“We’re really resourceful. We had a photocopier that we used to do our own fliers. We used to make pole posters out of two bits of A3 paper in yellow and black, because it was the most striking colour when you’re driving down the street. We’d alwaysmake the posters pretty quick and simple and theyd look pretty daggy, but you knew what the gig was about and we got the name out there. I know it sounds daunting to young bands, but be prepared to spend a lot of money, anything to get the name out there. Make as many friends as you can and just get people to help you. When you start out it you think it’s a massive industry and you’ll never get to know everyone, but you learn that it’s pretty small and there’s only a handful of people that matter.”
Dave Larkin, Dallas Crane
Now that you’ve secured a gig, it’s important to publicise your show and encourage as many people as possible to attend.
If your act can guarantee a venue that you are capable of pulling paying customers through the door, it won’t be as difficult finding regular work in the future.
Friends are important in making early gigs a success. The more you regularly play, the more people you’re going to end up playing to and, unless the music you play is completely horrible, it’s likely you’re going to play to people who enjoy listening to the music you create.
The simplest way to keep these people informed of upcoming gigs and news on your act is to start a mailing list. Get a clipboard, stick a pen to it, and provide sheets of paper for people to write their name and email or postal address down. Check with the venue first, but most should have no problems with you leaving this at the door. A mailing list is the most cost-efficient way of alerting people of your gigs and an essential tool in building a strong and loyal live following. Using email will be much cheaper than a mail-out.
You can also print up posters and flyers to promote your gigs which will cost you money, both for the artwork and printing. Be warned that putting up posters in most public places is illegal and actively policed by Councils – fines of anything up to $1,000 are not uncommon. They’re often ripped down from poles and walls if placed in an illegal zone, making your efforts a little useless and risky.
On the other hand, independent record stores and cafes may be more than willing for you to stick up a poster or leave some flyers. Always ask before you leave anything though, otherwise they are likely to end up straight in the bin. Most universities also have large poster walls that you can take advantage of. There are a few companies that specialise in distributing flyers and putting up posters – if you’re considering using one, try to find other acts who have used the company’s services to see if they feel the expense is justified.
YOUR PRESS KIT
Your band/DJ press kit is essential to your success. It should include a demo (see Demos & Rehearsals), a bio and a photo.
A bio is a single A4 page of information about your act. Make sure your band/DJ name is written clearly at the top of the page. You should include the names of all members of your group and the instruments they play. Give a brief history and describe the style of music you play.
The bio should give an overview of where the band is coming from. Remember that the job of a bio is to give people, whether they are venue bookers, journalists or other acts, an idea of what you sound like. A vague bio is as little use as no bio at all. Don’t get carried away with talking about how good you are but you can quote snippets of any positive reviews you have received. Be sure to always credit the source correctly. Avoid using cliches but include any other information that is relevant or interesting – for example, any other notable bands that members have played with. Early in your career journalists will only have your recordings and a bio to draw upon when interviewing you, so the more informative your bio is, the more interesting the stories written about you will be. Make sure you include full contact details. If you don’t feel confident writing a bio yourself, you can hire a publicist to write one for you. As some publicists specialise in working for independent artists, ask other bands if they have used anyone that they can recommend. All publicists are listed in The Australasian Music Directory. Don’t be afraid to ring around and talk to a few. Find out which acts they’ve done work for before, how much they will charge you and exactly what you’ll get for your money.
You will need a photo to accompany the bio in your press kit. As photographers can be expensive, getting a friend to photograph is fine. Have a good think about the image you want to project in your shots. Embarrassing photos have a habit of turning up as soon as you start enjoying some success – the press like nothing more than digging up dirt on people enjoying their first taste of fame. Make sure the photo you choose is in focus and of good quality. If you hire a professional photographer, it is imperative that there are no misunderstandings over who owns what; sign an agreement giving you control of the negatives or limiting the use of photos only to situations agreed to by yourself. Once you have a photo your act is happy with, you now have, along with your bio and demo CD/EP, a completed PRESS KIT. It is this kit you will take when meeting with venue bookers or promoters to land your act gigs, and it is this kit you will send to media outlets when trying to score coverage for your act.
THE STREET PRESS
Throughout your career as a musician, the street press will be an extremely important resource. Each capital city in Australia has at least one street press paper that can help you. Check record stores and venues if you are not familiar with them. Street press can list your gig. All street press papers will have a weekly gig and club guide and will print your gig for no charge. Some may also have a section with room for a small photo and blurb for bands and DJs with upcoming shows. This will also be free, but be aware that preference may be given to acts that advertise with the paper. Always observe deadlines when emailing information and make sure you send it to the right address. If these details aren’t listed in the appropriate section, you should be able to find them in the front of the paper. Whether you’re emailing the gig guide or the free listings section, don’t send in any more information than is required. Remember that in any given week there are hundreds of acts competing for the same space, so don’t expect editors to sift through a lengthy, self-indulgent email just to print that you’re playing first on the bill in some small suburban dive. At this stage, it also doesn’t hurt to send the paper a photo of your act to keep on file. There are a lot of pages to fill in a weekly paper and when things drop out at the last moment the easiest way to plug a hole is with a photo.
If you’re emailing it, a photo saved as a jpeg and scanned at 300dpi actual size is fine. If you’re posting in a hard copy, make sure you write your act’s name and the date on the back of the photo and attach a short note explaining you want your photo to be kept on file. If you don’t write on the back of the photo and it gets separated from your cover letter, it will be thrown out.
The street press are also the most likely media to cover you in any detail early in your career. If you are releasing a CD or have a major gig coming up, you should enquire about the chances of getting a story on your act. Check in the front of the paper to find the name of the music editor and give them a call, preferably on the day of or the day after the paper comes out. This will be when the editor is least busy and will have the most time to talk. Think ahead and do this a month or two ahead of when you want the story to run – if you leave things until the week before all editorial space will have already been allocated to other acts and you’ll miss out.
Also bear in mind that once an article on your act has been printed, the paper is unlikely to want to run anything on you again anytime soon, so make sure you tie the story in with something worthwhile such as a new CD release or a major gig. And ensure you are familiar with the paper you’re approaching, an editor is unlikely to want to help you if it seems you know little about their publication. If the editor expresses interest, offer to send them a press kit. Again, make sure everything you send has your act’s name and contact details on it.
On the other hand, try and get a friend to write a review of your CD or about a gig you’ve put together with some other bands and have them send it to the relevant street press. This often works. When being interviewed, remember the more interesting the things you say, the more interesting the story written about you will be. But don’t go overboard – if you say anything even remotely controversial or slag off other acts, you can be sure the journalist will put it in the story. When the story is published, photocopy it and add the copy to your press kit.
The street press can also help your band with reviews, either of a gig or your new CD. If you have a big gig coming up, or you’re supporting a major act, ring the editor and ask if they’d be interested in sending a reviewer to your show. When you release a CD, send a copy in with your press kit. If you think there are any particular writers who may be interested in your CD you can send one to them as well, but don’t mail a copy to every writer at the paper. If you send any publication multiple copies of your CD it’s likely most will end up gathering dust in a drawer somewhere. If you’d like to send a few writers copies, ring the editor and ask what the most practical number is.
If your CD hasn’t been reviewed within a few weeks, call the music editor and find out whether a review is likely. If not, you can ask the editor to send your CD back. Don’t hassle street press staff – they’re in contact with countless DJs and people from bands just like yours on a daily basis, so if they find you annoying they’ll simply stop dealing with you. On the other hand, a healthy relationship with the street press can create a strong profile for your act in your local scene.
The process is the same for approaching major metropolitan daily papers. These will often have a free, daily gig guide service, as well as a weekly entertainment lift-out. Don’t forget there are also a number of specialist music magazines that may review your CD or give you some other editorial coverage. Approach them in the same way you would a newspaper.
All universities also have student-run newspapers, most often printed monthly. These, along with specialist ezines (there should be a wide selection on sale in your local independent record store), are other avenues worth pursuing when trying to score press coverage for your act.
It’s rare for any band to sell many records without significant airplay. Unfortunately, airtime given to independent acts on Australian commercial radio is extremely small. Most stations only add a couple of new songs a week. Your act will be competing for one of those spots not only with other independent acts but also acts with major record company backing. Most commercial stations have a program devoted solely to Australian music though, usually tucked away late at night, that will be your best chance of getting played early in your career. The Australasian Music Industry Directory will give you the name of each station’s music director. This is the person to send a press kit to and approach in the hope of getting one of your tracks played. Of much more help to you will be the countless number of non-commercial stations around Australia which are generally either government funded or sponsor driven. The biggest in Melbourne are Triple R (102.7FM) and
s the programming of these stations is made up of shows devoted to specific types of music, send your press kit to announcers that play music similar to yours, as well as the station’s program manager. You can obtain station programming grids from all radio stations. Non-commercial stations also provide the best chance of being interviewed on radio. Even if you think no one will be listening to the show you’re appearing on, take any chance you get to appear on air. Talking on air can be intimidating and nerve-wracking if you’ve never done it before, so the more practice, the more relaxed you’ll become. Remember that the more interesting you are when being interviewed, the more people will be likely to want to check out what you do and the more likely other media will want to talk to you. It is also a good idea to look at international radio. There are many, often more genre-specific, stations overseas which may well give you a go.
Television is much the same as radio in that few opportunities exist for independent acts. Only a handful of programs feature live music, so if an opportunity arises to appear on a show take it. Approach TV shows with your press kit in the same way you would a newspaper or radio station. Don’t forget there are a number of 24-hour-a-day music channels on Pay TV. Before approaching the music director on a Pay TV channel, be as familiar as you can with that channel’s programming. If you haven’t seen the channel before, go to its website to get a feel for what programs your music would sit most comfortably on. Early in your career, the most likely TV outlet for you is community station Channel 31. Channel 31 broadcasts from Melbourne and has a number of programs devoted specifically to music. If you land the opportunity to appear on Channel 31, take it. Even if you think no one will be watching the program, do it.
If you find that you’re too busy to handle all your act’s promotion and publicity yourself, you may want to hire a publicist. A publicist can undertake a campaign for you if your act has a new CD or a major upcoming show. The Australasian Music Industry Directory will give you a list of publicists that specialise in music. Before hiring one, ask around to see if any other acts can recommend one they’ve used in the past.When choosing a publicist, find exactly what they willl do for the amount of money you’re spending. While a publicist will have a diary full of all the right people to send your press kit to, you still have to be realistic – they may struggle to get your act any more coverage than you could yourself if people just aren’t interested.
The potentially most far-reaching source of publicity for your act and one that you have complete control over is a website. The potential offered by a website for your act is enormous.
First, you will need to set one up. There are plenty of sites that will host yours for no charge – look around for one with a big enough space allowance for what you think you’ll need. The major downside to being hosted by another site is the fact your website’s address will be an extension of your host’s. If you want your web address to simply be your act’s name, you will have to pay for the domain name. Again, shop around. It may be cheaper to deal with a domain owner overseas, just remember to factor in the exchange rate.
Once you have an address, you’re ready to start building your page. Having a friend with some basic web design skills here is a huge bonus.
Essential elements on your site should be a front page with up-to-date information on the band, upcoming gigs or releases, news, recent reviews, that kind of thing. You should have your bio on the site, your act’s and/or manager’s contact details, and a spot where people can join your mailing list. Once these basic features are in place, you can add extras such as a press gallery (any reviews or press coverage you’ve received), audio samples of songs (it’s a good idea to have some exclusive stuff on your site), a merchandise and mail order service (you can get fans to pre-order CDs with the incentive of things like bonus CDs), a photo page (fans can send in photos from gigs, just remember to credit all photographers), links (anything from like-minded bands to political causes) and a fan forum.
When putting anything on your website, remember the potential to reach people far outside your own geographical area. It should be clear from the site which city your act is from. Include national and international codes on all of your contact phone numbers and, when mentioning gigs, always list the city next to the venue. You can’t assume people will know which city or state you’re referring to.
Even if you’re a group that doesn’t want to be pigeonholed into a certain style or genre, list some acts that you have been compared to or influenced by.
PROMOTION & PUBLICITY – A Summary
- Starting a mailing list
- Putting together a press kit, including a bio and photo
- Approaching street press for gig guide coverage, reviews and stories
- Approaching radio and TV stations for airplay/interviews
- Examining possibility of hiring a publicist
- Setting up a website