There was a story on This American Life about a band that got publicity…from a trick. The band, Ghosts of Pasha was new in the scene and was picked out by a group called “Improv Everywhere,” who wanted to give them the “best show of their lives.” The improv group showed up, pretended to be wild Ghosts of Pasha fans (despite the band being super new on the scene), and that was that. It seems like kind of a cruel trick to play, but when the news of this happening got out, it actually got the band some traction. They’ve since appeared in big-time publications like SPIN, Rolling Stone, The New York Times and, of course, This American Life.
I’m not saying an improv troupe of promotional angels is going to descend and give you a boost of fame. But it goes to show that there are a million unique ways of getting your name out there. After talking to an expert from Atlantic Records and doing a lot of band research (plus listening to a lot of rad music), here are 14 ways to promote your band.
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MAKE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA MORE THAN JUST AN ONGOING AD
I know this is kind of a broken record (and I know that’s kind of a terrible pun), but building an audience on social media is key. Not only does it build your fan-base – it can effect your opportunities. Jordan Danielle Frazes, the Head of Publicity for Big Beat Records (the electronic music imprint label under Atlantic Records) elaborates:
“As simple as it sounds, there is still a lot to say for artists that are able to build their social platforms – growing their followers and engagement on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and so forth. It speaks to an artist having an active fan base and overall helps propel musicians to the next level offering opportunities that may not be available to similarly talented artists without it. In my experience as a publicist an artist can have a super cool new song but a media partner may consider the numbers of the fan base before cosigning the work by posting or premiering the track. Also in the brand world, for partnership deals which allow for greater exposure (and sometimes some $$), they factor in social numbers of an artist to rank an artist over another.”
Upping that social media following is a way of giving you “credibility,” so to speak, to partners, sponsors, etc. that may want to work with you.
To gain that following, make your social media something people want to check out and follow. Post about events on your social media regularly. Talk about music you dig, concerts you went to, a road trip you’re on, a rad venue you’re playing, etc. – don’t just look like an ad. Give your social posts and channels a personality.
Start building an audience in real life by building it close to home. Play local street fests, events, venues, bars, etc. to start building an audience IRL. If you get featured in local publications and newspapers, share these features across your social channels. Discmakers recommends considering having a residency, or performing regularly, at a certain venue, playing there on a monthly basis (which gives you time to effectively promote yourself) and growing a fan-base that knows exactly where to catch you for a show.
The Noise FM did a cover of “Next to You” by The Police and their music video was entirely stop motion, using classic actions figures and toys as the main characters. Set your music apart by featuring it in a unique, charming, and different way.
Speaking of covers…
Do a unique song cover
Doing unique song covers (acoustic versions of non-acoustic songs, for instance, slow versions of fast songs, etc.) and posting them on Youtube can be a good way to get exposure. Just be careful with this! Read up on some copyright law (broken down here) just to make sure you’re not going to get hit with a lawsuit.
Merch Merch Merch
Have merch, both at shows and online! And make your swag creative. Have shirts that feature your band’s name/logo, your song lyrics done in cool hand-lettering, maybe some cool designs that fit your aesthetic and include your band name. Dog & Wolf does this well in their Shop, and even Zen Pencils does this with his illustrations. Check out their Artist Shops, and consider getting one for your band – you don’t have to handle any of the manufacturing, shipping, or returns, leaving you with more time to make music. (Start one here.)
Stickers, pins, and patches are also a great promotional tool – the low price you can sell them at makes them much more impulse-buy friendly.
SPOTIFY IS “THE NEW RADIO”
It’s easy to feel like you’ll get lost in the Spotify sound waves. But Jordan from Big Beat told us that, especially for certain genres, Spotify can be a valuable tool.
“Also good to note – especially for emerging acts and artists that fall outside of the “normal” mainstream music space (like my world, dance music !) – Spotify is the alternative option to radio—and it’s global! Giving attention to your Spotify community by sharing stream links to your fans inside and outside the platform and secondly by having tracks featured on Spotlight playlists are #1. Our generation has entered a predominantly digital music space so catering to digital music revenue should be on an artist’s mind; plus the stream numbers play into value of a song and artist too.”
Challenge artists to create a poster or tee design for your band, and print the winner! (Try Artist Shops for fast design uploads and for easily advertising your design contest). This way, they post about their winning design and you get the added benefit of their skills as well as tapping into their audience.
HAVE Rad ART on your posters
If you’ve ever seen an artist selling prints of cool band/festival posters they’ve done, you know that posters for a group or show don’t just have to have the who/what/where/when/why deets. They can also be a piece of engaging (and purchase-worthy) art. Make your posters artistic and visually intriguing. Make them something someone passing by will want to stop and look at. Solid art can be your foot in the door for someone who might want to then see your show.
Easier said than done, I know. But definitely reach out to bloggers and influencers to see if they’ll review you – consider offering a free EP to make it easy for them to access your music. Never be afraid to just reach out and inquire – you may get a no or zero response, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know.
Podcast / radio Music
Reaching out to podcasts with your music is a great way to try to get some new listeners through their listeners. There are many podcasts that either 1: feature regular music done by a specific band for their intros/outros, or, like the Cracked podcast, feature a few different songs and groups in every podcast.
Support Bands you’re tight with
Be supportive of other bands! Give them shoutouts if you saw them perform the night before, talk about their music. Reach out to musicians you’re tight with to see if you guys can cross-promote a little on social – basically the digital version of opening for a band cross-audience wise, according to mashable – or see if you guys can team up to do a show together.
Geo-target for live shows
Geo-target your audience in emails, newsletters, and FB events when you’re inviting people to see your show. This basically means just focusing on people in a more local/close-by radius. If you have a show in Houston in a week, inviting a bunch of your friends from London probably isn’t going to help you much.
Offer free downloads to get a song out there – people love free stuff.
Engage with fans whether you have 5 or 55,000
Engage with fans. Even if you just have a handful of them – they love you, and you want them to spread the word. So show them you care!
Illustration done by the amazing Katie Lukes