Get offline and promote the old fashioned way

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While maintaining a steady web presence is a vital part of any musician’s promotional arsenal, you shouldn’t rely on it as the only way for fans to feel connected to your music. Make sure you’re not neglecting an equally important means of making an impact: real-life interaction with your audience. Opportunities to be face-to-face with your fans – most often at live shows – certainly aren’t going to be as frequent as your social networking communications, but this only serves to make them more special, giving you a chance to leave a lasting impression that you could never achieve online. But what can you do to make sure your audience remembers you after the gig is over? As usual, you’ve got to get crafty and make yourself stand out from the pack.

Portland band Dirty Mittens, when searching for a unique way to both ramp up fan interaction and say thanks to their loyal following, stumbled onto an idea that struck them as so simple they couldn’t believe they were the only band doing it: punch cards. “We’re making VIP punch cards, like you get at the coffee shop,” says singer/guitarist Chelsea Morrisey. “If you come to 5 shows and get us to punch your card each time, you can redeem the card for a super awesome prize. Basically whatever you want: a copy of our album when it’s released, drink beers with us at practice, a shirt, make-outs with any eligible band member, a free show, we come over and make you dinner, whatever.”

They had the cards designed by a friend and handed them out inside demo CDs they distributed for free at shows. They’ve found that not only does it encourage repeat visits to their shows, but it has also shown their fans that they appreciate them enough to give something back. “For the band, it’s our way of saying thanks to the people who come out to our shows and help make playing music something that we love to do,” says Morrisey.

You can check out the Dirty Mittens HERE.

Do you have a promotion idea to share?  Please leave it in the comment section below.

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  • Great idea, we had a local band in Cambridge, UK that did the same thing but they split up before anyone got their final punch. 🙁

  • p6

    The problem with all of this 'clever marketing ideas' is that they have never set well with me (as a musician). I just can not get over the feeling of taking advantage of people, for example offering some meaningless/arbitrary reward for fan loyalty (akin to whoring yourself out) doesn't sit well with me.

    I'm not saying it's NOT how it should be done, just I, and I guess many other non-traditional non-rockstar musicans would prefer the emphasis be on the creation and appreciation of the music, not building ourselves up as some kind of other worldly beings that have intrinsic qualities other humans would want to pay good money and time for.

    I guess an over inflated ego and a boat load of confidence goes a long way, but in this new post 2000's music 'industry' is the old way really going to cut it for much longer? Isn't it time we were all more honest with ourselves and our listeners and stopped dicking about pretending to be 'cool' and just got on and done the job. I suppose I just have too much respect for others that I can't ignorantly abuse their misguided obsession by raffling off a pint with me to the highest bidder. So much advice in the last 5 years to musicians is to 'stand out' and to literally sell yourself rather than your music, it makes me wonder why we got into it in the first place even though I admit it kinda has to be done to even compete let alone excel at selling music and becoming popular.

    Of course the record companies and the untouchable stars of yesterday did much the same, in more commercial / less personal ways – but rarely do I hear discussion about the importance of the song writing or emotional connection through the music. This music that will be still be here long after we have gone, that no live gig will ever make up for, no making out with band member X will ever replace. What exactly is the 'music industry' now and why are so many people still so desperate to do it for the feelings of admiration rather than the love of music?

    In a nutshell, it's degrading to musicians to have to continually 'gimmick' their way into people's hears, when the music should be reward enough to keep them coming back. With attention spans becomming shorter and listener's having less time for anything (combined with a complete overload of entertainment and information) I would suggest we all put the brakes on a little, pull back, crash the industry and start again from the songs upwards.

    Of course I know I'm a dreamer, an idealist and a non businessman which is probably why I turned to music in the first place, for the escapism and the love of it not for the financial or ego rewards.

  • This is really a great idea – especially for any performer/band that wants to grow their audience organically, through relationships and spending time in & amidst their audience. Of course, I would argue that if that's not the way you want to do it, you're in the wrong line of work…


    If you value your musicianship why cheapen it with a "car wash" type giveaway.
    I'm a professional singer; that should command appreciation and respect.

  • Dennis

    p6, i think the thing being encouraged here is Connection, not Gimmicking. you're so right about everyone getting back to working hard and stopping trying to be cool, but i think that with that honesty you're talking about could come an extra dose of Connection in this internet-heavy impersonal musical climate. the punch cards, as just an example of the things we can all do, are in my opinion a fun way to connect with fans and say "hey, we see you, and we're doing something fun to get you involved; will you get involved and come to 5 shows?" Sounds fun to me as a band and fan.

  • well said p6. often too many times today the *music* takes a back seat to theatrics and gimmicks. i am, however, still hopeful that genuine artistry and talent, free from pretense eventually rises above the noise of refrigerator buzz. are we the only ones left?

  • I've known a band that did this for free shirts. Which I think is a great match because free shirts to hardcore fans seems like a reasonable gift.

    Lately I've been noticing a decline in online interest among my friends, which I find interesting. Over the past ten years everyone has seemed to give too much attention to the internet & it's refreshing when there's a band that isn't cramming things down my throat in the same way as everyone else.

  • matthew

    what p6 wrote just smacks of 'fear of success' to me.

    If what you're doing is so worthwhile, why wouldn't you want lots of people to know about it, why wouldn't you want to be financially rewarded in a way that affords you time to get better at what you do, and why wouldn't you want to extend yourself past the stage (get out from behind your instrument) and actually care about the people who care enough to come to a show?

    Otherwise your relationship is not with an audience, it's just a gazing inward, a staring at your fretboard, a repetitive listening party with your own tracks. It's not all "about the music". The music, if it's actually music, is a telephone line between souls. If you're not listening, you're just an answering machine.

  • p6 i hear you!! id rather have one fan that connects with my music than 2 who are there through clever advertising.

  • I couldn't take a band serious if they did something like that.
    It is like when boys whip out a flyer from their back pocket…jeez
    I don't think anyone wants to "win a night hanging out with claire lodge"

    I don't think you will be well respected if you try crap like this…

  • I've seen a few other acts use this idea to good effect.

    As for the detractors… Do you want to make music or do you want as many people as possible to hear your music? If your aim is to just make music, do so. But people aren't going to magically find you because you're awesome. There is a ton of selling yourself in this business. But personality has always been the case.

    How many civilians know the name of Ludwig van Beethoven? Lots. How many could name one of his pieces. Way less. Personality has always been part of the performing arts.

    But again, if you don't want to be "a star", that's fine. Go into licensing or studio work or any of the other ways to make money in music. This post is obviously for the people who want their music to be heard by as many people as possible and to be connected with it. To each their own.

  • shellaustin

    P6 – you have it right and I couldn't agree with you more.

  • THANK YOU, p6 !!! Right on! I agree 100%

  • Wil

    You sell yourself in order to succeed.
    You go on a job interview; you're selling yourself to a potential employer.
    You go on a date; you're selling yourself to get that boyfriend or girlfriend. You want people to see/hear/experience your art they have to know it exists so you "sell" yourself.
    This isn't something that applies only to music. You may have written the perfect song, been the perfect candidate for a job, perfect match for a mate etc etc etc, but if you don't make yourself known you won't be noticed. You're not creating a gimmick as much as you are showing people that you would go nowhere if not for their support &/or loyalty. This seems to be a way, one of many, to say thanks.

  • Matthew thank you so much for your words. The whole point of making music public is so you can connect to the public! So true, and just what I needed to hear today.

  • Could not agree more, P6. The gist of this article–connect with your fans in person–is not to be made into yet another gimmicky marketing proposition. Yes, "the record companies and the untouchable stars of yesterday did much the same, in more commercial/less personal ways" but not some unknown indie band out who knows where. And that's what being wrongly encouraged. It probably explains why, recently, so many bands with initial success disappear almost immediately afterwards.

  • @ Phil Johnson

    I was unaware there was no middle ground between a "star" and those who just license their music and do studio work. So, if you don't care to be Beyonce you should do Mop and Glo jingles?

    This is the problem right here….jeez.

  • Dennis

    I appreciate all these thoughts, but I think it's important to recognize that at times we can all be guilty of feeling Entitled… as in, "I'm good enough, people will find my music, and I deserve success without the work." Unfortunately for our egos, that's not the way it works. Again, I think it's important to see these things (both for bands in their intention and as fans in our attention) as Connection, not as advertising. Good to talk about all this stuff though and hear all opinions.

  • Katie

    I had a similar idea while passing out VIP cards around town the other night promoting the coffee shop I work at. Keep in mind that music is a business and businesses need income and customers to survive, especially today when there are crazy amounts of competition. The industry is becoming over crowded and fans are on sensory overload. We can no longer just post a show on myspace, put up fliers and expect an audience to show up. As a promoter, I find that face time really engages people in the music especially when I show excitement for the band. Moral of the story, it's not the 1990s anymore where little Johnny rips a poster down for this great band he discovered at the local record store who's coming to play a show in the park…it's a cut throat business. You have to get out there and relay your message and put in a little more effort into not only gaining fans but retaining them too.

  • Wow,
    This is like a giant tug of war between those who desire to respect and protect the arts and those who desire for the fame and glory that the arts have attracted in the past.
    Well, unfortunately, the days of talent and creative songwriting pushing you to the top are over. Now its either about who you know, how much money you have behind you, or how much you are willing to sell out. The makers of CDBaby of course want us to sell ourselves on the street corner because that how they make their money (and how we scrounge for a crumbs). If you have hundreds of thousands of dollars however, you can open up for huge bands and get on the radio and get videos on MTV (That's a fact)… what the hell does everyone think is going on?
    I know bands, and I myself have been in one for years, that play over 200 shows a year and still barely make a living. Then there's Candy Pop bands that never even perform live and sell millions on Itunes. Isn't it obvious … just rob a bank, or steal some diamonds, or get some gangsters with millions of dollars behind you and you can buy your way to the top.
    That is how it works today.
    Who cares about talent anymore?
    I suppose just the talented ones.

    Oh and by the way @Phil Johnson — Beethoven lived hundreds of years ago .. that is no comparison to the present … and I don't think anyone remembers anything about his personality except that he went deaf.

    And @P6 … You are damn right, but noone's ever going to care how good you are unless you are willing to get naked and show your bold and beautiful self to the world.

    And @Matthew … He might be an answering machine, but you sound like one of the crooks. Of course its all about the music. Its because of people like you that music has turned all about the marketing.

    PS .. good luck Dirty Mittens .. I hope you get huge and open for Kings of Leon.

  • I love reading these articles, but it would be great to see someone in the music promotion world tackle something that no one seems to but a lot of artists encounter.

    I live in LA and am from NY, and it seems like in the "big" music market cities, playing shows does very little to grow a fan base until your fan base is big enough to grow itself.

    In other words, if you are an artist with a small following in a big city, it's incredibly difficult to grow that following beyond where it already is (aka whatever friends and family you can convince to come out on a Tuesday night to your show).

    Is it just me, or does no one in the big cities go to see live music unless they already know the band and its music inside and out?

    I agree that playing shows is probably the most important part of promoting an artist and connecting with fans, but I think in these big cities, the old adage of "play out as much as possible" not only doesn't help, but actually hurts because it spreads an already meager following even thinner.

    I feel like there has to be a point, though, that this changes based on the general draw you have. What do people think that is? If you can generally bring out 50 people, then your following will grow itself? 100? 200? I can tell you from experience, though, that it sure isn't 20!

    I used to live in Boston, and although that's still a big city, the music market was smaller and people still go to shows there because they are fans of live music or a particular genre in general, and they might not know the bands that are playing.

    In short, I know the only answer is to keep promoting, but the question is what is really effective and what's not worth the time?

  • Reality

    "I’m a professional singer; that should command appreciation and respect."

    Can anyone read this line and not fall over laughing?

    P6 – If you want to sit in your bedroom and pat yourself on the back, your idea is grand. But if you actually want people to HEAR your music, you have to put people in front of it. There's no invisible wave that delivers news to the rest of the world that P6 just wrote some bad ass piece of music. You can create the greatest sound ever made, but nobody will know if they don't know it exists.

    If a p6 plays a song in the forest, and nobody is there to hear it, did he/she really play it?

    Further, your statement implies that lifting a finger to bring people to your show means that your music is not good. Because, how would a person possibly have time to ask someone to come to their show if they're so busy writing the world's greatest song in their bathroom?

  • Cody

    Yo P6 and the rest of you, you're missing the point. The title of the article is “Get offline and promote the old fashioned way”. It's not stating that you should create a gimmick of sorts to give away free shit, but rather not be so dependent on the internet.

    For example: instead of blasting about your upcoming show via myspace, facebook, twitter, etc and relying on people to read your post – try going back to basics and make flyers that you can physically pass out to people and put in their hands.

    The punch card idea is just an example of doing something in a physical manner to reach out to fans instead of creating a virtual profile or persona on the internet.

    Music will always be about the songs and musicianship. If you are worried about gimmick bands taking over the world, other than KISS, you can be rest assured that your local Slipknot-esque band will be weeded out and non existent in the next few years.

  • I agree with p6's thoughts in core, but I recognize that not everyone is in music because they love it. For some people, it is indeed a social interaction and not much else, and as I sadly notice that many of my so-called peers care less and less about music and craft of music, I am surprised at the number of people I meet that actually *do* care…

    The punch card gimmick is just that, it's not a terrible idea to get people meeting your band and frequenting shows, but one of the things I'm learning as I watch my friend's band go through growing pains is that when you only have your one locale and you keep playing the same material, the shows mean less. When you cannot play venues suitable to the sort of people that listen to your music (for example, people with very young children can't watch your bar gig) the shows mean less.

    But how about taking the pessmistic decay of the "industry" and turning it into something positive? I am not so naive that I think my music is for everybody. My music is the stuff of introverts who rarely leave their homes and won't pay for a download, and are embarassed to wear T-Shirts, so my adjustment is simple- release a ton of music for free and play very few shows, so that the show is gauranteed to be an event- perhaps the only chance my audience will get to see a performance at all; then capture the performance so people know that your semi-annual gig doesn't suck. In the meantime, I like my day job just fine, thanks for not asking.

    If your audience likes going to bars every week and likes stickers and buttons, this plan is not for you.

  • In a market flooded with literally thousands of undiscovered artists vying for market share, it's impossible to set yourself apart without trying unique methods of connecting with fans (or potential fans).

    Also, in an economy where people have less disposable income, it's always nice to give good value and reward repeat customers….after all, friendly, caring, loving fans, are still ultimately customers of the music the artist sells. Even if a financial transaction doesn't take place, the listener is still invest their time to show up to a gig–buyer/seller relationship still exists.

    It is for this reason, as in any good business, that the artist attempt to have the best relationship with their customers (fans) as possible-offering a quality product, in good packaging, and having excellent customer service. If you are on CDBaby, you obviously have a desire to make money from your art. Don't short change your "marketing department" in the name of artist integrity. You still can write meaningful songs, be sincere, and offer fans a reason to remain connected to your business.

  • What p6 said definitely resonated with the part of me that got into music in the first place…I definitely have an "idealist" within. But those illusions have been getting shattered one by one by one over the years. I've actually written songs about the process of disillusionment/enlightenment.

    It's a very noisy world and there are lots of "good" musicians who appeal to different people with different ideas about what music they like. And a lot of that is simply based on their past conditioning.

    I'm not in a position to judge anyone for what they do or don't do to bring their music to the marketplace. If it works for them, then kudos. Like they say, there's music and there's the music business. One could choose to simply look at it as a game and have fun with the various marketing techniques. The game of making money with the music business!

    As for myself, I definitely have my own preferences and challenges. And it's been incredibly frustrating at times — especially with limited time and resources, etc. I've also been realizing more and more that it's actually about creating a lifestyle that's true for me and having a sense of personal freedom and abundance. I wouldn't want to be controlled by my business and never see my wife or kids either. We all have to figure it out for ourselves. It's good that there are different approaches. Some folks wanna get out and "rule the world"…all the power to ya'!

    And I love connecting with people in genuine ways…I'm a people person. That's what music is actually about for me…the connection. I think most people can tell when it's 100% genuine or just "technique." For me it's now a subtle combo of putting myself out there, but simply as I am…comfortable in my own skin.

    Best success to all with their musical projects, etc. 🙂

  • I can understand BOTH sides of the argument here.
    I'm very sympathetic to the view P6 has expressed.
    At the same time, I have to think any potential fan – bombarded by media in so many forms, is never more than a few mouse clicks, or arms-length I-pod on button, or car radio away from large quantities of truly great (& often free) music. Some of that music just can't be absorbed in a noisy, live setting, w/out a lyric sheet. In this age of 10-second American Idol style auditions, potential fans have been given a model for making snap judgments – maybe unfairly, but understandable as their attentions are precious. In the absence of an extended, cerebral introduction to what may be some excellent song craftsmanship – an artist is put into a position of trying to call attention to themselves – just to draw the listener in close enough to go that extra mile. Nick Drake died believing he had failed as a commercial musician, but folks who have discovered him know the truth. It's a goddamn shame SOMEBODY hadn't found a way to call more attention to what Nick was playing, is what I have to think of. The other problem here is that TOO often people don't even know what they like until somebody else tells them. Many of you probably saw the Washington Post magazine (staged experiment-based) article where Joshua Bell played in the subway station and was barely acknowledged. If maybe 3-4 open-mouthed listeners had been seen standing before the man, it certainly would have caused more to stop & notice. As it was, precious attentions were diverted to the more pressing commute, and many lost a rare chance to witness true instrumental greatness. My favorite part of the article was Joshua Bell's confession of self-doubts being triggered by the apathy. Should he have been handing out VIP punch cards? I don't think so. All this to illustrate that sometimes greatness isn't enough; there has to be a "gimmick" to get the music noticed. Last anecdote: I think I read that Brian Epstein PAID some girls to react w/ screams at the airport for that first flight over; I could be wrong.

  • lets prevail musicians, creatives and true artist. Lets prevail. I just went to Pink Berry and they gave me a "loyalty card" basically if I buy 10 frozen yogurts then I can get one free. I get this from my massage place as well. 5 massages get one free. This is a way to sell/market a product or service better. Does it work? Does it convey the message that it needs to convey for an artist. Only you would know with your own music and trial and error. But if it doesn't feel good or inspire you then don't do it. Me personally I think id ask Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobane, Michael Jackson, what they would think of this sort of behavior and they probably would say leave that up to the PR and Marketing guys who already lost there souls but if you have to DIY (do it yourself) practice your craft and be true to yourself. "Friends don't let friends give business cards with come back 5 times and I will give you a treat on them campaigns" To each is own though.

  • P6, It's really what you want out there. If you'd like an introspective audience, and you're a song craftsman, then you want a level of seriousness with your audience. But promotion should always be something you're comfortable with. On the other hand, if your a band of 20 year olds, playing party goth/rock or something wacky, a punch card would work nicely. There is a whole bunch of reasons to want to get in front of an audience, but the best one is…you just can't get away from it, it draws you like a fly to food….

  • David

    Matthew – I'm stealing your line – "If you’re not listening, you’re just an answering machine" – I agree completely – Its about connection to your fans – people hear what they see – so developing your brand and rewarding your fans with punch cards is just another way to GIVE back to them – being a musician means you are giving more than receiving. It makes sense in any other business – why wouldn't it here?

  • p6, you hit the nail on the head. Words like "fan" and "fan base" are misleading. I'm a musician cultivating an AUDIENCE. And most of these gimmicks are for the Pop/Rock star wannabes. Good promotion is a good idea, but remember what it is you're promoting. Music is an art and a craft, most of the ones most successful at this kind of promotion tend to be weak musicians. They should go into marketing where they're obviously better suited.

  • Looselips

    I've found that giving away matchbooks with our contact information and band logo on it is a cheap, but effective way to give people something to remember your band. 5,000 matchbooks will cost a little over $200 bucks, but it will pay off. Sometimes we hand them out before we play. It's a great conversation starter and a way to tell people to stick around and see your band. It also works as a business card for your fans, promoters, and booking reps., etc. Most people will see it laying around or use them outside of a show and it will intrigue them to come see one. It's also way less cheezy than a formal business card. Not to mention functional. Just thought I'd put that out there.
    Rocker Lips

  • I have an idea too. I go to a nice cosy cafe, take my guitar, clarinet, some CDs. Play a bunch of tunes. Accept a few beers. Chat with a few people. Sell a few CDs. Give out a few cards. Come home again.

    I like the idea though. The important thing is indeed to have a nice contact with people that like what you do. Whatever it takes …

  • It is refreshing to read this debate. It's something I'm struggling with right now as I release my second album. On the one hand, I just want the music to make its own statement, on the other, I've just put myself in a pile of debt to make this record (the days of the record company advance are at an end). And because I think the music is worthwhile, I want as many people to hear it as possible.

    I'm reading Jimi Hendrix's biography right now and it's been fascinating to read about just how much effort he put into not only his guitar playing, but also into the show. All the theatrics, playing with his teeth, setting fire to his guitar, all were designed to get people talking, give people a great night, and build his audience. This aspect had nothing to do with his music, but he was poor as shit, and needed people to buy his music and come to his shows for whatever reason, as well as dig it. I think everyone would accept that Hendrix was a great artist, but he also had to get it out there, same as everyone. The Beatles, Elvis, Bob Dylan. Anyone you can think of had to create a context so that people could actually hear where they were coming from musically.

    As for me, I've done a photo shoot in a rainforest dressed in full camouflage, I'm doing a tour of communities and eco-villages and playing shows on tiny islands of the coast of the Canadian mainland (as well as touring the UK), and I ran through the streets of Vancouver naked with ostrich feathers sticking out of my butt and posted it on Youtube! So check out my site, where you can stream the whole album and buy it for a pre-release discounted price!

    The CD comes with a 16 page booklet of writings too. And the dropcards are embedded with wild flower seeds – you can plant the cards when you've downloaded the album.


    PS OK so I made the naked video thing up. But the rest is true!

  • Matt

    P6, thank you for your comment! You said what needs to be said more often! It really makes me sad that especially musicians lost track of what it's all about.

    From my personal experience I can say: My band gains more and more true fans by SIMPLY BEING HONEST! There are many alternative and reliable promotional ideas but you will never find them on any website or blog. Because as soon as you start to follow, you are already behind. If you want to make your band stand out from the pack, start by not following every idea you read in the internet. Instead try to find your own ways that suit your band and your visions (and which possibly don’t ruin your reputation). People are not dumb. They see and feel when you are trying to sell them something.

    When I was a teenager I spent hours/days/years listening to bands I didn’t even know how they look like! They never gave me any punch cards and if they did it would ruin all the mystery.

  • I don't think being a businessman and being an artist are incompatible. It just requires more organization.

    The problem with music is that there is so much of it now that it's a problem just to get heard. Afterwards, people like what you do or they don't, and that's ok. But the real challenge is just to get heard. And not only that – you need to get heard enough for listeners to have the chance to get addicted to your music. One shot isn't enough. I've heard a lot of music that doesn't grab me the first time round, but has after a number of listens.

    If the idea of punchcards appeals to you, go for it. The more often people come back to listen to you, the more chance you have to make your music 'indispensable' to them. And maybe the enthusiasm of repeat comers will rub off on their friends and one or two or them will come along too. Nothing like the personal touch for making people feel INCLUDED.

  • dan

    If your music is good enough people will eventually take notice…with or without punch cards..If your music sucks punch cards will make you more popular for about 3 weeks then you'll disappear anyway!

  • P6
    While I enjoyed reading what you have to say and agree with you, we sometimes need to do things that go against the grain a little, in order to make a living.

  • isispaul

    As for p6 and others who knock the article, here's my take. Marketing and music go hand in hand and always has done. The Beatles offered fans tickets/ participation in their first film 'A hard days night'. Was that not doing the same thing and think about how big they became, dwarfing the possibility of any fan interaction other than thru' their monthly fan book. I wonder where p6 and co are now? Will they still be on the same old circuit they have probably been on for years and will continue to be on. There are 1000's of quality musicians (?) and great songs (?) out there but they only get recognised by interaction with the fans, creating street teams and more fans thru' them feeling part of any success. Sincere interaction is a major part of an artists 'success' at what ever level ythey aspire to.

  • arto

    p6 and Scott You are not alone – I have the same opinion.
    Since this started, musicians will soon offer its audience that they hand-wash laundry because of their loyalty.
    If my music can not achieve connectivity with the audience then it is time to think about opening some stores with groceries.

  • So true P6. The quality of music sucks nowadays. I want even go to a concert unless they produce quality music. To hell with the prizes. I work hard for my money. As a consumer, the quality of the music is definitely what I will pay for.

  • D

    Now see? I'm already a big fan of P6 and all he/she did was tell the truth! CDBaby is a great resource, but they were grabbing at straws with this one. Can't blame em, I guess…overpopulation, this wheezing beast called Capitalism, and a steady stream of info-overload three times larger than what our parents had to live with basically make it impossible to be honest and have artistic integrity without wallowing in obscurity. Oh, you'll get some flukes now and then, and I guess that is what we all hope for – a fluke combined with hard work – but it's not a given. Things will change, but how and when is anyone's guess.

  • Kevin @ CD Baby

    As Cody states above, many of you are missing the point of this article and why we wrote it in the first place. Don't get me wrong, there has been a great debate running in this thread, but not the point of the article.

    We talk to hundreds of artists by phone and email everyday at CD Baby. The number #1 question we get asked is, "How do I get my music noticed?" There is a disturbing trend among musicians and bands – It's become common for DIY artists to sit in front of a computer 24/7 trying to update Facebook, Twitter, and other web properties (which are very useful tools), and put zero effort and imagination into connecting with people in real world settings. While the internet can reach the whole world with little effort, nothing beats the impact you can have interacting with people face to face. The goal of this article is to highlight how a simple "real world" idea got a band tons of local press and built excitement with their fans.

    This was just one idea. Obviously not for everyone. Hopefully, it gets the wheels turning about how you're using the time you are face to face with real fans (and potential fans) in the real world.

    Kevin @ CD Baby

  • DZ

    Sorry, P6, your dreaming if you think the "music" is the be-all end-all of the business. MTV put an end to music as we know it 3 decades ago. Because of MTV the criteria for what made a song a hit changed from the American Bandstand mantra "It's got a catchy melody and a good beat." to "That song (video) has some really cool effects." The cooler the video, the bigger the hit. Music wasn't about the music anymore. Let's also look at LIVE music – take the band, Kiss, for example. Their music is quite simplistic, with an occasional decent "hook", and not much melody, harmony, or anything memorable. However, their costumes, explosive effects, over the top lighting, and voracity of performance made them a household name. It's all about the MARKETING. Gene Simmons is a genius when it comes to that. You may think your music is just fantastic, and maybe it is, but without marketing, nobody's going to hear it. I have been in the same band making a very good living for 45 years. We stumbled upon our "gimmick" in the early seventies, and have reaped the benefits since. Don't get me wrong, part of our "gimmick" is that we sound exceptionally good, and our show is tight and seriously rehearsed, with lots of audience interaction. Over the years we have done 10 albums, and have earned 2 gold records and a Grammy nomination, and the respect of our peers, but without marketing, none of that would have ever happened, no matter how good our music is. My father was in the music business for 30 years, as a club owner, record producer, and manager/agent for several well-known bands. He told me to always remember that "music business" is 2 words – 10% music, and 90% business, and I've never forgotten that. It's good to have a dream and to keep on dreaming it, but you might want to hire a publicist, just for fun.

  • Some of the comments in this thread are real jaw-droppers. I can't believe some people get so bent out of shape over some totally imaginary art vs. commerce "war" they'll react to punch cards as Phase One of some Evil Conspiracy to turn all artists into marketing carpetbaggers.

    It's just a fun way to encourage people to come to shows. Geez.

    I understand everyone prefers to be seen as artists first, but doing some DIY marketing for your art doesn't make you a sellout, and it certain doesn't mean your "whoring yourself out" (in P6's words).

  • everything you think you know about promoting is what hurts most people.. marketing, advertising, image based promotions is the most underfunded cut out part of why bands don't build a following ..I work for a band that is building fans online. Offline , and in different cities, playing with national acts …keep an open mind to these ideas and dabble with a variety of tools. Pause ideas that don't work an move on to finding the ones that perform the way you expect. Go back to those ideas modify your strategy an try again.. or just quit cause you have to put everything on it, all in when the doors open to gain chips…

  • to me it seems that p6 and others aren't arguing that if you don't have a good marketing strategy that you won't get noticed—that's abundantly clear—but that the music "business" being so much about business and who you know as antithetical to artistry. i think Kevin butting in on behalf of cd baby shows that many comments about cdbaby's real motivations were hitting a nerve.

    but the need to generate profits is simply a reality in our current system. someone above mentioned selling yourself, whether as an act, or on a date, or for a job. i think there is something certainly regrettable and demeaning about this dynamic. indeed, we must all prostitute ourselves to survive in a monetary system based on created scarcity and competition.

    i am part of a world-wide movement for social redesign called the zeitgeist movement. you can check out two free documentaries at

  • This debate is really timely for us – we've just been thinking about doing eactly this for our fans.

    I think @chunter and a few others touch on this, but imho what's critical in all of this is to deeply understand your audience. If they're sat at home listening to your music on a free radio station and are never likely to come out and see you, then, easy, it's all going to be about the music. If they're the kind of people who like coming to see a show, then give them a show – set off fireworks on stage, have a streaker in the audience, throw out packets of biscuits and tea bags from the stage – whatever you think stimulates that particular kind of audience. If they're the kind of people who want to connect with you on a personal level because of what they hear in your music (and you're happy to connect with them), then give them a chance at that opportunity, by chatting to them after gigs, doing 'live in your lounge' competitions. If they're the kind of people who are loyal fans and you want to let them know you recognise that and strengthen that bond, then hand out punch cards.

    What I'm trying to say is it all depends on understanding who your audience is (and who you want them to be). It's all about the audience, because without an audience, there's no point performing or publishing at all (and then it really can be all about the music). The trick is finding the balance between you enjoying what you do and making sure your audience are loving it too. The problem only comes if your audience don't share your outlook on how music should be delivered, so P6, if your audience love gimmicks and bells and whistles shows, then your outlook is doomed. If on the other hand, they're purists like you, then all's well.

    Fans over and over tell us (on facebook) how nice they find it that we connect with them. That's who they are and that's who we are – we like it to be personal. It works for us, but it might not work for you. Different strokes an' all that.

  • It is also important to keep in mind that your offline and online promotion strategies should be aligned, and work together cohesively. Make sure logos, flyers, merch, images, and branding is consistent throughout all your promotional channels, both online and offline!

  • This is a really helpful discussion. There is something to be said for all sides of the argument.
    The intent of audience interaction and loyal fan rewards is a good one but the specifics can be dodgy. I think the punch card idea is cheesy and feels a little desperate but in the right hands may produce some good results. Maybe a cover band playing bars at the shore…there's nothing wrong with that. But I would think that an original band or artist would be better served by the "matchbook" idea above. The premise being that IF you have created some good music and IF it resonates on a personal level with someone there, you then have given them as many easy ways to stay connected with you as possible.
    Keeping in mind that those are two really big "IF'S".

    That is why I personally look to give my music to whomever seeks it out. I just wish there were more accessable or cheaper ways to physically do that.
    Offering free downloads on line is one thing but we all know it's hard enough to steer traffic to a website and the quality is so distorted by that point, too.

    And yes there is buisness in music but , lets be honest, it is not the same as other buisnesses. Promoting a coffee shop or a Volvo or a dry cleaner is not the same as finding a "fan".
    It might be the same as finding a one time listener, but as many have already expressed here, that seems to be almost fruitless.

    Someone already hit it on the head when they were talking about how big acts are created. It takes a concerted marketing effort to make you feel like everyone else has heard of this artist and you are missing out on something great. It's that manufactured percieved value that has been proven to work on us time and time again and it's a big money game. We as DIY type artists these days just don't have a chance to compete with that.
    Your best opportunity is (in my opinion)

    1. Be prepared to support yourself
    -you will need well produced music and it's expensive, you won't sell enough of what you make to break even and there is noone out there looking to discover you.
    2. Look for real fans one at a time.
    -it sounds daunting but a real fan is someone who really wants to be a part of what you are doing. They will promote you to people youve never met and they will look for ways to buy things from you that you havent even thought to sell. they are worth 1000 followers or likers or button clickers.

    3. Live and Die on your talent.
    -if you are making music, let people have your music to hear. there isnt going to be significant radio play for us, people arent going to be buying our iTunes in droves. If you are good enough, your music will make it to those real fans. And those real fans will make other real fans and they will look to see you play live.

    I know that's not a great outlook but I think it's the best we've got right now. And look, the environment of the music buisness will change. Who knows maybe Vinyl becomes all the rage or tastes simply change but either way it goes I still beleive that talent will bear out.
    I invite everyone to visit my sites and download/listen all you want. If I suck, tell me so, if you like it let's compare notes (no pun intended)!

  • Kevin

    Kid Akimbo – I'm not sure why you think the thread would hit some sort of nerve and reveal a hidden agenda for CD Baby. I didn't want people to miss the point. Many artists have retreated to the internet and neglected actual human interaction. The band mentioned in the article did something cool that got people excited in a real world way. Since we love helping an encouraging artists, we thought we would pass that idea along. You're free to use it or leave it alone.

  • Dear Friends…
    I confess that I didn't read every response, but it seems that a whole lot of people don't want to SELL themselves like the world has made us think we need to do. My music and tai chi-qigong classes are sometimes offered free. I know lots of people have to think of every way to SELL, SELL, SELL as I once did. I put no one down. But what if we gave a hug and handshake to everyone in the room? What if we really appreciated them enough to hand them a card that says,
    "Bring three of your friends to our next show and get …. What? An MP3 Upload, or a …. WHAT do YOU want to give away?
    Just my thought, Blessings…

  • qnb

    I think it is very telling when an article is written about connecting with your fans receives such backlash. It is sad, and this type of "redemptive artistry" needs to stop! The world changes and so do people's preference on how they choose to spend their time when it comes to arts and entertainment. We all need to take an active role for the sake of Music as an artform and:
    -"Define" who we are as individual artists (our music and us as a person),
    -Find the people who believe in us and our art as much as we believe in ourselves and….
    -tell them where they can find us and keep them happy.

    Or, in other words, promote ourselves. Promotion does not have to be a gimmick; especially when you are promoting something that you believe in! Does the fact that when I click on a lot of your names that is goes straight to your photos, videos and music make me a victim of shameless promotion? Of course not. Or what about the fact that KID AKIMBO threw in an additional link to a documentary where I can purchase a DVD of it? Nope.

    I just find it amazing that, as musicians, we have no problem partaking in the process of sales, marketing and promotion as the targets, especially when it comes to where we choose to spend our time and money. But when it comes to promoting ourselves, a lot of us think it is selling out, or no one will listen…..etc. We must get over that if we are to survive as a form of entertainment. I mean, just go to youtube and look up Guitar Hero! People video them selves playing guitar hero and people go to youtube to watch it!

    With that said, if you want to know more about promoting your band visit www… kidding.

  • Quite right: know your audience AND yourself. Don't be David Cassidy enslaved to a Keith Partridge OR a Keith hobbled by David. Bottom line? If you're having fun at whatever, you've succeeded wildly. Who would want it otherwise? We do all die, folks. Even if our back catalogs live on, we'll still be dead. Fun and done or none and done. What'll it be?

  • OK, so some of you, like myself, are not too keen on the punchcard idea. But, inviting your fans to your reheasals is an excellent idea. We would regularly invite kids that hung out near the studio into our reheasals. We would ask them questions like, What did you think of that song? What do you think of the chorus? Which song would be the best to open with? etc. We regularly had 10-12 people at rehearsals. When we did our first show about 6 months later our fans were fully enthusiastic about it and invited everyone they new. We had about 150 people there!

  • kiden

    seomthing that comes out real strong in the dissenters in this debate is that there's been a big sell-out on the part of musicians. i don't think that's true – there are still many many musicians out there for whom it isn't about clever marketing, it still is all about the music. the thing is, by definition almost, we don't hear about those because it's not about being known by lots of people. if it's about fame, then that goes hand in hand with marketing. if it's about the music, then chances are, there's no fame involved. there's two types – musicians for whom it's all about the music (and we think have disappeared because they're not famous, but in fact they are still out there), and then the showmen and women who seek fame and play music too (which we're all made very aware of through clever marketing). think the world's big enough for both 🙂

  • This has been a really interesting exchange of views, thanks for starting it off!

    We are songwriters/performers "of a certain age" who use the internet for promotion when we can, but as our target audience is also "of a certain age", not all of them are computer savvy anyway. We have to use alternative means, such as editorial in magazines/newspapers or actually (radically) talking to people. It can't all be done on the internet, we want people to hear our stuff but don't want to lose the personal touch.

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  • Scourge441

    I see the points of both sides of the argument, and agree with parts of both sides.

    I agree mainly when p6 says that it should be about making music and not about building yourself into some deity whom the unworthy masses should bow down too. However, he's missing a few crucial points:

    1) The act of creating/performing the music is (or, at least should be) separate from the act of promoting/marketing it. You create music and perform it because you love doing it. What you do to promote your music does not diminish it's quality. Yes, there are those who make artistic compromises because they think it will sell, but that will relate to my next point:

    2) While musical quality is important, the fact is that there's a potential audience for pretty much everything. Whether it could be totally generic singer-songwriter stuff, it could be most disjointed avante-garde electronic music, it could be your drummer farting into a microphone for an hour. If you can record it, someone will listen to it and enjoy it. You're the one responsible for making sure the music you write is something you put effort into and enjoy.

    3) Most of the promotion tips you hear about are meant to put the musician on the fan's level, not putting them above the fans. If your fans think you're one of the guys instead of some untouchable idol, they're more likely to develop a personal attachment to your music and your band (or you, if you go solo).

    (Now, number 3 can also work in reverse if you REALLY blow up your image into something ridiculous. Lady Gaga is a good example of this. If any of you listen to metal, look up the Australian death metal band Portal for another example. You're replacing the personal connection with something completely out of this world and exotic that's too unreal to ignore. But if you're gonna go this route, you have to go all the way.)

    I'd also like to address the following bit:
    "In a nutshell, it’s degrading to musicians to have to continually ‘gimmick’ their way into people’s hears, when the music should be reward enough to keep them coming back. With attention spans becomming shorter and listener’s having less time for anything (combined with a complete overload of entertainment and information) I would suggest we all put the brakes on a little, pull back, crash the industry and start again from the songs upwards."

    The reason people's attention spans are shorter in regards to musical acts is because the musical acts aren't connecting. Yes, there should be a personal and emotional connection through music, but A) how can they connect to the music if they don't hear it, and B) what's stopping someone else from writing a different song to replace that person's connecting with your song?

    If there is a personal/emotional connection to the performer as well, then it gives the fan reason to keep coming back to his songs instead of someone else's. And those connections need to be built; they don't just happen.

  • I think the thing that shouldn't get lost here in all the comments is what I believe to be the point of the article – that real face-to-face connections matter and in fact are more important than just networking on social media. Social media is of course important and I would argue necessary in its own right, but it's the face-to-face connections (aka traditional grass roots marketing) that has the most value. That is ultimately the best way to build a fan base, at least the kind that will make it to your shows.

  • The recommendation I am giving always to all my students is more than all to study the music intensely… harmony is like the sea, and the instruments are small or larger islands, very delightful for the flowers and trees.

  • None of the comments here seemed to address the issue of music promotion in the real world for music on the internet. It's not selling out. It's promotion. Live acts have the advantage of promoting themselves and their CDs at live venues. Studio musicians like me cannot do anything! Many hucksters on the internet are getting rich by preying on artists like me with useless methods to promote on the internet. But after much research I have concluded that at this time there is no way for songwriters/studio musicians to effectively promote their music on the internet.

  • I'm sorry but it sounds lame, what happen to just personal autograph, instead of being hustled one more time!