As a music writer, I get asked a lot of questions. Mostly things like, how much do you get paid (in cents not dollars), how can I do what you do (hustle your ass off and get comfortable sleeping in airports), or my personal pet hate “can you give me free tickets” to which the answer is usually always n-o. Aside from these top and unsolicited Q+A sessions, I receive a lot of emails from up and coming bands or artists asking for help and advice on ‘how to crack the business’ so to speak.
The short answer? There is no one way to crack the business, it will never ever be an easy ride to the top and once you get there you might not like what you find. But this is the case with any profession, especially a creative one.
I mean, I spend my days writing for a living, and this sense of madness is summed up by my favourite quote “what is writing but pursuing a case study in an impractical career” – Bill Hayes. But as a creative, it bleeds from your bones, and without it, you just wouldn’t be the person you are today. It’s never about a pure want, it’s always about a need to create things, for me anyway. With this in mind, here are some answers to some frequently asked questions from me to new or semi established artists. This is part one because it seems I have a lot to say on the matter, and what’s the point of having information if you’re not willing to share it. Also, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments below! (For writers, there will be another follow up piece just for you).
How do I promote my band?
Promotion is a really fickle business. It’s about timing, tenacity, and doing things in such a way that you don’t end up doing the metaphorical equivalent of shoving your music down everyone’s throat. The first and best way to promote your band is to play shows, play endless amounts of shows, keep playing shows until you can no longer play shows and then play some more shows just in case. Have things like a Facebook page, but one where someone is actually on top of keeping things up to date. A twitter page is often overlooked by many an artist but it’s probably my favourite way of communicating. Things are a lot more instantaneous on twitter and you get feedback in real time. It’s also a nonabrasive way of alerting key people to your music. Triple J presenters for one – if that is your goal, and other bands for another. Working with other bands not against them is also one of the best things you can do. It’s a community after all and it’s about helping one another. If you don’t have an Unearthed Profile, get on Unearthed immediately and do this.
Hiring someone to write you a proper press release is also a very good idea. (I say hire because do not except writers to work for free. That’s a non negotiable). You can easily make your band or outfit look much bigger, and much more established than you really are by going about your business this way. Also it looks like you have some pride in your work and that you’re taking yourself seriously. Contacting publications when you release a new single or an album, or you’re going on tour, all important things. But make your email stand out. If I’m getting an average of 45 press releases a day (on a slow day) then bigger publications are dealing with an endless influx. Get to know the writers that work for various publications, sometimes it really is who you know. On working with writers, if your bio says “3 dudes from Newy. We Make music…” maybe think about working with a writer to write your bio, or at least have a better crack at it than that.
I hate people, do I need to actually talk to people to get my stuff out there.
Networking is super super important. I cannot stress that enough. Even if you don’t want to call it networking because that word scares the hell out of you that’s fine, call it something else, but you still have to do it. It really is who you know in some instances. Networking and getting to know other people in the business (booking agents, writers, publicists, stage managers, sound guys, agents, venue owners) these are the people that make the decision as to whether you’re on a line up or not. They also decide whether to take a chance on a new local act or stick with someone who they know will bring a crowd. Bottom line, if they like you, they are more likely to book you, write about you, promote you etc. It’s just a fact. It’s the way we work as humans. You can do a whole bunch of it though through social media channels, the beauty of the internet. I don’t really care for the whole networking process myself, I prefer to write first, meet later, but it is so important that even I have to leave my house once in a while.
Top Examples of Local Legends (Ben Cooper, Spencer Scott, Dan Beazley, Bree Smith)
They didn’t even respond to my text/email/drunken rant at the pub after the gig so now I’m going to be rude an abrasive, is this a good idea?
Ok so maybe this wasn’t exactly a question I’ve been asked but more a situation I’ve been in. I’ve seen many an artist and band metaphorically set their career and themselves on fire purely because of impatience and just general rudeness. The first support act for an event that I was helping with demanded a rider, plus a double page spread in the publication I was working for at the time. The email was abrasive to the point where they felt as though they were entitled to such things, and if they weren’t given what they required they wouldn’t play. This is despite 1) Not being the headliner and 2) It was a free event. I dropped them from the line-up. Also, if you email/DM a music writer or a specific publication and they don’t get back to you straight away, do not (and I cannot stress this enough) send an angry rant email attempting to ‘educate’ this person on what it means to make good music, and also proceed to inform them that they don’t know how to do their job. Your email may just be one in the 100 they have received in the last hour. If you’re a total dick about it, I don’t care how good your music is, I won’t write about you.
Is Triple J Unearthed even a thing/is it worth it.
Yes. Yes it is. If you want to get played on Triple J, and this is the way you want to get your music out into the world (top tip it’s a great and successful way to do just that) then get an Unearthed Profile. Get to know the people who review music a lot, most of those people are called Super Users, they have a little S next to their name. They are super people. They are also the first point of call for any triple J presenter when they are looking for new tracks. It’s like a filter almost, these tracks usually float to the top and are listened to first and foremost. Get to know the programs and presenters that really feature Unearthed artists predominately and like to champion new artists/have the programming space to do so. Sure everyone might aim to chat to the man in charge aka the King, but the likes of Gen Fricker, Gemma Pike, Bridget Hustwaite, Nat Tencic, Max Quinn, Dom Alessio, Josh “Redbeard” Merriel, are all down right legends and you should take the time to see exactly why they are all down right legends.
So it turns out I have a lot to say on this particular topic, so stay tuned for a part 2 and possibly 3. Who knows.
If it's on in Newcastle, it's on Newcastle Live