In the previous edition of Pro Tips we talked about how to put together a music event, from booking bands and talking to the venue, to dividing income on the night. This month we're sticking with a similar topic and talking about how to promote the event, and actually get people to show up on the night…
This episode is all about how to get gigs: what do you need to get started, and how do you actually get yourself booked?
First off, here's a list of things to be sure you have before you even start searching for performance opportunities.
You need songs. Good songs, and several of them. You need to know them inside out, and be able to them play without being able to clearly hear your own instrument, or any of your bandmates, (Don’t worry, if that doesn’t make sense now it will when you start gigging)
A Set List
You need to be able to play those songs one after another with little to no gap between. Maybe have some different length setlists - for instance a 15 minute one, a half hour one, and a 45 minute one, just so you can fill a variety of slots. Also, once you’ve played a gig or two remember to swap out songs which your audience don’t seem to like with newer ones - it’s kinda more important to act on what an audience thinks than what you people in the band think.
An E-Mail Address
One from which you actually respond to messages. Maybe you nominate someone in the band to do that - that could be their “band job” - i.e. the thing they do in the band which isn’t playing an instrument.
Basically proof that you can perform music, which you upload to YouTube Not a music video, (although that’s cool, it won’t help you get gigs), but videos of your band playing a song or several, all the way through will help promoters see what you can do, and what you’re likely to be like on stage. It can just be you guys playing in a garage, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Once you’ve played a few gigs see if you can get video of an actual live performance, then start sending out the most recent footage you have.
Lastly, you need to be able to perform to an audience and look like a cohesive unit on stage. This is kinda hard to learn without playing gigs, but you can totally perform to your family or friends to get used to being watched.
Now we can look at the actual steps involved with getting yourselves booked.
Step one: go to the internet; step two: use the internet. It’s easy, type where it is you live followed by the word “gigs” or “events”. Maybe try “pub gigs” as well. Some of these venues will have an in-house promoter in which case you can just drop the pub an email with a link to your performance video, and a little bit of info about your band.
Research promoters. Again, use the internet. Some promoters will run different nights at different venues for different crowds so they’re possibly more likely to be able to help you than an in-house promoter. Even better, you could go to one of these local gigs from your research and at the end of the performances try and talk to the promoter When talking to a promoter don’t go into loads of detail about your band “we’re a metal band / we have our own drum kit and amps we don’t mind letting others use them” then you swap contact details.
Lastly, here's a few final considerations which may help.
So when you talk to promoters, (or anyone else for that matter), you don’t have to go scribbling your email down on a scrap piece of paper. Even simple business cards will make you look twice as professional.
A Facebook page
Promoters shouldn’t judge you by the number of likes you have, but some of them will. What’s important to promoters who are a little smarter is the number of interactions from fans, so try and propagate likes, shares and comments on whatever you post.
You have to be pretty ballsy to talk to strangers, especially when you know nothing about each other and you want them to give you gigs, so it doesn’t hurt to send the most confident person in the band to talk to promoters - as long as confidence doesn’t turn into arrogance.
If you’re able to move all your own gear around it makes it much easier on the promoter as they won’t have to find amps or cabinets or bits of drum kits for you to use. In fact, if you’re able to bring your own drums and amps and that you should consider letting the other bands performing with you use them - that will make you pretty popular.
This may be more helpful down the line, but any interviews, whether written, audio or video, can help a promoter get an idea of how professional you guys are. In fact, we have another video on exactly this - check out How To Get Gigs right here.
Today we're looking at music videos -not just how to make one, but how to do it well, some of the common pit-falls and how to avoid them. We've enlisted the help of our friend, Tom Anderson who has worked in various aspects of the film industry for some years, but has a particular penchant for music videos. You can browse his website at your leisure, and view his full interview at the bottom of this article.
Finish the track before you start making the video
Yeah, obviously. Don't go adding an extra verse after shooting the video, as your filmmaker probably won't have enough footage to make it work, especially if you're going for a narrative style video. At the very least it needs to be finished structurally and well recorded, providing your the final mix or master doesn’t alter the overall feel of a track, (which it shouldn’t, to be fair).
Hire a professional to make your video
As much as you like making music, that’s how much a filmmaker loves making films. Imagine how good the end result could be if everyone involved was super passionate. You probably could get away with making an OK video between yourselves in the band, but if you really want something great, you’re gonna have to hire someone.
Work out your budget and go from there. The first thing price could affect is what gear the filmmaker brings into the shoot - less money might mean that they don’t want to use a great camera because of the inherent risk involved with leaving the house with a camera. This could also effect how many additional staff the filmmaker brings in.
Hire a Producer
A producer will handle all the logistical elements involved with a shoot, of which there is loads: timetabling, location booking, weather. It's possible that the filmmaker will have someone on his team to handle this, (as per our above point), or maybe they want to do it themselves but you definitely want to have someone in this role.
Get more footage than you need
This applies more to the filmmaker, whether that’s someone in the band or someone external. Always get far more footage than you think you’ll need. Often the pacing of the song will seem different in, hopefully, calm and quite editing process compared to the day of shooting which will be crazy, hectic and exhausting. To compensate for that you need to make sure you have way more footage that you need, just in case you don’t have enough. It’s always better to be over-prepared than caught short.
REFERENCES & FURTHER READING
In this episode Liam talks about how best to budget for promoting your album or E.P., with a little help from John Wheeler - front-man for rock n' roll parody band, Hayseed Dixie. These guys coined the term "Rockgrass" to describe the way in which they perform classic tunes, and Si managed to talk with John for a while about his experiences in the music industry. Scroll down to find the interview in full.
85-90% of your budget should go on promotion. "Build it and they will come" is a dumb idea, people have to know your *thing* exists, otherwise how do they know they want it? Create your record as cheap as you can, without compromising what you want to achieve musically. Remember, a good song is a good song with or without huge production value. At least by keeping it simple people won't be able to accuse you of "hiding behind the mix"
Hire A Publicist
You may have your own list of contacts for reviews and press, but imagine combining that list with someone else's? Specifically, someone who has based their career on making these contacts, and probably knows that side of the industry way better than you. Hire a publicist.
Go on tour. Take your *thing* out into the world and see how it fares when the venue isn't full of your friends and well-wishers. Self-improvement aside, it's a great opportunity to spread the word about what you do. As with the above point, you should hire someone to arrange these tours for you, or to at least assist. This allows you to focus on the thing you really want to do - y'know, make music?
All they really do is sub-contract people to do the various jobs involved with promotion and tour management. Yes, they may have better contacts than you, but they will probably take a huge cut of the profits. That’s the big labels anyway, we can’t really talk about independent labels because they all vary so hugely in what they do and what they’re capable of.
Get one who’s actually a photographer. Y’know, someone who owns a camera and lighting and stuff. This is a real easy way for promoters to tell whether or not to send gigs your way. Some bands will use live photos, but this only works if you have reasonable stagecraft as a band.
Band Biographies & Press Releases
Put effort into your band bio and press releases, because most publications are just going to use that word-for-word. Also, for people like us who have to crawl through press releases to get to the kettle, please make them fun. Please!
Thanks again to John for his time and the honesty with which he expressed his experiences. The full interview is available below, and contains info on how to tour without exhausting yourself, leadership and roles within a band, and how not to cack your pants on stage, (no, really).
REFERENCES & FURTHER READING
In this episode Liam talks about the importance of remixes, what they can do for your band, and what makes a good one.Featuring expert witness Yvette Chivers, DJ and founder of the B-Side Project.
As Yvette said, if you get remixed, you will get a wider fan-base. It doesn't really matter if you like the style of the remix, or indeed the individual track - the fact is, it will have the potential to bring you new fans. Also, consider this: the more different a remix is from the original song, the wider the scope of people it might attract. Music listeners aren't one-dimensional, they can like opposing music styles.
Stay True To The Original Track
On the flip side of that, it is fair enough for a band to make sure they're being represented in the best way. Producers need to be respectful of the original track, and make sure they're doing it justice.
Now, just like bands, to really make money and be a success you pretty much have to tour and perform tracks you've created. Luckily, performance hardware is easily accessible and super-easy to learn, so anyone can take their show on the road - you really have no excuse!
It's the same deal for DJs as with bands - you might not be able to perform many gigs at first, (unless you count weddings and functions where they won't want you to play original stuff), but you can definitely play at a friend's party, right?
Do It For The Love
If you're trying to create something, (anything in fact), you have to stay true to that - if you don't love doing it, people are going to notice, and they're not going to care. There is some compromise between expressing yourself and trying to appeal to people and make a living - but that's just a balance you'll have to get used to over time.
Tell A New Story
The last thing Yvette said there was interesting to me - depending on the instruments and effects used, or the way you mix a track, you can tell a create an entirely new track. So when working on a remix, why not try to tell a different story to the original piece? Rather than just a more energetic track, you could transform it entirely - that's a real challenge there.
Thanks again to Yvette for donating her time to talk to us. Remember to get more information on the B-Side Project from their website, and check out the full interview below.
References & Further Reading
- Tech Crunch - From Artistic To Technological Mash-Up
- Music Radar - 18 Pro Remixing Tips
- Dubspot - 10 Remixing Tips
- DJing For Dummies on Amazon.co.uk
The first episode in this new series looks at ways to quit your band. Liam's 6 tips are as follows...
1. The Ultimatum
An ultimatum is a simple "If this, then this" situation. Make it clear that you want to leave and your reason for that. If they're willing to fix the issue then it's probably worth staying.
An absolute necessity if you're gigging a lot or recording tracks. Say that you'll stay for a couple months, but after that you're gone.
3. Find a Potential Replacement
Offer the band a replacement who is at least as good as you, if not better. Don't offer this individual the job, but certainly make sure they're up for it if asked.
4. Be Transpaent
Don't lie about why you're leaving. If the band try to fix your issue you'll have to come clean about the real reason for leaving. Que awkwardness...
5. Be Firm, but Avoid an Argument
Shouting matches aren't rock n' roll - they could actually screw your potential future endeavours. The goal here is to minimize the amount of crap your ex-bandmates might say after you leave, but it's also important to be firm and clear so what you're saying isn't misunderstood.
6. Be Sure
Don't come crawling back 20 seconds after you quit. Because durh, obviously.
Those are our tips for quitting your band - we hope your next bailing is a joyful one.
(R.I.P. the Liam Taylor Musical Endeavour)