Starting a Band, 5: Shamelessly promoting your first gig

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of articles by Spencer Kilpatrick about starting a band.

With a show on your horizon, your band should have two major priorities:

  1. Getting people to the show.
  2. Not sucking.

“Well, shouldn’t ‘not sucking’ be No. 1?” No way, dum-dum. A packed, high-energy crowd can cover up a lot of (but certainly not all) beginner’s mistakes. And besides, this show isn’t just about you, it’s about helping to provide a great crowd to the touring support act and the local headliner. Putting yourself in the opening slot puts you in a low-risk position to get your ya-yas out and streamline your act. So we’ll start with promotion:

Posters

For a long time, I fought posters as a form of promotion simply because, growing up in the digital age, I had always found out about shows I wanted to see from the Internet and viewed fliers as wasteful and antiquated. However, over the years I’ve seen the impact that posters can make on an up-and-coming band’s presence.

Putting up posters gives you a reason to visit all of the coffee shops, record stores and small businesses in your community regularly and further engrain yourself in your scene. It helps people put a face to the band’s name and if you and your cohorts can manage not to be twats to any of these people, that’s a very, very good thing.

Lastly, printing and distributing fliers also shows the venue and other bands on the bill that you’re willing to spend a little extra cash and time to make this show as successful as it can be, thus only bettering your chances of getting booked again.

Social Media

FullSizeRenderPromoting on social media extends far beyond those annoying Facebook events that everyone either ignores or blindly taps “going” to (but you still have to make one of those, too, sorry!)

With the constantly changing landscape of the Internet, I can’t offer terribly specific advice. Your best bet is to keep an eye on what popular bands in your area do and follow suit. Let the personality of the band members shine through and get a feel for what gets the most attention from your followers (insightful musings, goofy pictures, fart jokes … whatever).

While there is no “one size fits all” for making a cyber splash among your friends, there are a few things you need to have handy before you start bringing attention to your various band accounts.

~Band photo~ No brainer, don’t sweat getting a great quality portrait unless that is what your overall sound calls for, just reflect yourselves genuinely. When a show gets close, swap out your photo for the poster.

~A short bio/description~ No one wants to read about how you all met each other. Skip that and give a brief rundown of your sound.

~An emphasis on your next event~ Whether it’s a show, music video, or album release, a peek into what’s coming up should be one of the first things people read when they go to your website/Facebook/Instagram.

After those things are in place, focus your posts on reminding people of the show without being annoying. What’s worked best for me in the past is making a first mention a month out from the date, then another one two weeks out, then one or two posts about it the week of the gig.

Local paper write-ups

Contact the music and arts editors of your local papers and let them know about the show a month or so out. Send the poster file and ask for a write-up on the show. Now, without any music being released and no existing fan base, they probably won’t give you a feature but reaching out is a great way to acquaint yourself with the people who care about the arts scene and will give them a reason to keep an eye out for your name in the future. Also, the paper most likely has a calendar that they print weekly and most will have no problem adding your show to the list of events.

Quick Tip: “The hardest thing in the world to do in this business is start a band nobody’s heard of.” Tom Whalley, Interscope Records

Go to shows, be present, be visible

You should have been doing this since the second you thought about starting a band but if you haven’t, now is the time to start. The easiest way to meet people who go to shows is by go to shows and meeting people, ya idjit. Once you’re at the show and you’ve had a couple beers, you’ll most definitely find an excuse to start talking about your band and as long as you’re not too abrasive or weird, people will usually be at least vaguely interested.

If you want to take the extra step, you can even find these people on social media over the next few days and send them something like this:

“Hey, it was great meeting you the other night. Here’s the poster for that show I was telling you about, hope you can make it!”

(Actual poster for my next show. Self-promotion is slimy, huh?)

Starting a BandIt will take probably a dozen shows for your band to hit its stride when it comes to promotion but by using this as a reference and keeping an eye on what good bands in your area are doing, you’ll get the hang of it sooner rather than later. Next time, we’ll take a look at what should be happening in the practice room to ensure your first outing is as strong as it can be.

Part 1: A primer for a special kind of stupid:  LINK
Part 2: Practice! You talkin’ ’bout practice?! LINK
Part 3: Decision making for petulant children: http: LINK
Part 4: Booking locally — It’s almost time to underwhelm all of your friends and family! LINK

About Spencer Kilpatrick

Author Spencer Kilpatrick graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in English. He hates the Lakers and his top three emcees are Blu, Earl Sweatshirt and Nas.

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