Bands. You’re always lying to yourselves. Stop it.
LIE #1 - "People don’t want to see our band because the huge bands are still touring"
Many unsigned artists believe that because the big names continue to tour, (Rolling Stones, Metallica, etc), it takes the attention of their potential fans. If those bands we’re to just stop, their fans who could save like 90% of their night-out funds by seeing you guys down the pub instead of whatever Axl is calling Guns N Roses over at Wembley. There is a logic there, it’s not stupid at all.
First off, for a lot of these bands touring is their only source of income - you don’t tour, you don’t eat. Especially with The Rolling Stones, whose material is written by only 1 or 2 core members, the other guys are just sorta there. Their record label might keep them fed and warm during studio sessions, but the rest of the time they might not have the income to actually live. That’s why you need to be a songwriter, regardless of whether or not you perform those songs - that’s where the long-term money is. Second, it was probably one of these bands that got you into making music in the first place. Maybe it was the obscure proggie bands you found later on that made it interesting for you, but the first thought of "HELL YEAH, GUITAR" probably came from someone as big as Iron Maiden. So yeah, you basically owe them. The upshot is you just need to work harder to give people a better experience than one of the bigger bands. But really, the reason this is wrong is that it’s a different experience. Seeing your band play a small venue or pub isn’t the same as seeing a super well known band at a stadium. Yes, it is music, but they are different experiences. What you need to do is make it clear that that’s an experience potential fans will enjoy.
Supply and demand: If people want to watch Metallica and they can afford Metallica, they're gonna get Metallica. Ultimately it's down to the fans, so either make your gigs worth their while, or shuttup. You could even try to target potential fans who enjoy similar bands to you, but can’t afford to see them live, in your marketing, (that’s called a demographic). Or, become a cover band - as much as I hate it, people will see a reasonable cover band. Unless you’re trying to directly rival Metallica, but then you need to work super hard for a long time. Like Megadeth - HI DAVE! Also the big names won't live forever, so y'know... Waiting game… People might just not be at the gig because you’re not promoting it well, which leads me to Lie #2.
LIE #2 - "It's the gig promoter's job to promote!"
Some bands will tell you that they shouldn't have to promote the gig at all, because their job is to PLAY music. That's the promoter's whole job!
Mate, well observed.
But, if you were to call a promoter by what they really do, the job title would read more like "promote the gig-book the bands-stage manage your dumb asses because you overran your set-flyer designer-and-distributer-provider of tuners because guitarists are idiots-and spammer of online adverts". Promotion is only a portion of the role. But you're right, what's the point in doing all that if there won't be anyone at the gig?
Think about it - who has the most direct access to your fans? Is it you guys, with the Twitter account and the Facebook page and, (if you know what you’re doing), a healthy supply of your fan’s phone numbers, or is it someone who isn't in your band? It's probably you guys in the band, isn't it? You should not have to do all the work, fine. But the amount of effort it takes to do a couple posts on Facebook, or text a few friends to save the date, it's not hard. So why not just do it. I've always felt the promoters job should be to pull in people who haven't heard of your band, but have been promised a rockin-good-time, so that's a cool division of labour, right? Obviously, if you know a promoter won't pay you, or show gratitude, or get in any punters themselves, then maybe you don't work with them. The first few years of your performing career should be spent working out what local promoters are worth your time, and getting to grips with stagecraft which, unfortunately, means playing to empty rooms.
LIE #3 - "If we're on every social media platform it increases our chances of being noticed!"
Simple logic - if you have a wider online presence it increases your chances of being stumbled-upon by someone really important, or by potential fans. Yeah, fair enough.
Are you honestly going to keep all your pages up to date? No, I guarantee one or most will fall behind and quickly become out-dated and offer visitors incorrect information or embarrassing graphics. Also, it’ll be fun to see how many of those sites are defunct in a year’s time.
Some of these sites do the same thing. So, it’s fair enough to have somewhere for your music to live: SoundCloud OR BandCamp OR ReverbNation. On top of that, maybe a couple of the others - Twitter and a Facebook Page, done. You can have your own personal Instagram or, heaven forfend, Bebo as well where you post about your band, as well as pictures of your cats and lunch, but that’s not where you should direct people on your band’s promo gear. If you find you're not using a site much, delete it - it's better to have fewer well-used pages then it is to have loads of rarely-used and outdated ones.
LIE #4 - "I write the kind music I want to hear. Fans will buy it because it's genuine!"
It's normal to think that you should be doing something genuine that you enjoy doing, and that you will be respected for being true to yourself.
You won't though.
If you wanna make music for you then do that - but you can’t expect anyone to care. I occasionally write for my own enjoyment, (that’s what “Ronnie Diz” is) - I do put it online because, purely by coincidence, there's a handful of people that seem to like it, but I never intend to do a big launch with it or perform it live because I've accepted that it's mainly for my own amusement. We've spoken about supply and demand already - people want what they want, and will seek it out when they feel like it.
If you're doing music with the intention of hitting the big time or gaining a shed-load of fans then you need to be supplying what they want to hear. Wanting to be famous without doing something worth people's attention is stupid and pointless.
LIE #5 - "That journalist hates us"
You played an awesome gig, you were awesome, man, everyone thought you were awesome, man. It was good. But some ARSE-HAT blogger has written a review that says otherwise.
Maybe you do suck. Maybe you suck because you can't take constructive criticism. Any criticism is constructive, even if the published review is literally a .gif of someone vomiting because of their hatred of you and your music - that's a pretty big hint that you should rethink your band's core concept. If you're deluded enough to believe that you don't need to change to suit your fans or music professionals, (as per Lie #4), then you're not going to go very far. Unbiased feedback is way more important at an indie level than your best friends and family telling you what you want to hear.
Listen to the person who probably has more industry contacts individually than your band does between you. Even if it's scathing. Take it on board, adapt, and invite that writer back to review another show. Tell them you found their review helpful and you hope they find your slight change in direction more appealing. They will respect you, and I guarantee their second review will be better, even if it’s only because of that, and it will create a real stir that this person changed their mind about you.