Posted tagged ‘promote’

Starting a Music Series

October 25, 2010

Have you ever wanted to start a music series – a Coffeehouse series up the street from your house, a regular singer-songwriter night residency with your favorite venue, or maybe a ticketed house show that’s known for quality music, good food and company? Fall is a really good time to do this. I recently had a friend email me for suggestions about starting a series and here are some things that came to mind…

It’s a good change of pace
Picking one thing and doing it well is a really great idea. Maybe the idea of booking X number of shows in X number of places exhausts you. If you think about it, doing one show at the same place is much easier and will definitely help you build a solid fanbase. It might limit you to a geographical area, but it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to focus on this approach and take the occasional show elsewhere whenever its offered.

Don’t do it too often
Once a month. If you want to do a show well, give yourself time to promote, host, rest, and then do it all over again. A monthly series will stick in people’s minds. Every 2 months is a bit too infrequent and every week will wear you out. Some things don’t take much preparation (i.e. weekly open mic…etc) but to do a show and really do it well, you need time, strategy, and rest so you don’t burnout. note: also remember that location has alot to do with how heavily you’ll have to promote. Maybe you could get away with a show ever two weeks if you’re at a central location with alot of walk-ins.

First time is a charm
Promote that first show like your life depends on it. Do it up so big and get the biggest turnout you can. If the first one is a success it will do all the work for all shows to follow. A good first show means people will come back. It means people will tell others. It means people will make Facebook comments about how much they enjoyed the first one and can’t wait for the next one.  I’m convinced that the key to the success of a music series is the very first installment and the maintenance of that vibe…which leads us to the next point.

Establish the vibe and stick with it
Pick a good name for the music series.  Make sure the space you’re hosting the show matches the type of vibe you want your event to give off.  Pick the most important aspect of your series and never change it. This is what will keep your core audience coming back.

The wonderful thing about hosting a music series is that you can bring in so many different artists over the life of the series, you can make yourself the resident musician (if you wish), and you can build a fanbase for the series and for yourself. Its like killing two birds with one stone.


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How Do I Score Reviews of my CD Before the Release?

April 27, 2010


Natalie John


So here’s the second installment of  “Ask Grassrootsy”.  If you have questions, be sure to send them in.
Today’s Ask Grassrootsy question is something I’m sure most artist wonder about…

THE BAND: Natalie John
THE QUESTION: I am working on promoting my first original jazz music album. I’d love to score some reviews of my music. I would like to release the album in two months, but it won’t be completed for another month. If you say that this requires months-in-advance notice, what should I send reviewers if the album’s not even completed yet? Thanks for helping me solve this puzzling Catch-22.

ANSWER Yea, this is definitely a catch-22, but there are definitely ways to work around it.  Here are my suggestions.

1. Create an Online Press Kit. People like Sonicbids for this but i highly recommend putting something together on your own website because you’ll have so much more flexibility.  Ya, you don’t have the CD, but you do have rough mixes that will continue to progress as the project nears completion. So…put together a press page with…

*** everything the Media could ever want to know about you and your project – bio, press release, endorsements, etc.
*** include an audio player with the latest mixes of your song.  Put a disclaimer saying “songs not in final form”
*** make the  media aware that you will continually be updating this page with new information and the latest mixes of your CD

I’ve been spent all my time and energy working on this idea since I’m putting out a new project. Here’s what that looks like.

disclaimer: this requires being up on your html and/or using the available resources out there to help you.

2. Make a Pre-release Copy. As much as the media will benefit from your Press Page, most people still prefer hard copies when reviewing. Why? Well, what if you were a reviewer at a magazine and you had 20-50 artists emailing you large audio files on a daily basis? Yea…you get the point. This is why hard copies are still the most desired form of submission.

A pre-release copy is the same idea as audio on a press kit. Here’s what you do.

*** order blank discs from a printing company. Blank as in there is no data on them. The company will basically print some simple artwork that you supply. The artwork says something along the lines of “Advance Pre-release Copy. SONGS NOT IN FINAL FORM”.
*** Once you receive the data-free CDs back from the company, burn your latest audio mixes onto the discs. Burn a couple new CDs each time you have newer versions of your songs.
*** Voila. You have a pre-release copy. Media will expect it not to perfect since you’ve clearly stated that the songs aren’t in final form. However, try to send audio that sound at least a little bit shaped up.
Here’s an example of the latest artwork I sent in to get printed on a disc: I got them printed and shipped for under $100 from Their quality isn’t superb but they’re great for short-run low-maintenance projects like this that aren’t detail specific.

I am knee-deep into the process of releasing a CD, so if you all have any additional, related questions, please feel free to send them over.

If this blog helped you, please tweet about it and pass it to a friend.

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Why Won’t People Come to My Shows?

September 14, 2009


I dunno…
But lets try and figure it out.

In last month’s Grassrotsy Reader’s Poll, many of you said you’re biggest frustration as an artist is getting people to come out to your shows. I half expected the most popular answer to be money-related so I was definitely surprised.  If you think about it though, fans = money.  In other words, if you can get people to come to your show, you’ll eventually make money off these people –  door cover,  CD sales, etc.  Not to mention the fact that if more people came to your shows, your career as a successful musician might just be validated 🙂

That said, lets talk a bit about building your fanbase and help you ease your frustration.

Boycott Venues
Here’s an idea: stay out of traditional venues for a full month. But don’t take a vacation.  Spend that month playing out at as many community functions as possible.  There are things going on in your city. Just look for them! Overbook yourself until you’ve played for hundreds of new ears.  The idea behind this is that you’ll be playing to the people you someday hope to draw into a “real” show at a local club or listening room.  You’ll also have the luxury of having a fresh, built- in crowd w/out the effort of promoting.  In order to make fans, go to where the fans already are. Don’t try to bring them to you.

 I am convinced that engaging with the community you live in is the only sure-fire way to build a presence in that community.  And finding these events is only a matter of visiting your local online community calendar and emailing various event coordinators. Plan to work in adavance.  And be prepared b/c events like this won’t always pay and can sometimes be hit or miss. It’s the nature of the game.

Stop Missing the Boat!
I played at a huge art festival last weekend where the first band on the bill did not ask for a merch table to display their music.  Luckily the 2nd band asked for a table and by default band1 decided to put out their merch.  Can you imagine how much money band1 would have missed out on, had they not put out their CDs?  They nearly missed out on a very lucrative night.  There were thousands of people at this event. 

To top it off, a group that went on later that night sold its first 20 CDs in 30 minutes but had no newsletter signup page at the merch table.  I was observing this trying to figure out: ” how does this band communicate with its fans if  it doesn’t have a way to get ahold of them? And how will they hold on to the fans they’ve just made?”.  Their CDs sold so fast, it was kind of amusing to watch.

The big question is: why is a merch table the last thing most artists think about when their livelihood depends on it?

You Get Out What You Put In
Like Allison Weiss says, “Nothing bothers me more than a musician who swears off the internet”  Being techonologically saavy doesn’t just mean posting the event on your myspace calendar. These days anyone can do that.  Getting out what you put in means creating that facebook invite, having handbills at your Sept 1st show to promote your Sept 30th show, and using each of your social networking sites and the sites of others.

Things Happen
The fact of the matter is, sh– happens.  A bad rainstorm, a Steelers game (don’t expect anyone to come to a show in Pittsburgh if it falls on the same night of a Steelers game), a big event next door 🙂  There will be times that, no matter how hard you promote, you won’t get the expected turnout.  Just make the most of every show and never miss a beat in how well you promote yourself at the show…and then how well you follow up after the show.

And remember…
People Won’t Come to your shows if they don’t know you exist.  And if they do know you exist, but think you suck, well none of the above information matters.   Sorry.

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An Interview with Allison Weiss

September 2, 2009
Allison Weiss

Allison Weiss

The first time  I came across Allison Weiss’ myspace page, I knew she was a musician after my own heart. Grassrootsy first covered her back in July in a feature on Kickstarter.  And after reading more about Weiss, it was apparent that she is one of the hardest working independent artists you will ever come across.  I mean ever. And believe me, it will pay off! In fact she’s already scored tons of top-notch gigs and an interview with Billboard Magazine.

Grassrootsy asked her some questions about herself and her music marketing techniques.  Read on!  Read everything! (and post your thoughts below)

1.) What’s your story?
I started writing and playing music when I was in high school, but didn’t really do a lot of it until I came to college. At that point I started playing out all the time. I hit as many open mics as possible until I had gained enough exposure to land some coffee house gigs, and in time I moved up to playing clubs in my town. Eventually I reached the point I’m at now, where I play regionally every weekend and tour during my breaks from school. I’m currently a full time student and part time musician, though it feels like full time. I’m pretty much constantly thinking about writing, performing, and promoting my music. It’s second nature. It’s what I’m most passionate about. I’m working as hard as I can to get to full-time status. As soon as I finish school I plan to work as a freelance graphic designer in order to pay for my musical endeavors. I already do this now of course, I just intend to do it even more intensely.

2.) It looks like some really great opportunities have been coming your way. How did you score that interview with Billboard Magazine?
The Billboard thing was definitely amazing for me. My friend Rosie Siman has always been a huge supporter of my music, so when she befriended Billboard editor Bill Werde, she made a point to bring him out to one of my shows in New York. I guess he liked what he saw, because he ended up coming to the next one a couple months later and he only had great things to say about my performance and my music. He then set me up with an interview for the Underground section of their website. It was pretty surreal to see myself on the front page of I never thought I’d be so close to the Jonas Brothers. Bill has been really awesome to me and supportive of my career. He’s also a total badass in general and I’m proud to know him.

3.) What do you think is the single most important thing an artist should do to promote themselves better?
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. When I first got started, some people criticized me for my “shameless” self-promotion techniques. Four years later, the same people are now asking for my advice. It seems pretty simple, but the most important thing is to scream your name from the rooftops. If nobody’s ever heard of you, how will they hear your music? Make sure they know you exist. Do it with honesty, charm, and style and you’ll earn the trust of people who will support you for a long time. Also: get a mailing list. Make people sign it. Announce onstage that you’re giving away a CD to someone who signs the list, pass it out into the crowd, and then announce the winner right before your last song. Those email addresses are almost as valuable as album sales, because each one is a potential attendee at your next show and a potential fan.

4.) What is your biggest frustration with your fellow musician?
Nothing bothers me more than a musician who swears off the internet. It’s a new age. Unfortunately, its about more than just writing great songs. You have to be organized and you have to be on top of things and you have to be putting yourself out there in the real world and online. There are so many opportunities for musicians on the internet, to see someone swear it off is heartbreaking. It’s so easy to use Facebook and Twitter, I don’t understand people who refuse. Plus its really fun when you get the hang of it. I enjoy social media almost as much as I enjoy writing and performing.

5.) According to the Grassrootsy Reader’s Poll, the biggest frustration among readers is trying to build their fanbase and finding a supportive music community. How do you do this?
I love people. It sounds pretty cheesy, but I live for human connection. I want to meet people and I want to know them. I don’t put barriers between myself and the people who listen to my music. Aside from really personal stuff, I pretty much talk about anything on my blog or my twitter. I think that honesty and openness allows for more of a connection between band and fan. Also, I’ve never really sat down and tried to determine who my “target market” is. I mostly just put myself out there and go with the flow. I wish there was an easy answer to this question, but I think if you’re making good music, touring, and promoting yourself, the supportive community will come in time. Overall I think it’s important to remember what it’s like to be a fan of a band and how much fun it can be to really love someone for their music. I treat my fans the way I’d like to be treated by my favorite bands. It’s the golden rule, after all.

6.) If you could suggest one tool that every artist should familiarize themselves with, what would it be? Why? (i.e. html, photoshop, video editing, other…)
Honestly, social skills. I strongly believe that if you’re going to be a DIY musician, you can’t be a mysterious hermit. You’ve gotta have the guts to be outgoing and positive and ready for adventure. There are a million people out there trying to do what we’re doing, and it’s the go-getters who will succeed. It’s scary but true, and you’ve got to be willing to jump right in and join the fight.

But if you’re looking for a real answer…nowadays it’s essential to know enough HTML to edit your own MySpace profile. It’s a terrible waste of money to pay someone else to make simple changes you could do yourself. Look up tutorials online. There are millions of them. Make yourself a cheat sheet with codes used most often and eventually you’ll learn it. Video editing is also a great skill to have and with programs like iMovie, it’s very simple to learn. If my mom can do it, so can you. Having the ability to document your own tours and experiences and put them on Youtube can be really beneficial to the promotion of your own career. The real answer to this question is “All of the above.” The more many tech things you can familiarize yourself with, the better.

Allison Weiss Online:

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Improvising…Because We’re In a Recession, Yo! (Cutting Costs Without Cutting Corners #2)

March 18, 2009



A friend of mine is super cheap!  She likes to make butterred popcorn by coating raw kernals with butter, putting them in a brown lunchbag, sealing the bag, and sticking it in the microwave.  I think its funny but give it a try and tell me if it works 🙂

So…in light of coming up with alternative methods, here are some brainstormed ways to save money and save time- the biggest commodities in life. 

Pick a Good Spot
Show location can have alot to do with how much time you put into promoting a show.  If your booking a show at a hole-in-the-wall venue that no one’s ever heard of, you’re gonna have a much harder time getting fans to show up. Pick central spots- places that have plenty of foot traffic. When you pick a “bad” venue you have two jobs –  1.) convincing people the show will be good, and 2.) convincing people the venue will be good. If people already know the venue,  that’s half the battle.

USB Drive…yeah its a pretty clever idea
Why not put your music on a USB drive instead of a CD?  I recently found out about this from a local Pittsburgh band, Vindell.  Here’s how it works:  have your band’s logo or website printed on the outside of a USB Flash Drive.  Order them in bulk (lets say 100).  Once you get them, put your bands mp3s on the drive and sell them at your shows.

These days, CD sales are phasing out and digital music is the way to go.  People can have your music on a flash drive, transfer it to their computer (or ipod or whatever), and still have tons of space left on the flash for every-day use (saving term papers, if their students).

You can also put videos, press kits, wallpapers, extra songs that aren’t on the CD  and any other multi-media stuff about your band on the flash drive.  The creative possibilities are endless! 

Check out some really incredible Flash Drive ideas at  But I know if you look harder, you can find cheaper prices online.

  • note: the production cost of a flash is actually more expensive than a CD but if people plan to buy your digital tracks off iTunes anyways, why not sell a flash drive and keep iTunes from taking that percentage. And you’ll also be able to offer various types of data that iTunes cannot. Not to mention, you’ll have you website printed on the outside of the USB forever.   (You should still have your music on iTunes though)


I strongly believe making solid relationships is the best way to save time and money.  When you have people talking about you (world-of-mouth) and telling their friends about your shows, you don’t need to spend nearly as much time, energy, or money promoting your events.  Building relationships isn’t an overnight thing though.

Also, check out Monday’s blog, A Couple Things Every Artist Should Have #2, for an idea on how you can have your fans help promote your music.


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Making the Best of a Bad Situation

February 25, 2009


the ideal audience

the ideal audience...i think

Having just played a couple shows in the last week where thing didn’t go 100% as expected, I thought I’d write this post.  Here are some ways to make the best of a bad situation:

When there are only 5 people in the audience
Obviously your promoting did not pay off. This has happened to all of us at one time or another (and it will probably happen again).  Having a small audience is definitely a downer…especially when you’re expecting 50 but there are actually alot of perks.

  • 1.] Fewer people to please:  Engage in an ongoing conversation with the people who did care to come.  Take requests if you can. Play “Free Bird” 🙂 .  Take time to tell the stories behind your songs.  This is often hard to do with a huge audience.  I find that people like my songs better when they know the stories behind them.
  • 2.] Remember: Don’t punish your attendies by giving them a crappy show.  Small crowd should never equal crappy show.
  • 3.] Create Energy: It’s easy to be pumped for a show when there are tons of people.  Make sure to keep the energy up and never give off the impression that you’re boring yourself. 


When the sound system and sound guy are terrible
Sounding good on stage is such a huge deal.  Even if your CD sounds good, people will judge you based on your live performance.  You’ll also make less (or no) money on CD sales if your liver performance is a disaster. So first apologize to your audience and just mention that you’re having technical difficulties (don’t call out the soundguy on stage). If you can’t eventually clear up the situation, let you audience know where your next gig is if they’d like ot hear you under better circumstances.  Basically don’t let people go home thinking you’re a terrible performer simple b/c you didnt come off as sounding good.

Here are a couple things you can do ahead of time to prevent the above from happening:

  • 1.] Do your research: Stop by the venue ahead of time to check out the PA.  If you don’t like what they have, bring your own setup.
  • 2.] Come prepared: If you can’t stop at a venue prior to your show, consider having your own quality microphone. I know several musicians who travel with a personal mic.   Your vocals can make all the difference at a show…even if everything else sucks. Come with an amp. If a venue is small enough, just use your amp instead of going through the PA. Ya, the sound might be smaller but if the PA sucks, go for the better sound.


When the audience doesn’t seem interested in your set
Feel out the audience and environment.  If you’re at a bar, you probably won’t be successful in trying to make people listen to you.  If you’re  at a venue and most everyone is sitting in the back of the room, ask them to move up.  Distance can make all the difference at a show. In this case, make engaging your audience your biggest concern. If the room is out of control, change up your set list a little and work in a song that requires crowd participation.  Most of all, realize that there are three types of audiences

  • 1.] Active listening audience: Listens to you intently and is engaged
  • 2.] Passive listening audience: Most likely a bar scene or restaurant scene.  You’re basically wallpaper music 
  • 3.] Active-Passive listening audience: Zones in and out. Listens sometimes. Talks other times.   


Hope this helps.

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An Interview with The Lost Sea

February 16, 2009
The Lost Sea

The Lost Sea


The Lost Sea is an indie folk/rock band based out of Pittsburgh PA.  They currently receive over 600 song plays daily on their myspace and last week they were ranked #1 on ReverbNation’s folk charts. Go TLS!  So i thought I’d email frontman Sean Atkins to get some ideas on how they spend time promoting themselves.   Here are some tips that should help you to better promote your band/music.

1.) What do you think is the single most important thing an artist should do to promote themselves better?
work harder than anyone else around you ever could.. and if you think you’re working too hard.. work harder. investigate every avenue – internet, touring, ads, etc. –  sometimes you just have to be persistent and if you think you’re doing everything you can, and you’re not getting anything.. then you’re not doing enough, being passionate means being willing to suffer a great deal and risk everything you have.  if you’re really serious about ‘making it’ then you will suffer for it. spend all of your money on it, practice all day, get online and add people on myspace all night, if it’s not consuming you, you’re not even scratching the surface as an independent artist… especially when there are a million other people out there working toward the same goals. 

2.) Was there one specific moment where things really started to pick up for your music? If so, what was that moment?
i guess it was around the time that i began to be more and more committed to being a musician, and seeing every other aspect of my life deteriorating. that’s when i knew i was spending way more time writing songs than hanging out with friends, or maintaining relationships, or going out on weekends… but the more time i put into it, i found, the better i became.  it really makes sense when you hear stories about those historic musicians that would just sit in a room and play music all day long…and we foolishly wonder what makes them so great.

3.) How important is it for you to use the internet to promote yourselves?
well, i think it’s a double edged sword. obviously you have to try to reach people with the internet.. unfortunately, online communities are so over saturated with bands bothering people to check them out all day, that most online community members tend to just ignore bands/music related things. this technological age has made it possible for even novice musicians to promote themselves, and play themselves up on myspace… which in turn makes people not care about bands on myspace, the quality varies too greatly.. and it’s too hard to weed out the good bands from the garbage when it’s mostly garbage, in mine and most people’s opinion. the number one compliment my band gets is “i almost didn’t listen to you b/c i thought you were like every other band on myspace, and i’m glad i took the chance”  –  so i think that reflects what’s really going on a lot more accurately than someone might think.

4.) What is your biggest frustration with being an independent artist?
i guess money things. that’s really all labels have to offer anymore. they’re like taking a loan out for marketing, touring, etc. that and occasionally creating a namesake that a larger indie might, like for sub-pop- when someone says “oh i like a lot of bands on sub pop, i’ll check their new signing out” which obviously has worked out for bands like fleet foxes and blitzen trapper this year.

5.)How did you get ranked first on Reverb Nation’s Folk Charts? (or what’s your best guess)
well, i created a profile a long time ago and just never really used the site until last week. i logged on randomly and saw that there were rankings now… we were already like, number 6 or something and i just wanted to be number one.. so,i took songs that people like by us off of myspace and forced them to use reverbnation to hear them. in 3 days we went from 6 to 1.

The Lost Sea Online:


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