January 27, 2011

Week 19: Come To My Show

Come To My Show... Please?

So, a friend of mine, Ben Mills, who’s been in a number of bands in the Austin area in past years (including Nooner, She Craves, and presently Waiting for August) and runs Rockshow Promotions posed a question on his Facebook page today. The question?

“Lets say that I can't adjust cover for a show but it wont be expensive ($5-7). What can I, we, the venue, other bands,etc do to get you to the show? What’s important in your choice to go out to see a band?”

In about 2-3 hours, he got some pretty good responses. But I believe his sample was skewed. He got answers from people in other bands and people who are really, really excited about music and the Austin Music scene. I don’t believe the question was posed to the casual music fan.

Sure, to get folks who are already supportive of live music down to the club it largely depends on the quality of the band and if they know anyone in said band. A few mentioned some concerns like being able to smoke in the bar (or having an outdoor smoking deck for non-smoking venues), having safe parking near, and time of show (late isn’t always great).

Really good responses. But, these are all assuming one thing – the person already sees value in supporting live music. I think these folks walk through the door of your show for one of three reasons:
1. Just happen to be headed to a favorite bar and you’re there.
2. They are celebrating with friends and you’re the next stop.
3. They have heard about your band enough that they want to check you out.
Ready? Here we go.

Or, the choice is made regardless of the band. Some folks go to a certain theme club. It doesn’t matter who’s playing, the style of music fits what you’re interested in, and more than one band can provide. In Austin, there are several clubs who will most likely be playing a set genre on any given night. I reserve the right to be wrong, but I’ll bet if you went to the club listings of these clubs you’re going to find Hardcore at Red7, Rockabilly at Continental Club, Blues at Antone’s, Rock and Metal at Red Eyed Fly, Reggae at Flamingo Cantina, Radio-friendly rock and travelling shows at Stubb’s, The Parish and Emo’s, as well as Emo/Goth at Elysium.
How to get these folks in: Make sure the bar is postered with your show information. Spend a little time AT the bar and get to know some of the folks, invite them in person. Give out free CD samplers at the bar.

These are the folks who are part of a girls-night-out, or bachelor party, hanging with a few friends, or are in town on business and want to blow off steam. These are the non-party types who are going along with a pack of people. How do you get these folks into the club for your show? It’s probably unlikely you will...especially if there’s a cover. 10 people at $5 a head gets pretty expensive. A smart bar owner will see the big group and say… “Hey, you guys look thirsty..come on… $2.50 longnecks…and if you like the band, tip ‘em.” Chances are, if they come in.. they’ll stay for a beer or two, maybe throw some green in your tip jar, and vacate. Unless you can turn them into fans, pronto.
How to get these folks in: There isn’t much you can do. Drink specials for walk-by, street flier for a free beer with cover, maybe work a deal with a taxi driver/hotel manager to promote the band.

The average person doesn’t go to save a “scene” or support a “movement.” They go check a band out because someone told them about said band. There was some contact where they heard of your band in some context. Your band’s name was out there on Facebook, or on the radio, on twitter, a friend who saw your band talked about it to them… something that you had some control over at some point. Some kind of promotion you did that either reached them directly or on the peripheral.

Think about it. How did you hear about your favorite band? Did Cesar Rosas come up to you when you were 12 and say, “Hey kid…. Listen to my band, Los Lobos”? Probably not. You heard them on the radio or on TV or a buddy of yours introduced you to them while you were sneaking a cigarette back in their shed (true story). Now think locally. How can you make that impact on a small scale?

How to get these folks in: This is the one you have the most control over. You need to reach their circle of association. You know… the people around them (friends and family) whose opinions are valued. You need to advertise, promote, and work on getting your bands name to be said by people other than your close-knit circle of friends.


I’m not saying any of these scenarios will be easy to reach. You’ve got to be committed to the band and promoting yourselves. It will take time, effort, and money. You will strike out a few times, make sure you’ve got the ability to measure what works and what doesn’t.

So, Ben, this is my answer to your question. I hope you don’t mind me turning it into a blog post.  I’ll return the favor.

Ben Mills is the drummer for Austin’s Waiting for August  (Reverb Nation Link).

They play next at the Ghost Room in Austin  on February 25 with Squint and Matches for Memories. Then at Hanovers in Pflugerville on February 26 with Radio Fallout and Freebleeder. See them. They’re a fun band. Tell them Sean Sent you.

Here’s a poster:

And just FYI… in keeping with the article... I will be there because I know the band, and have seen all of these bands play before and am impressed by all of them (really)… I’ll go to the Austin one because I live south of Austin.. and I’ve never been to the Ghost Room before, so I’m looking forward to it.

Don’t you wish all of your fans would give you information like that?

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.

January 13, 2011

Week 17: Be A Gracious Host

Be A Gracious Host

You ever wonder why there are some DJs that are in much more demand than others? To clarify, I’m not talking about the amazing DJs you see at a club. I consider them musicians. I’m talking about the wedding DJ, the DJ at a dance, the one at the carnival or public gathering.

I mean, all they do is play previously recorded music, so one is as good as another, right? Wrong. The good ones know that their role is to keep the party moving, keep the people who are there entertained and happy. Sometimes they have to provide the background music to a dinner, and other times they need to get the bodies moving on the dance floor. A good DJ knows that he is in charge of the mood of the room.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, your band is the same as the DJ. When you are on stage, you are in charge of the experience of everyone in the room. It is your job to make sure that each and every person enjoys their time and leaves the bar/club/concert wanting more and wanting to come back.

Don’t ever forget that. You write music because you have to, it’s part of your inner core. You record albums to share the music and hope others get an inkling of the feeling you were expressing when you wrote it. But, you play the music to share your gift for the enjoyment of others.

If you keep that in mind, you can’t go wrong. You will be much happier on stage, the audience will have a better time, and the bar will love you for it (a happy crowd is a thirsty crowd).

So when you’re on stage, you are hosting a 45-minute party and you are in control of the mood in the room. If you play your cards right, the audience will be right up next to the stage, pumping their fists, shaking their money maker, or hanging on every word. I’ve seen bands who’ve had such a command on the crowd that is they asked them to lay down on the ground and cluck like a chicken at least 10 people in the crowd would do so.

If you don’t have this control yet, work on it. Go to shows where the band has it and learn.

Here’s a couple of examples from show’s I’ve been to.

I went to the U2 Pop Mart tour in San Antonio, and it was probably the best large-scale show I’ve ever been to. They somehow made me feel like they were interested in my experience. There were thousands of people in the room yet I swear Bono made eye contact with me. It was amazing. Let me go a step further and say that I was dragged to the show kicking and screaming. Didn’t want to be there… but thank God I went. 

I also got that feeling when I was taking photos at a KISS show and I got the classic tongue-out shot of Gene Simmons. When I looked at my camera and saw I got the shot, I must have had a goofy grin on my face because Gene looked at me and said “You liked that…huh?”

But it’s not only at stadium tours where you can learn. Here are a couple local, Austin, examples.

At just about every One-Eyed Doll show, Kimberley Freeman bears her soul and somehow makes it about you. She has a legion of ultra committed fans and she’s earned every one of those through her ability to turn the stage around on you and put you in the show. 

On about the opposite end of the scale, but equally impressive, you’ve got Matt The Electrician. He captures your attention with his amazing gift of wrapping conversations into songs and songs into lives. When you’re in the audience of one of his shows, you can’t help but to nod along and feel a kinship with every one in the room.


That’s what I’m talking about. You need to be a gracious host. Make sure that everyone in the audience is tuned into what you’re doing. Well, perhaps not everyone.. but if you’re not connecting with a few people in the audience (other than your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/mom) you need to go back to the drawing board and work on your stage presence.

And, no, you can’t use the excuse that the only people who were in the audience were there for the next band. They are your responsibility for the time you’re on stage. If you put it out there... the crowd will respond.

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/.

January 6, 2011

Week 16: Who's Talking?

Who’s Talking About You?

I was visiting the Facebook page of a band I saw live a few months ago to see what they were up to and they had only 2 updates in a month. One had nothing to do with their music. The second is a single sentence that read “Why aren’t we famous yet?”

Hopefully they typed that as a tongue in cheek post, because it made me laugh. How do you expect to be famous if nobody is talking about you… not even yourself?

The other thought was, I’d make you famous… as an example of what not to do. But... then I rethought that one. I’m a nice guy. I don’t want to call you out for promotional mistakes. I’d rather call out folks who are doing it right. So, you remain anonymous. You’re welcome.

To further drive this home, I just checked and they haven’t posted anything since the “Why aren’t we famous yet?” post from mid-December. Someone even asked them in November why they don’t post their show information. Oh, and they haven’t posted anything to their MySpace since 12/8/10 (this only matters because they list their MySpace as their Homepage). And because another band on their bill contacted me, I know they have a show coming up next Saturday.

So… what have you learned from the above example? Hopefully at least these three things.
  1. If you are trying to get fans and new listeners, you need to share where you’re playing.
  2. Update your Homepage (wherever it may be) at least weekly. You never know who is looking.
  3. Answer your fans. If someone cares enough to post something to your page, you need to reply.
OK, I beat that point to death. Moving on.

CD Release Contact
Another example of a band not utilizing promotions is something that happens far more than you’d think. When a band releases an album and has a CD release party they contact media and invite on Facebook and MySpace, and talk themselves up really well. That’s fantastic. It creates some interest. But, then you don’t hear from them again until the next CD release. If you want to be the kind of band that plays for a few friends every now and then, this works just fine. You’re well on your way to opening a Wednesday night show at local coffee shop. Congrats.

Are YOU the Only One Talking?
Another thing you need to be aware of is, if you are the ONLY one talking about your band… that eventually gets old. Kind of like the parable of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” People will come running the first few times, but after that, you may be harming your band more than helping.

Google your band’s name. If the only site that comes back is something you did, you’re not doing a very good job of getting the word out about your band. You should at least get a few blogs, Facebook pages, some YouTube video, maybe some press, fan photos, and maybe a poster or two.

Going Viral
Yes, the most overused term on the Internet in 2010. How do you go viral? There is no way for you to know. The deal is, if you TRY to go viral, it won’t happen. It’ll look like a stupid attempt to go viral. Would you think a homeless guy who talks like a radio DJ would be the biggest thing of the week? How could he have planned that? You simply can’t go viral.

You can, however ask that your fans post information about you on their social media sites. You can involve your fans in contests where they can win something that makes it worth participating (a free house concert, signed merch, a guitar, the shirt you wore on the album cover, a $20 bar tab at your next show…etc). Make the contests about them creating promo for you. Creating YouTube videos about you inviting people to your show, bringing the most people to your show, writing a song for you… something big and crazy.

Here’s the caveat for this. You have to release control. You have to be prepared to see a bunch of really BADLY done stuff with your name associated. It’s part of the cost on entry. You can’t ask a fan to participate in a contest and then request they take their entry down.

Just remember, provided you’re a decent sounding band, the amount of attention you give to promoting your band comes back to you in people at the club to check you out. And if you bring 30 people to see you, make sure you ask them each to bring a friend next time. (I’d consider having a “Friends Rock Free” promotion where if you bring a friend they are free with your paid entry.)

The biggest thing to take away is the fact that you are not a one-man promotional machine. You need to get media involved. You need to have some bloggers write about you. You need to coax a few photographers to the shows. Court the public and someone will give you some press… then nurture that press into promoting yourself in order to get more people in the club.

Then when it works, pat yourself on the back, get some sleep and then get up and do it all over again.

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/.

January 4, 2011



By Sean Claes
 Everyone is falling over themselves making lists of tools you should use for social marketing. I decided to make a quick list of 5 things you should NOT consider for your social marketing strategy. I conducted a poll of 1 (myself) and 100% of those who chose to participate rated these five things at the Top 5 Dumb Social Marketing Tools.  

So... here you go.

1. Gun -Nothing says anti-social like a Smith and Wesson pointed at you.

2. Rock - Hit someone with a rock and invite them somewhere.. see if they follow.
3. Typewriter - You know what this is kids? It's like a computer with the printer attached.. and no internet.

4. The phone thing from Crocodile Dundee - Well.. unless you're in the outback. (Nice video.. eh?)

5. Carrier Pigeon - Thinking about this one, if a carrier pigeon brought me an invitation to something, I'd really consider going.

p.s. Yes, this is a joke. Kind of.