People LOVE cover versions
1. Have something good to share – have at least 5 x songs you’re really proud of, have practiced and performed a lot and would be happy to release them to the public.
2. Be prepared to give a hell of a lot of your music away for free at the beginning – this will be all you have at the start.
3. Also think about a collection of cover versions you can do in preparation – people LOVE cover versions and it’s a good way of easing people into your sound, helping them understand your aesthetic and style. For further along the line, bear in mind that bloggers won’t write about you unless you have something for them to give away or feature, often with a requirement of exclusivity.
Buy a domain name
4. Unless you intend to stay un-googleable, check out your band name’s suitability (are there loads of others? Has someone already got all the clear domain names?)
5. Buy a domain name for your band, even just to hold onto for a bit while you’re working out how to use it.
6. GET TO KNOW THE LANDSCAPE – half the battle in promoting yourself and getting other people to talk about you is fitting in with a zeitgeist. I’m not saying you have to copy anyone (don’t) or be a ‘hipster’, but having a considered look and artwork helps those whose job it is to present you to the right audience. So understanding stylistic references is important. Read the books, watch the films, make an effort with styling, it’s a continuous process. Listen to the radio! Immerse yourself in the area you intend to inhabit.
You’ll want a place for streaming music, showing videos, sharing photos
7. Depending on your needs, you’ll want a place for streaming music (SoundCloud) a place for showing videos (YouTube or Vimeo), a place for sharing photos (tumblr, Facebook, Twitter can all be synched to Instagram) a way of sharing more lengthy information and multiple links (mailing list platform). Then try and synch them all together. All of the above work well with tumblr. So register them all with your band/artist name.
8. Aim to keep your presentation across the board of profiles coherent. Use the same artwork, photos and fonts as much as you can across all the sites you register with. Make an effort to learn how to use photoshop – youll constantly need to make different sized banners, flyers with embedded links, logos, artwork etc.
9. Join Topspin! Get a widget which you can put on all of your sites where people join the mailing list, let it build slowly, don’t send more than 4 mailers per year (unless you’re releasing an album and it’s a very busy period), always give things away. Topspin will store and categorise your mailing list so you can begin to target people by region (when promoting regional shows).
Get on tour with someone
10. Topspin and MTV now have an artist page project which enables people to join, use a tip jar and buy . The tip jar takes you to an amazon payments link which a lot of people will be happy to use.
11. Once you’ve been going a while and have a few hundred followers, you can use Topspin to host a webstore and sell your work and home-made merch (both downloads and physical product).
12. If you have the time and money, get on tour with someone. You’ll more than likely have to do this at your own expense, but getting in front of someone else’s crowd is an absolute luxury. If you can, make sure you have merch to sell, it could cover some of the cost of touring.
Get to know independent record stores in each city
13. Touring is the best PR campaign you can do. It’s hard work but a tour will create a ‘story’ your fans will want to check in on each day. You’ll also win over new ones. Fans will share their gig photos online and tweet about the gig, you get to do local press, local live sessions and promotion (even without a PR person you can use the internet to contact local ‘scenes’, radio stations, bloggers, publications, you can then tweet the reviews and get people to comment on them.
Get to know independent record stores in each city and offer to do free ‘guerilla’ gigs in them the day of the show. Get used to stripping your songs down to acoustic so you you can do these kind of ‘busking’ gigs. Check out Ryan O’ Reilly as an example of using busking to promote his gigs.
Ask fans for help
14. Once you have a couple of hundred fans, involve them in your campaign for world domination. Ask them for help, they really enjoy being part of your journey, whether it’s helping you find a recycled CD wallet manufacturer or putting you up for a night. For a lot of people, what you’re doing is a magical mystery adventure they want in on.
Don’t mistake this for expecting them to pester their friends to ‘like’ your page, people don’t like being asked to annoy their friends! Gently suggest people share things, the emphasis should always be on you giving them something and sometimes gently suggesting they share it, if they like it. Mostly nowadays people automatically share stuff they like anyway because discovering and sharing is one of the main reasons people use social media now.
15. Don’t use your online profile to be negative, don’t talk aggressively, don’t bitch or moan. Assume a positive, bright ‘voice’ for communicating with your fanbase. It’s all fine and dandy if sarcasm is part of your sense of humour, but you have to work very hard indeed to ensure that tone is communicated effectively. Humour aside, if you ever have anything serious/dry to talk about, sleep on it a couple of nights before you say anything. Is it really that important to say?