Viewing entries tagged
music promotion

10 New Year’s resolutions to kickstart your music career

2019 - New Year's Resolutions for Bands

The first couple of weeks of a new year are generally the time when you start to think about how to do things differently (and more effectively) so in this post I thought I’d share some resolutions to help you kick-start your music career in 2019.

1. Put the music first

Being a musician these days seems to involve dividing your time between making music and nattering about it with your fan(s) on Facebook and other social networks.

This year, maybe consider putting Facebook and Twitter aside, and putting the music first. By all means keep your social media profiles relatively up to date – but not at the expense of producing great music.

Lock yourself in a room with a musical instrument (but not your smartphone) until you are 100% satisfied that you have some great songs really worth talking about.

Then, and only then, go out and talk about them. 

2. Improve your website

Yes, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on are all helpful in spreading the word about your music, but nothing beats a good website.

By having a strong site, you’ll ensure that

  • you get a truly professional and distinct online presence

  • your act is easier to find when people search for your act (a website gives you much more control over search engine optimisation than a social media profile)

  • you obtain ultimate flexibility and control over how you present your band to the world.

To really understand why a band website is so important, I recommend reading this great article by Make it in Music on why music sites matter, as well as Prescription’s key tips for building a great band website.

3. Capture more email addresses

Capturing email addresses — using dedicated tools like Getresponse*, Mailchimp or similar — is absolutely essential for any artist (regardless of the level of their success), because

  • it allows you to communicate direct to fans

  • you, not a social networking company, own the data.

Having this direct link to your fans allows you to maximise music sales and gig attendance.

Whilst it’s nice to have large Facebook fan / Twitter follower counts, don’t forget that people will only see your messages if an algorithm lets them and, crucially, if the social network continues to be successful.

You only have to think of how much effort bands put into adding Myspace friends in the mid-naughties, and how useless that effort all seems now, to understand why having a large database of email addresses is important.

Get clued up about the importance of building an email database here.

4. improve your online reputation

The internet is rightly seen as the key place where artists forge relationships with fans – but it’s also a place where it’s easy to come across as a highly annoying individual or act.

It’s just too tempting to regularly spout inanities or post ‘buy me’ links every five minutes on Facebook and Twitter.

This year, make a resolution to stop bludgeoning your friends, family members and fans with too many messages about your music (or what the band had for lunch) and only post content about your music that matters.

5. Take your image seriously

Too many artists obsess over whether their album sounds like it was recorded on a big reel of tape in the 1970s and mixed on a consule packed full of valves – only to forget that sadly, in addition to sounding cool, you’ve got to look cool too…

So don’t forget to spend some time getting your image right, and ensuring your band photography is up to scratch.

6. Blog (And not just about your band)

One of the best ways to generate traffic to a website is to ensure it is packed full of content that people want to read.

And the easiest way to arrive at that happy situation is by blogging about interesting stuff – according to research by inbound marketing agency Hubspot, site owners that blog regularly receive around 55% more hits to their site than those that don't.

Every hit to your site is a chance for you to expose somebody to your music, or capture their email address. The key thing is this: don’t make your blog all about you – write about stuff that people are already searching about. For a band website, you might consider writing about acts that influenced you; recording equipment; a particular gig and so on.

You can find out more about blogging and how to increase blog traffic here.

7. Manage your time wisely

If you’re anything like me, you’re juggling a job, a music career, a baby and a cat.

And it’s tough, with music-making and music promo often taking a back seat. But there are strategies that can help you make the most of your time to make the most of your music – find out about time-saving tips for musicians here.

8. Think creatively about music promotion

There are many ways to skin a cat, as a record store owner I once worked for said about a very unfortunate cat.

So instead of taking the bog-standard approach of putting your album up on iTunes and hoping against hope that somebody actually buys it, why not take some time to dream up some interesting ways to fund and release it?

Sometimes creative ideas regarding both can actually land you a great PR angle too. You might find our ideas on funding the making of your album and interesting formats to release it on helpful

9. Manage that project!

You have a home studio. You have 10 songs. You are making an album. You are going to upload it somewhere. People will buy or stream it in droves. Simple, yes?

Well actually, no. Despite a plethora of self-promotion and self-distribution options now being available, releasing an album is actually a deceptively difficult business, and if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

As such, we suggest that you make this the year that you take a bit of notice of project planning. Recently we put a guide together on how to create a really great project plan for an album release using post-it notes — it’s well worth a read.

We’d also suggest that if you’re going to self-release an album this year that you check out our checklist of the key things you must do when releasing an album independently.

10. Don’t forget the professionals…

In a music industry where DIY production and promotion is increasingly the norm, it’s easy to think that you can do everything yourself, from music photography, to band website design to music PR. But sometimes it really helps to get somebody experienced on board. An outside eye can deliver objectivity, free up time and ultimately deliver more professional results.

So if you’re planning on releasing something this year, do get in touch for a conversation about how we can help.


* Affiliate link.

Get these articles in your inbox

If you enjoyed this article, make sure you sign up to email updates - we'll send you all our latest blog posts and music promo tips.

Share

How to make the most of your back catalogue

Audio cassette - accompanies article about making the most of your back catalogue

OK, so you’ve spent loads of 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 visit 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 cash 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. You might be sitting on a track which might never be a hit for you but could sell millions for a boy band.
  • You can approach TV producers, film-makers or advertising people with your music.
  • 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.
  • 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 mailing list.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Get these articles in your inbox

If you enjoyed this article, make sure you sign up to email updates - we'll send you all our latest blog posts and music promo tips.

Share

Should bands bother promoting albums?

Cassette tape - accompanies article about album promotion

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.

Get these articles in your inbox

If you enjoyed this article, make sure you sign up to email updates - we'll send you all our latest blog posts and music promo tips.

Share

Promoting your music in a world of short attention spans

Egg timer - accompanies article about music promo and short attention spans

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.

Get these articles in your inbox

If you enjoyed this article, make sure you sign up to email updates - we'll send you all our latest blog posts and music promo tips.

Share

How to choose the best music promotion team for your release

A team of people working on a music promotion project

A team of people working on a music promotion project

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…

Get these articles in your inbox

If you enjoyed this article, make sure you sign up to email updates - we'll send you all our latest blog posts and music promo tips.

Share

Memes: the secret of spreading your music about?

Can Richard Dawkins help your music career?

Today I’m going to tell you to put all thoughts of PR and marketing to one side for a minute, and use a theory called memetics to help you reach the status of global rock superstar (or richest but still the most miserable looking shoegazer on the block; take your pick).

This all boils down to thinking about your songs in a different way: not as pieces of music but as ‘memes’. According to proponents of memetics like Richard Dawkins, memes are ideas that spread from person to person within a culture. The ‘stronger’ the meme, the theory goes, the more likely it is to spread; a comparison is made with the spread of genes via natural selection, with memes being part of a sort of ‘survival of the fittest idea’ scenario. Now of course these days when people talk about memes, they are really referring to anything shared by George Takei on Facebook, but since music is now just as easy to share on the web as any other piece of digital content, I think it’s only proper to treat it the same way as a good Miley Cyrus Facebook gag.

So how do you create a fantastic, widely-shared meme? Well, if we are to buy into the theory, a starting point would be by looking to other ‘successful’ memes and trying to find out why they became successful. In this context, by ‘meme’ you can read ‘hit song’, and thanks to the internet you can audition pretty much every hit song going and try to learn as much as possible from the songwriting geniuses who crafted them...and then ‘mutate’ these hits into fabulous memes of your own.

Well, actually, during the early phases of your research into memes you’ll find out pretty quickly that some of the reasons why songs become huge hits often have little to do with songwriting genius. This is because throughout rock history, people have bought records for a lot of reasons (‘ideas’) that have nothing to do with music: they may have liked the look of a particular singer’s derriere and thought that buying that artist's album would bring them just a touch closer to his/her lovely bottom; their kids might have really liked Bob the Builder; buying the remake of ‘Feed the World’ which featured that odd rap bit by Dizzee Rascal in the middle seemed like a socially acceptable way of giving to charity at the time. Memes / ideas drove these sales alright, but non-musical ones.

Anyway, unless you have extreme confidence in your bum, particularly want to write a stop-frame-animation-related novelty hit or are hell-bent on releasing Christmas charity singles, you can probably put these sort of memes to one side and focus on listening to tracks that don’t seem out of place in a sentence that involves the expression ‘musical genius’. Everybody will of course have their own idea of what musical genius is and which artists possess it; but nonetheless a cursory glance at rock history will reveal quite a treasure trove of bands and artists that managed to simultaneously possess ridiculous quantities of musical talent AND flog quite a lot of records. It doesn’t matter what type of music you like, or these artists made, there is something to learn from them. Devour every aspect of their work.

Once you’ve learnt from the master meme-makers, it’s time to produce music like them. This, naturally enough, is the tricky part. It’s not just a question of nicking ideas from musical geniuses (although this can nonetheless be quite effective – think of how many copies of Girls Aloud’s rewrite of The Beatles’ Baby You’re A Rich Man sold); it’s as much a case of thinking – and working – like them, so that you don’t just become a copyist but start to understand the secrets behind truly great music (one of which is that overlooked thing called 'graft' by the way)...and make it yourself. 

Now, let’s put all this rather intellectual talk of memes and theories and natural selection and Girls Aloud to one side (and I ought to point out that after shoving meme theory down your throat for much of this article, a lot of scientists have a big problem with it). Let’s boil things down to this: every day, we see people share fantastic content online; and regardless whether this content comprises jokes, charity appeals, interesting facts or weird photos of squirrels, it is accessed by millions not because a huge marketing budget was involved but simply because 1) there was something inherently great about that content and 2) it was incredibly easy, in this digital era, to pass it on to somebdody else. Now that they have been digitised, songs are no different in this regard, and whilst there are a host of things that you can do from a marketing and PR point of view to making this sharing process even more effective, you will make your life so much easier if you put the time (and money) into your content before you even think about promoting it. As the old jazz saying goes, ‘take care of the music, and the music will take care of you.’

(Worth a try anyway. If not you can always resort to those dodgy companies that get you fake likes on Facebook.)

The Prescription is written by a musician / digital nerdy person called Chris Singleton.

Get these articles in your inbox

If you enjoyed this article, make sure you sign up to email updates - we'll send you all our latest blog posts and music promo tips.

Share

How to market your music to a smartphone audience

Smartphone at a gig

In this Prescription PR article, we look at some of the challenges that smartphones bring to music marketing and offer some tips on how to promote your music to a smartphone audience...

I’d like to take issue with the term ‘smartphone’. If anything, smartphones make people dumb. Try having a conversation with somebody whilst they staring at an iPhone; all you’ll get out of them is an ‘um, yeah, huh…um, huh, yeah, sorry, what was that again?’. Dinner-time conversation in posh restaurants is a particular victim of this, as your squeeze will be too busy instagramming their food to talk to you. And don’t get me started about SUV drivers on the M25 who feel compelled to, yes, check their email whilst driving. That is potentially lethal, not smart – even if it means they’re enjoying a Prescription article at 70mph (sorry, 95mph).

Regardless of the dumbing-down effects of smartphones, these devices are increasingly a fact of online life. We see proof of this every time we send a Prescription article out via email – our stats indicate that at least 30% of the people reading it are doing so on a mobile phone (mainly iPhones – that’s the music industry for you!). Similarly, a significant proportion of visitors to our website – around 20% - are peering at it on their phones. Although we’d like to think that we’re the kind of hip agency that almost demands being experienced through the prism of a glossy smartphone screen, these stats are actually going to be quite similar with regard to any online bumph.  (And musicians, as we know, excel at inflicting online bumph on the world.)

So, as a DIY musician plugging your wares, how do you take this new smartphone audience into account and actively cater for it? Here are a few tips:

1. Write copy that works for both desktop and mobile users

Any time you send a band e-newsletter, remember that a large proportion of your victims (sorry, recipients) will be reading it on a phone, with all the reduction in attention span that this entails. Consequently, you probably want to avoid writing an essay to your fans. Put your key ‘call to action’ (come to my gig / buy my record / be my groupie) near the top of the message, and keep waffle to a minimum. Same goes for your website really (particularly if you are not planning on having both a desktop and a mobile version of your site).

2. Avoid flashing

iOS devices don’t do Flash, and increasingly, neither do Android ones. (Try visiting a Flash website on a phone and you’ll just get a helpful blank space where the content should be.) However, for many years now bands and musicians have been big into ahem, flashing: even in the dial-up era, the web was packed full of whizzy sites packed full of flash animations. These sites cost an arm and a leg to build and took an age to load, but bands put up with this because they thought that having a flash site made them look cool. Plus ҫa change. However, these days, unless you deliberately want to confuse or irritate your smartphone audience, there is little point in having a Flash-based music site. Best to concentrate on putting together a simple music website that looks nice, loads quickly, contains great content and (crucially) captures data. If you must use Flash, get a website-building boffin to ensure your site does some OS / browser detection – this works out what kind of device or browser a visitor is using, and serves up the right sort of content accordingly (i.e., desktop users get flash; iPhone users get text etc.)

3. Ensure that your free tracks are accessible on a smartphone

A lot of bands offer free EP downloads – or even free albums – to their fans in exchange for email addresses. A lot of the time these are presented in ZIP format, with all the songs being contained within one ZIP file. This is a neat way of doing thing for desktop or laptop users…but seriously, try opening a ZIP file on an iPhone. It is doable, but it’s a royal pain in the bum. So make sure that when you give away a free track in exchange for an email address, or an interesting encounter in the green room, that the fan will actually be able to listen to the song afterwards (particularly if you’re going down the encounter-in-the-green-room route; why disappoint them twice?). One way to do this is to offer a non-zipped, down-to-earth, old-fashioned MP3 as well as a ZIP file. The former should play fine on a smartphone; and the latter will allow the user to save the content into a music folder on a PC. Another option is to also provide links to smartphone-friendly streams of your EP / album.

4. Check all your ‘online assets’ on a phone as well as a 27” monitor

If you’re a musician, the chances are you’re looking at all your online assets – websites, HTML e-newsletters, videos etc. – on a big shiny 27” iMac screen (all broke musicians have iMacs - it's an odd fact of musical life). But it's vital to check all this content on a phone too before unleashing it on the world (well ideally, on a few phones, and the odd tablet as well). A website that looks superb on the big screen may look rubbish on a phone; an e-newsletter which looks lovely in the desktop version of Gmail may be completely unreadable in the mobile version. With the increasingly large variety of devices in circulation, it’s getting difficult to create online content that works perfectly on everything; however, you should aim to ensure that your content looks good on as broad a range of devices as possible, especially iOS and Android ones.

5. Build a mobile-friendly site

One way to ensure that your site looks good on mobile devices is to, yes, build a mobile-friendly site. You can either create an alternate version of your site which displays automatically to smartphone users (a 'mobile site') or, better yet, build a 'responsive' website, which is one that resizes page width automatically to suit the device it's being viewed on. The advantage of the latter approach is that users see the exact same content, regardless of what device they're using; bespoke mobile sites tend to be more static affairs that require periodic syncing with a desktop site, or only provide a selection of content from it.  

6. Get creative with smartphone technology

Don’t overlook the creative possibilities that smartphones offer musicians. Can you create a game that is somehow tied into your music? Can you develop an app that offers your fans an interesting experience which takes your music to another level (man)? Can you use smartphones to capture data at gigs? Can you use text messages to market your music? Can you release your album as an app rather than a download or CD? It’s quite easy to go overboard with this sort of thing – and spend way too much money on developers  – but it is still worth thinking about, because some ideas can actually yield great results (and double up as good PR angles).

Now, put that phone down, stop reading this article and concentrate on the M25. Or flying that plane.

Get these articles in your inbox

If you enjoyed this article, make sure you sign up to email updates - we'll send you all our latest blog posts and music promo tips.

Share

Time to stop inviting friends to your gigs?

Gig

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.

Get these articles in your inbox

If you enjoyed this article, make sure you sign up to email updates - we'll send you all our latest blog posts and music promo tips.

Share

Top online tools for promoting your music

An old computer

An old computer

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.

Get these articles in your inbox

If you enjoyed this article, make sure you sign up to email updates - we'll send you all our latest blog posts and music promo tips.

Share

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

Timeline

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.

Get these articles in your inbox

If you enjoyed this article, make sure you sign up to email updates - we'll send you all our latest blog posts and music promo tips.

Share