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Selling CDs, downloads and merchandise

If you intend to sell CDs, downloads or merchandise direct to your fans, or need a way to build a music website that handles e-commerce well, then you might want to try out Shopify for free here.

Top tip: sending e-newsletters to your fans

If you need to send emails to your band fanbase, we recommend Mad Mimi. It's possibly the most cost-effective solution we've encountered and allows you to manage / grow a database and design attractive e-newsletters without a need for any HTML coding. You can sign up for a free account here.

Mad Mimi Email Marketing

Getting your music distributed

Click here for TuneCore, the service that allows you to distribute your music quickly on all major digital retailers and keep all of the royalties.

TuneCore Music Distribution of Your Own Music

Top tip: getting your band typeface right

Getting your band typeface right can make the difference between looking like amateurs, or coming across as a serious outfit. Read our article on the importance of typefaces here, or test your band's name out in a variety of fonts using Myfonts.com.

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Entries in band promotion (3)

Friday
Jan112013

Time to stop inviting friends to your gigs?

Friends: just don't invite them.


Being in a new band is a sure way to make sure you stay in touch with your friends. This because as a spankingly new band, nobody will have heard of you…meaning you won’t have any real fans, and will rely on your chums to provide the bums on the seats at gigs you play. As such you will find yourself staying in touch with even the most boring individuals just so that you can invite them to your next gig. We’ve all been there, and irritated lots of people in the process (or been irritated by the aforementioned boring gig invitees).

However, there comes a point where it’s prudent to start looking beyond your ‘friendbase’ and start trying to build a genuine ‘fanbase’. This 'having-a-fanbase' business, of course, is generally the key ingredient to being a popstar, but this essential fact is easy to forget – or wilfully ignore. Making proper fans is difficult and the soft option is to pester friends regularly to come along to your next show. And pester we musicians do – via phone, email, Facebook, letter, carrier pigeon…but it is ultimately a fairly self-defeating strategy. 

What generally happens with friendbases is this: your first gig with your new band is a sell-out. All your mates, and your bandmates’ mates come out in force to support you. You feel like a rock star for 15 minutes, you end up getting off with your guitarist’s sexy but impressionable second cousin and, high on success, decide to put on another show a couple of weeks later. This show is reasonably well attended by your friends, but as you start to play your second shoegazing-hip-hop-grimey-post-rock number, you get a niggling feeling that there are quite a few mates who came to the first gig who didn’t bother to come along to the second. By the time your third gig comes around, you’re struggling to pull a crowd. By the fourth show, even your mum and dad are busy that night. No amount of Facebook-ing, tweeting or personal appeals is going to reverse this situation.

You shouldn’t be offended by this. After all, when you became mates with somebody you did so based on common interests; a shared concern for each other; a mutual love of Carry On films; delighting in some sort of bedroom peccadillo that might actually be illegal. Your best mate Charlie Chum absolutely did not befriend you just so that he could attend every single gig you are ever going to play in your life. And, what’s more, Charlie may adore you – but not your music. In fact he might not like music at all. So why subject a mate repeatedly to something he doesn’t like? Frankly, it’s not very nice of you. And besides which, Charlie prefers watching footie at home on a Monday night to trooping down to the local Dog and Duck for a gig, and has a very busy life involving 2 kids…which is why he is washing his hair by gig 3. You can't compete with football and nappy-changing (or both) indefinitely; the nappies ALWAYS win.

Besides all that, friends aren't evangelical about your music - most will view it as your hobby and who spreads the word about people's hobbies? - but real fans, when they get on the case, can seriously wax lyrical about you. So if you want to grow in popularity, you HAVE to build a fanbase (there is also the added bonus that by ceasing to invite your mates to gigs all the time you might stop losing friends and alienating people). The question is: how do you build this fanbase? It's very difficult, and involves loads of work, but based on my experience of building my own, er, shall we say 'boutique fanbase', and watching other (infinitely more successful) acts go about it, these are the main things you need to do:

1 Write great songs, and ensure they are stonkingly-well produced. Easier said than done of course, but if you don’t get the music right, nobody’s going to like it enough to become a fan.

2 Give some of this music away for free – in exchange, preferably, for an email address. Some acts are a bit sniffy about doing this, but people need to hear your tracks in order to be able to like them (hence the freebie) and you need some way to communicate with fans (hence the nabbing of an email address). 

3 Find ways of targeting people who will actually like your music. If you happen to be the next Rod Stewart, maybe find some Rod Stewart fan groups on the internet and ask them (politely) to have a listen to your tracks, invite them to give some feedback etc. Find the correct audience: don’t go onto One Direction forums flogging your ‘Maggie May’-inspired EP.

4 Rehearse your ass off, because you will need to be a great live act in time for my next suggestion.

5 Play loads of gigs that are not 'yours' – i.e., where you are not topping the bill (or booking the venue and taking the door etc.). Put your ego aside for ten minutes (well, ten years) and play second fiddle to as many already popular bands as you can. In a nutshell, the aim of the game is to nick other bands' fans. And of course, don't bother playing live at all unless you are truly fantastic.

6 Try to capture as much data as humanly possible at each and every gig. Again, you need to stay in contact with the people who like your music. Use this data to invite people to the next show.

7 Repeat steps 1 to 6 until you are not relying on any cousins to make the crowd look decent.

If you manage all the above correctly, and are finding yourself in that happy place where you have a lot of genuine fans downloading your music and attending gigs, it’s time to take things a step further, by seeing if you can get some industry / media figures enthused about your act. It’s these sort of ‘filters’ / gatekeepers that can ‘upscale’ your project and increase the number of fans. This can be done via a lot of research into who's who in the music biz, creating big Excel spreadsheets of industry contacts, and approaching them extremely carefully and methodically with your music. Heck, you could even consider hiring the likes of Prescription to do the hard work for you. It’s really important however not to overdo the communications – just as your friends will get peeved by being nagged about your music, so will industry figures, journalists and bloggers. Often, the key thing is to ask for advice rather than a record deal – people in the entertainment industry tend to have big egos and love venturing an opinion, so you might have a better chance of forming a relationship with, say, a Svengali by acting like you find him/her interesting and getting their insights on the future of the CD (there isn’t one – you heard it here first) instead of bombarding them with your music. 

Now, one last thought on all this: there is still a place for your friends – there are times when you will still REALLY need them. For example, in a crowd-funding project, or to support you at a very important showcase. You don’t need to write them off completely – you just need to think hard about when to blag a favour. And in the meantime, go out looking for real fans. Good hunting.

About The Prescription

'The Prescription' is written by independent musician and Head of Digital Communications and Irish PR at Prescription PR, Chris Singleton.  

Find out how Prescription PR can get your band noticed - contact us today. We offer music PRdigital marketing and music web design services.

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Thursday
Sep062012

Top online tools for promoting your music

Although there is still a place for CDs, records and tapes in my, er, book, selling music is, for the vast majority of DIY musicians, all about the internet these days. So in this week’s Prescription article, I thought I’d talk about some of my favourite online tools for shoving your music in unsuspecting punters' faces (which is why you're really reading this isn't it? Anyway).

1. Building websites that let you sell music

Shopify is a tool that allows you to create a really nice-looking website that lets you sell music easily. Even if you don’t have a huge amount of technical knowledge, you can build a site fairly easily with the platform, which also comes with useful blogging tools. But crucially, it makes selling digital and physical goods direct to fan very easy, which is absolutely vital for any musician. There is a monthly fee for using it – depending on your requirements, you can expect to pay between £9 and £20 a month. Grab a free Shopify trial here.

2. Sending e-newsletters – Mad Mimi or GetResponse

A crucial part of any band promotion shenanigans is beating your fans into submission with e-newsletters, and Mad Mimi and Getresponse win my vote for the best all-round ‘e-newsletter-sending’ tools.

Madmimi is great simply because it is very, very competitive on price. For $36 (£22) a month you can send great-looking HTML emails to up to 10,000 fans. If you don’t have as many fans as that, Mad Mimi has a range of other packages that enable you to send to a smaller number of contacts – all of which seem to cost considerably less than the equivalents offered by Mad Mimi’s main competitors. On top of that, using Mad Mimi to manage data and create attractive HTML e-newsletters is very straightforward. Find out more about Mad Mimi and get a free trial here.

For a richer feature-set, including more control over design, autoresponders and social sharing, I'd probably plump for Getresponse. The pricing is still pretty competitive too. One thing worth noting though is that Getresponse doesn't allow you to import data - you have to start building your list from scratch with it.

3. Sharing files – Dropbox

Dropbox is a great way to store data ‘in the cloud’ which means three things: you can back up your files easily, access them from anywhere, and – probably most importantly from the music promo point of view – share content incredibly easily. At Prescription we use frequently use Dropbox to share songs, videos, hi-res pics and press releases with journalists; on top of that, we even use it as an office network and a data-backup solution. We love it, and I’ve come across fewer handier tools for musicians (or indeed anyone in need of somewhere to store/share a load of stuff online). Most importantly for me, it means that the days of clunky uploads to Yousendit or attaching large files to emails and hoping for the best are over. You get a 2GB with a free Dropbox account, and if you want more, a 100GB package costs around £6 per month. Find out more about Dropbox here.

4. Productivity – Google Apps

If you are a DIY musician you’ll know that really, you're trying to run a business as much as you are trying to write music. As such you’ll need a truckload of tools that let you do the former (and far more boring) activity effectively. Fortunately “don’t be evil” Google (who may or may not be evil these days but let’s put that momentarily to one side) have come to the rescue with a suite of free goodies that let you manage your time (via Google calendars), send IMAP emails using your own domain name (thanks to Gmail), set up a basic band email list (via Feedburner), find out what people are saying about you online (using Google Alerts) and see when your mum is visiting your website (via Google Analytics). There's also Google Docs, for those of you who are too cheap to buy a copy of Microsoft Office. I wrote a post last year about how you can use Google apps to further your music career – you might want to check it out.

5. Making your Facebook page better – Woobox’s static Iframe app

Back in the days of yore (well, until about a year ago I think), you used to be able to add ‘static HTML’ pages to Facebook fan pages. This meant that, providing you were prepared to fiddle about a bit with some HTML code, you could add a whole load of funky stuff to your Facebook fan page – content embedded from your site, mailing list sign-up forms, ‘fan-gated’ content (where people have to like a page to get a free song etc.) and more. Then Facebook took this functionality away, which was Very Annoying. Fortunately a crowd called Woobox came along and created a great thing – the-not-very sexily titled ‘Static Iframe App’ – which allows you to add your own custom tabs to Facebook again. What’s more, the app actually makes it much easier than it was before to add the funky stuff I was talking about above. The app itself is available at https://apps.facebook.com/iframehost-heart/?fb_source=search&ref=ts; for an example of it in action may we suggest you check out a bit of work we did recently for ex-Seahorse and now fantastic solo artist Chris Helme, where we used it to embed a mailing list sign-up form on his Facebook page and offer a track in exchange for a like.

6. Checking how good your website is - Marketing Grader

So good is Hubspot's Marketing Grader that I thought it deserved a mention all of its own in a recent Prescription article - and it's worth mentioning again here. Basically it's a tool that looks at your website and tells you everything that's wrong with it from a content / SEO / social media point of view. But thankfully, it also gives you a list of things you need to do to improve your site. You can take a look at Marketing Grader here.

7. Testing your band's name out in a variety of fonts - Myfonts.com

Most band logos aren't really logos at all - they are simply the band's name displayed in a particular typeface. And how good or bad that typeface is can make the difference between your band looking like rookies or pros. Rather than relying on whatever default fonts came pre-installed with Windows, you should be a bit more adventurous - you can use Myfonts.com to experiment with different fonts and use your band name as the 'test text'.

That's it for now, musical chums. Hope the above tools help you in your quest for glory.

About The Prescription

'The Prescription' is written by independent musician and Head of Digital Communications and Irish PR at Prescription PR, Chris Singleton.  

Find out how Prescription PR can get your band noticed - contact us today.

Don't miss great free music promotion advice from Prescription PR

Get our music industry advice articles in your inbox
Subscribe to updates by RSS
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- Find out more about Prescription PR, a leading UK music PR and band promotion agency - visit our website.

Tuesday
Mar202012

The new Facebook Timeline: what it means for bands and musicians, and how to use it properly

In case you haven’t noticed yet, big changes to Facebook pages are around the corner. That Facebook page that you lovingly filled with crap – sorry, interesting content – about your band is shortly going to become a ‘timeline’ rather than a good old-fashioned virtual wall.

That’s nice, I hear you say – and I suppose, yes, it will make your page look a lot prettier and there are a couple of nice new features. However, there is one fairly significant downside for bands: the new format page won’t let you set a default landing tab, which spells the end of that nifty little trick whereby bands (or indeed brands) could set up their page so that users visiting it were automatically presented with ‘locked content’ – i.e., content you get in exchange for liking the page. From 30 March, if a Facebook user visits your page, they see the timeline, period. That said, it’s still possible to use Facebook ads and other links to take users to an app on your page containing locked content; it’s just that the switch does reduce the scope a bit for artists to increase likes by default, and it’s annoying for anyone who paid a developer to build a nice locked content landing tab.

But we are where we are, and regardless of how irritating you find the changes to your Facebook page, it is still for the foreseeable future going to be an important communications tool for you. So, in this post, we thought we’d give you, in our ever-generous way, our top tips for making the most of the new page format.

1. Upload a great cover picture and profile picture

The cover picture is a new banner that goes across the top of your page and it provides you with a good opportunity to make a visual statement about your band. Ok, a pretty basic suggestion this, but important nonetheless: use a really good picture of your act. You should use an image that 1) works well when cropped to 851 x 315 pixels and 2) screams ‘I’m serious about my music’ to any A&Rs, journalists, promoters or indeed any industry bods in tight pants who casually peruse your page. Don’t use a really small pic of your dog that looks rubbish when scaled up. The same sort of advice applies to your profile pic, which is the smaller image that appears in your fans’ news feeds whenever you post some boring information about said dog. A note of caution: Facebook aren’t too keen on letting you use your cover pic as an advertisement, so be careful about whacking big ‘buy now’ text all over that picture of your dog. Or you’ll get a spanking from Mark Zuckerburg. Ooh.

2. Choose your ‘featured apps’ wisely

Just underneath your profile pic you’ll see 4 rectangular ‘app’ boxes – these are effectively the old ‘tabs’ from your facebook page. You can feature up to 12 apps on your page, the rest of which users can access via a little drop-down arrow. It’s important to choose which ones to feature in the top 4, because people don’t hang about long on Facebook pages and you want to make the key stuff very obvious. My advice would be to put your ‘free download’ app fairly prominently at the top, along with any other useful apps that you’ve got – videos and a music player generally being the priorities. I have to say that even after all these years, and with a new timeline to boot, adding apps in Facebook actually remains a really cumbersome process which I don’t have time to go into, so good luck with that (some googling of ‘how do I ad a new Facebook app’ should help…a bit).

On the plus side, apps on Facebook pages are now fairly unmissable – compared to the old tab icons, they are huge. And however difficult it is to add apps, they do come in handy once they're there.

3. Set a ‘founded date’

A 'founded date' marks the start of your musical odyssey and the point from which you can start filling in your band’s back story on Facebook. If you’ve been around for a while, your band may predate the existence of Facebook, so you’ll definitely need to enter a founded date if you want to add information about your musical activities pre-2007. I can’t quite remember how I entered my founded date on my Facebook page, but I think it involved scrolling right down to the bottom of the page and clicking some sort of a pencil icon. As ever with Facebook pages, it’s not madly intuitive.

4. Add milestones

Adding milestones is a good bit more straightforward – just click the ‘milestone’ link which is located at the top left-hand side of the page, underneath your cover photo. Use this option to add significant dates and events in your band’s career, like when you released a record that nobody bought, or did a gig for an audience comprising your mum. On a more serious note, it’s worth taking a bit of time on this, as it does give your band an opportunity to provide something that is of real interest to your fans. Or at least the ones wearing anoraks.

5. Pin and star stuff

You can now give a particular post, link, video etc. greater prominence on your Facebook page by pinning it to the top. Simply hit the little pencil icon beside any post, and hit the ‘pin to top’ link. It will then hang around at the top of your page like a bad smell for a week. This is useful for flagging up particularly important content, like that time you saw Boy George walk into the local corner shop.

Starring stuff is another way to make a post more prominent on your page – if you click the star icon beside a post, it will be expanded to a full-size article.

6. Use messaging

One of the more significant new features of Facebook pages is that fans can message you directly and privately – i.e., not just write embarrassing stuff on your wall. Great if you’ve got a bunch of record companies or hot groupies keen to contact you; not so great if you’ve got a raincoat-wearing brigade wanting to get in touch. On balance though, I’d leave the messaging option switched on; it’s a form of fan engagement and you can always ignore the weirdos if you have to. Of the new features being discussed here, I think the that the messaging option is potentially the most significant, because it allows potentially very helpful people to establish a connection / dialogue with you about your music.

7. Use the ‘build audience’ features

By clicking the ‘build audience’ button at the top of your page, you’ll be presented with various tools that you can use to spread the word about your page (including a handy option to use your mailing list to invite people to follow you). Although these tools are not all strictly speaking new, they are presented in a  simple and comprehensive way and you should definitely take a look at them.

But remember…

Regardless of the above new features,  it’s really important to note that that most of your fans won't actually look at your Facebook page that often (if at all!); rather, they'll see content that you post on it pop up in their news feed. This is why, for all the nice new features, it’s still more important to think about what you actually post on your page than how well the page itself is presented. The better and richer the quality of the content you post, the more you will engage people and define a good online reputation. On that note, I’d actually suggest that you take a look at our recent post on managing your online reputation – it's got a lot of pointers on that score. 

Right, I'm off to put a lot of interesting and perhaps not-entirely-true milestones on my own Facebook page. Like the time I was number 1 in Belgium.

The Prescription is written by independent musician and Head of Digital Communications at Prescription PR, Chris Singleton.  

Find out how Prescription PR can get your band noticed - contact us today.  

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