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GETTING THE WORD OUT – grassroots ideas to promote yourself and your music

Compiled from multiple sources on the internet, my experience, books, etc.

  1. Send out press releases frequently. The press need a story. Just releasing a CD is not a news item. Do you have an interesting story that will get their attention? What are the songs on your CD about? What’s the theme? What’s the message you are trying to communicate through your music?
  2. Website and online press kit – be sure to include press quality photos, schedule, bio, press releases, mp3s, gig pics, fan blog, re KEEP IT UPDATED!! MAKE IT WORTH THE VISIT. [Websites are a tool, not a means  it is useless if people don’t know it’s there.]
  3. Submit your schedule to every free listing everywhere you can no matter how obscure or far away. Compile a “listings” email list and bookmarks.
  4. College radio – Approach a local college or alternative radio station or community access cable TV station with a programming idea, like a live songwriter showcase. Other musicians will want to be a part of your show, and you’ll build an audience for your own music, and theirs.
  5. radio interviews (also give some complimentary tickets to this radio stations to give out)
  6. Give copies of your CD away to public radio and TV stations for their fund drive premiums.
  7. Upload a band video (Youtube, Revver, Metacafe, Google and many more)
  8. Organize, publicize, and perform at charity events for your favorite causes. Charity does wonders for publicity outreach. Find something you believe in and offer to play at their event or donate proceeds to their cause. Not only does it get you out there and give you a story angle, but it feels good to help out.
  9. Hook up with a not-for-profit and have a plug for them on your CD cover. It helps bring attention to a cause you believe in. It also makes you look like a good guy with public radio station program directors.
  10. Record a PSA using your music for a cause and send to radio stations.
  11. Connect with local film students / universities / independent filmmakers – they may use you as a project and you get a video out of it.
  12. Lead songwriting or performing workshops in the schools (these are usually paying gigs, and all the parents hear your name).
  13. Cross promotions with other businesses. Hitch a ride on the marketing of another company.
  14. Submit your music to satellite radio. They have several unsigned channels and are always looking for new music.
  15. Conferences – showcase, attend, learn
  16. e-mail list of fans. Keep them informed. Do an ezine.
  17. Use text messaging to communicate with your fans. You can do this for free from your computer with regular email – get permission from the person (incoming messages still incur the cost to the receiver), then get their cell number and company. The email address is their cell number @ the company specific extension ( Look up the part after the @ on the cell phone company website, or lists many. Create a separate text message address field in your database for your email lists to do mass texting. KEEP THE MESSAGES SHORT – 160 characters. If you don’t know the service, figures out which provider. 1,000 messages per month for free. You can also try:
  18. Follow-up! Every call and mailing sent deserves a follow up. Wait about 1-2 weeks.
  19. Online radio
  20. Music licensing Contact music supervisors on TV shows for a start. Send them an inquiry with your information and a link to your music. If you get placed, you can use it for press and it becomes a story!
  21. Send your CDs to magazines for your genre for reviews. Call ahead and find out the right contact, unsolicited packages get lost in the shuffle. Look up specific writers you feel would enjoy your music and find out how to reach them.
  22. Invite web visitors to print and distribute fliers for you. Can also ask fans to print coupons for discounts on recordings and admission fees.
  23. Hotel and Motel Promotions. Research hotels and motels in the areas that you are going to be touring and arrange with the appropriate lodgings to have free copies of your CD put on the pillow of the guests who are staying there. Or, instead of a CD, a Free Ticket to your show. You might lose the price of admission, but they might buy a CD.
  24. Farmer’s Markets – offer to play for free. Like having your own mini jazz fest.
  25. Gig sharing – you get the benefit of several bands promoting the gig as well as their fans sticking around for your music.
  26. Play as many shows as possible free and otherwise.
  27. Business Cards. Name of the band, contact info, email, website address, description of music / band. KEEP WITH YOU ALL THE TIME.
  28. Postcards. Not just for mailing – leave the around, hand them out.
  29. Flyers: Handbills or quartersheets are the best.
  30. Bag-stuffer. Many retail businesses stuff a flier or discount coupon into your bag along with your purchase. Offer to put the store’s message on one side and your message on the other. You pay for printing the whole thing.
  31. Sponsor an award or special ceremony. Is there a distinguished person in your community who you’d like to honor? Or is there an anniversary, special date in history or cause you’d like to recognize? If so, plan an event around that theme and make a party out of it.
  32. Sponsor a college or community radio show that features your style of music.
  33. Hand out flyers and a pair of tickets to bartenders in Irish pubs for a Celtic show or motorcycle shops for a heavy metal show. Try tattoo parlors, coffee shops, book and record stores, niche clothing stores.
  34. Hold a Contest related to your band or release. Example: guess the origin of your band-s name. To register, people go to local record store outlets, the radio station websites and your website and fill out an entry form. Clues on the band’s name are mailed weekly to radio stations and music press, creating even more of a buzz about the band. Or, Run contests for best posters designs, best videos for your band or homemade commercials for your club, best song remixes or mash-ups. Put a lot of finalists up on the web. Throw a party to announce the winner.
  35. Park a van or truck with a banner on the street across from a show by a similar act or venue.
  36. When you do get a review or feature story published in the press, make copies of it and send it to everyone on your industry contact list, including radio stations, other publications, nightclub owners, booking agents, A&R people. Include press clippings or quotes in mailings that go to your fans, too!
  37. Give Free stuff: Example: At one of our summer festival shows, we distributed free homemade Lemonade to the audience in 95-degree weather, as well as chilled cartons of the refreshment that had been donated by a local juice bottler for all of the industry types present.
  38. Gig at unexpected venues who will promote you to their clientele. Possibilities: art galleries, skate shops, hip clothing stores, leather shops, recreation centers, shopping malls, new age retailers, book stores, etc.
  39. Tie into an already existing event. contact the organizers of already established events and ask if you could help them add a musical element. If you can’t formally get connected to an existing event, consider presenting an unofficial party at a nearby location.
  40. Use eight postage stamps instead of one. Stand out in the junk mail clutter by using way more stamps than anyone else. Stick on several stamps that all add up to 42 cents. Who would fail to open a letter with eight stamps on it?
  41. Arrange for positive picketers to demonstrate in front of a nightclub or record store. gather a group of your supporters outside of an establishment, carrying signs that praise your band or new release. Especially helpful at conferences and areas of town with lots of clubs playing at the same time.
  42. brainstorm. Sit down with a bunch of friends and fans and try to come up with the most ludicrous idea. Think big. Something you probably could Never achieve. And keep writing the ideas down as they come. Open your mind up so you don’t limit yourself to any single idea.
  43. Connect with genre ezines catering to your style of music.
  44. Branding – Get your name out there. Make up some stickers, badges, posters, or anything else you can think of that include your band’s name. Then, leave the stuff anywhere you can. Pass them out at your favorite clubs, leave them on the record shop counter, poster the light posts – go for it. Soon, your name will be familiar to people even if they don’t know why, and when they see your name in the paper advertising an upcoming show, they’ll think “hey…I know that name, I wonder what that’s all about..”
  45. Hand stamp. Here’s a marketing idea from Corey Palmer of the band Monday Conspiracy. Like most club-playing musicians, his band gets booked at venues that stamp the hand of every patron who enters. Most bands don’t give this common ritual a second thought. But not Monday Conspiracy. “We had a stamp made that spells out our web site address,” Corey says. “Before every show, we ask the manager if he or she would mind using our stamp at the door. Most managers say yes, which results in the entire crowd being temporarily branded with our web address.” And the results? “We’ve seen our web traffic jump quite a bit since we started doing this. People are less likely to forget our address with it stamped on their hands.”
  46. Hand out “free” tickets or VIP passes to your next gig. Be sure to clue the door person in to the free admission if you are charging a cover.
  47. e-cards.
  48. Create a band internet radio.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket in one networking site. They are a great idea and worth doing, but they WILL each be replaced by the next popular destination and no one visits them all.

Other Resources:

  • Bob Baker
    Lots of info and books such as
    Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook: 201 Self-Promotion Ideas for Songwriters, Musicians and Bands
  • lots of great articles
  • Jay Levinson Guerrilla Marketing Attack.
  • How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet
    order or download from:
  • Has tons of books and info
  • Jeffrey Lant’s, “The Unabashed Self-Promoter’s Guide: What every man, woman, child and organization in America Needs to Know About Getting Ahead by Exploiting the Media”
  • James Gibson’s, “Getting Noticed: A Musician’s Guide to Publicity and Self-Promotion” (Writer’s Digest Books).

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