Posts Tagged ‘music promotion’

I have been thinking about gigs, specifically what makes a gig successful – one thing led to another and I started pondering the various experiences I and others have had with venues and promoters.

I see a lot of online conversations about the responsibility of the artist – to bring lots of people, to sell tickets, to put on a good show. What about the venue’s responsibility? What about the promoter?

Let’s be fair. A good gig won’t happen in a vacuum. You need a decent act, a decent sized audience, and competent support from the sound person, bar staff, door people.. there’s an awful lot of responsibility being dished out there. The artist is not the only beneficiary of a good night – if the venue and the artist both do their jobs, the artist should see some increase in exposure (I’m not getting into pay to play here, and I am assuming all gigs discussed here are paid) as well as their fee. The venue should see good footfall, and strong bar takings, while the promoter should gain an excellent XP boost, as well as their fee. This should be a win-win-win for everyone, yet all too often it’s not.

So how can venues and promoters work with the artist to put on an excellent night? Here are some suggestions:

Don’t miss easy promotion opportunities. And don’t leave all the promotion up to your artist. Seriously. I cannot say this enough times. All that happens is that the artist fills the venue with their fans and friends, but they don’t get any new fans, and if it’s the wrong demographic, the venue doesn’t get any new customers. If the venue and the promoter pull their weight, it looks good, and as an added bonus, you get more people. Remember folks, more footfall is more bar takings, and potentially more people who decide your gin palace is awesome even when you don’t have live music on. I will say this again, in case it has not sunk in enough. EVERYBODY WINS.

Also, the easy stuff. Does the venue have a blackboard? Put the artist’s name on it when they’re performing. People walking past on the street, drawn in by the sound of the music will (and this is crucial) KNOW WHO PLAYED. Then if you have the same artist back, you may well draw in some of these people, who became fans. Put posters up – you don’t need many but some well placed posters before and during the event tell people who is playing. You don’t leave your beer pumps unlabelled do you? You don’t say to customers “ah, no, you must guess which beer it is you like from these unlabelled taps”. So why leave your entertainment unlabelled?

Don’t leave your artist out of pocket. Yes, some people are willing to play for exposure at the start of their careers. Unfortunately, your landlord called, and regrets to tell you that he does not accept rent in the form of “exposure”. Neither can you pay your gas, water or council tax bill with it. If you really can’t afford to pay your artists, because it’s a charity gig, or you are just poor (rethink your business model, see above, and label your beer taps), then at least cover a free ticket in for a guest, travel expenses, and maybe a beer. There are many forms of pay to play – the most ubiquitous is when the artist has to travel to reach you (costs money), to play a set and then receive no pay, so that they are out of pocket for doing the gig. Let me tell you this right now, it does not matter whether they are booked to play three songs or thirty songs. They still travelled, lugging kit, and they still gave up their time. Don’t make them pay to do it.

Communication, communication, communication. One of my biggest bugbears is this: I see an advert on social media, or receive an email soliciting acts for an event. It does not have to be a large event (where I could perhaps understand the problem of trying to respond to several thousand requests), it can be a small neighbourhood thing. I follow the instructions to apply to play, add in a personalised message, and generally spend some time sending out a really nice application. Nothing. Radio silence. I eventually find out I was not selected by the event happening. Or by hunting out the line up if it’s a slightly larger event. Please, if you run events, contact the unsuccessful. Make it a form email if you have to, I don’t care if it’s impersonal, but at least let people know.

Let’s assume I have been successful. For some events, the organisers will get right in touch, send a rider form out or request some promo material. Great! But some let you know you are playing and then send out no further information until a week before the event. Now I’m the sort of soul who preps my set list well in advance, so you can imagine how frustrating it is to not even know the set length until we’re practically tripping over the event. Plus, I don’t drive, so I have to factor in travel arrangements. If the organisers aren’t contacting the acts, there’s a decent chance they also aren’t promoting (see my first point) so it’s a double-dastardly bit of badness.

The thing is, it’s not that hard. It just involves being a little bit organised and timetabling things sensibly. But the difference it makes, to the artists at your event, to the punters attending, and to your image as a promoter/venue/organiser is almost incalculable. The devil’s in the details.

Hire decent staff. I shouldn’t even have to say this. I played a large venue last year where the sound guy was awful. I was horrified at how bad he was, because the venue has a better reputation than that, but he accused me of not knowing how to plug Loopy McLoopface in, repeatedly, his every word implying that I had no business being on stage with equipment. Then, when faced with the actual cause of the problem (his failed DI box), he did not apologise. Instead, halfway through my set, he added some exciting whalesong (despite my free trial of this, I have decided, regrettably, not to include it on the next album) and then lost my sound completely. For a song and a half.


Cartoon by Far Side, not by me, I’m not that talented!

What should have been an incredible set was definitely coloured by this guys incompetence, and it took me a while to get over the disappointment. At another venue, I had sexual innuendo flung at me (rather like a monkey flings faeces) by a sound tech who not only behaved completely inappropriately, but had turned up drunk. Fortunately, these events are few and far between, but they stick, like the aforementioned faeces, and the impact on the organisers isn’t complementary.

If you want to keep artists coming back and willing to work with you, have a zero tolerance policy to incompetent and unsafe staff in your venue. And if you, or the staff you work with, have prejudices against any group of musicians (women, people of colour, Nickleback), leave it at the door. Your job is to put the best night on you can. Treat your artists with respect and they will (generally) do the same for you. If they don’t, then of course, feel free to show them the door.

That’s all for this post, folks, but if you think of something that I missed, feel free to add it in the comments!

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I realise this is a loaded topic and I am opening a can of worms here, but today I’d like to discuss a subject close to my heart: diversity in the music scene.

As I say, this is a controversial thing to bring up, but I think in this day and age, it’s important to discuss whether we truly feel that the music industry, and especially the local grass roots scene, is diverse enough.

Before I start, I would like to be very clear that the people with whom I network are a lovely bunch. If diversity is lacking in a lineup, it’s not deliberate – I don’t believe that any promoters or organisers around York are deliberately excluding anybody.

So, with disclaimers out of the way, my thoughts.

I don’t believe there is enough diversity in the local music scene in York, and this is disappointing for a number of reasons.

Look, I get why the higher up music industry is still having issues. There are entrenched ideas going back decades that are hard to shift – a lot more minds to change and a lot of work to do. But there is absolutely no excuse at local level. Most local shows are put on by much smaller networks, in a local area, drawing on a pool of talent easily accessible via social media. There is no shortage of musicians keen to play.

For some reason though, I’m looking at lineups around York at venues I frequent and in the singer-songwriter genre, by far the most prevalent act is guy-with-guitar. I’ve seen entire nights of just one gentleman with a guitar after another. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good guy-with-guitar as much as the next person, but it does get a little dull if that’s all that’s on the menu. Punk, rock and indie all show the same pattern – it’s all groups of lads, followed (but not closely enough) by bands with a female vocalist.

Where are the women? There must be female bassists, drummers and guitarists – I know because I went to college with some – but I’m not seeing them out on lineups – not nearly often enough. Female singer-songwriters are out there too, but again, not seeing them often enough. In fact, I have seen requests to play on facebook chats where the lasses are passed over for the lads. There tends to be a first come, first served policy with these types of gig recruitments, and it’s easy to miss the one female voice posting amidst all the lads clamouring for a spot.

So why is this the pattern? (And I fully expect it may not be the theme where you are, dear reader, so I am definitely keen to hear about scenes who are managing to get the balance right)

I have some theories (that it’s a demon?)

  1. Women are not networking the way the men are. This on its own may have reasons: lack of confidence, not hanging out in the same circles, not being as likely to be recommended (the lads have a bro pact and recommend one another to promoters and organisers, or like working together so tend to pick one another over a less well known female alternative)

  2. There are statistically fewer female acts in York, so they just aren’t coming up as often. This is probably true, but questions should be asked as to why. The local colleges all have strong diversity schemes aimed at drawing women into the music business, and I see dozens of women busking in the city centre, so why aren’t they playing more venue line-ups?

  3. Some promoters don’t view female performers as important or deserving of a spot on the bill. This is a controversial suggestion, but sadly may be true. It may be an unconscious bias, but I believe it exists just the same.

  4. Women can feel threatened by trying to slot into the male-dominated environment and may have their confidence undermined by men telling them how their kit works, or assuming they don’t know their instrument, or assuming they don’t take it seriously. This can result in them deciding that gigging is not for them and so you lose another performer from the scene.

Assuming local promoters would like to be more diverse in their lineups, I have some suggestions to help things along.

  1. Look at your lineup and ask yourself how many different types of people are represented. Not every lineup has to look like a rainbow flag, but at least try to get a few women in there. If you live and network in an area that is not very culturally diverse, it will be harder to get diversity reflected in your acts, but just about everywhere has a roughly equal ratio of men to women, so your gender diversity should certainly be present. If your area lacks lots of solid female acts, then recruit from further out and show the women who come to the show that they too could be up on stage, doing that thing.

  2. If local female acts put on a ladies-only showcase, please don’t feel threatened and start calling them out for sexism. Go to the show, and talent spot for your lineups!!! The only reason female showcases are still needed is because of the aforementioned lack of diversity. If you start giving women slots, and evening out the ratios, there won’t be a need for it anymore.

  3. Reach out to local acts via social media and start building connections. Then, when you need acts for a lineup, you already have a feel for who is gigging regularly, who is reliable and who will really bring that extra spark to your night. Please don’t be the dude who passes over the hard-working woman who shows on time, knows her own kit, plays well and pulls a crowd, for your mate who routinely rocks up late, doesn’t have his own leads and fumbles his way through his set. And yes, I have seen this happen.

  4. Don’t make women feel threatened, patronised, or lectured. I had a sound engineer tell me I could take my kit off on stage. I had another engineer tell me that I didn’t know how to plug my kit in – when his DI box was at fault. I have a thick skin, but women just trying to break into gigging may not have, and this may result in them never attempting to gig again.

  5. If you do a facebook shout out to fill a lineup, be extra careful not to overlook the female voices requesting to play.

  6. If it’s a paid gig, pay women the same as the men. This SHOULD be obvious, but we only have to look at the BBC to see that apparently (and sadly), it isn’t.

I realise there is far more to this than what my mere 1000 words or so has covered, so please, leave me comments – what is your scene doing well? Where can it improve? How can we make the local music scene more diverse for everyone?

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Ah, it’s Thursday again, that day when the scent of near-freedom wafts tantalisingly through the workplace. Well done for making it past the hump again, fellow WordPressers and readers 🙂 I’ve spent the week writing songs for FAWM, so blogging is a nice break from fighting with chord progressions!

Today I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned whilst making forays into social networking sites. Although the title says this is for musicians, really these tips apply to anyone who uses social media for any kind of promotion at all 🙂

1) Facebook

Facebook loves to link things together…

This can be very useful. For example, my Facebook page automatically shares my updates with Twitter, meaning that I only have to post one update. For someone as hopelessly disorganised as I am, this means that I rarely end up with a situation where I have forgotten to update Twitter, and this is a relief. However…

…Facebook linking leads to duplication…

So as you know I have a WordPress blog (d’uh!). This automatically posts to my Facebook page. However, it also posts to my Twitter feed – and so does my Facebook. So my poor Twitter followers invariably get duplicate posts announcing that I have blogged. I generally have to get straight on Twitter after posting my blog, to remove the excess status updates. This makes having the system a little bit defunct. I haven’t yet worked out a more efficient, non-spammy way to do this, but when I do, I’ll certainly be implementing it.

…and you don’t EVER want to sign in to non-Facebook places with Facebook.

It’s so easy to do. Reverbnation have been particularly guilty of this lately, making it extremely difficult to get logged in without logging in using Facebook credentials, and I recently emailed them to challenge this. While awaiting a resolution, I will say this. Keep everything separate. Yes, it’s more details to remember, but then you run a much smaller risk of experiencing this cautionary tale. Remember: Facebook can halt your access to your own account whenever they want. You are the product, not the customer. If everything you have is linked to that account, you’ve lost ALL of it. All of the fans and followers and relationships that you spent so long building up. Don’t do it, kids.

That said, Facebook is a valuable tool

Facebook is still one of my major ways to promote gigs, events and new songs. It’s worth spending some time making it look pretty and consistent with your theme, and in fact I highly recommend taking a look at some tips from Sentric on how to really improve your Facebook presence.

2) Twitter

Hashtags are your friend

Hashtags help your tweets to be seen by more people than just your immediate circle of followers. If a user wants to find out about any new music for example, they might do a search for #newmusic – any tweet posted using that tag will then show up. Hashtags help to categorise your tweet as well, again helping readers to find it if it’s the thing they are seeking. However, a good rule of thumb is to have no more than two hashtags, placed at the end of your tweet.

You can tweet more than you think you can

If anything, until recently, I’d been very conservative with tweets, thinking that posting more than once a week was effectively spam. Not so. The twitter feed moves incredibly quickly, far faster than the Facebook news feed, and as a result, in order for your tweet to reach more people, necessity dictates that you tweet more often. I now tend to tweet 3-4 times a day, and only some of that is about my own music (I’ll discuss content ratio later). Repeated tweets (tweets with the same content) are fine, but it’s recommended to keep a gap of 4 hours or so in between each repetition so you don’t overwhelm the twitter feed with a spam attack of tweets!

Make sure your Twitter profile is set up

It really helps to have a good, clear profile set up with a recent, good photo, biography including who you are and what you are likely to talk about on your twitter, and last but not least, a link to your website or blog.

3) Your own website

Build one, or get someone to build one for you

Your own website is vital. It means you have one home on the internet – one go-to place for music, links, photos, gigs etc. The people you are looking to attract in the music industry are very, very busy, and I guarantee that nothing will turn them off faster than having to wade through hundreds of links to piece together a picture of who you are and what you do.

Own your domain

Web addresses like http://www.thisisyourfreewebsite/user/caseewilsonmusic* look awful and very unprofessional. It’s very very easy to obtain domain registration, I use 123-reg who are cheap, cheerful and user friendly. It’s really very little effort, for something that increases the professional appearance of your website a hundredfold.

* not a real website. At all. 

Have a “Call to Action”

On the front page of your website, you should have two things: A call to action such as “buy now!” or “book now!” with a button so that people visiting your site can immediately do that without having to wade through pages of content first, and a way to contact you, again, easily and clearly displayed. The other whistles and bells are very nice, but if a visitor comes to your webpage, you want to make it very clear how they can interact with you and obtain your album or services.

One last thing. I’ve only picked three or so points for each type of social media, to be going on with, but something that applies to Twitter and Facebook is what I like to call…

Content Ratio

In other words, for every post you make about whatever you are promoting, be it music or your florist business, post AT LEAST two other things unrelated to that. So in a typical afternoon on Twitter, I might post something like: “Yay! New song on Soundcloud (link) #newmusic” followed by: “massive thanks to Sentric (link) for their article about social networking! #socialmedia” followed by : “Did anyone see the article about the cat that barks like a dog? (link) How funny was that?”. In three tweets, only one was direct promotion of myself. It’s especially true on Facebook, where some promotion, by necessity, occurs on personal profiles, not just on Pages, and you will alienate your friends if all you talk about is your music. This aspect of social media – knowing how to strike a balance between “promotion” and “spam”, is critical, and for me, still a work in progress.

I’ve missed loads out so please, share your personal tips about social media below!

For extra reading, I highly recommend Bobby Owsinski’s Social Media Promotion for Musicians. It’s available both in paperback and as an eBook and it’s very detailed and useful! 

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Please indulge me, dear reader, in writing about a personal bugbear of mine in this installment. It is this.

My name is not “Casey”.

Nor is it “Cassie”, “Cassey”, “Kacey” or “Katy”.

My name is Casee Wilson. My website is http://www.caseewilson.co.uk.

You may think I am having some trouble with my own personal identity. And it’s true, after a couple of gins it’s entirely possible I might get confused. My point here, however, is that other people, without the aid of gin or any other mind altering substances at all, seem to be completely unable to present my name correctly on promotional posters, websites, or flyers for events that they have invited me to play at.

In the last 24-36 months, I can count on one hand the number of events for which my name appeared correctly on the promotional material, and those were the events *I* organised.

The problem is that this is my brand. My artist name is what brands my website, my blog, my CDs, my facebook page, my soundcloud profile. It needs to be consistent, so that people start to recognise it. Pubs selling Pepsi would be sued, rightly, if they had signs for “Pepsee” or “Popsi” on the drink dispensors, so why should it be different for a musician? The same consideration needs to be taken.

Here’s why you, as the promoter/events organiser, need to be sure you are spelling the artists names correctly.

1) It makes them feel valued. 

When you don’t spell an artists’ name correctly on promotional materials, it makes them feel that you don’t care about them. You didn’t care enough to take the time to check their website, or ask them how their name is spelled. This is not hard information to find, a simple email or tweet: “Is this how you spell your name?” or “Is this how you want to be known?” A matter of moments. And if you can’t be bothered to spend those moments, why should the artist feel you give a damn about them? They start to feel like they’re just filling a space in your night and that’s all they are to you.

2) It sets back their promotion.

As I said above, it’s all about branding and repetition of seeing that name/brand. But if I’m “Casee Wilson” at one gig and “Casee Robertson-Smythe” at another gig, and “Katey Willson” at yet another, my branding is shot to hell. There’s a reason artists have websites and web presences, we’re trying to build a brand. Please don’t destroy all the work we do.

3) It confuses fans.

If an artists’ branding is shot to hell, so is their identity in the eyes of the fans. Market research has shown time and time again the the best way to attract fans, music sales and gig attendances is to be consistent, again and again. Lack of consistency in how we’re presented by a promoter/organiser destroys the relationship we’re building with potential fans, who almost certainly don’t know us well enough to know that our parents are ex-hippies and gave us names without thinking about whether anyone else in the world would spell them correctly. As a promoter, it is your responsibility to help us continue to present a consistent message about who we are.

4) It makes a mockery of finding our websites after the event.

My partner, who is also my web master, has actually designed my website so that any variant on the correct spelling of my name will actually go to my site. But I’m lucky. I have someone with the skill and know-how to make that happen. Many people don’t. Many people are using very basic, self-maintained sites, and rely on people entering the website name correctly. Punters after a gig may only have the poster or facebook event to look back on to find the spelling. Make sure it’s right. That way you’re helping grass roots artists to be found and followed up by the people who enjoyed seeing them play at your event. In short, in a seemingly tiny way, you are helping someone else’s career. Great for karma! Much better than:

4) It makes you look like a douche.

It really really does. Promoters have an unfortunate reputation for being top class a***holes. Don’t add to it. Be different. Appearing professional should be your watchword at all times, otherwise artists will stop wanting to work with you. A good promoter/organiser pays attention to the details, because that’s where the devil is.

In short, an artist’s name is important. To them, to their fans. Get it right. It’s not hard and it will allow you to stand out as a professional, instead of as a rank amateur who doesn’t care.

I leave you with a few thoughts from Mr Loudon Wainwright III, “They Spelled My Name Wrong Again”…..

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