Band Primer 2012

The following are articles written for the column ‘Band Primer’ for FOURTH COAST ENTERTAINMENT MAGAZINE.

-Feel free to leave your questions / comments-thanks!

    JUNE 2012-HOW TO ANNOY YOUR FAN BASE ON FACEBOOK

-Anyone who has access to sites like Facebook, Twitter, My Space, etc. will eventually encounter an interesting group of people. They’re hard working, well meaning & talented-yet do things that can really annoy people deeply. Some in this group may not be aware of this, so let’s see if any of the following sounds familiar. This group, BTW, are known as musicians / bands.

-Before I start…Years ago my band CAROLINE BLUE was involved with a promotion company from California. I talked w/ one of the reps in regards to marketing & promo. His advice-blast people with stuff from your band until they can’t take it no more and give in. While this may have worked at some point in time, it doesn’t work now-especially online. Why? Because you’re just a ‘delete’ (aka a push of a button or 2) away from losing that person your ‘bombarding’ for good. It’s one thing to lose someone because they are no longer interested in what you do. It’s another when they leave because they think you are spamming them & don’t want to deal with it anymore.

-How many of you know bands who constantly post on YOUR page about their show events? Annoying right? About the only thing worse, according to many people, are show invites via text (cell phones). People, in general, view their walls as personal places; not bulletin boards for every band that has access to them. This used to run like wildfire on My Space (and let’s not even start with bands & ‘bulletins’ on My Space…) . I wonder if that’s part of the reason why Facebook gave people the option of making it so that only the person who owns the page can post on it? Bands-do the promo on your pages and with event invites.

-Speaking of event invites, do you get ones for a show the night of the show-and it’s the only one you’ve received for it? How about the same thing via email? How considerate-like you have nothing else going on with your lives… This should only be done when you get a last minute show. Usually a band gets a gig a few weeks to a month or more before . When the show date is solidified, send out your invites there & then. Do a follow up a week before the show as a reminder –which also gives people time to schedule things out. You can post about the show / event everyday on your own pages if you’d like. Please don’t be one of those bands that makes an event invite, then deletes it only to make the same one again, repeat ad nausium. You’re excited about your show and want as many people as possible to see / attend it-understood. But doing this will just annoy the hell out of people and-hey, there’s that button to ‘unlike’ a band and “click” …goodbye….

    MAY 2012-REVERBNATION REVISITED

-Last year I did an article about a social network site that has greatly increased since the toppling of My Space called Reverbnation. Back then, I described the site as “My Space on Steroids.” Does that statement still hold up? Read on oh faithful reader

-My Space has gone thru a lot of changes within a year’s time-but IMO (In My Opinion) I’d still say Reverbnation (RN) is in the lead. However, some of the problems My Space had have crept over onto RN . Right now, CAROLINE BLUE gets a lot of fan requests from RN-to the point where we have more than a page of requests within 2 days if I don’t reply to them. That sounds great until you realize that, just like My Space, it’s mostly bands who are requesting you to be fans. While some of the people running those band pages can become fans of you & your music, the vast majority of them basically don’t care-they just want to up their fan counts. One thing that RN did change is now bands go to the personal pages of people on RN and request them to add the band. CB has increased its fan base on pages like Facebook due to this.

-RN still has one major advantage over My Space-and many other sites for that matter-you can open a store and sell not only your music (CD & download) but shirts and other merchandise as well. Recently, CB released a new song called “Prey” on Reverbnation and not only could people listen to it, but buy the Mp3 of it as well-and yes, we did makes some sales on this

-Another thing RN has it the ability to place widgets that have your music, videos-even your store in them. (296) While they don’t work on all sites, they do work on many and are a nice way to promo / network your band & music.

-Other nice things about RN are a specific place to put your press releases, an area that shows all your links to other social networks you’re on, and a great stat system that helps you with your promotions. In addition, they still have a great mailing list system for bands to use.

-Speaking of the mailing list, one interesting thing is that My Space actually teamed up w/ RN to a degree so that not only can you send your newsletters to your mailing list, but also to your friend’s list on My Space as well. Sounds great right? Unfortunately, it seems to need a little work on the execution part. CB has over 11,000 fans on My Space so I used this feature a few times. Keep in mind that even on My Space it says it has teamed up w/ RN for this. Each time I have done this though, the CB page on My Space gets shut down by My Space temporarily-so be careful when using this. If they’ve fixed this, let me know.

-Looks like I’ve hit the word limit again 🙂 See you all next month!

    -NO BAND PRIMER ARTICLE FOR APRIL 2012-
    MARCH 2012-SOCIAL NETWORK SITES-HOW MANY TO BE ON

-A question I see appearing time & time again on forums (as well as being asked this myself) is how many social networking sites should a band be on. There are dozens upon dozens (if not more) out there and being able to give them all proper attention is like having a full time job-or longer. How are you able to do the the things a musician is suppose to do-like practice / play your instrument ? Play gigs? Record music? If one isn’t careful, you’ll spend way more time online than doing what you’re suppose to do-but you can do both.

-Now, I fell into this trap initially myself w/ CAROLINE BLUE. CB has it’s own website, but every time I saw a new social networking site, I put CB on it. Within a year, CB was on over 20 social networking sites-and with each one I was updating blogs, show dates, pics, music, videos, etc. so I know the feeling of getting overwhelmed due to this. It’s not like I can hire someone to do this for me (believe me, if I could I would), so what do you do?

-Before I go on, some of you may be just blowing this off and saying “I have a Facebook fan page (or Reverbnation page,etc.)-that’s all I need.” To a degree, this works. IMO, you want to reach out to as many people as you can with your music-even if you’re just doing niche marketing. Also, I believe that you should at least have a presence on as many band sites as you can fit in. Not everyone just goes to Facebook for ex. CB has gained a lot of fans thru another site & thru that site, they found us on Facebook. This also helps in other ways-like establishing your band name as yours in case someone suddenly starts a band w/ the same name as yours (all those sites do show up in search engines).

-So how did I tackle this problem? I chose 6 sites (which includes your own website so it’s really 5) to be what I call the “primary sites.” These are the ones where the most interaction is. All the other sites are known as “secondary sites.” On those, the basics are all set up- bio, discography, etc. & some pics, music & videos. On each of those pages is a notice saying that for more updates, show dates & news, please visit the following sites-which then shows links to the primary sites. With the primary sites, I still do all the work as I was doing before.The secondary ones-all I have to do is reply to people who interact with them. And if there is more interaction on a secondary than a primary, the positions are switched. This way, you’re not stuck on your computer all day/week long doing updates. Keep rockin & see you next month!

    FEBRUARY 2012-BEING A 1 PERSON BAND-PART 4-DRUMMERS

-Up until this point, the positions described previously-singers, guitarists & bassists-have had a number of similarities. It wouldn’t be too out of place to see someone in one of those positions move to another or even take on all there. Now we come to a position that doesn’t fit that model so easily-drummers.

-If a drummer is very good, chances are rare that he / she will be bandless unless it’s by choice. Drummers aren’t hard to find but good drummers are. Many times the top drummers of an area not only have their own bands to play in, but are either filling in with other bands and /or in 1 or more side projects. Then again, perhaps the drummer wants to play in a style that no one else in the area wants to do. Perhaps many of the musicians would rather use a drum machine for studio / live stuff. This happens more in the pop / dance realm but can happen in other styles.

-Drummers also have a disadvantage with gear. Unlike a singer-songwriter who can just have an acoustic guitar, a drummer usually has at least a 5 piece kit-probably more. Plus, when was the last time you saw a solo drummer singing & playing only drums as accompaniment?

-So can drummers do a “1 man band?” While harder to do, I believe they can. However, the 1st thing I would suggest to do is to make sure you’re playing is as tight as you can make it. If you are known as a great drummer-or even one who’s just solid w/ great timing-people will come seeking you out. All the great drummers I know are constantly being asking to do studio / live work.

-The next suggestion is similar to what I suggested before; work on your singing-even if it’s just backing vocals. The more you can do, the more valuable you become. I would also suggest working on being able to write songs-specifically lyrics-as well. Why? Well, drummers usually get the short end of the stick when it comes to payments from publishing because the main parts that are copyrighted in a song are the lyrics and vocal melodies. Drum parts, for the most part, are not included in this. There are a number of drummers who do this and do quite well for themselves. Neil Peart (Rush) is one example.

-Learning to sing and play guitar / bass can be wonderful things for a drummer to do because they already play the role that is one of the hardest to fill in a band-drums. I would also suggest learning how to use a drum machine. Why? Well, you can then get in on that action as well, but with an advantage-you’re actually a drummer. You know how a drummer thinks and plays. This will help a song have “realistic” drum parts-even if you’re using a machine. As before, learning to sing/ play acoustic will allow you to make some extra income as a solo acoustic artist too. In addition, you’ll see how other instruments approach & lay down their parts-which will make you a better musician. Again, the more can do, the more valuable you become-and the less dependent you are on other people for what you want to do.

    JANUARY 2012-BEING A 1 PERSON BAND-PART 3-BASSISTS

-Happy 2012! Last month I talked a little about the role of guitarists in a “1 person” band. This month’s topic-bassist-will be similar, but there are differences….

-A bassist without a band isn’t as common as a guitarist who is bandless. There are plenty of ads out there from bands looking for bass players. It probably wouldn’t take a bassist too long to get into another project. However, some bass players might not be able to find their ideal band so an alternative would be to become a “hired gun”-especially if they’re good enough to pull off different styles. Between studio & live work, a bassist could keep themselves quite busy just doing that while making some decent money as well.

-But what if that’s not happening? I would 1st suggest learning to sing-if not lead, then at least backing vocals. Not only will this make you more valuable, but it will also help with songwriting. This leads to the next step-learn at least how to play chords on the guitar-even learning how to be a solo acoustic act. Again, increasing your skills & songwriting abilities. Plus you can use this to make money (as a solo acoustic guitar act-since I don’t recall seeing any solo acoustic bass guitar acts).

-There’s also the teaching route. This is even better if you’ve developed a rep as a great bassist. You could make a decent living just from teaching alone. On top of that, you’ll learn a lot as well. However, if you don’t want to genuinely teach, I wouldn’t suggest it.

-Another thing that bassists can do is work on learning skills in regards to programming syths & keyboard bass-especially if you work in the realm of pop music. (For country & alternative-try upright bass). These skills-like singing & guitar playing-will help make you a better all around musician.Sometimes having that extra skill is what’s going to separate you from the pack.If you ever decide to do the home studio route and make your own music, you basically can do it all by yourself. Plus bassists usually know more drummers than others so it can all work out easier. Of course, programming drums can be another skill to add as well…

-As you can see, there are a lot of similarities to a guitarist here. Make no mistake though. While you can play bass just by hitting root notes and following what the guitar is doing (& sometimes that’s all a song requires), actual bass playing has a different approach & mind set than guitar playing. While many of the options are similar, digging into those options is where the differences lay. The opportunities for your talent are out there-you just have to make the effort to find them.

-On deck-drummers! See ya next time…

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