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Marketing your band online

 21 March 2011

Bands and musicians need to market themselves, but creating an online fan base can be time-consuming. Start with these five simple stages to online marketing.

Mark Gurney, Music4all, Brixton.
Mark Gurney, Music4all, Brixton.

Step 1: website

Your website is your chance to explain your music in your terms, in your own style. All-singing, all-dancing sites may cost thousands, but even a logo and a message saying ‘join our mailing list’ is more useful than nothing.
Blogging software like Wordpress, Blogger or Moveable Type can create simple, easy-to-update websites. You can easily add pictures of shows, tour dates, or messages to your fans.

A blog site can be redesigned to fit your band’s look, which is critical.  If you don’t have any designer friends, ask students at a local arts college to help before you ask your local computer expert.

It’s important that your site does two things:

  • creates excitement, which is critical to appeal to your audience
  • to collect emails for your mailing list, so you can talk to your audience directly.

Step 2: emails

If you followed every piece of advice about how use the internet, you’d spend so much time at your computer that you might as well have an office job.

It is worth looking at a few options to decide which mailing list service you use. The service should let fans subscribe and unsubscribe automatically, otherwise you will spend too much time keeping your email list up to date.

It should also allow you to create cut-and-paste ‘forms’ (website code that you can put on your website, myspace page and Facebook), so that wherever you interact with fans, they can join the list.

Ideally, a mail service should also track whether your emails are opened, and which links in an email are most clicked on. Be aware that services that do this, like Campaign Monitor, charge for every email they send.  It’s not much per email, but the cost can mount up if you have thousands of people on your list.

If that’s a problem, consider using a service like MailChimp, which is free.

Step 3: Facebook

A Facebook fanpage is very useful. For the UK, nearly everyone who regularly goes online has a Facebook account, so you can speak to people who haven’t yet visited your website.

Also, when you post updates to your Facebook fanpage, they also appear on the walls of your fans. That makes you visible, not just to fans, but also to their friends. A friend of a friend can follow up the message “X has become a fan of your band” by becoming a fan themselves. And even if they do not, they will at least see your updates.

The process for creating a fanpage is simple. Unfortunately the process of adding your mailing list form is not. As already mentioned, you need to use mailing list software to create the form, but then you also need to use a Facebook application called FBML (‘Facebook markup language’) to add the form to your fanpage. 

Step 4: MySpace

Only put effort into sites or services with long-lasting value.

It’s also useful to have a MySpace page. Despite its declining popularity, it’s often the first place many people look to see where you are touring. MySpace always scores high in Google searches.

With as little work as possible, build a MySpace page that conveys the feel you want. Don’t spend too much time or cash on this, think of it as a simply an advert for your gigs. Make sure the list of upcoming gigs is always kept up-to-date.

To make it look exciting, there are a lot of tutorials on the web that explain how to add images, email forms, and how to style a page to look like your website. Consistency between MySpace and your website is important, and this can usually be achieved by using identical colour schemes and imagery.

Step 5: keep it updated

So how do you keep time you spend on marketing to a minimum?

A service like Ping.fm lets you update lots of websites simultaneously. Each of these lets you email a message once and have it appear on your blog website and your Facebook fanpage, as well as other sites you might decide to set up.

If you have a twitter account, or a Flickr page for photos of your band and its gigs, then either service can be used for updates.

For the non-technical, it’s a bit of an uphill battle to set up these services. But it’s worth the effort, and hopefully these tips will help you avoid wasting time.

It’s easy to be mislead into thinking that you should be spending all your time marketing. The only thing that will earn and keep long-term fans is great music and great gigs.

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