January 20, 2011

Week 18: Who's Voting?

Who’s Voting?

By Sean Claes
This week is a little bit hard for me to write, because I don’t agree with the premise of this type of promotion, but if you’re going to be a band who is reaching for the next level, you’ve got to make a decision if you want to get involved in things like this. I’m talking about taking part in magazine and online popularity polls.

There are two schools of thought. Both have merit.

Thought 1:
As a band you have to do your best to get published, and there’s some great magazines and Websites out there that would be a good thing to attach your name to. Sometimes the pay-off is really cool... like a slot on a big tour, or recording time, or cash, or schmoozing at an awards ceremony. Sometimes the payoff is saying you were the band of the day on CoolWebsiteHere.com. Assuming the name of the magazine, newspaper, or Website is prestigious… it could be a really good move and put your bands name in front of a whole bunch of people who may have never discovered you.

Thought 2:
On the other hand, and the reason I really am not a fan of this process is because it’s more than likely not going to do ANYTHING for your band. You aren’t promoting your band as much as promoting their magazine or Website by participating in a poll where you have to find your fans and direct them to their product in order to vote for you. You are essentially advertising for them. And for what? For the chance to be mentioned in print or online on… again.. their turf.

And then when you’d like to advertise yourself with them, they charge you.

Coming Clean:
Yes, the timing of this article coincides with a big music poll in Austin. And at least if you win this particular one you get to schmooze with interesting folks at an awards show. BUT, I’ve got bands I’ve not heard from since last year’s poll for the same magazine asking me for my vote. I thought I’d reply here.

Dear Band who wants me to vote for them.
1. I prefer to show bands I enjoy their craft by going to shows and supporting them in person.
2. I choose not to participate in this particular magazine’s poll.
3. If I only hear from you once a year… and it’s asking me to do something for you. It’s not going to happen.

Now… there are a few bands that keep me informed all year long. I know, at least once a month, what they’ve been doing. Sometimes it’s not important stuff, sometimes it’s just “Hey, here’s a song from our last album, thought you might enjoy it. By the way, we play at Red Eyed Fly this Friday at 9p. Love to see you there.” The point is, I am invested in them. They aren’t just a random plea for attention once a year. If I voted in this poll, I’d be more likely to write them down. And I’ve gone to quite a few Websites to make a click in support of them.

But, at the end of the day, most of these things are popularity contests that you only win if you reach your own fan base, direct them to a place you don’t control and get them to vote for you.

Hey genius. You already have contact with a whole bunch of fans, and if they’re ready to do something you ask them to do… how about inviting them to a show, or get them to spend some time on YOUR Website where you can control the user experience, and maybe have your music for sale (or streaming for free). Or… hey... how about a “friends rock free” night at your show where if someone brings a friend, they get in for free and their friend gets a sampler of your music.

At the end of the day, having your name published in a magazine or on a Website is nice… but it’d probably be less expensive in the long run to just buy an ad… at least then you can let people know where you’re playing so they might actually be able to see you play.

And hey…isn’t that how real fans are made?

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. For an introduction to his "52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice" visit this link - http://www.tinyurl.com/Claes52DIY. If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here - http://www.seanclaes.com/.

p.s. If you want to buy an ad in INsite, we’re going to do a “Free Music In March” issue. Shoot an e-mail to me at sean@insiteaustin.com with the subject line being “52 WEEKS” in the subject and I’ll make you a good deal on a 1/4 page ad. Really.

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