But I Just Wanna Play!

Deep down, you may feel that the only thing that really matters to you is playing. All the things that come along with it just aren’t important. You wouldn’t be alone. I’d just assume practice my instrument, work on my vocal skills, and perform. Okay, I’ll admit that I enjoy the marketing part, but it’s time consuming; and sometimes–lots of times–I don’t feel very creative. The good new is that creativity in marketing helps, but it’s not required.

Marketing and Selling Your Way to Paid Musician Gigs

Gretch kit in subdued club settingThen there’s the sales aspect. Does anyone really like selling? Not really. Not even sales professionals. True sales professionals know how to transform selling into helping others, by providing value. The truth of it is, that in today’s world, we all have to provide value, and this fact is a huge topic for a totally separate eBook, but providing real value to others is the best way to brand one’s self. In our case, it’s the way that we brand ourselves as musicians, and/or as a band that matters most. So I’ll state the obvious and say that sales + marketing is a necessary part of getting gigs. Let’s continue the discussion with marketing. Most everything I discuss here on this blog is DIY, which works whether your a cover band musician or an original artist trying to get noticed.

Social Marketing

You’re likely hearing about it constantly, unless you just crawled from under a rock. Maybe you’re even convinced that social media is worth looking into. You’d be right! If for some reason, you can’t talk yourself into joining Facebook, my recommendation is to join a band that has at least one member who is on Facebook. Perhaps they’re on several other social networks such as Twitter or Instagram. If you’re not leveraging social media, you’re missing a good deal of your potential audience. This is not to say that if you’re really really good at email marketing, that you’re going to be unsuccessful by not including Facebook; but if email marketing is all you’re doing, you’d better be damn good at it. That said, you’re gonna have to trust me on this one. Facebook, as of this writing, is a killer channel to include in your music marketing efforts.

The three most important and basic functions of your Facebook marketing include:

  1. Creating a Facebook Page for your band
  2. Inviting everyone you know to Like your band’s Facebook Page
  3. Using the Events feature to promote your gigs

I’m not making any claims as a social media expert, but I can tell you that this is what works for me. You can learn tips from pros by seeking out a social media Meetup in your area. Many social media experts host Meetups for Facebook marketers. Search meetup.com for a meeting in your area. Back to what works for me.

If your band doesn’t yet have a Facebook Page, create one right away. Facebook is constantly changing, as are the other social media platforms, so I’m not going to offer specific instructions here; but if you want some help, don’t hesitate to contact me ([email protected]). For now I’m going to recommend that you simply search Google and/or YouTube for “how to create a facebook page.”  You’ll be sure to get the latest information this way. If your band doesn’t have a website, you can get by with a Facebook page alone, although I recommend having both. Tutorials for building a Facebook Page will recommend adding photo and video content. Do it! If you have access to a professional photographer, awesome. If not, use your smart phone to start creating photo and video content for your Facebook Page. Anyone who books you, is going to want to see what you look like and hear what you sound like. At a minimum, post gig announcements the week of your upcoming gig. Using the Event feature of your Facebook Page enables you to most effectively get the word out about your gig. The real power of Facebook Events is the ability for others to share your event. By tying Events to your band’s Facebook Page, you’ll reinforce your brand. To supercharge your Facebook efforts, ask your band mates to do three things.

  • Like your band Page
  • Ask everyone they know to Like your band Page
  • Share your band Page Events

Pro Tip - Marketing your gigs with Facebook EventsThis gives you the advantage of the multiplier effect, or the power of many. You want your band mates helping you with, as much of the marketing effort as possible. I’ve spoken with musicians who do it alone, and I can tell you that they struggle. My challenges are far fewer because I align myself with musicians who are active in the marketing efforts of our bands. These three activities mentioned above are among the easiest things your band mates can contribute.

Creating your own artist Facebook Page, separate from your band Page(s), would undoubtedly be beneficial to your overall efforts as well.

Confession: As of the writing of this eBook, I do not have an artist Facebook Page.

I’m currently managing or co-managing Facebook Pages for three bands. Whatever you do with regard to social media, always think about what’s sustainable. By this I mean, how much can you reasonably maintain. This might be one band Facebook Page, or it might be three Facebook Pages for three of your bands and one artist Facebook Page for your personal brand. Everyone’s energy level for marketing and sales is going to be different. Be realistic with how much time you can reasonably spend on any social media activity. You can start by planning it out. I have a great marketing plan template that I’m happy to send you. Just hop over to my Contact page and send me a note if you’re interested in a free copy.

Amazingly, it doesn’t take an incredible amount of time on a weekly basis to build and maintain a Facebook Page following. It does, however, take a sustained and consistent effort. You may make it happen in weeks, but prepare yourself for the likelihood that it will take months to build a good following. And remember, quality over quantity. Always go for quality followers (i.e. Likes). The means people who are actually interested in you and your band. Here’s how you can build a quality following.

In my opinion and with my uncensored marketing hat on, Likes and followers don’t mean shit if there’s no legitimate connection or relationship. Build a community from within your tribe. Tap into your fan base, friends, and family. These are the people that care about what you’re doing. Follow this one simple rule of thumb (quality over quantity) and you’ll build a strong following.

Another great way to gain followers, and an important activity to engage in, is to solicit attendees of your live shows for Likes and Follows. It can be as simple as an on-mic-announcement like, “Hey everyone, Thank you for coming to our show. You can find out where we perform next by following us on Facebook at [your Facebook Page name]. In this case, people will assume that a search on Facebook will lead them to your page. Otherwise spell it out for them (i.e. Facebook.com/GenerationWrecks). Use the same technique for Twitter, Instagram or any other social networks on which your band can be found. While writing this, I just thought of a contest that I wanna try at my next gig, which is Like us on Facebook for a chance to with a free copy of our latest CD (a $10 value). You can also do things like include your social URLs on business cards, posters, flyers, postcards, or any other print collateral. I could dedicate an entire eBook to social media marketing for your band, but let’s move on to other forms of marketing.

A somewhat lost art of band and artist marketing at the local level is print collateral, particularly posters and flyers. If it’s bigger than 81/2×11, I call it a poster. One of my good friends makes the best flyers, but seldom prints them out. He usually circulates them via email. If you do this, use an email marketing service, like MailChimp. Printing just one or two copies and leaving them for the venue a week or two before your gig, scores huge points with most venues. Venues love it when we promote our gigs. Professional graphics and/or photos will help make your posters look great, but they’re not absolutely necessary. Use the best camera you can get your hands on, or purchase some inexpensive clipart. Even better, get creative. Maybe you’ve got mad graphic design skills. Awesome! The main thing is to put something together that says who, when, and where.

Let’s talk for a moment about email marketing. The most important point I want to make is that you should use an email marketing service. I mentioned MailChimp, because they have an robust service and a freemium model, which means that you can use it for free, or pay for some extra bells and whistles. Use of a service like MailChimp will do a couple of important things.

  1. Ensure that your recipients get your emails
  2. Keep you out of trouble where anit-spam laws (CAN-SPAM Act) are concerned

The other point I’d like to stress is that you can (and should) create a template that can be reused every time you send an email out. I usually send an email the week of my gigs. I pretty much send the same content, making changes only where necessary. I purposefully don’t get overly creative with every email, because doing so costs time, and marketing effectively has a lot to do with time management. It’s best to do things in such a way that you can sustain the effort. If it takes me an hour to setup every email I send, I might be inclined to not send one for every gig. If it takes me 10 to 15 minutes, I’m going to be much more consistent about emailing my list. This is not to say that you shouldn’t be creative with your email subject lines, or that you can’t be somewhat creative with your messaging. The bigger point is keeping it simple and sustainable.

Speaking of lists, you should be working to build a quality email list for your band(s) and/or yourself. By quality, I’m referring to contacts that actually care about where you’re performing. Don’t be afraid to ask people if they’d like to receive an occasional email telling them where you’re performing next. Do this between gigs and at gigs. Be patient and stay focused on quality. Eventually, you’ll get to 100, 500, or even a 1000+ email contacts on your list. It all depends on your effort and how much focus you want to put on your email marketing. Email, by the way, still works.

Selling for a First-time Booking

Where selling is concerned, give some thought to what you’ll  say when you’re asking for a booking.  This might include reminders about venues you’ve performed, music styles your band plays, your typical gig marketing efforts, or some other selling point. At this point, you’ve done things like solicited a venue by email, or maybe you did some in-person schmoozing. This is the point at which you’re going to ask for the booking. In my experience, a venue is pretty warmed up to the idea of booking one of my bands by the time I’m ready to get a specific commitment. They’re warmed up to the idea, because I’ve spoken with them about my band, I’ve sent a follow-up email, which includes our website, Facebook Page, a brief recap of who we are and what we play, and a brief recap of our typical marketing campaign. If I’m lucky, I get an email response asking for availability. I’ve already determined what the pay and logistics are, so I’m in coordination and logistics mode by the time I’m ready to ask for the booking. Often times, I have to follow-up with a phone call to get a specific date and booking commitment. This can take some persistence on your part, so just keep following up until they say yes or no. Once you have a commitment, confirm all the details in writing. In my market, most venues are cool with an email exchange to confirm all the details; however, some may provide you with a separate written agreement. I find it important to get things in writing, just so that there’s no confusion or misunderstanding. If there is, you have everything in writing. There’s no reason that you should not be paid what was originally agreed upon, nor should there be any confusion about scheduling–if you have it in writing. In the event that there is any confusion or misunderstanding, you’ll be glad that you have an agreement in writing. And lastly, remember to state your price, and then don’t say another word.

To recap this chapter, I touched  upon the fact that sales + marketing is a necessary part of getting gigs. This chapter also discusses the significance and value of social media marketing, particularly on Facebook, with a few how-to tips. I also made mention of print collateral as well as email marketing. These old-school methods still work quite well. Lastly we talked about the actual selling and follow-up that comes along with securing bookings. I also emphasized the importance of getting it in writing. Misunderstandings and miscommunication will still occur, but having arrangements and agreements in writing will really help keep problems and hard feelings to a minimum.

I’d like to leave you with a resource that I found while putting some finishing touches on this post. It’s a blog post on DIY music marketing site that speaks to an idea that I subscribe to, which is that it takes time and effort to make things happen as a musician. The aforementioned blog post appropriately refers to this as “the grind.”

Now be a smart musician. Go market & sell yourself!