Basics of Song Promotion

The Problem

Too many artists don’t have any strategy when they go to release music. They simply think if they put it online (Spotifry maybe) that it is enough; that everyone will recognize their amazingness and next week they will be stars. Having been in this business for 30+ years I know this is not remotely true. It has never been this way for anyone (even Billie Eyelash who was in Development for years).

In my day (old man voice) a band made their own posters to let fans, old and new, know that The Tryptic SpongeHedz were playing next Friday, or that there was a new cassette in the Indie stores. There was no assumption that “everyone” would know. You had to tell the masses. Or more to the point, tell the few who were interested in going to see new bands playing new music in really horrid smelly rooms (and that’s before we talk about the loos).

Bands would find a friend who could draw and have that person make a flyer or poster. They then found another friend who had access to a copier of some kind and could print off copies. More people were then drafted to stick those flyers to cork boards in Indie Record Stores, walls around venues, and anywhere else the kinds of people who were interested in going to see new bands playing new music were. I know, because I hung out with bands then did exactly the same things myself for my own music. Most early-Friday nights were devoted to touring the local Indie venues checking, and topping up, my flyers.

On a good evening, someone from another band would say, “Cool flyer dude”. On a great evening, some random (usually in a black t-shirt) would slide up and say, “Oh are you like that guy?”, pointing at the flyer. “Yes, that’s me”. They would say how cool they thought my tape was and how they sent a copy to another band they tape-traded with in L.A.

This is how it was done. All grass-roots. One person at a time.

Digital changed that expectation but not the reality. People think you can just make a Rockin’ tune and that is enough. It never was. You have to do the supporting work or it doesn’t feel complete – like a real record from <insert band name>.

The Solution

The Plan:

A digital release still has to have the basics covered or potential fans can’t feel that it is finished or serious. They may play it but they won’t buy into it. You need people who want to buy into your band. The best outcome is when they buy your songs and start telling their friends about you. To make that work, you need the assets that make you look like a real band, especially when they share your YouTube videos or Bandcamp page.

  1. Build a release Strategy & Plan – this must include Time targets. Without this, you have no idea what you need to do and no way to check what you have and haven’t done. A plan without goals is just a fantasy. Make it real & realistic so it can happen.
  2. Assign Tasks if you can – be sure the people are reliable and be very sure that you pay them. People help for their reasons, not yours. Your backline people are your first step to success. Never burn them. (I never share records I Mixed for people who were rude).
  3. Check that work is getting done – if not re-assign. Your Strategy Plan should have allowed time for things to go wrong. Deal with issues early as there is nothing worse than having an official launch party with nothing to launch! Been to a few of those. Those bands don’t last, no matter how lovely the guitarist’s hair.
  4. Get all the parts in place – it doesn’t matter how great the cover art is if you don’t get the posters on the walls or the cover on the record.
  5. Talk to people – best to do the big-talking after you have the record in your hand, or on YouTube, not before. People are always more impressed when you can wave your song under their nose than big-talk about this song that no one can hear. Don’t SPAM. Never SPAM.

The Artwork:

While anyone can get a copy of Inkscape and start knocking up the artwork for music promo, it is like assuming that all people can draw cool dragons to promote their Metal band. That dragon’s not gonna fly dude. You either need friends who can (and actually will) deliver these things for you (when you need them), or you hire in.

You will need:

  1. Band Name Artwork – this can range from a full logo to simple text. It is important that this be the same everywhere for this release. It doesn’t necessarily have to match older releases but needs to be consistent for this release.
  2. Cover Art – a record without a proper cover is not a record, it is at best, some random song with a picture. This is not the message you want to send. The cover needs to be a real cover that sets your song/album as special. Band Name & Song Titles are vital.
  3. Banner Art – you will need artwork for Banners in every place that you intend to have a presence. At least have banners for YouTube & Bandcamp as they are the most used places by people looking for new music. Often these banners have specific requirements that ‘jamming up an existing image’ won’t cover well. This brings me to…
  4. YouTube Video – MTV might be like so totally ‘80s dude but YouTube is the most commonly used search engine for music. People who actually care about music use YouTube to not only find music they already love (who doesn’t love to watch Nick Rhodes’s shoulders waggle) but to find new music they can love. You need to be there or you are nowhere. Being on Spotifry is nowhere near equal – if not a really bad idea overall for unknown bands. Lack of any video presence is like choosing to fail. While some services say they will auto-create a video from your upload, these are not real videos and have no real way of helping you. 
  5. YouTube Video Thumb – should be included in any well-made video. Make sure you use it. You don’t have the luxury of enough fame to rely on the blurry face of your guitarist chewing gum to excite the loins of fans. You need a clear thumbnail image that makes your video present tidily on Facebook or in Forums when you post it.

Once you have all the assets and have put them in the places they belong, step back. Look again tomorrow, not with your eyes, but with the eyes of someone who just arrived. If you aren’t great at detail, ask the person who always notices mistakes in things to have a looksee, eg..:

  • You like Pink Floyd, could you like this band?
  • Is everything where it belongs?
  • Is it as tidy as if you go to Pink Floyd’s pages?
  • Is there stuff that isn’t finished like maybe a missing Avatar image? 
  • Or the About didn’t get filled in because writing about yourself feels odd?
  • Did you remember to Credit the Mix Engineer and Backing Singers?
  • Did you spell the Drummer’s name right? Don’t ask him, he wouldn’t know, ask his Mum, she might be able to spell lol.

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