How's everybody doing with their press packs and promotions? Are you getting the gigs you want, are getting the word out to your fans? How about sharing some ideas here...
Lately, my band Mango fan Django, has undergone a facelift of our promo and booking efforts. Our regular Saturday evening gig--which we had for about a year --came to an end. I actually saw this change as an important opportunity. We were getting stale and lazy playing the same regular gig. Our lineup of players had changed and we didn't even have a demo CD; our website was out of date; our email list was two years old; and we were getting paid half the money we should have because we were too complacent to go out and beat the streets for proper paying gigs.
Let me state here: I hate getting gigs. I hate dealing with club and restaurant owners, working the logistics and promo, setting rates, collecting the money after the gig -- essentially, having to be the belly-button for the band. But reality is that all these things have to get done.
In order to do these things, you must have your promo and booking efforts together. Here in a nutshell is what we've done in the past two months. I'd like to hear your thoughts and any ideas you may have as well.
-- Recorded a live demo CD (with six songs). We actually recorded a practice session in a small basement studio. We went back and tried to record some "proper" tracks later, but the new tracks lacked life. While the practice recordings have some "clams" and some sound balance problems, we felt they were a fair representation of our sound with the new lineup. It was important to have this CD as soon as possible since our new lineup included a clarinet and our previous recordings didn't include it. Bottomline: Make sure your demo sounds like your current lineup.
-- Produced the live demo CD at home. The intent of the demo is strictly to get gigs. We do not sell this demo. We needed to keep cost down as much as possible. We also didn't need to have a thousand copies of it sitting around the house. Nowdays, it is easy to have small batches of CDs made for a reasonable prices. Musician's Friend offers 50 CDs for as little as $59 -- and there are other great deals out there. I chose to do everything at home because I wanted the freedom to customize each CD with only the tracks I wanted; I also wanted some color for the cover and the CDs. We use printable CDs and the products cost us about $2.50 each including the CD, jewel case, ink, and inserts. The only real downside is that each CD must be made individually and this takes time (about 5 minutes per CD). Bottomline: you have a lot of choices in producing your demo CD; review your options; chose wisely.
-- Upgrade the Website. Now that we had the new tracks, it was only a matter of converting some of the tracks to MP3 and putting them on the website. We also needed new photos, new bio info, updated gigs listings, etc. We refreshed these items on the website. The trick is to keep 'em updated. Bottomline: An outdated website is a bad first impression for potential customers.
-- Promo pack. Now that we had a CD, new pictures of the band, and new writeups from the website, I package these together in "hard" copy form and organized them as promo packs. I actually got an attache case to carry around the stuff. Now I can customize press packs for specific customers. Press packs cost money and mailing them costs even more. At around $5 a pop they start adding up. You need to be both generous and judicious when giving out promo stuff. But it has to be done, and it has to be done first-class.
-- Media publicity. A few months ago I started a thread here discussing how to explain Gypsy Jazz in a few short words. This type of "messaging" is important when dealing with your local media. It is also important to give them as much promo, photos, written material and interview time as necessary to get press. If you haven't had a media writeup/review in a while, find a time when you have a number of gigs coming up, and approach your entertainment writers at that time. I was very candid with my local entertainment writer, explaining exactly which week I wanted a story in the paper and why; I provided WRITTEN interview QAs in the format she uses; and corresponded with her via email and regular phone. Bottomline: Media publicity works best when timed to specific events, and media works best when you give them a lot of material. Be sure you know what you want to say and practice saying it before you say it.
-- Email Listings. I knew I had about four gigs coming up that would serve as excellent opportunities to update our email list. Since the list was two-years old, I used the media publicity method listed above to maximize awareness of my first couple of gigs. At those gigs I made sure every member of the band played a role in getting names added to our email list. Some musicians are resistent to this type of salesmanship and networking. It is way out of their comfort zone. However, I made it clear to my band members, without a better email listing we were dead in the water and that we had to step up to the calling when opportunity beckoned. They did a great job. We were able to get approx. 60 new names in a few weeks. The important thing about these names is that they represent people who have recently seen us, said they want to see us again, and serve as a great asset when working gig deals with clubs and restaurants. Take notice of the demographics of your fans and align your gigs to meet that demographics desires. For example, we have a lot of 40-plus people interested in our music. They are music enthusiasts, they have expendable income and expect quality food, drink, music, and atmosphere. They also like closeby parking near the venue. I consider all of these factors when considering a gig and make sure to point this out to the venues meeting these demographic details. To increase email participation at each gig, we offer one of my Selmer guitar pins as a prize during a drawing of new email signees. We don't have a book for them to fill out. We have individual pieces of paper, a dozen ink pens, and we take them directly to the tables to increase participation. We also only send emails "bcc:" to help protect participants' information. Finally, it becomes harder and harder to add new names to the email list when people are finding out about your gigs only from your emails. Great tool that it is, you can't add new people to the list if they're already all on your list. It is important to publicize by other means and important to play events were you get greater general exposure. When you do so, remember this is the time you must really work the crowds for new email addresses.
-- Electronic press packs. This is something new we're trying. We subscribed via Sonicbids to their electronic press packs. I see a lot of potential there. For one thing, you can cut the cost of of hard promo packs that can start eating you alive at $5 or better a piece (not counting time, gas, and other expenses to get a packet to a club). We joined Sonicbids via one of their special deals where we can sample their system for three months for less than $5. I look forward to seeing how this works. (Anyone else have experience with Sonicbids?)
That in a nutshell is what we have done to freshen up our promo and booking efforts. I am curious what others may think of this, and most importantly, hearing of other ideas there are out there.
I showed you mine; now show me yours!