Posts Tagged ‘promotion’
How do you promote an artist? By promote I mean publicise, market, shout, plug, etc.
I thought I would blog about this as it is something I have been doing for some time, for bands and for individuals. There are some basic things that I have been doing.
Promotion is often about getting an artist’s name known. It’s about pushing that name around, largely on the social media, primarily Twitter, Facebook, Reverb Nation, Myspace or what ever else comes to hand that seems to work.
You believe that an artist is worth promoting or you see the potential in a band and you want to give them a helping hand. I promote acts through my magazine Arts in Leicestershire. That sits at the centre of a web of social media connections. Bear in mind that Leicester/shire is a place brimming with musical talent of all kinds and beyond that many artists who work in comedy, dance, digital arts, photography, painting, poetry, writing and so on.
Apart from shouting about a named act or artist, I also have to say why they are good. We do this through setting up profiles and through reviews of their work. If they bring out an album, EP or track I promote that. If they have show, gig or exhibition, I push that out too.
Apart from Internet-based work I also issue press releases and plug songs with radio DJs. True, most of this happens on the Internet but there is still a big world of paper-based newspapers and magazines that will take material about artists and their work. We can’t neglect this, no matter how powerful, the web is, people still read paper and listen to the radio.
So why do I do this? There are plenty of people out there who do their own publicity and some of them make a very good job of it. I still think that an independent voice has some value. There is always an advantage in a third party saying how good an act is. It’s good that an artist believes in themselves and can tell the world how good they think they are. Some weight does, however, attach to an independent voice agreeing with that and proclaiming why they think this act is worth looking at.
When I say I am indepedent I really mean that. I do not manage bands, singers, actors, dancers or anyone. They do not pay me to be their press agent. I do it because I am genuinely passionate about their act or work. I do it because, as an editor and journalist, I am driven by the same passions about arts, whether I am writing about them or promoting them.
It’s a little dream that I have, that I could play a small part in getting a band or a singer to the top and giving them a bit of a leg up the ladder of success. I don’t do this because I have to do it; I do because I want to do it. In a city so rich in promising talent, which ones do you choose?
I use my instincts. If I see an act that is established and everyone else is coo-ing about them then I feel confident that I am probably right to also add my voice to the chorus. Sometimes, I see a new act, as yet rather rough and raw, but I sense a potential. I see something beyond the inexperience, the lack of professionalism, I sense something in that band or act which looks like it could grow and get somewhere.
I have often stuck my neck out and given the thumbs up for someone when everybody else has ignored them. That’s because I see something that they don’t see. It does’nt always work. It’s not just about artistic ability. The acts I tend to get behind these days are those that believe in themselves, the ones that really want it, the bands or singers who have a dream, who see themselves making it in the music business or in the world of comedy, and so forth.
I have also met people who clearly were born with talent but who, for what ever personal reason, will never make a go of it because they lack the two vital things that are needed to run alongside natural ability: self-worth and determination. Not everyone has this. I’ve tried pushing people because I think they have real ability. They have got no where because either they are lazy, have no ethic of self-sacrifice or because they really could not hack it.
The arts world is full of people who spend years muddling through, doing what pleases them, wallowing in self-gratification but have no concept of a personal career, no sense of path or direction. There is no point spending time promoting acts or artists that clearly don’t really want to get to the top.
To be successful in anything requires generous slabs of self-discipline and more importantly self-sacrifice. Many people, me included, have to make painful sacrifices in the cause of success. Often. OK, maybe not always. Some are happy with this, however uncomfortable it feels at the time. Others, however, are either too timid or lack the confidence or sense of personal security to defer some of the things their friends are enjoying in order to get rewards later on.
I love watching those interviews with young athletes who dream of Olympic gold. They undertake punishing regimes of training, get up at stupidly early hours of the morning, train relentlessly for months on end, forgo so many of the things their friends are enjoying, just to stand a chance of getting a medal hung round their necks.
The arts do not generally impose such rigorous deprivations. Even so, there is no gain without pain, even in the world of rock music. Whilst I deplore cheating – whether in athletics or in music – I can understand why some people see that as being the solution for them. I don’t believe in fast tracks to the top. Making it into the big time requires years of dedication. Singers who get catapulted into stardom, by record labels or by TV talent competitions, often come part and can’t cope with the pressure.
As I have often said, acts that go somewhere have two assets: themselves and those who are ready to support them. Behind every rising act there is an (often unseen) iceberg of supporters, street teamers, publicists and, not least, fans who are egging them on. Tips with no underlying iceberg sink very quickly.
At the Mayor’s Arts & Culture discussion tonight, held at CURVE, I asked Sir Peter Soulsby if the city would support a major music festival in Leicester to showcase our amazing local talent to the rest of the world and of course to the people of Leicester.
Sir Peter’s reply was predictable: yes he would support the idea but don’t ask me to fund it. A city making cutbacks can’t afford to fund a major arts festival of any kind.
Here are some of my ideas to take this concept further.
(1) The city council controls the parks and open spaces where an outdoor music festival could be held. LCC normally charges for a whole range of costs in mounting any event held in its parks. Could the city council support such an event by minimising the costs due to itself? Rather than providing funds, can the council support it in kind? Would the Mayor support approaches to private sector investors to take the idea on board? Can the council give added value to potential businesses if they supported the festival?
(2) There are several major national live music companies that already run outdoor music events. Putting on a music festival is feasible if the right private sector backers could be found to meet the core infrastructure costs. We could even discuss the idea with the Arts Council.
(3) Leicester has a huge wealth of talent across all genres of music. An inner city festival next year could attract enough of a crowd to fund an event through ticket sales, given reasonable ticket prices. In an ideal world we would all want to see a free event, like the one that took place a few years ago that was paid for by the BBC’s Radio 1 and attended by a crowd of 100,000 people. Admittedly this was headlined by big named acts but even Leicester now has some national level acts from our own city that could draw big crowds.
(4) My idea of a showcase festival is one where all the acts are musicians and artists who were either born here or who have moved here and are now active local residents. This would put Leicester music on the map both nationally and for local people to find out more about our most talented bands, singers and rappers.
(5) The festival could be feasible if it attracts private sector investment but the city council could play a pivotal role in allowing the event to take place (e.g. on Abbey Park or Victoria Park.) It would also have a role part to play in co-ordinating the range of public sector authorities that must be involved in large events.
(6) I know that Summer Sundae and Oxjam Festivals do provide a platform for local bands and acts to get on stage in front of big audiences but this festival would beexclusively for local music and there is certainly enough talent in this city to make a really good music festival.
I would welcome comments from people about this idea, particularly from the music community. If there appears to be support for the idea from local people then it can be developed into a proposal for the Cultural Strategy Group that is being headed up by the Major’s Office.
Trevor Locke, 16th June 2011
13th December 2010
Having just got back from a really good meeting of the Leicester Music Collective, I thought I would commit a few words to paper. Well the digital version of paper maybe.
The nub of the meeting was talking about how we put more bums on seats. Leicester has seen a massive increase in the number of live music venues and consequently in the number of gigs happening, week in and week out.
Promoters, venue owners and other other industry movers and shakers are scratching their heads about how we should try to get more people to come out to support live music events.
We are all passionate about live music. We want to see more people attending gigs because we believe it is a really great way to spend an evening. But how do we do it?
One solution that is being delivered, is to print a monthly listing of gigs across all venues and distribute it as widely as possible. I support this. Even though I spend a lot of my working day pushing out information about gigs - on the Internet – I realise that there is still a proportion of the population who do not go on the ‘Net every day. Even if they do, they tend to use it just for e-mail and don’t spend time surfing the web sites and social media outlets where they could come across info about live music.
If you do want to know about gigs or bands or music, you don’t have a problem finding it on the ‘Net. If you might possibly want to go out and ‘see a band’, incredibly it can be difficult to find out what is going in this city. If Leicester has a problem getting the word out about gigs, it’s also likely to be the case that other cities have the same set of issues.
Distributing flyers that list gigs is one part of the solution and a lot of people said a lot of things about the practicalities of making this happen. Happily, someone has made a start on it and a listing is being produced.
Leicester has a profusion of live music venues; it has a huge supply of bands and artists playing every kind of music you can imagine. Live music has been a feature of Leicester life for decades.
There was some really interesting analysis about the impact of the BIG music society on tours, venues, ticket sales and festivals. Interesting though that is, my focus now is on amplifying the crowd for the small venues and the unknown, unsigned bands.
Someone pointed out that people will pay £20 to £40 to see a band they really want to see. Getting people to pay £5 to see bands they haven’t heard of, is much more difficult. But this is precisely where I operate and that for me is the major challenge.
Everyone agreed that it’s about getting the information out there; whether we use high tech fixes or plain paper solutions, we need to make sure people know about what is happening, where and when.
On top of that there is a harder task of ‘selling’ unsigned, live music. Why would anyone want to pay £5 to see a line-up of bands they have never heard of before? Well, after two years of going to gigs, seeing hundreds of new bands and writing about many of them, I really feel passionate about live music. In a world increasingly dominated by recorded music, the difference between the two is immense. For me, live is the best. Live is what brings music to life. I don’t just want to hear it. I want to see it.
But can I sell that idea to people who just want to plug themselves into their iPod and think that is what music is about, full stop?
I want to shout about the live music experience. I want to convince the public that live is an unbeatable form of entertainment. I want to convince people that going out to a gig and seeing bands playing is much much better than watching it on TV or listening to music through ear plugs.
This wonderful group of people that has come together in Leicester has started to take that whole issue on board. The discussion however has focused too much on the supply side and not enough on the demand side of the market.
They did come up with the idea of doing a survey; asking people who go to live gigs what they think about things like: the venue, the ticket price, the transport there and back, what they like best and dislike most about shows and so on and so on. That is good; we need to know much more about the punters, we need to keep asking questions that might help us to figure out the quality issues posed by live shows.
The other side of the equation is the bands. This needs to be on the agenda. In live music, everything is driven by the bands, at the end of the day. They are the people who make the music. But how do they contribute to making a local live music scene a success?
I am really looking forward to that debate. I already know some of the things that will get said: what bands thinks of venues and promoters and vice versa. In Leicester, there is an almost endless supply of young men who want to play guitars on a stage. Sorry girls, but the ratio is about 20:1. I have lost count of the numbers of male musicians but I can count the female players of guitars, bass and drums on my fingers. Same is true of vocalists.
I have asked many questions about how bands write music. Who writes the songs, who makes the melodies, how do they choose what style of music they will play, what influences move them, do they ever think about what they look like on stage … and the answers are all invariably the same.
Musicians follow their own musical instincts. When four guys get together, assuming they gel together on the music, they will produce for their band, what they have had as a musical career, what they have grown up with, it’s all about their tastes, their musical passions, their sense of what works.
Ok, I hear you say, but that is also true of every other art form. It’s so obvious it’s hardly worth thinking about. But I also hear musicians talking about wanting to be successful, of making it in the music business. Having talked with band members (for a few years) about this very subject, I know how difficult it is to get them to think outside of the box.
If a band has real talent and makes music that is good enough for people to pay to hear, what else do they need to do? Sadly it is not all about the music. Of the 250+ rock bands in Leicester that write their own music, only a tiny few will ever stand any chance of making it in the world outside. Are they the ones that have their fingers on the pulse of modern music and happen to be writing the best songs? Not necessarily. There’s a lot more to it than that.
I’ve written about the ‘bands with no fans‘ thing before. I’ve talked about how bands can promote themselves. I’ve gone on about putting fans on floors. It’s still amazing to hear unsigned bands complaining that promoters are not providing them with big enough crowds.
It’s amazing because there is still a lack of ‘mojo’ about what makes live music work. Even if all promoters and venues did a perfect job of promoting shows, it’s still obvious that it is the bands who have the fans. It’s the band who has to put feet on floors. They are the ones who know who their fans are.
It’s incredibly difficult for promoters to sell tickets to the fans of a band. Even though Myspace, Facebook and Twitter are the most immediate conduits to the fans of a band, it’s not easy for promoters to message those people. Bands are not going to hand over their log in details to a promoter and say – ‘ok here are all our fans, you talk to them.’
Promoters can fire out marketing messages to the general body of people who might like live music. We can put stacks of flyers into what we think are the right places. But the ones who are most likely to turn up at the door, are the people who already know that band. Access to those people is restricted to the bands themselves.
I don’t want to get started on the issue of ‘pay to play’ but the reason that hoary old chestnut won’t go away, is that for many venues and promoters it’s a solution that can work.
In a nutshell: the promoter sells tickets to the bands. The band members then sell them to their fans. It can and does work but there are many band members out there who do not like it.
Some festival tickets can cost between £20 to £30. If you have to sell, say, 50, that’s £1,000 to £1,500. For most small bands that’s a load of money to worry about.
Even so, I have heard bands say that they would be willing to pay that kind of money to get on to certain festival stages.
I’m not condoning this; I am just recognising that it happens. If it’s not part of the solution, it’s certainly part of the problem.
If bands want to be successful, they have to play music that people want to hear. They have to put on a performance that people want to see.
They might well have to compromise on their own personal tastes and accept that there is more to being a successful band than self indulgence.
Moreover, they also have to bear the burden of winning, keeping and organising their fan base, promoting themselves, getting their name known and constantly tapping music industry people on the shoulder.
It’s great to hear stories along the lines of “oh, we had this box of 400 CDs and we had to sit down and listen to them all and decide which ones we wanted to sign up.”
As a music writer I sit in the middle of all this and hear both sides of the story. If we want more feet on floors in Leicester then both the promoters and the bands have to work together to achieve that. No one has the exclusive power to win ticket sales.
We all agree that live music is the best music and we all want more people to join in and enjoy it. We are only going to succeed if we all work together.
That ‘s what these meetings are about. Not why, but only how and to a lesser extend who.