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By Paul DeStefano
Some bands exist only on the internet. Generally, this is because a band like that is one guy with a trove of music gear and a computer with a sequencer. Although some of these entities are respected, generally, they are looked down on by people in actual bands. Having band mates seems to lend credibility. Strangely enough, when you see two live bands, and one has a website and the other doesn't, that low tech band is regarded as less serious. It seems that the two together are the image people respect as professional. This has nothing to do with whether or not this is true - its what people think.
I've gotten a few email questions about marketing in the real world, so I'd like to discuss bands that have a real world presence, and how to tie their virtual existence in to their real existence. If you're a band without a real world presence, then, sure, some of this stuff still applies anyway, so you might as well read on.
Your internet presence is a marketing vehicle. Not everyone has a computer. BUT if you're gigging in a reasonable metro area, chances are the young folk attending your show will have net access. Get them to your site. Scrape the gum off your wallet, and buy business cards with your URL. Pile them all over. After all, they may love you, but if you don't tell them when your playing Shlomo's Teriyaki Hut again, they may miss you. You may also be able to sell them some other junk while they visit your site. You know, junk - bumperstickers, hats, mugs. Oh yeah, and even music, like CDs.
Considering that the web is indeed world wide, you'll find it fairly rare, although not impossible, that someone discovers you online and then becomes a body in attendance at a gig. On the other hand, people who see you live will probably wander on to your site.
Speaking of things like hats a mugs, that's an easy thing. Either go to some site that sells you trinkets so you can buy them and give them away (Want to support a musician? Lemark.net is run by an mp3.com artist), or set up a deal at a place like www.Cafepress.com, where they basically imprint your logo on things people order from tham, and you add about $1 to the price profit. Oh, and there's just something cool about selling or giving away beer steins as a door prize or something if you're playing a bar. Remember, this type of junk is not for cashflow - its for advertising. These physical items, bought or given away, serve as reminders of your existence. Mousepads, magnets, whatever. Just chalk up the cost to advertising good will. It will keep people reminded of you. Don't forget your URL if it fits.
You should always immediately spend some of the money you're earning at a gig on something marketingwise to keep people interested in you. Free junk, ads, posters. Agents like somewhere in the realm of 12% of your pay. If you're your own agent, you need to promote yourself somehow. Take that 12% and buy a few band logo T-shirts to give out, for example.
Now, why would I, a concert goer, want to go to your website?
You tell me. Tour dates? Prizes? Unreleased tracks? Stories? Lyrics? BBs?
Sit down with your web person (you either are one or know one, don't lie) and figure what you can do to make the real world people go to your site. Stay in their face. Make them want to come back. Contests are nice. Got a few thousand CDs lying around? Hand them out, they're not selling fast enough. Heck, if you hand out 5, and someone plays it for a friend, you may gain a fan.
Invest in a digital camera. Or become close friends with someone who has one. If you get photos at a gig of you and of the crowd, some people may log on just to see their mugs up on your site. A lot of lo-tech folk would think its great to see themselves on your site. Of course, if you actually use music on your tax forms (and you should) that camera is a deduction counting as marketing and promotion.
If you sell CDs in the real world, make sure your URL is clearly visible on the back of the CD. Don't make someone have to open it up to find it. BUT, put it there as well. This is a fairly rude thing to say, but assume that the person holding your CD is an idiot. Not that that has anything to do with your fans, its just a thing you should always do when trying to communicate to the public. Also see last month's Repetition piece.
Keep a little pad out for people to leave Email addresses when you play live, and make sure they walk away with your URL. This is especially important if your URL is NOT your band name! If your band is called Ezekial's Reel and your URL is NOT www.ezekialsreel.com, then you better make it real clear what it is. If you just have something like an MP3.COM or other OMD page because you have no way to maintain a website, you should buy yourbandname.com, and get a web page that simply redirects you to your mp3 page. Remember, the public is not bright. If they don't remember your URL is artistlaunch, you're forgotten.
When playing in public, make sure your name is clearly displayed, and the URL right there. This can be a banner, sign, your shirts, bass drum head, you name it. No one will find you online if they have no clue who you are.
Speaking of real world ways to spread your band identity, try this:
http://www.creditcardfactory.com/ and get a credit card with your band logo on it. It impresses people and is a great conversation piece. The conditions say you can't put musicians on the card - they mean established bands that you would have to pay a license fee to, like The Rolling Stones. You can get it if its "only you".
Yes, the whole thing can become a catch-22 at some point - You need to be seen at a gig to get them to your URL so you can tell them when your gig is. But you have to treat live shows like it's a search engine - some people may randomly come across you, now keep them returning.
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About Paul DeStefano
Paul DeStefano (aka Geosphere)