Television shows like The X Factor might have given us unrealistic expectations about what it takes to be famous. You might be tempted to assume that music career jobs are a well-defined four-step process. One, tell a sad story; two, belt out a couple of tunes; three, receive the backing of Simon Cowell’s millions; four, live happily ever after.
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Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) it’s not as easy or as mind-numbing as that. Starting up a band with your friends and playing a few shows is an integral part of growing up for a lot of people. Following the footsteps of your musical heroes out on stage is certainly a lot of fun. But a lot of people make a lot of mistakes when they try to take their band more seriously.
Remember, sustainable careers in music are some of the most difficult to find in the world so if you’re going to be a success, you’ve got to do everything it takes. Music Gateway have made a list of the five things every small band should do if they want to get noticed.
1.Play as many gigs as is humanly possible
The gig is the small band’s ultimate marketing tool. Playing gigs is your chance to showcase your talent and your songs, and the more gigs you play, the more chance you have of making a good impression.
Of course when we say play as many gigs as possible, we mean within the parameters of your genre. If you’re starting up a technical death metal band, it’s probably best not to book a slot at a local jazz club – you won’t go down well. Use reliable promoters who’ll put you on the bill with bands that are similar to you.
Don’t be discouraged by slow progress either. Expect to play a couple of gigs where the only audience is a few of your friends and a drunken old man sipping cheap lager in the corner. It happens to all bands and it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong.
2.Use social media
Social media has completely changed our ability to promote ourselves. Social media can be used as extremely effective free advertising. It gives you the space to showcase your songs and other promotional materials, publicise your gigs and interact with your growing fan base.
Take a page out of the book of Enter Shikari. Without ever signing to a record label, Enter Shikari did all of their early promotion through Myspace and self-released their very successful first album.
Social media is fast-paced and forever changing so always look out for new opportunities to get exposure for your band. Offering free downloads of your songs can be a great way to get new people listening to your music. We have a whole article on how artists and bands can use social media to their benefit here.
3.Don’t waste money
This next one might sound counter-intuitive but sometimes, especially early on in your band’s career, it can pay to be very frugal. There is a temptation for many bands to spend lots on recording at a top-notch studio or have a music video made.
For a start-up band there are very cheap ways of doing this sort of thing without much noticeable difference in quality. Recording at a great studio will make a big difference, but this is only worth doing when you have a finished product and you’re sending out your music to people who really matter in the hope to get signed. When you’re just showcasing yourself and building your following, home recordings and videos are a great way to go- get up as much content of yourself online as you can- and don’t worry about trying to make it perfect. People just want content to watch and listen to and they also enjoy the journey; watching you improve as an artist.
Give your band the time to grow before you start pumping money into it. It can be very disheartening to find that you’ve spent a lot of money and not really seen any benefit from it. It’s a much better idea to focus yourself on being a great band before you start trying to buy your popularity.
4.Broaden your horizons
You don’t have to do the same things week-in, week-out. It’s a much better idea to try out new things to broaden your appeal.
If acoustic versions of your songs work then consider playing some acoustic gigs. These are an ideal way to showcase your material in a different light, and could win you some fans who would otherwise never get the opportunity to see you.
Another option is the open-mic night. Open-mic nights will often see you mixed in with artists highly different to you but this just gives you the chance to play to a different type of crowd. Try to do things that other artists and bands aren’t doing to promote yourself, be yourself and let your band’s true personality shine through. If you are a little bit weird, that’s probably a good thing, let people see that! Look at what it is that your favourite bands have done to promote themselves and see if you can do what they’ve done any better.
5.Support other local bands
Probably the most important thing you can do as a small band (other than practicing constantly and writing amazing songs) is supporting other local bands like yours. If you’re only interested in playing your music and signing autographs you aren’t going to make any friends.
When it comes to promotion, nothing beats word-of-mouth. Your aim should always be getting more people ready to say good things about your band. If you support other local artists then they are always more likely to support you as well and this can be an invaluable tool. You can even involve yourself with some music collaboration with other artists and gain exposure through their own fan base.