There are thousands and thousands of bands out there, all striving for exposure and to make a name for themselves. In order to stand out you’ve got to put 100% of your energy into the band and into your music. Let me make something clear before I give my two cents. I’m no expert. Everything that I’m about to suggest is based off of what I’ve experienced and seen throughout our scene as well as others. I’m just your average avid music fan who really wants to see bands succeed.
1. Get money together: Everything costs money, and usually plenty of it. Bands who want to make it are going to have to have members who all have jobs and are willing to invest money into the band. Money makes the world go ’round and the music scene is no exception.
2. Buy good equipment. This of course is going to cost plenty of money. Good equipment says something about your band to companies (potential sponsors) and labels out there. Not only that, but the benefit it will provide your live sound is extremely important.
3. Pay the necessary cash for a good recording of your studio tracks. Again, this ties into the money issue, but when someone’s browsing though your facebook and myspace listening to what you have posted there, you want it to sound as good as possible. Don’t settle for subpar recordings, because there’s a strong chance that stranger won’t give your band another shot for a long time. First impressions are everything.
4. Obtain good and creative merch. Sure, every band out there has cool T-shirts with bad-ass sangs on them, but do you really want to settle for the norm? Do something creative with your merch. Do something no one else has done or something that is rare with their merch. I’ve seen some crazy stuff myself.
For example, I saw a band have someone paint pictures during their set. Weird, but the fact that they auctioned off just one of those paintings for 100$ stands on its own. For a band touring, that’s money in your gas tank, food for the night, and whatever other necessities based off just one painting. Think of the possibilities.
Another band that got some attention was one that sold their own hand-made soap. For some people, showering with soap made by their favorite bands gives them something to boast about over the common fan. Did I mention how much they sold it for?
5. Promotion. If you want people to hear your music, your going to have to make a strong, persistent, and time consuming effort to make exactly that happen. Go to local shows and distribute samples of your music. Give out flyers wherever you are. Hit up every music blog you can find and distribute samples of your music. Talk with every person/fan you can find. Build a communication network. Talk and make friends with other bands. It could mean the difference between you getting a spot on a very good show or being regulated to yet another crappy local show. Get to know local promoters. Get yourself out there!
6. Release physical and digital tracks. You need to get your work out there as soon as you can. People who liked what they heard at your show may want to listen further, and perhaps spread the word in the process. (I.E. Sharing tracks on facebook)
7. Put up a free download of your music online. This is a controversial suggestion, but let’s face it, unless someone really likes your EP, Single, or album, they aren’t going to buy it. (Asking for an optional donation isn’t a bad idea though.) There is very VERY little money in digital or physical sales. If your going to make money, your going to make it elsewhere. So in order to make that money, distribute as many copies of your studio work as possible.
Go to every blog, file-sharing site, and option you can find and get them to post up your music. The exposure and promotion you will get is something that will be hard to rival through other methods. Remember, word of mouth (Or online “spreading the word”) is free advertising and promotion. FREE! You need every single person possible to hear your music, as everyone of those folks is a potential fan who might come out to your shows, buy your merchandise, and of course spread the word.
8. Strongly consider just how important and beneficial signing to a record label will be for your band. Sure it’s almost always the goal of every local band around here to get signed to a record label of some sort. Weigh your options though. You will be a slave to those record labels, and chances are you will be in their debt, which isn’t a position you may want to find yourself in. There are other possibilities out there, especially nowadays. Observe the scene and be sure to pay attention to the changes happening to the music industry and scene right now, and the possibilities of the future.
9. Set yourself a part. Know your “genre” and know your targeted fan base and audience. Do something different. Think of the possibilities? What if you wore bags over your head? What if you played live shows over a streaming webcam onto a site like Youtube or Stickam? Could you stream your show’s and set’s live somehow and make fans feel as if they were actually at your show? Play secret shows that people have to find out about? (Okay, maybe not that.) Can you do something different with your stage-performance? Think outside the box.
A good example of a band in our area that does a lot of these suggestions well is Elysion Fields. Having a marketing genius named Josh Woods for a guitarist really helps their assent to success. So does all of their members having steady jobs, as well as good equipment. Perhaps you might be able to hit up Josh and ask him for some advice, but beware, he’s very secretive about his methods.
I suggest observing what other bands such as Punchline, Before Their Eyes, The Composure, Radiohead, and OK Go have done, (All bands that either have no record label, or have their own record label)
Remember, THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX!
P.S. here are some sites if your interested in some basic exposure through blogs: