Written by Tom Edwards
We’ve all heard the phrase: You have to spend money to make money. It’s a popular expression because it’s true. This hasn’t changed over the years, but the method of getting yourself out there to actually make the cash and get your band heard certainly has. The days of driving all over town to staple up flyers are for the most part extinct, and the days of clicking a button to obtain the same result has arrived. The world of digital downloads and streaming video; of websites and computerized graphic design; of Facebook event invites is ready and waiting for you.
To start, I want to address a statement I’ve heard from quite a few of the more inexperienced artists I work with: “I don’t care about the money, it’s all about the music.” …I’m totally with you. I’m on the same page. Unfortunately for both of us, if you absolutely don’t care about making money, no one is going to hear your music.
This is true for a variety of reasons, but one is very overlooked by newbies; and quite possibly the most important: No one is going to take you seriously if you offer play for free. When a booking agent hears this, they immediately think: This person doesn’t play anywhere else. No one is coming to this show. or He must not be very good. That may be an exaggeration, but you get the point. Even if you really don’t care about money, don’t play for free. Unless of course it’s a charity fundraiser or something to that effect, then by all means get the publicity and help out a good cause.
One thing to remember is you can spend the money you make playing gigs on whatever you want. In other words if you really don’t care about the money or don’t need it, invest it right back into your music career. You can buy merch, business cards, a Bandzoogle website, flyers, studio time or more equipment. (We’ll get to that in a minute.) If you can do it financially, this is the best option. The more of these things have, the more professional you appear and the bigger the shows you can book. To put it into perspective: More people will hear your music. I funded a world tour almost exclusively from playing shows. There is no end to the possibilities of your music career if you simply put in effort and make it happen.
Now that I’ve explained the reasons you should care about making money, I’ll show you some ways to use this income and get yourself noticed:
Make a Website
This is huge. When you talk to a booking agent, club promoter or any interested party for that matter, they almost exclusively ask the same first question: Do you have a website where I can check out your music? If you want people to take you seriously; and get more people to notice your band, your answer should be yes.
The biggest issue with this in most cases, is that most musicians don’t know how to build a website and they can’t pay a programmer the generally high amount of money to make one for them.
I have your solution, and it’s cheap and easy: Bandzoogle. I was tipped off to its existence a couple of years ago by a fellow musician, and it changed my music career almost immediately. I felt like a rockstar when I could tell people to “check out my website.” I booked more shows and had a place to send people when they asked about my music. It’s only $9.95 per month for their cheapest plan which includes a basic design and your very own “.com” address; $14.95 a month for the aforementioned items plus full design customization and some extra storage for music files and photos as well as fan statistics; and finally $19.95 if you want all of that along with download codes which you can hand out as promos at shows, etc.
The design part is incredibly easy. You simply pick a theme, and drop whatever you want into it. Videos, pictures, news, a show schedule, contact form or even html code. Uploading your music is very simple as well: all you have to do is upload them and add a title and Bandzoogle provides a very nice little music player at the bottom of the screen. You have the ability to allow or disallow free downloads of your music. I can’t stress the importance of this enough: Get a website. No excuses. Plug that URL everywhere once you do.
Get Business Cards
These are cheap… incredibly cheap; and you will be surprised at how many people say things like “Oh wow, you even have cards?!” Again, you look more established and credible. I use Vistaprint for my business cards. You can choose from literally hundreds of pre-made designs into which you can simply type your information; or you can upload your own design using their downloadable template. If you know how to do basic graphic design, I recommend the latter option. Make sure to include your name or band name, contact phone number and email, website and what kind of music you play.
If you want a custom design and don’t know how to design one, contact me on my music website: www.tomedwardsmusic.com under Booking, and put “Business Card Design” as the subject. My email is at the bottom of the booking page. See how I did that? Now you’ve heard my music. I’ll reiterate: Plug that URL everywhere. I charge very low rates for fellow musicians: Usually $30 for a card design, depending on how detailed you would like it.
Make Social Media Accounts: This should be a no-brainer for modern music marketing. Make a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account and a YouTube Page. Studies on Facebook user interaction have shown that 1-4 engaging and interesting posts have better results than posting overly frequent. Think quality over quantity. Twitter is a different animal, and you should be tweeting at least once a day if not more. Try to post things that you think people will share or retweet. I tend to take a humorous approach to my posting in order to gather more attention. This is especially effective on Twitter. And again: Post your website URL on there and share it.
Sell Your Music on iTunes
This is a great way to make your music available to people and appear more credible. I haven’t mentioned having good-quality recordings in this article for the sake of sticking to new-age-related music marketing tips, but you should know that it’s important.
Go Ahead and Spend The Money on a Good Photographer
By all means, get creative with it, too. Try to think of original or unique photo ideas and pay somebody who knows what they’re doing to take them. In this day and age, with everyone calling themselves a photographer, it’s pretty easy to find someone for cheap to do this. Make sure to check out their work and see if it fits the style you’re aiming for. This is very important for credibility on your website and social media pages; as well as flyers.
Join Music Self-Promotion Sites
I use Reverbnation for this. It’s kind of like a pseudo social media site for musicians, in which you can share your music, bio, shows and booking information. The reason I still use it even after creating a website is for it’s integration in other social networks, like Facebook; or even your website. You can put a music player on your Facebook fan page, which is pretty crucial, and I use their embeddable show schedule widget on my website when I’m home in the states.
Create Your Own Flyers
I know I said the day and age of flyers is over… well, I lied. Somewhat, anyways. I still use flyers at many shows, albeit I don’t plaster them all over town unless it’s a big event. I usually just post a few in a venue a couple weeks before I’m schedule to play there. The other big use for flyers and graphic design ability is on your website and social media pages. It always looks better to have a nice looking graphic at the top of a Facebook event page or website. Music marketing is all about your credibility; i.e., your appearance as an established musician. I can’t say that enough. Making flyers is pretty simple, but make sure you have a decent program to do it with. I use Adobe Photoshop, but there are plenty of other options available for cheaper. For the love of all things holy, don’t use Microsoft Paint. You’d be better off with a picture of a piece of cardboard that you’ve drawn on with a Sharpie. If that’s your only option, skip the self-design tasks for now. This is something I highly recommend learning basic or intermediate skills in, though. It gives you the ability to look extra-professional without the price tag. For big things like album artwork however, pay someone who knows what they’re doing. I can always spot a do-it-yourself album cover. A lot of times I cringe, which is sad for bands who have a great sound to put out there.
To summarize, get with the times or forever live in the dusty shadows of open-mic night acts. If you’re all about the music and you don’t care about money, perfect. I love your attitude and I share the same one, however we now both know the part it plays in our success as musicians. Put in some work, spend a little money and get yourself heard. No one is going to notice your band unless you help them find it. We’re all ready and waiting to listen.
Tom Edwards is the founder of ; and writer and website designer for Artists Abroad, an organization that inspires the wont of travel, of seeing local live music and art, and the motivation to help people get off their couches and enjoy life to the fullest. He has played music professionally for 8 years and is currently touring Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand with this organization, under the newly-formed group “Tom Edwards & Friends.” You can follow his unique experiences while traveling at www.artistsabroad.org or hear his music at www.tomedwardsmusic.com