Unsigned Bands Feature – Part 1

written by Steve Thomas-Green, unless stated

What started off with me being pissed off with the number of bands on Bandcamp that don’t link their Facebook pages, has now become a feature, and one that I’ll probably add to (quite) a few times.

So, we’ll call this bit part one.

I’ll moan and bitch about shit, and then I’ll get some more knowledgeable people to give their opinions, which will be more worthy than my own… but generally, there is no right or wrong here. It’s just opinions. What works for one band, might not work for another.

But if you’re just starting out, or your band is struggling to make some headway, then hopefully we can help.

From my own point of view, I’ve been involved in the music scene since before the popularity of mp3’s and basically before the internet evolved. So I started with well written, paper biographies and physical promos. These days, everyone is in a hurry and they release music before they’re ready.

Band info is usually non-existent. As are proper promo shots, decent video clips (your band recorded on a shitty phone with distorted sound doesn’t count) and the ability for anyone to find, never mind download, your music.

bandcamp-logotype-color-512

Rule number 1: Make your music easy to find.
Bandcamp is brilliant. You can add your music and make it freely available. And it won’t cost you a single penny (or cent). Some bands insist on charging 7, be it Dollars, Pounds or Euros for everything. But if you’re starting out and you don’t have a fanbase, who the hell is going to give you $7? Your mum maybe.. but not your average music fan.

So start slowly. Release a track, make it free for everyone. A month or so later, do the same again. Repeat until you get people downloading your music as soon as it’s released.

In the meantime you might get some radio play, a few spins on You Tube…

That’s how I’d start… here’s the opinion of Kevin Snell of Chmcl Str8jckt, who’s just crossed the first few hurdles himself.

chem1

First, if you are just starting out and actually want to build a fan base and get some notice, you must know this: be prepared to spend (not make) money. You will not make a nickel. I’m not complaining, but this is my second most expensive hobby ever (Indian motorcycles are first!). The number 1 question I have been asked this last year by new people who hear about us is “How do I get your music for free?” It was actually quite shocking. I come from an era where you bought the physical release and felt good about it. We initially listed our debut as $4 on Bandcamp. People complained (while drinking a $4 coffee from a corporate giant). I never thought the time, effort and soul that was put into music creation had become so devalued!! We are not in it for the money….so once I understood the current way of thinking we made the download “name your own price” to which everyone chooses Zero. We don’t care….we just want to be heard and collect all the like-minded listeners out there! When we made “RMX”, we didn’t even consider charging.

Since we have good careers and no dreams of “making it big” we never considered a label. Through networking on FB, I saw what Chris Bollinger (Machine Man Records) had going on and he had already liked us quite a bit. I reached out to him and was impressed with his personality and the collective he was building so we were happy to join him.

I personally believe that YouTube, FB, Instagram and Bandcamp are absolutely essential now! Much more important than even playing live shows when you are just starting out. If you run the occasional ad and network a lot you can build an international fanbase fairly quickly (assuming you have output that is liked, of course). In a year we have gained almost 2,000 followers on both FB and Instagram. I am just now beefing up our YouTube page and Spotify. Instagram is how we got noticed by John Bechdel and Claus Larsen before him. Claus gave us our very first mini-review and endorsement. It really takes time and effort, but without really using these platforms….forget it! AND, of course getting a few great DJ’s to listen to you and promote you is key!! Every time we gain a new follower, I think “Thanks Scott Durand…..Thanks Tommy T….Thanks Steve Thomas-Green…..Thanks BloodLit Radio Guy…etc”

I personally think reviews are much less important except for touting a good quote or 2 from them in a little ad or such. We petitioned for about 40 reviews with the debut and got about 5 responses (which were mostly very good) but we saw no result from those reviews. We did use a lot of the quotes from them though! I haven’t even submitted RMX for a single review yet and probably won’t.

You can visit Chmcl Str8jckt here: https://www.facebook.com/chmclstr8jckt/

And one other piece of advice from me (Steve)

Going back to Bandcamp… add all your links, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.. if someone finds your music via Bandcamp, they might want to check you out, find out the history of the band.. . or for me, play your on my radio show. I find a lot of new bands through Bandcamp and if I can’t find a Facebook page, I don’t play them on my show. For me it’s all about building a network and if I’m faced with a brick wall, I move onto to the next opening, so to speak.

And don’t bury the links to your Bandcamp page. Make your music easy to find. If I get a request to “like” a page and I can’t listen to the bands music, I don’t hit that magic button.

Ending part 1, I speak to Mach Fox from Zwaremachine:

zware

Get your music on Bandcamp. If possible, consider paying the 5$ a month or so to use some extended features. Setting up private pages for promo campaign and selecting which tracks available for stream and/or download was useful for me.

For Zwaremachine I made a page with our title track “Be A Light” available for download/streaming and 2 additional tracks for streaming only. This page wasn’t public so I could save the thrill of official release and still actively get the music heard and reviewed before that date. These were strong tracks aimed at getting DJs/publications interested before offering the full download to them. I sent a message or email asking if interested before sending link. I also spent a lot of time contacting active DJs from live club night and shows. I researched the genre and didn’t waste promo codes and time with DJs playing styles outside of electronic/ebm styles. It doesn’t hurt to send to everyone because most DJs and music heads are into many genres, but I chose to focus my efforts to a smaller group that I can form a personal connection with and in turn support the nights and shows they do.

Also don’t limit yourself to only Facebook contacts and DJs, search for some clubs, blogs and mix shows in specific genres and decide your reach when you start promoting. Its great to have a world wide campaign but if you are from the Midwest U.S. for instance, work hard to meet and connect with DJs at clubs and radio shows in your area and the areas you can easily tour to and have a little support. For my band our style of music is also strongly supported outside of the U.S. so I reached out to many DJs in different countries and had good interest and feedback. I’m not sure how I feel about Facebook ads though. My success was very limited with the most return coming from analyzing what parts of the world we had interest from. That was great to see but I wasn’t able to take advantage of it with generating many sales. I think spending less money on FB ads and using that money to print some real world promo materials you can have, may be of more use.

I think for pricing and digital distribution you should charge whatever you consider fair for your product and also offer free streaming.
It’s also really cool to have special artwork/posters/photos that can be printed out noted and included in release. We offered high quality band pics/logos and custom artwork by Paul Gerrard as part of our digital download package.
You can choose to have something like a special offer of 2 days only free download and build some promotion and get people to share based on free music. It’s a good way to keep exposing people to your music. It may or may not work it depends on how cool your friends and fans are.

Youtube is great. I found many DJs and mix shows are posting there as well as Mixcloud and I can stream YouTube on gaming consoles in locations without computer so it’s just a good option. Make a channel and create your own playlist to promote your songs or make a playlist related to your music or tastes. I like to create visuals and videos deeply connected to the music but I also just add a logo and some music. I have more people recently asking for videos or links to publish along with blogs/interviews online so you will want videos hosted at a known and trusted site. It’s a good idea to also have mp4 copies of those videos as well.

I keep a Google drive full of folders I can link to for band promotion and treat it as an EPK. There is a folder with promo/bio/pics/reviews and logos. I also have one for videos and others with specific songs to send for airplay/compilation submissions and I also host our remix kits there.

Getting reviews is another case where I took the time to contact blogs/reviewers in my genre or at least related to our scene. I checked the authors and found listed contact to send email or request. We also had the benefit of killer original artwork. So the thumbnail that went out with our Bandcamp promo link was intriguing and I think that furthered some interest. If a hand drawn penis fits your music style…by all means use it…but if you are a sci-fi cyber ebm band you should let people know with an image. I sent personal greetings and started with the reviewers name so they knew that if I expected them to use their time and critique my record they would know I have a genuine interest in the work they do. I always try to share the publications and support that type of work since it is something I cannot do for the band. I love to read a well written review or article where I feel the reviewer isn’t just getting thru a stack of releases or links really digs into the meaning and world of the band and release…even though they are probably getting through a stack of reviews. We are all busy so reach out and show some gratitude when someone spends that much time on your project for little or no reward other than promoting something they enjoy.

I think going the PR firms can do a good job getting your music out to their contacts but I wanted to make my own contacts. Actually meet and have personal connection with the people supporting me and my bands music. I suppose it will depend on your genre and many factors like time versus money to if that can work for you. It is rewarding but very time consuming. I have seen many bands with huge number of followers on FB that don’t draw well at live shows. Maybe they are selling a lot of merch and records online and retail but that is hard to tell. Everyone can look professional and glossy on FB, but actually bringing the live show is where I intend to connect with audience. So I don’t employ a PR firm at this point.

https://www.facebook.com/zwaremachine/

So that’s it for part one. Many thanks to Kevin Snell and Mach Fox for their thoughts and taking the time to help out with this feature. I’ll leave you with some useful links:

Bandcamp: https://bandcamp.com/
Mixcloud: https://www.mixcloud.com/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/
Wordpress: https://wordpress.com/ (if you want your own site)

And my small part of the internet:
https://www.facebook.com/GhostWaveRadio/
https://www.mixcloud.com/GhostWaveRadio/

I’ll bring you part 2 in September

 

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