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5 things your band is doing wrong


5 things your band is doing wrong – A guide for the struggling musician and how to get noticed by media, booking agents and promoters.

5 things your band is doing wrong struggling musician

This is not meant to be a road map to success, however if you correct these steps you will certainly be on the right path. We get around 500-600 requests a month from bands who want press coverage. If I spent 30 mins writing up a piece on each band it would take me upwards of 300 hours to complete them all.  Now ask yourself why would I want to spend the time and resources to do that? No matter what industry you are in, you’ll find that we can all do with a bit of help. When it comes to bands starting off, knowing that there are companies like VDC Group out there who can assist you with promotional aspects like burning your songs onto a disk. Then you can start handing these out to gain more exposure. It’s all about planning and finding the best way of getting noticed.

Instead, what we do is sift through all the bands and chose the ones that we think will be interesting.  By interesting we mean relevant to our readers. This means that people will read what we have to say about your band and advertisers will gets views and clicks.  So while a large portion of what we do is help bands gets exposure, there is also the business side of things.  This is also the case with all facets of the music business.

I remember in school when they circled the word BUSINESS next to the word MUSIC and said that you should pay attention to the number of letters in each word. The fact that BUSINESS has almost twice the amount of letters as MUSIC is certainly food for thought. The amount of attention that you should be spending on the business portion of your band is about double in terms of (time and budget) compared to what you should spend on your music.

For many musicians this is a very difficult thing to face in the starting stages of their careers. Later when you are established there will be dozens of people working on your business so you don’t have to.  Any large touring act will have a team of people they employe or partially employe. There are technicians, back up musicians, managers, booking agents, publicists, label reps, producers, promoters etc… A superstar like justin Bieber who pulled in almost $60million last year (according to forbes), could employe hundreds of people.  People in the business know how this works, so here is a list of five things that your band should NOT be doing or should be doing differently.

“Contact my manager about press dude!”
Telling a budding young journalist to contact your management about press coverage is usually a bad move, unless of course you actually employe a manager.  Notice how I said “employe” and not “have” a manager.

Journalists have a knack to discover the world that surrounds them. It won’t take more that 5 minutes for that writer, to look up your “manager” online, do a reverse google search on any domain associated with the email address, check out social media networks to find his reputation and follow up with the editorial team.  So if your manager is some dude who has a day job and manages your band pro-bono to score with the ladies, just make sure there are not hundreds of pictures out there of him/her getting wasted at house parties while drinking shitty cheap beer. Make sure he/she has a working email address associated with a real domain name.  Not some or weebly or wix account of whatever other free website is out there.  And by NO MEANS should you ever direct the writer to Fb or Twitter, if we want to find him/her we will.

Secondly if you manager is your mom or your girlfriend or your buddy from high school, you are almost always better off managing yourself.  When is comes to money, friendship and family shouldn’t mix. If you are in this business to make it (make money), don’t make promises to friends and family that you can’t keep, because it will come back years later to bite you in the ass.

So after we do a little search on your manager, if it all checks out we might be in touch.  However your best move is to actually take every request seriously and forward it to your manager. It is your manager’s job to check out all requests from media, press, publicists, booking agents etc and consider and weigh them in a very timely manner. If you don’t have “that guy” with the “good reputation” and track record, then don’t lie about it, you’re not fooling anyone, simply manage yourself.

*tip – real managers have phone numbers and physical office locations that are readily available and easy to find online.*

“Online formats – here’s a link to my Myspace account”
There are some great websites out there to promote your music. Some are easy to use and others aren’t. You really need to focus on the ones that are mobile friendly. If you think you spend a lot of time on your phone, then add x10 for someone working full-time in the music business.  If I get a link to a band and it doesn’t work on my phone, I’m done and on to the next thing.  So here’s a list of the best and worst sites to promote your music to media people and music business people in general:


1. Spotify (this doesn’t work in some countries) so that’s an automatic “NEXT!”

2. Reverb Nation – this site is slow and laggy as shit.  It’s also hard to navigate and it doesn’t allow the user to skip to the middle of the song easily. Eventually once the song loads you can skip to the middle part, but by then I’m on to the “NEXT!” one.

3. Myspace – This used to be the driving force in the music business and I used it all the time. In fact I still have a myspace account with some old songs on it. However the fact is that myspace died a long time ago and many people have failed at reviving it.  Get over it! its’ dead and makes you look like an amateur. If you are an amateur then that’s great! If you are looking to get exposure and go pro, then that’s very bad!

4. YouTube (when ads are engaged) – We recently uploaded a video of Justin Bieber getting booed at the Junos. The video was picked up by MTV, The AV club and even TMZ. We got over 150,000 views in mere days.  Advertising was engaged and we made somewhere around…wait for it…drum roll please…about $42.  Yes forty two f’n dollar for a YouTube video that was seen over hundred thousand times. So unless you’re Metallica, DO NOT ENGAGE ADVERTISING ON YOUTUBE! If I have to sit though some shitty commercial about how cleaning my shirts with Tide makes everyone happy, one more time, I’m gonna throw my lap top off a tall building.  When your band has a few thousand or even a couple of hundred plays, NO ONE and I MEAN EVEN YOU wants to sit through YouTube ads to get to the reward of watching your low budget music video.   Now if you are getting millions or tens of millions of unique organic views then by all means, stop reading this and head over to YouTube to get that money.

5. Sonicbids – This is ok but not great. It doesn’t have embed codes and can be clunky on mobile. Finally you have to pay for an account and that’s just bullshit and shows desperation in our books.

6. CD baby – Used to be cool. Used to but it’s not anymore. If I see CD baby on your site, I laugh to myself “haha that person’s definitely over 40, none of my readers will find this interesting…NEXT!”

7. iTunes – Cool if you are doing promotional stuff. Not cool if you are contacting Media. I once had a band ask me to pay for their down load because the PR agent didn’t know how to send it for free.  The band was absolutely massive (15 million albums sold) which blows my mind to this day about that PR dude.  After doing some research we decided to work out a deal. We paid for the download and the PR company ended up buying some services from us. The review was a huge success and to date is one of the most read pieces we’ve ever done.  With our help the band got some cross promo and was picked up by some other media in other cities and played a nice mini sold out tour.  This was a case where a band was big in another country but not Canada and working together was the best thing for both parties involved, however I still shun the pay for iTunes technique.  If this band was smaller (like say only 500,000 albums sold) range, I would have said “NEXT!”

8. Facebook (embed players) – All of those embedded stupid little aps that want to access your information before you listen to the bands music = FUCK THAT!


1. Soundcloud – works everywhere (pc, mac, mobile etc) in every country that we know of. Loads fast, and we can see the plays and comments.  If I see 10-20 positive comments and 1000+ plays, I know I’ve found something worth checking out. I strongly recommend that you use this site. You can get loads of followers on it now, and you can even help yourself by going to something like Soundcloud followers. This is a great way to get more followers for your band and is totally worthwhile doing to get yourself noticed. If you do decide to buy real Soundcloud followers from them then you are guaranteed to get a large fan base listening to your new track. This can help you improve your rating and get noticed quicker by the media.

2. Bandcamp – best concept out there for band promotion and works great on mobile.

3. Vimeo – it’s just better than YouTube

4. Dropbox – great for large files, such as exclusive video releases. Just make sure there is a download link and a clear description in the email.

Ok now that we’ve gone this far, let’s get back to the basic reasons your band is failing.

“Lazy Promotion”
A lot of bands book gigs and want the promoters to do all the work.  However the bottom line is that the promoters have many gigs to promote, money to make and probably don’t give a shit about your shitty band and only booked you because they had a free spot.  If you get a gig, no matter how small, work your ass off to promote it!  DO NOT rely on social media alone.

How many times have we all seen that guy from that band who can’t stop posting on Facebook about how epic his next big show is gonna be?   Should you use social media to promote your shows? YES absolutely, but don’t count on it as the only method to get bodies through the door.

Get some flyers made up, print physical tickets and give everyone playing the show a stack. Follow up with each band member in each band to see how sales are going. Drop off posters at the bar, or if it’s out of town, send them in the mail and call them every evening (BEFORE DOORS) and talk to someone in charge. Be polite and be gentle, but make sure those posters are up at that bar.

The band with the dudes who are too busy to do this and are instead posting pics on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram of themselves getting blitzed, for their 8 girlfriends to see, is a fucking write off in my books.  There is an exception to this, if the band actually has their shit together or a strong team in place who does, then party hard Andrew WK style, it’s cool.
Remember that the booker or promoter will follow up. If they see a band that tried really hard to get the word out, they’ll give you another shot. They’ve been there and they got the tee-shirt and they know it isn’t easy so respect them, this is how they make a living. A little effort and getting your shit together can go a long way.

Be careful how you spend the little money that you have.  Don’t buy a $3000 custom 24 Paul Reid Smith when your 1984 GMC van is falling apart. That might be a cool guitar but it’s not gonna get you to the next gig. (more on this on a future post)

“The Music”
If you’ve been doing this for a number of years and you aren’t getting anywhere, then try mixing up your sound. We’ve all heard about that band that says “Our music is real man! We’re gonna keep it pure forever!, fuck everyone!”. Yeah that’s the best attitude to have (insert massive amount of sarcasm) and most people’s attitudes about this are “FUCK YOU TOO!”

I’m not telling you to intentionally start trying to mimic what’s successful etc, that will almost always fail. Just start listening to different music.  It’s reported that Jimi Hendrix used to pull around crates of Classical records when he was on tour.  In fact Jimi and Miles Davis were planning on working together before his untimely death.

Just keep listening to new stuff.  Listen to all of it, Jazz, Classical, Pop all of it!  Go a little crazy on some Bluegrass some Sunday morning or throw on the dirtiest B-side from some unknown Punk record you found in a bin at a flea market. You might be surprised how quickly you’ll find your new muse.

Darrell Shelley


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