February 24, 2011

Week 23: Check Your Music

Sound Off!

In case I haven’t mentioned it enough. You need to know that all of the promotions in the world aren’t going to do you a bit of good if you put out an inferior product. What this means is, if you aren’t putting out music that people like, you’re going to go nowhere.

Old Spice has doubled its sales since that great 'the man your man could smell like,' commercials starring Isaiah Mustafa came out. That’s great. But when people realize it’s the same Old Spice they hated 2 years ago I’ll bet the sales figures will plummet. 

Maybe it’s my personal preference against Old Spice here…. Maybe I’m totally wrong (for Old Spice I hope I am). But, the point you should take from this is, if your band isn’t good… no amount of positive publicity is going to change that fact. Sure, you may have a shining moment that propels you to stardom for a second.. but if you're product can't back you up...you’re going to crash and burn.

Here’s what I want you to do. Listen to your music. I mean, really listen to it. Is it something that SHOULD be heard by people all over the world or not?

It’s a simple question.

You know what the answer is… even if you don’t want to admit it to yourself.

If the answer is no… but it makes YOU happy and that’s all that matters…. that’s fine. Some music is not meant to be for a mass audience. If you aren’t interested in promoting your music or your band… cool. You don’t need to be reading this column.

If the answer is no and you are not pleased with it either… time to make changes. Good luck.

I'm going to end here today... there really isn't much else to say on this matter.  

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/. 

February 17, 2011

Week 22: Promotions One Oh One

Quick, name three songs you heard today.

Go ahead... Havoc from Behemoth is waiting.

Not so easy is it?

For the most part, it’s information overload out there. From the time you wake up to the time you go to bed there’s something vying for your attention. Work, kids, television, radio, billboards, computer games, school, clubs, restaurants, traffic, newspapers, magazines, musicians, dancers, actors, people walking down the street…. It’s always something. In the midst of all of that noise, you’re trying to get the word out about something you so dearly believe in, your music.

Problem is, the person you’re trying to reach has the same things going in their life. Time is precious, so when you promote your band, don’t do it half-ass. Do it all the way.

And there’s a lot if different mediums you can use to promote your music. This may be an unpopular thought… but here’s what I think. Pick one promotional thing you can be good at and do THAT to promote your band.

If you are good at putting posters up all over town.. do that. Make a list of all of the places in town you can legally post things, and make sure every show you post something to promote the show.

Good because: You are establishing name recognition for your band in the REAL WORLD where people who actually go out and see live music tend to go.

Beware: The thing with print is, you need to be eye-catching… but don’t just be in-your-face without reference to what the show is about. If you’re a country act, don’t put a photo of a zombie eating brains, and if you’re a metal act, you don’t want to put a football player on the poster. Think before you create.

If you are good at writing, start a compelling blog about your band and make sure you gain readers. Engage people with things they can reply to, or links they can click on, or music they can listen to. The key here is getting repeat traffic while adding more readers. You’ll probably end up thinking up some crazy stuff to engage fans, and that’s OK. Just make sure at the end of the day you’re doing it all to promote your music.

Good because: If you’re a good writer, you’ll get people following you for your posts, which in turn leads them to your music.

Beware: If you are going to promote your music through the written word, you have to be there. You need to update your blog at least once a week. You need to run that Facebook page and respond to people when they post. You have to keep the content fresh and interesting. It’s harder than it looks.

If you are a talker, become the spokesperson for your band by calling media, radio stations, attending happy hours and tweetups while representing your band.

Good because: You’re putting a voice to your band. People listen t the radio, for the most part, when they are driving or doing some kind of activity that doesn’t require a lot of their attention, so they can listen to you.

Beware: You’re putting a voice to your band. Watch what you say. People will judge how you “perform” and assume your band is the same way. If you come off like an idiot or unprepared, you can get your butt handed to you pretty quick. Most people you’ll meet are nice and gracious but some folks are just waiting for fresh meat to skewer, then blog/tweet/Facebook all about their latest tirade.


I’ve talked in earlier blogs about a number of other ideas to promote your band… but I just chose three to spotlight here. Why these? Because these are kind of like Promotions 101. Postering, Blogging, and Speaking. For someone who is beginning to promote their band... do yourself a favor and start with one of these three.

Do one thing. And do it well. Use your skills at that one thing to gather a following. Get as much attention using that one aspect of promotion as you can before even considering going into another one.

And, for the sake that is good in the world, please have a worthy project/band that you’re promoting. No amount of good press can help a lousy band get more popular. I’ll talk about that subject next week.

Until then… cheers.

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. The photo is from when I shot Behemoth at Ozzfest in 2007. It worked for the question.. don't you think?

February 10, 2011

Week 21 - D-I-Y Poster Child: One-Eyed Doll

Do It Yourself Poster Child

Gather around children… it’s story time.

Singing "New Orleans" at Stubb's 1/09

I was in Houston this past weekend visiting some friends, Hoot and Mandella, for my birthday. We were sitting around and Mandella was on her computer. She turns to me and asks. “Have you ever heard of One-Eyed Doll?”

Now, I’ve been singing the praises of One-Eyed Doll for the last 4 years. The band played my Birthday Bash at the Red Eyed Fly in 2008. Lead vocalist Kimberly Freeman’s jewelry was part of INsite’s Gift Guide in 2009. I picked their Break as one of my Top 10 Austin albums of 2010. I’ve seen them play many times, always talk highly of the band… and have even been a part of the show. But Mandella, whom I’ve known for over 20 years, never looked One-Eyed Doll up on my recommendation.

2/08 at Red Eyed Fly
No, no no... she heard about One-Eyed Doll from a Facebook friend of hers who is in Taiwan and fell in love with the song “You’re A Vampire.”

Seems this friend of hers had recorded a video of herself singing “You’re A Vampire” and that led Mandella to find the actual song and then to iTunes where she purchased several songs. (Note: I've posted the video at the end of this column).

So, it took someone living on the other side of the world to introduce my Houston friend to One-Eyed Doll, an Austin band.

That, my friends, is the power of promotion. When someone you don’t know is talking about you in a good way...that's skill. It something takes careful planning, a lot of work, some outside of the box thinking and a lot of luck for a DIY band to successfully promote themselves.

And One-Eyed Doll has done a lot of all of the above.
From AdventureQuest in 2010

Top 3 outside the box things Kimberly Freeman has done to promote One-Eyed Doll.
  1. Has hand made most of her own merchandise.
  2. Was the subject of a full-length rockumentary that was distributed for free via YouTube by David Jr which has over 17k views.
  3. Was featured in the online game AdventureQuest with an in-game concert complete with a cartoon-version of herself.

Now, she’s done a metric-ton of other things for promotion, like record videos for fans on their birthday, sent personal thank you cards to people who have reviewed her music, used photos fans have taken in her promotional materials, made instructional videos, goofy videos, tug-at-heart-string videos, and just about any other kind of videos. She's got fans posting links to her music on photos of her on Flickr.  Most recently, she ended up in Revolver Magazine as one of the Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock. Yes, she's come a long way since I first saw her.

But, this whole article isn’t me just saying a whole bunch of good things about One-Eyed Doll. It’s a study on promotion. Learn from it.
If you’re trying to promote yourself, think about these things:
  • What can you do that someone else has done in the past that’s worked?
  • What can you do that nobody else has done?
  • Are you taking advantage of ALL the free promotional places online?
  • How else can you connect to fans? Have you thought about non-musical ways?
  • Have you found ways for fans to be involved in your music?
 Until next week. Take care and stay warm.

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/.

Just in case you didn't click the DavidJr. link, here's the Rockumentary.

Here's the video of Mandella's friend, Shannon Milligan, singing "You're A Vampire."

February 3, 2011

Week 20: Entertain or Perish


From the Trashy and the Kid CD Release in 2010

By Sean Claes

Entertainment dollars in are spent on a variety of things. Any given day someone will have the option of going to the movies, a dance club, the theater, a sporting event, a restaurant, or going to a entertainment center that hosts a variety of video games and the like. 

Or... they can choose to go to your show. Think about that for a minute. People who walk through the door to see you play live have chosen you over everything else that is competing for their entertainment dollar. 

If you somehow win that person’s entertainment dollar, you’ve got to work to keep it.

Full Service circa 2008
Here’s a non-music example. About 7 years ago my wife and I ordered a pepperoni jalapeƱo pizza from Pizza Hut to be delivered to our new house. When it arrived, it had anchovies on it.. which we didn’t notice until we were both a slice in… just thought the jalapeƱos were too spicy. Now.. anyone who's worked in the pizza business knows... that’s no accident. If it were mushrooms or green peppers or onions... I could understand an accident. Anchovies are a topping you have to go out of your way to retrieve in order to put them on a pizza. Anyhow.. when I called, they were rude, pissy, and it got so bad that I was afraid to eat the replacement pizza that was finally sent out (yeah.. I worked in fast-food, I know what happens when someone complains enough to begin a shouting match)… so I demanded my money back. I didn’t order from ANY Pizza Hut again.. until this past Sunday. 

Why am I telling you this? Because you need to hear it. You are a musician. When you play a gig, it’s your job to entertain. That’s what you’re there for. You share your craft and affect the mood in the room. The bar is counting on you to entertain the crowd… and bring people in to watch you. If you go up there and half-ass a show or cancel it because of something trivial (like allergies) are going to lose the opportunity to earn a fan, and you may just lose the venue a customer as well.

As an entertainment writer, I see a lot of shows. In the last 15 years I’ve probably seen over 2,000 bands perform. I try to catch at least one or two shows a month (which would equal seeing 4-6 bands perform). It’s usually on my radar to catch at least 2-3 bands I’ve never seen live before as I’m always trying to find new music to cover, help promote, and brag about. I also try and make local shows my priority.

There are hundreds of bands I’ll never see live again. I won’t drop any names, because I focus on the positives… but if you mail-it-in when you go up to perform.. chances are I’m not going out of my way to see you.. when I have a loving wife, popcorn and Netflix at home. But, as an entertainment writer, my passion is finding good bands and helping them become better known… and I take that role very seriously.
Matt The Electrician in 2007

There are a few bands out there that do amazing things on stage. Now, I’m not talking about the big-budget Hannah Montana / KISS / U2 type shows…which I’ve seen all of those and they were amazing. I’m talking about One-Eyed Doll’s theatrics, Darrell Scott, Walt Wilkins and Matt The Electrician’s stories, Terri Hendrix and Caroline Wonderland’s joy, Lamb of God and Trashy and the Kid’s energy, Todd Snider and Zlam Dunk’s humor, Cory Morrow and Full Service’s ability to own the emotions of a crowd. These bands “get it.” If you want to know what “it” is, go see them. It’s natural. It’s a part of them. It’s performance. It’s being an entertainer.
Terri Hendrix 2010

So, never take a fan for granted. Never expect people to show up to your gig. Never “just play.” Always play with passion. Always thank people for coming. Always do a little something extra during the show to make sure the folks in the audience will have a performance they’ll never want to forget. Make them glad they dropped $5-$10 at the door to see you. Make them want to do it again. 

There’s a reason it’s called the entertainment business. You are an entertainer.

Entertain or Perish.