This is post goes hand in hand with my post from yesterday.
How bands promote themselves online has been an interest of mine for years. I find it interesting to see how they are trying to build a brand with nothing but their content and their sweat. With a nonexistent marketing budget some people have been able to make a name for themselves. (Take Lilly Allen for example sending out homemade mix CDs to her fans.) Most bands though seem a little lost with how to use the tools that are out there.
One mistake I see bands making is taking the approach that they just need to blast their name out there. They buy friend adders for major social networks and just continually add people and then blast information about their shows. The problem with this method is that I live in only one of the 60 cities that you are touring in. Furthermore when you continually push info out that is self promotional you are going to be tuned out or even worse be unfriended/unfollowed. This isn’t very strategic at all.
So what is a band to do?
Off the top of my head this is what I would do if I were a small band preparing to tour.
1) Create a free downloadable EP to give away. It can be a live recording, extra tracks not on your album, whatever. Bands that are starting out still need to sell albums and don’t have the freedom that larger artists have so giving away their main album isn’t feasible.
2) If you don’t have a website create one on WordPress or some other simple hosted solution. Create a form that people have to fill out before downloading the album that includes name, email, the city they reside in, and opt in/opt out info. (Now you have a mailing list that you can target and sort based off of the city they are in, so you can promote shows directly to them.)
3) Create a landing page about the EP download that you use in all of your bios, social networking profiles, and any other place you put a link on the web. Use this as an opportunity to sell your band a little bit, give them a story about who you are, and build a connection. Don’t be afraid to share your other social media profiles. Allow people to connect to you on the platform that they choose.
4) Do your research- Create a list of all the cities you are going to be touring at and look for local message boards check venue, radio stations, underground newspapers, groups on MySpace and Facebook, and blogs about music that are regionally/city based.
5) Promote your show a month in advance- If you are using adder programs (at the risk of your profiles) target by keyword, zip code, and if the user has signed on in 3 days. Go to the list you created above and build relationships or participate and share your information. Remember you need to approach these groups and forums with respect and not spam them. Think surgical not smashing.
(Note: Normally I would tell you to spend some time in getting a feel for the forum, the community, and slowly begin to interact before you promote. If you have 20 shows in 30 days to promote and you are one person I have to be realistic in understanding that this just isn’t going to happen.)
6) Follow up- You can’t just plant the seed and walk away. Interact on the posts that you created and the relationships you have established. This will go a long way from turning someone into a potential fan into turning him or her into an advocate. Create a list of the posts that you have created and set up a monitoring system to see where and when people are talking about your band.
The great thing about this is that the base you build on social media is something you can continually grow even when you are not touring. You can create content around your band and the recording process. Imogen Heap is a great example of how a recording artist leveraged social media around the recording of an album.
Now this is a very general plan that I just kind of slapped together but I would like to think that this is a little more strategic than just blindly going after numbers. The centerpiece to all this and what ties this back into the post yesterday about Free! is that is centered around free content that you are giving away. Free can lead to exposure, can help be the center of a campaign, and can help create advocates to your brand, band, company, or yourself.