I’ve been trolling the posts that I missed while I was out of the country, and ran across Chad’s post about firing up Ye Olde Indie Bande. Rather than giving a specific response to his request, I thought I’d give this, a general list of things to move your music project forward.
Most of the things on this list are the result of observation – APU is like a petri dish for watching the launch of music careers. We have around 50 people at any given time who are trying to become viable artists in the commercial music world. They range in success from those who are signed and touring in support of great projects, to those who can’t even get a pay-to-play booking with 300 other bands at Chain Reaction, and I get a front row seat to their process. They come talk to me about what works, what doesn’t, and I get to listen to their experiences and cull from that data.
So here you go – 20 things to do while you’re waiting for your fans to show up. The first 4 are in order of importance, but everything after that is in wild brainstorm mode.
- Change your mindset. Once you’ve recorded the album and rehearsed the band, you’re no longer an artist, your full-time career is now marketing and sales. Congratulations – you’re now a small business owner!
- Get on iTunes and other online distribution sites with tunecore.com
- Upload your music to last.fm. Your music gets placed on a playlist next to well-known artists with a similar style. I can’t think of anything more valuable to a starting artist than song placement in proximity to fans that don’t know you, but that already like what you do. In fact, move this up to #2 – I think last.fm is more important than getting on iTunes.
- Put together an EPK. Make it downloadable from your website.
- Send the EPK to your very local paper, the one that writes about school board meetings and the farmers market, along with a friendly email suggesting why your story isn’t the typical I-wanna-be-a-rockstar band story. Local papers are receptive to ready-made content (nice pictures, packaged story), and it will give you some experience in talking to the media about your project in a way that doesn’t come off as pretentious or vain.
- Update your website blog. (you DO have a blog on your website, right?) Frequent updates help with your search engine ranking, and you want to be on the first page of results for fans who go googling for your website.
- Get your social networking sites up. Make sure you have a presence on MySpace, Facebook.
- Find 10 blogs that you think your potential fans might read. Make an interesting comment on a post. When you fill out the comment details (name, email, URL) insert the link to your website. If people who read the comment find it interesting, they’ll follow the link back to your site. Don’t promote yourself directly in the comment, just make it interesting and relevant to the post.
- Somewhere in-between iTunes and Last.fm is Aimestreet.com. You upload your music, people can discover it and download it for free, or a few pennies initially. As it becomes more popular, the price increases. It rewards people for becoming early fans, and rewards artists for gaining in momentum. I love this distribution model, and it’s gaining a massive following among fans.
- Find 5 podcasts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) that talk about music in your genre. Email the host to ask if you can send them a CD (or links to the album online). Express your interest in being interviewed for the podcast.
- Locate 3 artists in your region who are in a similar market (both in size and genre). Check their tour schedule for venues, and start cold-calling. The place they play today is the place you should be playing 9 months from today.
- Do a process audit on buying your music online. How hard is it for fans who get to your website to actually purchase your CD? Can they choose a process they are already familiar, or do you force them to do something like download iTunes, or signup for Paypal? It should be as simple, quick, and intuitive as possible for someone who already wants to buy your product to actually buy your product.
- Can you accept credit cards for live sales at your concerts? Have a laptop with a wireless connection to Paypal Virtual Terminal, so that you can.
- While we’re talking merch table, how easy is it for people who get to the table after the show to continue their relationship with the band? There are 3 pieces of critical info you should have from every fan – name, email address, and zip code. Why zip code? If you’re playing a show in San Jose, every fan with a zip code that starts with 950XX, 951XX, 940XX or 943XX should get a personal email inviting them to the show. Any fan living in Phoenix should not. Excel, or really any spreadsheet program will let you sort data this way.
- Put together a list of 10 known artists that you think would have potential cross-over fans. Start a series of posts on your website reviewing their latest album. Be positive, if you can. You’ll start to get links from their fans doing google searches for album reviews.
- Take that same list. Find out who manages each of those artists. (Google is your friend). Send an introductory email to the manager, making specific mention of the artist you think is similar, and ask if you can send an EPK.
- Head to your myspace page. Find 5 well-known artists who are in your same genre with a large fan-base. Check out the fans who are commenting, and send 20 of them them an invitation to become your friend. Cross-over, cross-over, cross-over.
- As an artist, you have 3 products. Your recorded music, your live music, and your community. Does your website allow simple, intuitive access to all three products? If not, time to stop treating your business like a hobby, and hire a real designer.
- Setup a google alert for your band name, or for links to your website. If somebody says something about you, or links to you, you should be the first to know! This allows you to be proactive about building relationships with potential fans.
- Change your mindset. You’re now a small business owner. If you want this to be your full-time job, treat it like a full-time job. Manage your time and your goals. Put in 40+ hours a week. Run this business.
So what are your thoughts? Do any of these strike you as essential? Or as complete time-wasters? What would you add to the list if your were launching your own band? How have other bands or artists found you, and turned you into a fan?
Comment away, my friends.