by Ray Rocha, editor, Music Insider Magazine
I recently had a conversation with some musician friends about how to go about promoting our projects. None of us are “rock stars”, but we’ve all been forming, playing, performing and promoting bands for years. For me, I was raised in a musical household. My father, Ernest Rocha was a professional musician, composer and arranger. A life member of the Musicians Union Local 47 in Hollywood, he took his musical gift very seriously. I started performing as a drummer in a working band when I was about 15. I remember the sense of accomplishment I had playing the drums and watching all the people having fun and dancing to what I was creating. I listened to how the other musicians and band leaders would talk on the phone when booking and promoting their bands. These observations would be very helpful as I got older and started my own band.
In Los Angeles, in the 1980’s, we had The Recycler, The L.A. Weekly, bulletin boards at music stores and studios, word of mouth, walking up and down the strip passing out flyers, and of course going out and seeing other bands. Today’s world is a whole lot different than the one I grew up back in the 1980s Hollywood. We are so blessed as band members and leaders to have, at our immediate disposal, the most powerful and useful tool ever invented for finding gigs and people, the Internet! Add that to all the “old school” tools and one has everything they need to get their band out there.
For me, once I have a band concept and direction in place, I can start the promo machine. After deciding on a name and logo for a band, I will start a Facebook page and a Reverbnation page. I will populate the information as it comes available to me, Members, song lists, funny blurbs, pics, really anything to show what a band is about. I will send that fb link to everyone I know and start generating some traffic on the page. Reverbnation is a great tool for a quick and easily navigable site, but a dedicated band webpage is always a good idea.
Pretty soon the Facebook page will have a good amount of “likes” and the Reverbnation and/or webpage are getting visited regularly. This is great stuff. Keep it going. Get your band pics done. Get that demo done. Letterhead with a band logo is also a very professional tool. Usually, I will have my band’s bio, pics, song list, and demo CD in a nice portfolio. Do not skimp on this. If every pic and document has your band’s name and contact info on it, you will impress.
I cannot stress enough the importance of being fearless and unencumbered by worrying about what others think about you. You have a great band! Believe it! Now let’s book some shows. I will stick to clubs on this, as it is what I know best. Phone calls only go so far when trying to book some shows. I usually use the phone to find out who does the booking, and when they’re at the venue. I will try to set up appointments if possible. I work in sales, and I know how easy it is to say “no” on the phone. Conversely, when you are in front of a decision maker and you have a pro presentation, getting a “no thanks” is almost impossible.
Flyers are often overlooked. Get some flyers printed in 8 1/2 x11, 11×17 and four to a page on an 8-1/2×11 sheet. Get em to the club weeks in advance, Hit as many businesses as you can and bring tape. Pass out the small ones on cars and in person. Smile and make sure people know this show is not to be missed. Confidence and passion for your band needs to be conveyed. So SELL it!
Relationships are key. I try to always take the high road in the music business. A professional, businesslike approach will help in the short and long term. I don’t always get my way. Sometimes I have to settle for a less than desirable date or less pay than I am used to. This is not always a negative. Getting a foot in the door is never a bad thing.
So we get a show, we negotiate pay, and it’s the night of the show. Show up early, find out who is in charge for the night. You want to know who the manager or lead person is. If you are getting paid that night, find out early who is going to pay you. Wanna get called back? You and your band should entertain, play great and be respectful. Being drunk and belligerent is a sure way to never get called back. Keep your breaks to the allotted times, and rock your asses off.
After a great night of rocking, getting paid and enjoy the satisfaction of a successful gig, take the time to email, call, or otherwise get in touch with the person who booked the show. Thank them. Have your calendar ready, because you are about to get more shows.
Nurture the relationships you make in the business. You are in it for the long haul. Enjoy yourselves. This may be The Music Business, but you will always PLAY a gig!