The following is not just about me, but I intend for it to apply to other bands at my level- talented but not famous musicians who care a lot about their fans.
Do you like finding and supporting obscure independent musicians? Hyping them, coming to their shows, buying their albums? WE LOVE YOU GUYS. Seriously, you make us possible.
I feel like, since I’ve launch my “Get out of Debt Sale,” a lot of people have been asking me lately, “Let me know what else I can do to help.” I don’t answer because I don’t even know where to start. There is ALWAYS something- many things- you can do to help.
So if you’re that person, THANK YOU- and here’s what you can do to help.
CHAPTER 1: Spreading the Word
If you’re a devout fan, the best thing OF ALL you can do is get us more devout fans. Of course that’s not really under your control, but here are a few tips on being an evangelist of rawk.
-Recommend our music to a handful of specific people
If you like music, you probably have friends who like music, and you probably have some sort of sense of what your friends like. Sending a link of our work (especially a specific song or video that you’ve picked out) to a friend with a note that says “I thought you’d like this band because it’s got crazy classical piano stuff” or “because this chick’s voice is freakin amazing” does more than 50 retweets to the general public.
-Bring friends to our shows
Thank you so much for coming to our gigs. How much more awesome would it be if you came with three friends? Awesome for us, because the more people we bring in, the better we look to the venue, leading to higher pay and/or better bookings- plus your friends might become fans, too. Awesome for you, because you get a night out drinking with your friends. Awesome for the bar, because they sell more drinks. Awesome for your friends, because they get a fun night out. Everybody wins!
Chapter 2: Selling Albums and Fundraising
-CD’s make great gifts
Got Christmas gifts to buy? Our CD’s make great presents. If you buy them from us directly, we can even personalize and autograph them for you. “Dear Mabel, may your holidays be filled with ROCK! Love, Allie, Iggy, Stan, and Joe.” This is very impressive to people who don’t already have a lot of friends in bands.
-Think about sales like we do
You can always set your Facebook status to “Hey everybody, JoJo and the Tambourines have a new album, it’s AWESOME YOU SHOULD BUY IT!!!!!!11!1111!!!” Which may or may not get us a few sales, depending on how big your social network platform is. But to take things to the next level, set a financial goal for yourself. Say you want to help us earn $100. For people like me with a pay-what-you-will album, that means you could get 100 people to buy the album at $1, 10 people to buy it at $10, or one really generous person to get on board and donate $100. Not only will you be helping out the band, but you’ll get a taste of Marketing for Musicians 101 yourself.
Chapter 3- The College Radio Campaign
-Call in a request
We have probably sent out CD’s to a couple hundred college radio stations, who probably tossed it in a corner and forgot about it. Somewhere we probably have a list of what radio stations hypothetically have our CD’s. Hopefully it’s online, so you can act on it- if not, ask. Call any station in your area and request one of our songs. And let us know the results! If they play it, we’ll keep them in mind for future projects (maybe to set up an interview when we’re in your town), if not, we’ll know they either need another copy and/or are assholes who sell submitted CD’s on Ebay (yeah it happens).
-Expand that list
If you know anybody with a radio show, or know of any appropriate stations (or, better, specific DJ’s/programs who would play our music), please tell us! Or hell, give them a copy! (And then tell us!)
Chapter 4: Tour
We probably need a place to stay. If we are coming to your town and you have room, please offer. And don’t just offer for the hot female singer- offer to host band members, or roadies, or the bass player. (Haha just kidding bass players.) Even better? Fans that might have traveled far for the show. Who knows, maybe you’ll make friends.
-Pair us with an opening act
A lot of regional venues want touring bands (who don’t have a large draw) to partner up with local bands, to insure that enough people will come to the gig to make it profitable. If you know a band that would be willing to open for us- that would be a good match and has enough of a draw to make the bar happy- please put us in touch. It would probably be the one thing that makes us come to your town on our next tour.
Chapter 5: Reviews
I don’t care if you have an official music blog or not. If you have a WordPress, LiveJournal, or Blogger account, you can review our album. What, do you need a license? Do you need special permission? Get out there and say what you liked, what you didn’t like! Track-for-track, overall, compare us to other bands, quote our lyrics. Blog posts are very search-engine friendly, and someone googling us will read what you wrote. We’ll probably link to it, too, and maybe quote you if you say something really creative!
If everyone who loved my album went online and gave me 5 stars on Amazon, I’d be looking really good right now. If everyone who complimented me on our latest video gave us a thumbs up on YouTube… wrote us up on iTunes… CDBaby… pretty much every place our music is available, there’s a way to review it. Do it, man!!!
-Are you a dancer or other physical performer? Maybe our song would make a good routine!
-Are you a musician? Do a cover song! Just credit us, ok?
-Flyering is not dead! I’ve had people come to shows because they saw a flyer that I did NOT put up! We can give you flyers. Or at least pdf files to print flyers.
-If you’re going to contact us, it’s best to do it publicly, like on Twitter or in blog comments. It makes us look good, builds community (so you fans know who each other are)- and we all know getting lots of emails is overwhelming, so it helps cut down on the clutter.
-Most of us are available to play parties and private events for a pretty reasonable fee.
-Tattooing is the sincerest form of flattery.
I would love to hear from other bands what sort of help they would like to get from their fans. Let’s build this list! (Oh, and successful superfans, chime in as well!)
My rock album launched 15 months ago. It’s incredible, if I do say so myself. 10 original tracks of energized rock, with tastes of punk, opera, electronica, gregorian chant, metal, and gothic sensibilities, produced by the legendary Martin Bisi of Swans, Dresden Dolls, and Sonic Youth fame. It is my pride and joy, and the thorn in my side.
The thorn because I am still struggling to pay it off. I live hand-to-mouth, and had no savings to speak of, but I knew I couldn’t put off creating this album any longer. I was afraid of getting involved with a label (if one would even have me), and my bandmates weren’t willing/able to chip in (they are as broke as I am). So I came up with the brilliant solution to take out a personal loan from the bank. Of course, they wouldn’t give ME a loan, since my income bracket is so pathetic (even though my credit is good), so my dad had to co-sign.
It still seems like the only way I could have gone, and I don’t regret it. But I severely underestimated how hard it would be to sell albums. I assumed all my friends and many of my acquaintances would buy it the second it came out, as I always did for my friends’ bands. Some did, but I got a lot of “You should give it to me for free,” “I’m broke, maybe next month,” and “um, I don’t like rock music.” I thought I’d be able to sell to our enthusiastic audiences, but people hardly ever come up to you and ask to purchase one, and if you ask even a raving fan, they usually say they don’t have any money on them.
For 4 years (2.5 now) I need to pay the bank $126.83 a month. That means I need to sell 12 albums a month. At the time, that sounded totally manageable. In reality, it’s been impossible. I sell about 1-2 albums a month. Not because my album isn’t fantastic, just because it’s really hard to sell albums without a huge following (and even with one).
So we’re gonna try another tactic. Starting today, my digital album is available on Bandcamp for $1. $1 is the minimum donation, but you can pay as much as you like.
I owe the bank $3,101.83. After PayPal and Bandcamp take their cuts, I get 75 cents out of one dollar. That means I need to sell 4,135 albums.
Do I think I can do it? Well… not exactly. I’m doubtful that I’ll be able to literally sell over 4,000 albums. I am really counting on a few things happening:
1. A few generous people giving me really wonderful donations- $100 or more.
2. People who have been meaning to buy the album but putting it off taking this as their cue, and paying the full $10 for it (or whatever they can afford).
3. My contacts with much larger platforms than me really pulling for me- spreading the word to their networks and really recommending me. I hate to ask that kind of favor of people, but at least since I’m trying to get out of debt and not just doing regular fundraising or marketing ploys, it has a charitable enough slant to it that I can get away with asking for help.
4. Getting a small bit of media attention just for trying this stunt. Even if it’s just the next college radio DJ to play a track off my album mentioning that you can buy it for $1 online, or my hometown newspaper running my press release- you never know what can get the right person’s attention.
The album is available here. You know what to do. Buy the album for $1. Buy it for more if you feel you can afford it. Share the link with your friends. Put in a good word for me and what I do.
A few last notes:
>The hard copy will still be $10, available from me in person or by post if you include shipping and handling. (It’s also available on CDBaby, but it’s more expensive and not as profitable for me.) Even though I’m keeping this campaign digital, I would LOVE to sell off some hard copies and move some of these boxes out of my tiny apartment!
>If you already have my album but just want to contribute, or if you want to avoid the bandcamp charges, that’s fine. As much as I hate to feel like a charity case, I will certainly not turn down random donations! You can paypal me at amanda at notjustanotherprettyvoice dot com.
(Oh man, my email address is way too public for my taste. Should probably get a new one and keep it more secret… I fail at being famous on several levels!)
Finally, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting independent artists. Even if you don’t purchase, just that you took the time to read this says that you care. That gives me a lot of hope for the future of music and musicians.