assign a ‘release date’ to said piece of plastic, issue a press release about it and hope that people buy it when it hits the shelves (or not: finding a record shop to stock anything in is a devilishly hard business these days).

In some ways, this obsession with and emphasis on the long-player is perfectly understandable. The album has proven itself to be a great format; and wonderful things can happen when you place twelve songs by a great band in a row. The LP has a proud history (though not as long as some imagine – it’s really only since the mid to late sixties that the LP really became the art form that it is considered today).

The main problem I see with the album doesn’t really concern the format though: rather, it’s the way that the album seems to be the only thing that musicians think is worth promoting. With a lot of new bands I encounter, virtually all of their promotional activities are exclusively centred on an album and take place only at the time at which that album comes out; this is fine if you are Coldplay or U2, with a truckload of existing fans ready to obligingly buy a full LP’s worth of material – but not so good if you are a brand new band starting out. There’s generally no fanbase at all there to buy your album, even if it’s great, and shouting about the fact that there’s a record with 12 songs on it out on Date X is not really going to do you much good. There are an awful lot of other people doing that.

The problem is that by leaving your music promotion until the point at which your album comes out, you have possibly left things too late. By all means release a full album, but try to create a promotion schedule that starts well in advance of its release date – maybe up to a year in advance. Here are a few things that you could consider doing as part of this:

  • Rather than putting an embargo on your album tracks, and insisting, PinkFloyd-style, that they can only be listened to as part of a full album, release them (ideally with accompanying videos) online regularly – and approach blogs and music sites about your band every time you do.
  • Use Facebook ads and other social media tactics to build up your following and email mailing list so that both are as large as possible well before the record comes out.
  • Don’t leave it until the album comes out to start gigging – get out there now and start developing a live following.
  • Approach managers, publishers, agents and labels with individual songs that might pique their interest; don’t necessarily wait until your album is 100% written, mixed and mastered to do so (you never know – an individual song might convince them to put some budget into an album project).

The other thing to remember is that you might be a singles band, not an albums band. Your album might be an incoherent mess but it might have 3 killer singles on it. If so, focus on your strong point – and place the emphasis on (and plough your budget into) promoting singles over and above an album.

But to answer the main question posed by this post - should bands bother promoting their albums? - the answer is actually a resounding yes. It’s just a case of starting way earlier than you might think is necessary. A promo strategy which kicks in way before an LP comes out is crucial to giving you the fanbase (and media support) that you need in order to sell some copies of that LP (or see bums on seats at the accompanying tour). It’s simple: if your album is your big musical statement, make sure you have a big following to hear it - BEFORE it comes out.

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Is recording your music at home a bad idea?

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by Chris Singleton

You are probably too young, dear reader, to remember the ‘home taping is killing music’ labels that started to adorn LPs in the late seventies (I can just about remember them, along with Sealink ferries and blue and grey trains). Well, despite the scary warnings, music did actually survive the rise of the cassette (not to mention CDs, MP3s and streams). But there is a very important part of the music industry that is in the process of being killed – and no, I’m not talking about the quaint idea that people should get paid for making music. I’m talking about the professional recording studio. Every week seems to bring news of a well-known studio being forced to shut its doors for good; this is a real pity, because in general (and this is going to be a slightly controversial statement, given the prevalence of bedroom-recorded music currently available) there is nowhere nearly as good as a recording studio for making albums.

The death of the professional recording studio is down to the fact that over the past 15 years or so, we all seem to have got it into our heads that the home is the de facto place to record music (or at least a good place to record music); so much so that it may well be time to design a ‘home recording is killing studios’ sticker that can be placed on recording equipment.

I am totally guilty of being a home-recording-believer myself over the years (it’s only recently – having spent more time recording in proper studios – that I have changed my view rather a lot on this). And it is easy to see why people want to record at home: cheap tech means everybody’s got a 128 track recorder and thousands of plugins in their toilet (or on their iPhone). Why spend £300 a day in a professional studio when you can record all your music for next to nothing at home? Well, there are several important reasons why it might be worth thinking about leaving the confines of your bedroom / garage / cellar / shed / bathroom (delete as applicable) when it comes to making your next record.

1. You are missing out on a truckload of amazing equipment

In most cases, comparing a good recording studio to a home setup is like comparing a Porsche to a Fiat Punto: there is barely a comparison to be made at all. Recording studios come with an armoury of mics, instruments, preamps, digital converters and mixing desks that will easily outclass whatever you have at home – and generate much better recordings. You simply will not have a U87 mic, a Hammond organ or a Steinway grand piano lying about at home; but you’ll find all these (and much more) in many professional studios.

2. The acoustics in studios are much better than in your garage

Even if you dismiss the gap in the quality of equipment between a home setup and a professional studio, you will find it difficult to ignore the fact that the rooms in proper recording studios have been designed to simply ‘sound’ better than a garage. Not entirely surprisingly, you will therefore end up with a much better sound from a professional studio, particularly where recordings of acoustic instruments are concerned.

3. You are not a trained recording engineer

Just because you have an audio interface and a copy of Pro Tools at home does not mean you are a recording engineer. It means you have an audio interface and a copy of Pro Tools. A house engineer  in a professional studio will have been trained to capture sounds (through use of good mic selection and placement, or correct use of outboard equipment) in a way that you will struggle to. Not only that, but they’ve been trained to process recordings in a way that the home recordist might not understand terribly well. Advanced use of EQ, compression, gating and effects can transform recordings; the professional recording engineer will have an arsenal of tricks up their sleeve that the bedroom musician is very unlikely to be able to match. At this point I’ll draw an analogy with medical care: sure, thanks to the internet you can google your symptoms, find a potential diagnosis, and sort of be your own doctor…but how confident would you ultimately feel about the results? Just as you’d entrust your health to a doctor, entrust your beloved music to an engineer…

4. You are not a producer

If you are lucky enough to work with a really good producer, you are in a sense working with every other artist they’ve ever worked with, because that producer will have taken some interesting ideas away from every previous studio session which he or she may then be able to add to yours. That could be anything from a simple-but-effective string arrangement to a very out-there backward drum part. Something, in effect, that you would possibly never have thought of – because you’ve only ever produced your own music. Because professional producers work day-in, day-out with a multitude of different types of bands, they can apply much more creative ideas to your music than you are ever likely to. OK, so a professional producer could in theory come and hang out in your house and produce your music there…but they’ll tend to push you to go into a studio every time (because they know that that’s where they’ll get the best results for you).

5. Recording studios save you time

So long as you are well-prepared when entering the studio, you should find that recording studios help you get your music down faster. There are a few reasons for this: firstly, because the rooms are designed with recording in mind, you’ll spend less time trying to iron out a sound (because you won’t be dealing with the sonic challenges and compromises that invariably come with recording at home). Secondly, because you’re likely to be working with a professional engineer who really ‘knows’ the studio, he or she will be able to get things sounding good quicker. And finally, the fact that you are paying for studio time means you are much less likely to take regular breaks to check your Facebook stream instead of recording.

6. Recording studios inspire creativity

There is something about studios which just makes you feel more inspired. It may be that the simple act of leaving the house gets you into a more creative zone, or it might be that working in a room where Dark Side of The Moon was recorded helps you to aim for similar artistic heights, but either way being in a studio can press creative buttons that a boring old bedroom can’t. Meaning your music gets more interesting (read better).

So what has all this got to do with music promo?

Yes, this is a music promo blog – supposedly offering tips and advice on how to promote your music. Surely waxing lyrical about how great recording studios are has nothing to do with music promotion? Well, actually, I’ve always found that the whole music promotion process begins not with a Facebook ad campaign or a well written press release, but the music itself. It is infinitely easier to promote – on every level – a well-recorded and produced album than a record which, even if it contains a lot of good ideas, sounds a bit half-baked because it was recorded in a garage.

Recording studios, when used well, offer you the best opportunity to do your music justice and create albums that have the potential to sell themselves (even before you approach a music PR company). There will of course be exceptions to the rule and fantastic records produced at home, but next time you are tempted to be your own engineer and producer, or are trying to record a complicated drum part in a shed, remember where most of the great albums you’ve heard were made: in a recording studio. There are good reasons for that.

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How to make the most of your back catalogue

cds-back-catalogue.jpg

by Chris Singleton

OK, so you’ve spent loadsa money and time making a record; you’ve put it out; you sold a couple of hundred of copies to friends and relatives whose interest in your musical activities seems to dwindle with each release…and now you’ve got an idea for a bigger, better, brighter album that will knock the socks off the last one. Time to consign the previous release to the dustbin of rock history, so you can focus on your new material, right? 

No.  And here’s why: when you made that old album, you produced something very valuable in this day and age: content. Have you heard that old / new saying ‘content is king’? Well, content IS king. It’s what generates visits to websites, streams on Spotify; sync-deals for films; background music for Phil and Kirsty to sell houses to on Channel 4. Good content takes time to produce, and even if you are bored with your old songs, and they’ve been knocking around for more years than you care to remember…they can come in very handy. Just because a previous album didn’t sell millions, it doesn’t mean it’s not any good, and it could contain tracks which if produced, packaged or promoted differently (or individually) could well advance your career or generate moolah to fund the next album. 

So, here are some ways you can make the most of your older material: 

  • Think about approaching publishers and other artists’ managers with a view to getting your tracks covered by whoever the latest anodyne-but-chart-topping muppets are. You might be sitting on a track which might never be a hit for you but could sell millions for a reformed-tax-avoiding-and-ever-so-slightlier-hairier boy band.
  • You can approach TV producers, film-makers or advertising people with your music: there’s nothing like a John Lewis advert featuring one of your songs to get a few quid in the run up to Christmas. The other advantage of this is that works out significantly better for you than a Wonga loan.
  • You could think about approaching games companies with an old track and ask them to have your tasteful and tender folk song form the background music to a violent shoot-em-up (OK, so maybe something a bit more electronic / upbeat might work a tad better for this particular suggestion).
  • You can give away your old material in exchange for email addresses or Facebook likes. This can be a really good way to build up a bigger database.
  • Create deluxe editions of your older albums. If you have a devoted-enough fanbase, you might find that they’re willing to shell out for a remixed and remastered version of a previous opus. Hell, you could even create a box set containing all your previous albums plus, if your music isn’t rare enough already, some ahem, rarities.
  • Sell your older albums at gigs. It’s amazing how many bands forget to do this – they often rock up at venues armed only with their brand new release (when several punters may well want to buy other CDs - particularly if they are signed).
  • You can also use physical copies of previous albums as incentives to attend gigs – if you’re sitting on a pile of CDs that never sold, why not give one away with each ticket sold for a show? 
  • You could also do a ‘two for one’ deal where people can buy the new album plus an older one at a price that is simply too good to be believed.
  • Rework a song for your new album. You might have a killer track on an older release - but one which suffered from a terrible production. Give it another go and release it as your next single. Who knows; it might be a hit second time round.

When you stop to think about it, there is actually quite a lot you can do with your older material. Dust down those old CDs and get the boy band directory out. 

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Promoting your music in a world of short attention spans

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Egg timer

by Chris Singleton

I’ve noticed lately that my attention span is getting worse. I am finding it increasingly hard to focus on anything for any length of time (even getting to the end of this sentence was a struggle). Maybe it’s because I’m getting old, or maybe it’s to do with the inevitable sleep deprivation that comes with all this fathering-of-children business, but essentially I put it down to the fact that any time I sit down to do anything, some device or other beeps at me or displays a notification that simply demands another bit of my (ever-shortening) attention. 

Needless to say I am not alone – everybody else I know is drowning in a sea of constant interruptions and diversions, usually because they are permanently wired up to that big old thing called the Internet which, frankly, never shuts up (and, for the record, is one day going to become sentient, take slight issue with the popularity of One Direction and devour us all alive). And never mind the Internet: there’s real life too. Demanding jobs, bossy toddlers, trips to the mechanic and a need to pay off the 5853% interest on a Wonga loan all impact on Joe Average’s ability to put his mind to a specific task for longer than 5 minutes (unless, it would appear, it involves Candy Crush).

And yet, despite all this, we musicians still think that it’s perfectly reasonable to expect busy, pushed-for-time members of the public to walk down to WH Smiths, purchase a music magazine, scour the magazine for a 20-word dismissal of our music, locate a boutique record store that stocks said music, buy a 180 gram limited edition vinyl copy of our latest 120-minute triple LP, nip down to the corner hifi shop to buy a turntable to actually play the masterpiece on, whip out the joss sticks, then listen in reverence to the album for 2 hours.

Yes, there are some die-hard fans who will go to those 1970s-style lengths to discover, buy and enjoy new music but sadly these days they are in the minority. Those dastardly short attention spans make it very unlikely that a potential fan will complete any of the above steps to listening bliss (they might get as far as WH Smiths, but odds are they’ll buy a saucy magazine instead – and one in which there is, surprisingly, no room for album reviews). But don’t despair: there are still ways to get people to listen to your music, but you have to bear the fact that we are living in an era of information overload in mind when you go about promoting it. Here are some tips for dealing with music fans who don’t have time for anything…

  • Don’t assume that everybody wants to listen to an album’s worth of material. Allow – and encourage – people to stream or download individual tracks. That might be all they have time for.
  • Offer your music in a variety of formats: streams, downloads, videos, acoustic versions, CD, vinyl…this ensures that you are catering for everybody (and every device).
  • Don’t just rely on promoting your music in print publications. Although some magazines and newspapers publish their features and reviews online, not all do. Increasingly, people are consuming content they used to enjoy in print publications via a Facebook feed (which Mark Zuckerburg is now using to manipulate your emotions, it would seem). So remember that online music promo is now as important – if not more so – than traditional press.
  • Create compelling reasons for people to listen to your music or watch your latest video: don’t just stick a boring tweet up that says ‘download our latest song now’. Be clever with visuals, concepts, language…do whatever it takes to stand out (so long as it’s not too naff, or illegal).
  • Think about timing: when are people most likely to have a gap in their day to notice you and your music? If you are posting your new tracks up at 11pm on a Friday night, or launching an album 5 days before Christmas, you are going to struggle in your quest for people’s attention.
  • Remind people about what you’re promoting – within reason. It’s very unusual for people to take action the very first time they see a bit of promotion for something, so you may find that you need to give them a little nudge. This could be in the form of a ‘chaser’ e-newsletter, another Facebook status update or tweet, or a follow up Facebook ad campaign. Don’t overdo it though – over-communication is no solution the problem of time-poverty, and will just annoy your fans.
  • Create edits of your songs, where appropriate, for an online audience (or indeed any audience). If you have a track that generously presents a 10 minute instrumental section before the first verse arrives, you might want to think about shortening it a bit when you use the song in certain promotional contexts.
  • If presenting your music to A&Rs, publishers and live agents, give them a sample of your music before introducing them to the full version of your latest opus or your entire back catalogue.

If you made it this far, well done: there’s hope for our attention spans yet. Now get yer joss sticks out and whack that very long record of mine on.

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Does your band need a CRM system? (And what the hell is that anyway?)

1984crm.jpg

by Chris Singleton

As regular readers of these posts will note, I seem to spend an awful lot of times telling bands to ‘think like a label’ – to create project plans; capture data efficiently; apply strong production values to any audio or visual output; get a stylist in; register music with the relevant royalty-collection organisations; do loads of coke; get your band to take their kit off at any given opportunity…all that sort of jazz. My hope is – as much as it may jar with artistic sensibilities and offend delicate souls – that readers are constantly reminded of the word ‘business’ in the phrase ‘music business’, and behave accordingly. Welcome to the machine. And if you thought that this constant encouragement to act like the most cynical of big businesses was already bad, it’s about to get worse, because I’m now going to suggest that you dabble in something called CRM: customer relationship management.

I know. It sounds terrible doesn’t it? Reducing devoted fans to ‘customers’, and talking about managing relationships without even the slightest mention of groupies. But CRM systems are what all clever businesses – and that includes the major labels – use to truly ‘understand’ their clients. Never mind the NSA, businesses have been snooping on their customers and potential customers for years now, all in a (usually profitable) attempt to squeeze as much money as possible out of them.  Yes! You too could do the same!

In the context of the music biz, all this means using sophisticated database software to

  • spot the most dedicated fans and ensure they never miss a release
  • create material for fans with particular types of interest in an artist’s music (live gigs, merchandise, limited edition vinyl etc.)
  • work out the best places to tour through use of geographical information

In a sense, these are generally things that all bands are trying to do, all the time – but CRM software just makes it a lot easier (and yes, sneaky).

So what is CRM software, and where do I get it?

A CRM package basically comprises

  • a database
  • some tools for capturing information onto it easily
  • some tools extracting useful information from it easily
  • features which allow you to track previous communications between you and your customers (fans)

There are truckloads of CRM solutions out there: Salesforce, Zoho, Capsule and Nimble are all online pieces of kit that you could use (my favourite of those, for the record, is Nimble). In a sense though, the program is less important than the database; you could actually get by reasonably well with an Excel spreadsheet so long as you were capturing the right data.

What does the ‘right data’ mean?

Most bands understand the need to capture data, but they tend to capture a fairly minimal amount of it: getting email addresses onto a scrap of paper at a gig is about as sophisticated as a lot of bands get. But actually, there is a lot more information that musicianscanand should capture which could help them both maximise sales and grow their fanbase. There are also a lot of sources of data that bands forget they have access to.

These are the pieces of information that I, as a cigar-puffing major label CEO would want to ensure that my minions were whacking onto a CRM database:

  • Email address (THE most important thing you can capture)
  • Name (particularly if you have a ‘petite’ fanbase, being able to address people by name is a Very Good Thing)
  • Postcode and country
  • History of previous music purchases
  • History of previous merchandise purchases
  • History of previous contributions to crowdfunding campaigns
  • History of previous attendance at gigs

But how the hell do you get all this data? Well, truth be told, you won’t be able to get all of it – you’re not going to convince Apple, for example, to send you a list of everybody who’s bought your records on iTunes. However, you can get a LOT of it, particularly if you are selling music and merchandise direct to fans on your website – most online store systems allow you to export all your sales info and upload it into your database; and any crowdfunding system worth its salt will give you a CSV file of everybody who’s supported your campaign. As for capturing data at gigs, you can do this both before the gig – by selling tickets in advance online – and at the event itself (you’ll find some tips on capturing data at gigs here, by the way). For the geographical side of things, it’s simply a case of capturing postcode and country any time you are asking people to provide an email address (be that on a website, or the aforementioned back of an envelope at a gig).

It will potentially be quite a lot of work and occasionally a bit of a technical challenge to get all this data in one place and onto a CRM – but it is worth it, because…

Having lots of data in your CRM means you can do Really Funky Things

Here’s where CRM gets a little less dry and a bit more sexy. Say you are deciding whether or not it’s worth investing in a vinyl release of your next album. Assuming you have captured all the data I’ve mentioned above, you can now log into your CRM, and pull up a list of everybody you sold a vinyl copy of your last record to. Groovy. And you can then decide whether there are enough people interested in that sort of thing to justify the cost.

Or say you are planning a tour. You can pull up your database, whack it into some mapping software and literally ‘see’ where your fans live. You can then identify hotspots where there is the greatest concentration of fans and put on shows in the locations which are most likely to provide a turnout which makes putting 5 sweaty blokes in the back of a people carrier for 2 months worthwhile.

Maybe you want to identify ‘superfans’ to act as special ambassadors for your band? No problem, just look for the people on your CRM who have the most ‘history’ against their records: people who have not only bought a record but attended a show, watched a live stream, purchased a t-shirt, supported your Kickstarter campaign and slept with the drummer. These are the prime candidates to join a street team or similar shady organisation devoted to promoting your music.

You get the picture – literally: an overview of your fans that you can use to sell music to in the most effective way possible. And yes, although it arguably feels quite ‘big brother’, it also brings some pretty decent benefits to the fans: they will be targeted with stuff they are most likely to enjoy, and get more opportunities to enjoy your music. And that, after all, is generally the point of being a fan.

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How to make (and nurture) music industry contacts

A music industry contact
A music industry contact

By Chris Singleton

Looking back over various Prescription articles recently, it occurred to me that a lot of them are focused on the ‘DIY’ aspect of music promotion. Which is fine, as all music promotion essentially starts with and by the artist – even the biggest acts on the planet had to start their career somewhere, and ‘somewhere’ usually means with a dose of self-promotion.

But it is worth remembering however that as worthwhile as DIY promo is, there is a lot to be said for not doing it yourself: if you can convince a powerful Svengali, live agent or established label to take responsibility for your career and spend a lot of money promoting it, then let’s say that the letting-somebody-else-do-it school of music promotion has its up sides too. The question is how you find these sorts of contacts, and how you nurture them. Here are some tips.

Start with people you know

The best connections are often personal connections, because – assuming you are a relatively nice person – people you know are the people most likely to go the extra mile for you. Look through your address book and see if you can find anyone with any links to the entertainment business. Drop them a line, explain that you are trying to locate contacts who might be interested in furthering your career, and see if they can help. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised: in my own case, chatting to a friend led to an introduction to his friend, who got me in the door of quite a few major labels, one of which turned out to be very helpful in distributing my records. Working your personal network can prove to be a quite fruitful six degrees of Kevin Bacon style thing.

It is vital however that you do not foist yourself upon your personal contacts. Remember that you are talking to friends – and friends don’t like taken being advantage of, or given the hard sell.

Do your research

It’s surprising how many music professionals are kind enough to leave their contact details lying about online. Thanks to sites like Hitquarters and the Unsigned Guide, you can access thousands of potentially useful contacts (including their name, address and phone numbers) and find out what projects they’ve previously been involved with. (It’s like the NSA, only more rock and roll). You can also make use of LinkedIn and other social networks to establish connections with potentially useful people (but be careful whom you send contact requests to: the potential to annoy is quite high here).

Make a database

As you do your research, you should add new contacts to database of people that you want to approach with your music. This database should include not only contact details of these poor unsuspecting souls, but notes on what they’ve worked on in the past.

By database I mean something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet – but if you want to go the extra mile and be a little bit more sophisticated about it, you could try using what’s known as a ‘CRM tool’ like Nimble or Capsule. These allow you to do funkier things with your data than Excel – like keep a history of communications between you and your contacts, do sophisticated queries, connect with them on social media and more. CRM tools are also useful for keeping tabs on your fans and staying in touch with them.

Contact the RIGHT people

It’s really important to take a very targeted approach when it comes to contacting people in the music business. Only contact RELEVANT people – contacts who work with acts that make a similar noise to yours – or you’ll just waste their time and your own. Remember that everybody in showbiz knows everybody else, so you don’t want to get a reputation for being a spammer; nobody will take you seriously after that.

Approach when the time is right

Just because you now have a great list of contacts and know exactly which artists they’ve made the tea for, it does not mean that you should necessarily contact them all immediately. Only start your approaches when you are 100% ready: i.e., very confident in yourself and your music.

Nail your pitch

Remember that when you finally DO approach your contacts about your music, it’s vital that you are fully prepared: you should be presenting them with the best music, the best videos, the best photos and the best story that you can muster. It’s all very well having sophisticated data capture techniques and a huge database of music industry big wigs to hand, but if you and your ‘product’ (sorry for calling it that) aren’t looking and sounding as good as you can, you will simply waste opportunities. To help you avoid this shocking waste, we have a separate article about pitching your songs to the music industry which you might find relevant to the whole process of making and keeping friends in the music biz.

Good luck…and remember your manners.

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How to choose the best music promotion team for your release

a-team.jpg

by Chris Singleton

As is often remarked upon on these pages, a technological revolution has brought about a massive drop in the cost of access to professional recording equipment whilst at the same time furnishing musicians with an easy way to distribute music globally. This means that the number of bands in a position to make and release albums has never been higher. However, the same technological revolution has brought with it streaming, illegal downloading and the gradual death of the physical album, meaning that the rise in the number of records being released has not been accompanied by a plethora of new labels with the finances to release and promote all of them.

This has led a huge number of bands ‘going it alone’ and self-releasing their records, either with a view to getting enough of a reaction to entice one of the dwindling number of ‘proper’ labels to get involved, or generate enough of a buzz to actually turn their music-making into a viable business. Both goals are extremely difficult to achieve, but they are doable. However, generally speaking, to have any chance of meeting either, bands usually need to work with a music promo team.

What do we mean by promo team, though? Well, as a bare minimum a music promo team tends to consist of a music PR firm, who will handle print, online press and possibly some radio / TV; however, depending on budget, bands may hire a broader range of professionals, for example:

  • A music PR company
  • A national radio plugger
  • A regional radio plugger
  • A TV plugger
  • An online marketing company

Typically, the most common scenario tends to involve bands hiring a music PR firm and a national radio plugger. Regardless of the size or make-up of your team, however, it’s vital to have really good people on board; music promo services cost money and the music industry is intensely competitive – pick the wrong team and you will end up 1) throwing cash down the loo and 2) not getting anywhere. So how do you pick the right people?

1. Identify your niche, and look for people who work in that area

There are a lot of PR companies and radio pluggers out there – but some will be a better or more natural ‘match’ for your project. If you make easy-listening jazz, it stands to reason that hiring somebody who works chiefly in the area of death metal PR is not the smartest move (and vice-versa). Before you hire anyone to do anything with your music, try to define what kind of genre you are operating in and do some research into companies and individuals who specialise in that genre.

2. Be cautious of companies that say ‘yes’ to every project

Delivering a serious PR or radio campaign involves a LOT of work: identifying press angles, writing press releases, selecting the correct targets, pitching, repeated chasing and reporting on progress. There is only so much time in the day, only so many people in the office (or in the case of freelancers, just one person in the office…), so if the company you are approaching seems to be one that says ‘yes’ to every project or has a huge client roster without the team to adequately service it, tread cautiously. Always ask a few probing questions about

  • why the company particularly want to work on your project
  • what else they’ve got on at the moment
  • if they can genuinely fit your project in.

3. Beware of outlandish claims

Musicians are probably the biggest dreamers out there. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as ambition is a pre-requisite to success, but unfortunately there are a bunch of snake oil salesmen about, all too ready to guarantee fame and fortune to these dreaming musicians…for a price, of course. Success in music is attainable but it is very difficult to achieve, and you need to be working with people who understand that alongside talent, graft is the key to this success. It is far better to work with a PR or plugger who gives you a realistic set of targets and outcomes rather than one who promises stardom without giving any hint at how he or she will deliver it. As the old saying goes, if something sounds too good to be true, that’s because it usually is.

4. Shop around

It’s a good idea to approach several companies / individuals with your project and ask them to pitch for your business – by averaging out the quotes you will get a sense of how much you should be expecting to pay, and by examining the quality of the pitches and the kind of media targets each company lists in their proposals, you’ll be able to get a sense of which company or freelancer is likely to do the best job.

5. Check for rapport…

As mentioned above, don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions about how a company would potentially handle your project. This will allow you to get a sense of

  • how professional an outfit is
  • how good their relationships with media contacts are
  • their understanding of how your music could fit into the media landscape.

But crucially it will help you get a sense of the kind of personality / personalities you will be dealing with at the company, because it’s crucial to be working with people that you know you can trust and whom you will have a good rapport with throughout a campaign.

6. …and check for reports

Ensure that anyone you are thinking of working with commits to regular communication and written reports outlining who’s been approached, when, and what the reaction to date is. Nail everybody down to a robust reporting schedule. If somebody seems reluctant to commit to serious reporting, that should ring alarm bells.

7. Work with people who actually like your music

Music promotion is a business; profits need to be made and bills need to be paid. This inevitably leads to people taking on music projects even though they don’t actually like the music in question. If you’re working with a professional outfit whom you are certain will do their utmost on a project regardless of their opinion on it, then that’s okay; but in an ideal world, you want to be working with people who love your project and want to work on it because of that love for it. Passion breeds good results.

Good luck with your quest to find decent people for your project – and of course, don’t forget to put us on your list of music PR companies to check out. We look forward to all the probing questions…

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How to plan an album release - on a post it note

postitnotes.jpg

by Chris Singleton

Bands are notoriously unreliable, forgetful and flakey aren’t they? Well in a sense that’s probably a good thing: in an ideal world musicians should be creative mavericks, not organised project planners. But since the music world these days seems to revolve around doing absolutely everything yourself, a bit of organisation goes a long way, and in this post I thought I’d share a low-tech but very effective way to plan an album release - and one which, incidentally, involves a lot of post-it notes.

For this exercise you will need:

  • Several packs of post-it notes
  • 1 roll of brown paper
  • 1 marker pen
  • 1 laptop 
  • Everybody involved in your album release

Step 1: Get everyone together

Get everybody who is involved in putting out your release together in the same room. Easier said than done, but try to get the band, your designers, manager, live agent, distributors, PR people, radio pluggers, CD manufacturer and the guy who’s making the tea all in the same room at the same time (if you can’t achieve this monumental feat of diarisation then get as many of your team as possible in there). These are your project ‘stakeholders’, and you need their help to create the perfect project plan.

Step 2: Create a timeline

Unfurl your roll of brown paper and pin it up on the wall. Then, mark out the first Monday of every week for about 4 months on the roll of brown paper, so that you have a timeline which stretches out for about 16-20 weeks in front of all your collaborators. If you are really organised, you might want to prepare this in advance of your meeting.

Your timeline should look something like this (but containing more weeks and columns):

bp1-example.jpg

Step 3: Identify tasks

Write ‘ALBUM RELEASE’ in big letters on a post-it note and place it on the timeline on the date that you think the album should come out. Then give a bunch of post-it notes to all the stakeholders in the room. Ask them to work backwards from this date and write all the tasks relevant to their work on individual post-it notes – for example, a PR task would be to mail copies of your CD to long lead magazines; a designer’s task would be to produce the album cover and so on. Make sure each post-it note lists not only the task but the person responsible for completing it.

Step 4: Add tasks to the timeline

When everybody has identified their tasks, ask each stakeholder to approach the timeline with their post-it notes and place them on the timeline at an appropriate point in time before the release. Ask contributors to be realistic and logical about their deadlines (yes, good luck with that).

At this point, you should have a roll of brown paper that looks somewhat like the below example (but containing a LOT more tasks):

bp-example2.jpg

Step 5: Jiggle the timeline

As more and more tasks get added, you’ll find that some of the deadlines on your roll of brown paper are quite frankly ridiculous: you’ll probably find that the radio plugger has said he’s going to send the album to radio after the record has come out, or that the artwork won’t be ready until after the CD is printed. At this point it is time to move all the post its around so that all the task deadlines make sense. You may even find that your release date was far too early / ambitious, and needs to be pushed back to accommodate everybody’s lead times. Ideally, your manager or somebody very organised should arbitrate this process so that it’s not a complete free-for-all or bun fight.

Step 6: capture the timeline into a spreadsheet

Once all the task timings have been agreed upon, it’s time to capture the timeline onto your laptop. Each task should be assigned an ‘owner’ (i.e., radio plugger, press officer, live agent etc.) on a spreadsheet. This spreadsheet should contain the following columns:

  • Task
  • Owner
  • Deadline
  • Completed? (Yes/No)

Step 7: implement the plan

Now you have your plan all laid out neatly in Excel, it’s time to implement it. Again, it’s helpful if you have a manager (or project planning freak) to do this, but regardless of who ends up ‘owning’ the spreadsheet, you need to ensure that the spreadsheet is constantly referred to and updated in the run up to the release and that everybody involved in the project is hassled constantly to ensure they meet their deadlines.

What if people can’t make the meeting?

If there are stakeholders who can’t make the brown paper meeting – the groupies, for example – then just try to capture as many tasks as you can with the people who can attend, and liaise with other stakeholders as soon as possible after the meeting to get their tasks entered onto the timeline too.

I know, it isn’t rock and roll…

All this seems like a very dry, not-at-all-rock-and-roll process. But at the end of it you should have a much clearer idea of 1) the work that an album release really entails and 2) how to ensure the album actually gets released. Hopefully the number of post-it notes and the shockingly long lead times won’t put you off music for life, though… 

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7 ways to give your music website a spring clean

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by Chris Singleton

So, despite the weather, spring is technically with us. It’s a time for daffodils; bunnies; hot cross buns; the first appearance this year of your rusty old barbeque…or maybe a long overdue glance at your music website, and a realisation that it looks like it a 1983 bulletin board. Don’t panic. Here are some tips for giving your website a bit of a spring clean and adding some features that will help you promote your music more effectively.

1. Ensure your website is talking to Google

It’s all very well having a slick website, but if it’s not showing up in search, nobody will be able to find it. So make sure Google knows about it, by…

  • ensuring that your band name and influences are present in each page title
  • ensuring every page’s ‘meta description’ includes your band name
  • registering your website with Google’s Webmaster Tools
  • connecting your site with Google+ (i.e., using Google Authorship)
  • creating some back links (links to your site) from as many sites as possible.

You can read more about SEO for bands here.

2. Ensure your site is capturing data effectively

Your website is not simply a place for punters to go and check your band out, it’s the place where they should be able to start a lasting relationship with your band (a relationship that involves not wining and dining but easily notifying fans when you are doing a gig, releasing material and so on). The best way to make this beautiful relationship happen is to ensure that your site is capturing email addresses effectively. There should ideally be a form on each page of your site where visitors can subscribe to your mailing list (ideally in exchange for some free content). This form should be hooked up to a service like Getresponse or Mad Mimi (our two favourites, although there are many to choose from) so that you can spam the living daylight out of - sorry, politely email - your fans easily. Another advantage of having a good mailing list is that you can import it into Twitter, Facebook and other social networks; this leads to your subscribers automatically being invited / encouraged to follow you on those networks.

3. Make it easy for people to follow you on social media

Obviously a huge number of people follow artists on social networks these days; even the most technically-challenged musicians tend to be aware of this and put social media icons on their website accordingly. However, they don’t always put them in the best place, or use them in the best way. To get the most out of social media on your site,

  • ensure you are putting the social media icons in a very prominent spot  - in other words, ‘above the fold’, so users don’t have to scroll a lot or nose around the site to find the social links
  • use buttons that allow ‘one-click’ follows, rather than icons which direct you to a social media profile containing another follow button. For example, use an embedded Twitter follow button or Facebook ‘like’ button wherever possible; with these, once they are clicked, the user will automatically be following your band without ever leaving your site.
  • consider using Addthis as a way of encouraging follows and content sharing – it allows you to add follow / sharing icons to your site very easily, plus gives you some very interesting stats.

4. Blog!

Unless you are getting a truckload of Radio 1 airplay, it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to get a truckload of visitors spontaneously rocking up at your website. However, if you’re writing interesting blog articles regularly (interesting = not necessarily about your band) these are very likely to get picked up by search engines, resulting in organic traffic to your site and, if you’ve followed steps 2 and 3 above correctly, a good opportunity to capture data and gain new social media followers. When done well, blogging can be a strong component of an inbound marketing strategy (you can find out about inbound marketing here).

5. Compare your website against others

Compare your site to those belonging to seriously huge artists: the U2s, Bowies, Red Hot Chilli Peppers of this world. How does yours stack up? Is the photography and use of typefaces as strong? Is your site as clever or comprehensive when it comes to data capture and social media? Actually, the answer might be yes – some big acts have surprisingly awful websites. But it’s important to take a look at what the ‘pros’ do anyway, in case there are any tricks you are missing. Typically I tend to find that where a lot of unsigned bands’ websites fall down is in their use of photography – the images use just aren’t professional enough (instead of stylish photos in an interesting location, you often see bands plastering an amateurish ‘four guys looking grumpy against a wall’ photo all over their website). My advice to any band is always to sort out the photos before going anywhere near a website designer.

6. Check your website on a variety of devices

Given how many people are accessing content on smartphones these days, it’s worth checking how your site appears on a variety of devices – not just your fancypants 27 inch iMac. The main thing you need to do is ensure that your site displays correctly on any device, and not just a desktop computer – and if you want to take things a step further, you could consider creating bespoke mobile version of your site or a ‘responsive’ website which automatically resizes itself depending on what device it is being viewed on – you’ll find more tips on building a mobile site here.

7. Use analytics

There is little point having a website if you are unsure whether or not anyone is visiting it. So,

  • ensure you have a Google Analytics account for your website, and are checking it regularly
  • register your site with Google’s Webmaster Tools
  • use Addthis to measure how many people are following you or sharing content, and which bits of content they are sharing.

Act on the information you receive: if your blog articles are particularly popular, write more of them; if your videos page is heavily visited, make more of them and so on.

Right, so I hope these spring-cleaning tips leave your website looking spankingly fresh and your fanbase growing exponentially before the British summer [sic] gets here. Of course, if you can’t be bothered doing all that hard spring cleaning work yourself, here comes the obligatory plug: you can find out more about Prescription PR’s music web design services here.

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Getting data capture at gigs right

clipboard-gig.jpg

In a recent post we looked at how to put a good newsletter together – and a large part of that article dealt with sorting out your database before actually emailing anybody. Of course for musicians, a hugely important aspect of building a database involves collecting email addresses at your live performances, so in this post we give you some quick and simple tips to ensure that you’re not missing any tricks when it comes to capturing your fans’ info at shows.

1. Start capturing attendees’ data BEFORE the gig

Eh? How do I do that? Surely I have to wait until there are punters streaming through the door of the venue before I can get them to scribble down their email address? Well, actually, no – you can capture data well before you get anywhere near the stage, by selling tickets online in advance. You don’t have to be in the ‘Ticketmaster’ league of bands to do this – there are lots of low-cost tools like Stubmatic or Wegottickets that allow you to sell e-tickets in advance of your shows and, just as importantly, capture relevant data about your fans (the main thing you want, obviously, being their email addresses). Even simple Paypal transactions let you do this. No matter how you go about selling tickets in advance online though, make sure that you are able to export a list of attendees which you can then import into your e-newsletter tool (Mailchimp, Mad Mimi etc.) or database.

2. Get somebody reliable involved to capture the data

When people think of mailing lists generated at gigs, they are usually visualising a disinterested hairy guy at the door of the venue stamping people's hand with a stampy thing and only very occasionally asking for email addresses. And yes, that hairy guy is unreliable. He’s a bit stoned, or he’s a bit shy about talking to punters, or he just doesn’t like your band. Either way you end up with less email addresses than you should. So don’t leave things to the hairy guy. Put somebody you trust to do a good job at data capture on the case. This could be your best friend, your girlfriend or your mum – it doesn’t matter so long as they know how to charm people into handing over their data.

3. Use technology to capture the email addresses

Don’t forget that it is 2014 and there are a few more options than the old pen and paper method of collecting email addresses available. You can capture them direct to iPad, for example - and before you complain about the lack of wifi signal in the toilet venue you are playing, you don’t actually have to be online to capture email addresses (many e-newsletter tools, such as Campaign Monitor or Mailchimp have apps that store data locally on your iPad and then upload it for you when you go online). Various services also exist that allow you to capture email addresses by SMS. One thing though: don’t forget to insure your iPad, and pin-lock it…

4. Don’t just leave your sign-up form at the door - take it round the venue

Depending on the kind of gig you are playing, you can be quite proactive about data capture – i.e., you don't have to simply rely on the ‘leave a clipboard at the door and hope that people sign up’ approach. For example, you could ask the ‘designated data capture person’ we discussed earlier to go around the venue, asking punters if they’d like to hand over their details. Or make announcements from the stage asking people to sign up (if nothing else, this will give you a bit of free – but admittedly quite dull – stage patter). Or finally, you could leave a clipboard at each table, or cute little cards people can fill out with their details. Whether this sort of data capture is appropriate at your gig or not will depend on the nature of your act, the type of venue you are playing in and how comfortable you feel with hounding people for an email address, but the thing to remember is that there are always ways and means of boosting your email sign-up rate at gigs that go beyond leaving a scrap of paper at front of house that nobody writes on.

5. Incentivise

As with the data capture you carry out on your website, you should ‘incentivise’ the data capture you do at gigs. Offer a free track or EP in exchange for an email address, or a discount code for a future gig. By offering a ‘quid pro quo’ you will find a significantly higher number of people are willing to subscribe to your list. 

Finally, on the face of it, data capture doesn't seem like the sexiest of topics - and it seems a crying shame to be talking about gigs in terms of sending your mum around with an iPad to collect email addresses from unsuspecting fans rather than as an excuse for you to wear leather trousers, play lengthy guitar solos, do a spot of crowd-surfing and impress groupies with witty post-show banter. But when somebody who subscribed to your mailing list at a gig goes on to pledge £100 towards a crowdfunding campaign a couple of months down the line…well, that feels kind of sexy, and may mean that you are now able to afford the leather pants for the next show – that is, if you can convince a bunch of fans to crowdfund some hosiery. Now THAT would be an achievement.

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