With the sheer number of indie bands trying to get heard today, standing out from the crowd is a tall order. Here are some ways to get your band more recognition and gain new fans, some tried-and-true methods, others less conventional in their approach.
1. Creative merchandising. Don’t have just t-shirts, get creative with your merch. Sell branded items you don’t normally see from bands, things like guitar picks, refrigerator magnets, bottle koozies, the list can be endless. Create a visually pleasing merch box with lights that can be easily unfolded and set up at shows. Hire a graphic designer to create a logo that goes on everything you sell. People don’t always carry cash these days, so make sure you have a way to accept credit cards at gigs.
2. Videos. Make concept videos, along with live ones, and put them on a YouTube channel dedicated to your band. YouTube is the new radio, a place where people discover new music. By getting your songs/videos on YouTube you make it easier for people to discover your music and share it with others.
3. Allow, even encourage, taping and file sharing of your live shows. It worked for the Grateful Dead for decades, but it’s not a tactic for only hippie jam bands. Fans appreciate and support any band that allows this form of music sharing, so no need to be uptight about placing controls on your music being used for non-commercial sharing purposes like this.
4. Go busking. When was the last time you played in the street for passersby? If you’ve never done it, you should. Busking is not only a way to introduce your music to a whole new group of people who otherwise wouldn’t have discovered you, it’s also a great way to hone your performance skills.
5. Play at non-traditional venues. Don’t just book your band at clubs, coffeeshops and festivals. Play at the wedding apparel shop, the doggy day care center, the law firm office party. These kinds of gigs are also good networking opportunities. Seek out these non-traditional venues and offer your services for their next event, or barter with them.
6. Offer to do jingles for local businesses and non-profits that your band supports. The auto shop down the street may not have a budget to record a fancy jingle, but you have Pro Tools and they fixed your van for cheap last week. Record a jingle for
them. The local no-kill animal shelter may have a radio spot that needs background music. Come to their rescue!
7. Old-fashioned promotion. In the old days, before email and the internet became common, bands sent actual postcards and newsletters in the mail. Sure, it can get expensive, and you would have to ask for a mailing address when someone signs up for
your email list, but in this day and age you would definitely stand out. You could make it only for a short VIP list of fans who deserve special attention.
8. Personalized correspondence. Send handwritten thank you notes or personalized emails that don’t come off as a list-send to your most ardent fans. News of that sort of correspondence can spread like wildfire among an established fan base.
9. Take pictures from the stage of every crowd at every gig. Post the pics on a social networking site and let people tag themselves. Make a scrapbook board on Pinterest of the pics.
10. Be persistent when responding to bookers, agents, publishers, radio programmers, journalists and others inside the music business who can help you get where you want to go. These people are very busy and often need a reminder that you exist and are serious about your career. So many indie acts never follow up after a non-reply. Let them know, in the most non-annoying way, that you’re still here.