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Behind The Mic: 20 Things All Artists Should Be Doing

As the Behind the Mic series comes to an end, we’d like to give you all a list of 20 things we think all artists should be doing to keep their fans engaged, pack their shows and promote their music.

From having an online presence to setting up distribution for your albums, we hope this list will help you hone your skills as both a musician and a business person in the fast-paced and constantly changing music industry. After all, your band is your brand, and it takes lots of hard work and dedication to reach your goals!

1. Get online. This is an obvious one”you’re already here, but if you don’t yet have an account on OurStage, sign up now! As our artists will tell you, it can be a career-changing move. You should also have a MySpace page, a Twitter account, a Facebook page and anything other account you think you’ll use. You don’t need to sign up for every single music site you see, because chances are that you don’t have the time to update all of them all the time. An outdated profile is useless, and sometimes detrimental to your progress!

2. Consider making your next album an EP, or a 3P. As we discussed earlier, the 3P is the future of music releases. We live in a world of instant gratification, so music fans are showing preference to purchasing a few EPS over the course of a year than an annual album.

3. Take some new band photos. Ditch the old photos from last year and get some updated, high-quality shoots. You’ll need them for your websites and press kits!

4. Get your album reviewed. There are a million bloggers out there waiting for albums to review. Get your music heard and attain a quotable review for your EPK and bio.

5. Research potential sponsorship opportunities. Sponsorships are a great way to offset the costs of being in a band. Learn how to reach out to companies for sponsorships for clothing, gear and more.

6. Be gig-savvy. Plan your gigs carefully”be sure not to double up on the same market more than twice in a month, and watch out for potential scams. You might want to start using a band calendar to keep track of everyone’s availability. That will save you the extra step of calling each band member every time you’re offered a show. And don’t forget to use our Gig Finder to find new show opportunities!

7. Learn the business. The music industry can be tricky. Learning the ins and outs of record deals, tour planning, etc. will put you at an advantage over other musicians!

8. Practice your live show. The test of a true musician is seeing how well you can replicate the sound of your record in a live setting. Take our tips for honing your stage presence and your next show will be even better than your last.

9. Sell your merch online. Fans who can’t come out to shows need a way to buy your merch too. Set up a webstore and start selling!

10. Manage your mailing list. Set up a mailing list and an account on a newsletter site. Keep your fans in the know and offer them cool incentives for signing up!

11. Promote to the college crowd. College kids love music and love being the first to know about the hottest upcoming bands. Learn how to get in with the college crowd by playing shows, getting on-air interviews and handing out free merch at local schools!

12. Webcast your next show or acoustic set. Make your fans feel like they’re getting the VIP treatment by putting them front row center to an intimate performance or live show, or just host your own webchat. Webcasting is a powerful artist tool, so make sure you get on it as soon as possible!

13. Launch a fan-funded campaign. Fan funding is the hottest new way to raise cash for a new record, tour or merch collection. Source your funding from your fans and reward them with awesome, exclusive prizes!

14. Design cooler merch. With all the crazy merch out there, T-shirts and CDs are old hat. Get creative with your merch and give your fans some fantastic new swag.

15. Record a cover song. A cover song is a fast, fun and easy way to get extra exposure and promotion. In a  time when music is discovered online everyday, posting a cover song or video can actually help launch an artist’s career!

16. Run a street team. Gather a group of your most dedicated fans and start a street team. These fans will be your grassroots promoters, so get some unique and innovative ideas together to get your name out there.

17. Take care of your voice (and other instruments). Take our tips for proper voice care and check out Jay Schneider’s Tune Up series for pointers on keeping your instruments in top shape.

18. Hire a manager (when the time is right). One you have a solid following and are making money off your music career, you should consider getting a manager. They can be a huge help in getting ahead in the industry, but they are ultimately a representation of you”so choose carefully!

19. Update your official Web site, don’t ditch it. Don’t forget about your official Web site! It’s the go-to place for accurate and up-to-date information, and should not be replaced by MySpace or Facebook.

20. Have fun! Being in a band is a challenging, time-consuming job, but ultimately, it’s about the music. Remain dedicated, work hard  and stay passionate about your art!

Behind the Mic: Hitting the Streets

One of the toughest parts about being a musician is getting people who aren’t your friends to care about your band. With a bit of luck and some effective persuasion, you can turn casual fans and acquaintences into a solid street team: a group of people who use grassroots marketing to promote your band.

Most street teams are sent on “missions” to hang flyers or pass out stickers. While these materials are relatively cheap to produce and provide, they are ultimately forgettable. Developing more creative missions will not only better engage your street team,  it will make your promotion more effective.

Florida pop-punk band Automatic Loveletter has a massive street team, with representatives in over one hundred cities and twenty countries. The band has always encouraged members to come up with creative missions of their own, offering free tickets, merch and exclusive online content to whoever comes up with the most unique marketing idea.

In January of 2009, Automatic Loveletter street team members competed with each other by posting pictures of all the creative ways they promoted the band. One fan took photos of supermarket foods re-labeled with Automatic Loveletter’s name and Web site address.  Another fan who worked in a video store placed a promotion card inside every DVD rental. Others decorated their cars, held posters on the side of the road and put mini flyers in clothing at their local mall.

Take a tip from Automatic Loveletter”make your street team missions fun, challenging and creative. Your fans will get much more passionate about their work and your band’s name will be far more memorable.

Generation DIY: Send Your Team To The Streets!

The other week I was in Cambridge, MA grabbing a bite to eat with some friends when this young college girl stopped our group to ask us to preview some music on her iPod. After a 30 second listen, she asked our thoughts and inquired if  the band was one we’d personally enjoy. At the end of our conversation, she handed each of us a postcard with information on how to reach the band on the net as well as a plug for an upcoming show. This was quite possibly one of the best interactions I’ve had with someone promoting a band, especially someone doing it for free. Since I began the marketing campaign outline last week, I thought a talk about how to create and manage a street team was a likely next step. So let’s get some more work under our belt to help kick off this campaign stronger than ever.

For those of you who do not know, a street team is a collective group of dedicated people who work under a less structured setting to help promote a product or brand ”in this case your band. Now, these teams aren’t the easiest to put together, especially if you’re not in a band that’s been around for a little bit and gathered a strong fan base. Usually, the street team will consist of close friends and fans from different areas”to ensure your efforts and promotional materials don’t go to waste. (more…)

HOW TO START A STREET TEAM

It takes a village to promote a band. So, now that you’ve grown your online fan community, it’s time to hit the streets.

Having a street team can be incredibly valuable. It eases the burden of promoting your shows alone, and will help you recruit more fans. Street team members can do anything from passing out flyers to promoting contests and, ultimately, getting more bodies to your shows. Sound good? Great”let’s talk about how to build your army.

1. Locate the passion. Who are your most avid fans? They’re the ones who leave the most comments on your profile, the ones who are always at your shows screaming all the lyrics, the ones who constantly want to know what you’re doing. These are the fans most likely to help promote your band.

2. Spread out. If you’re in a touring band, make sure you recruit street team members in cities you know you’ll be hitting. Having all your street team members in one place will result in duplication of effort. Start with two or three members in each city or town you want to target. If the job’s not getting done, go ahead and enlist more help.

3. Put together a sweet marketing packet. When you’ve got your street team assembled, send them a packet of flyers, posters, buttons, stickers, etc. Make sure you’ve got quality materials, and plenty to go around.

4. Decide on one meeting place. Choose a social networking site to communicate with your team, and create a distribution list or database exclusively for them. Send them all your show invites, links to buy your CD, news and so forth so that they can distribute to their friends. By keeping your street team connected through one source, you’ll avoid miscommunications and confusion.

5. Come up with a marketing strategy. Don’t let your team wallpaper the town with posters just for the heck of it. Set some specific goals and work to achieve them. For instance, if you want at least 100 people at your next show, give each member of your street team a realistic quota to reach, i.e. 10 confirmed guests each. If you want people to buy your new CD, have your street team send out an exclusive MP3 to the first 50 people who download the album. Don’t burn your team out by expecting them to do too much. Choose your promotions carefully and make sure the mission is doable.

6. Reward hard work. There’s nothing keeping your street team working for you other than a love of your music. And sometimes, love just ain’t enough. Your street team always needs to feel valued. These aren’t your employees, so don’t treat them as such. Give them easy and clear tasks, and always show your appreciation with a personal email, a CD or free tickets to your shows.

7. Decide on a manager. If you don’t have time to check up on your street team, elect someone to be a manager. This person will make sure that missions are being accomplished. He or she will ask team members to send pictures of posters that they’ve put up, submit names and email addresses for the mailing list, and so on. There’s no use asking someone to do something if you’re not going to follow up.

OK, those are the rules. Now go forth and build yourself a team!
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