Trish Fontanilla is a Harmonix playtester and has been a fan of music since she was a fetus (ask her about that song she wrote to the rhythm of the heart monitor beeps). She has parlayed her passion for music into a promotion side gig while working full-time at a music school. She started handing out tapes to get schwag when she was in junior high, graduated to selling merch to get into concerts for free when she was in college, and now she markets bands for a little money…and to get into concerts for free.
You've always thought your band had a decent interweb presence. You’ve got a good amount of friends on the Facespaces out there, most of which reside in your town. So what’s up with the tumbleweed gigs? Here’s the thing…having a profile on various social networks sans content doesn’t mean squat. It’s like putting some eggs in a pan hoping they’ll cook themselves (think about it). You have to grease the pan, crack open them eggs so that they realize their full potential, then turn up the heat. If everyone is saying that they’ll “maybe” go to your gig (the balls-less answer for the people that actually mean NO), and the only people showing up are blood related, you’re not using the internet correctly. So here’s some advice:
- First off, if you don’t have your music on any web players, get to uploading (and on more than one site). Don’t be an a-hole and offer only snippets of your song. How do I know that besides those 30 seconds I hear, you don’t play B-minor and scream “I like platypuses” for the other 2 minutes? Okay, I’d be semi-interested in that, but you should still hit up players like Pandora, LaLa, Imeem, GrooveShark, Last.FM, and GimmeSound. Not only do these sites allow users to play full tracks, most of them have “share” buttons that make it easy for listeners to post links on other networks AND places where users can look into buying your music. Already have your stuff available on these sites? Add a little flavor with live or cover tracks or offer them to people if they buy advance tickets to shows. You can also make your older tracks free to download. Who doesn’t love free? Oh, and lyrics. Post lyrics everywhere and anywhere. Minus bathroom stalls - you don't want that ass-ociation.
-Save your money on printed tour posters and advertise online. Check out local newspaper sites and even Craigslist. Other good sites are Pollstar, TourFilter, Gruvr, Eventful, Going, and BandsInTown. People get thrown off because some of these sites have an "I'm in" function and freak out when there aren't any "fans" of the event. Know that most people are lurkers and don't bother making profiles for every site. Posting everywhere covers all your bases and audiences. Don't always count on the venue to help you out. (For more on booking and promoting shows, check out Jess’ article “Adventures in Booking”).
-If you're working on new stuff, let people know. Lay down a rough track or make a short studio or tour video. You don’t have to do high tech editing; just let your fans get a glimpse of what’s going on. They’ll feel like they’re in the know and it’s important to keep them engaged. Try out YouTube, Bebo, or Vimeo. And for those of you with incredibly limited attention spans, there’s always 12seconds. Feeling brave? Hold a Ustream video chat session. Live stream your show or even do an impromptu jam for your fans. Also check out Synchronicity Live for your streaming needs.
-It’s okay to mass message but frequency is a different story. Now, you don't want to mail people so much they start mistaking you for a Nigerian prince (still waiting on my 2 million dollars…) but letting them know about gigs, CD releases, tours, etc. is perfectly fine even if you’re not coming to that person’s city. If they like you, they’ll tell their friends where you’ll be. Try newsletter sites like Fan Bridge, iContact, or FanReach.
-Do you have to have a blog? No, but it doesn’t hurt. There are a ton of different blogging programs out there for you to take advantage of like WordPress, Tumblr, and Blogger. You don’t have to make like Socrates and get all philosophical, but even posts that have just the previous night’s set list can be awesome for a fan. (Note: If you’re the type to wallow in regret, don’t drink and blog...someone will always read your post before you delete it.)
-If your attention is sizzling out, sites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and iLike have short message status boxes you could rock. The only danger is updating about nothingness… despite the fact that you’re in a band, not even your most hardcore fan needs to know what you do in the bathroom or what you ate for breakfast. Updating with pictures of the band, posters, tour dates, and adding in a little banter on a semi-regular basis keeps the fans’ attention. Also a site like Blip.FM allows you to make your own radio station and add short commentary, so you can share your favorite music with your fans. Personally, I love to hear what my favorite bands are listening to. Also, if you’re noticing links are too long, sites like TinyURL or Bit.ly are useful for making them fun status message size. Bit.ly will even keep track of how many people are clicking on the link.
-Wondering if all this work is worth the buzz it’ll generate? Sign up for Google Alerts. Every time someone mentions your band name on the internet - boom! - you get an e-mail of where and when. You can set it to email you as it happens, once a day, or once a week.
-So now you’re thinking, okay Trish, I get it…but who has time to manage ALL of these networks daily? That’s where sites like Ping.FM and ArtistData (AKA your new BFFs) come into play. They take a little finagling, but you can hook up almost all of your pages so that you only have to update one site and it gets sent to each of the ones connected. The main problem you can run into is not keeping up with messaging on the other sites. If someone mentions you or messages you, try to get back to them within the week (day is preferable, unless you’re touring). A thank you and a little love can go a long way towards earning a loyal fan.
At some point (perhaps when you’re finally famous), you could also get some dedicated street teamers to handle some of your interwebness or hire someone in exchange for money, beer, or video games. Some will even work just for free tickets and t-shirts, but once they start stealing your water bottles and selling them on eBay, it’s time to find new help. Or hire them as your tour manager. Resourcefulness is key for DIY bands.
When it comes down to it, think about what you’d want from your favorite band and do it (if it’s legal). Make it about your audience when you can. People can get overloaded, but assuming your music isn’t crap (it’s not, right?), a personal message here or a free track there is like the virtual kiss on the hand to a fan. Plus, almost all the options above are FREE. What are you waiting for? Go forth and make a rockin' band-promotion omelet (See metaphor from beginning paragraph if you’re confused. Or, alternatively, make a real omelet and then get to promoting. Mmm...omelet...).
Once you've got the basics down, here are some more in-depth sites to stretch your web promotion wings at: garageband.com, musicnomad.com, bandcamp.com, mybandstock.com, thehectorfund.com, and kyte.com. Some will give you an outlet to sell your music while others provide helpful resources to further your music career. Once you’ve got a good fanbase built up using your web promotion ninja skills, you might want to check out the Rock Band Network. You always wanted to play your own songs in Rock Band, didn’t you?