Every up-and-coming music artist or band uses the internet to promote their music and provide information to fans, media, and other potential customers. Some hire a web designer, or rely on a tech-savvy friend, but most take the do-it-yourself approach on sites like Sonicbids, Facebook, or MySpace.
Writers, editors, bloggers, and bar owners access those sites to help decide which artists to cover, write about, or book. As a writer, I also receive numerous email inquiries from publicists, artists, and bands seeking coverage. My decision whether or not to provide coverage is based primarily on the artist’s music, but the artist’s website, presentation, and professionalism also come into play.
I’d like to offer the following ten tips to self-promoting artists and bands regarding website and email dos and don’ts.
Regarding your website:
1. Don’t launch your site until you are really ready. If the band line-up is still in flux, or if the group hasn’t yet found its sound, it’s best to wait. If you are in a group, decide how you would like to portray the band to the public and media. You may decide that one or two members will be the usual “spokesperson(s)” for the group, but all members should be comfortable with the band’s image.
Once you do post your site, include a brief but informative biography both on-line and in your hard-copy press kit. Other things you might include are copies of any previous press coverage or reviews, and song credits and lyrics. Writers on tight deadlines will often pull information directly from the material you provide. Always have a few hard-copy press kits (including photo, biography, and music) available at your gigs.
2. Don’t overload your home page with videos, pictures, and complicated backgrounds. A clean, easy-to-navigate site is more effective than one filled with lots of bells and whistles.
3. Keep information current. If you are using a website to provide information to the public, that information should be updated regularly. Make that one person’s job. Tour dates, with the address and brief directions to the venue, are particularly important. Get outdated information off the site. For example, don’t include photos of former line-ups.
4. Identify band members by name in a picture. Don’t post personal or “party shots” on your band’s official site.
5. Don’t post song demos, or any music you consider unfinished, on your site. In a highly competitive business, you want to put only your best foot forward. Also, don’t give your work away. If you sell your CD on-line or at shows, don’t make the entire album available for a free download. One or two songs are fine, but if you expect others to find value in your work, you should too.
6. Don’t use single words like “Hey,” “Hello,” or “Thanks” as the subject of your email. Spam filters often flag emails with those subject lines. Even if they are delivered, they won’t stand out in a crowded inbox. Something simple like “’YOUR NAME’ Seeking Coverage for New CD (or Area Show)” is more effective.
7. Sign emails with your name, your band name, and contact information. On more than a few occasions I’ve received an email entitled “Thank you for selecting us on Sonicbids.” When I open it, the email reads, “Thanks very much. Let us know if you need anything else.” – Bill
Unless “Bill” is the name of your band, I probably have no idea who you are. Make it easy for people to reach you.
8. Check your email and phone messages regularly. Everyone’s busy, but if a writer or club owner is trying to reach you on short notice and you are unreachable, the opportunity will go to someone else.
9. Be patient. Most writers and bar and club owners are bombarded with press kits and inquiries from artists and bands looking for coverage or gigs. Don’t send your press kit on Monday and expect a reply on Friday.
If you are requesting coverage of an upcoming show, give as much advance notice as possible. A writer who publishes a weekly column will have a submission deadline of at least a week prior to publication, and might plan columns weeks in advance.
If you email a writer requesting coverage, and you haven’t received a reply in two weeks, a follow-up email is appropriate.
10. Acknowledge coverage. If you are reviewed, profiled, or even mentioned in an article, send a brief thank you to the writer or blogger. If you were only mentioned in a feature and you have a show or new music release scheduled in the next few months, mention that in the email. It might lead to additional coverage.