Tech Tip:Guiding Your Music Career

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In the Trenches: Hands-On Artist Management
by Scott Curtis & Janet Johnson


Guerilla Promotion:


You just booked that fat gig. You are a hero again, or at least the band has stopped cursing you to your face. This is cool -- but wouldn't it be really nice to have this feeling all the time? The only way you can sustain your new status is by making this and every important gig as successful as possible. A successful gig on a limited (or nonexistent) budget is quite a magic trick, and it can only happen through smart, efficient promotion. Promoting a show is doing whatever it takes to put people in the seats. Some traditional tactics include radio and print advertising or feature stories, flyers, and posters. For regional acts with an established fanbase, newsletters, e-mail, web sites, and telephones are all important tools. There are a million ways to make people aware of your event, but if they are not receptive to your product, you are wasting your time and money. Define your target market and focus your efforts toward it: ask yourself if what you're doing is getting the biggest bang for your promotional buck. And remember, time is money when you are taking time away from a day job to get everything just right. Free press is sometimes just a phone call away. If you can make your event newsworthy in the eyes of the press, you've got it made. To get recognition from the news media, your event needs to have an impact on the community beyond just the event itself. One band we work with, Sixth Floor, was able to attract significant regional television and newspaper coverage because they were producing and hosting very successful all-ages shows drawing record crowds for an event of its type. The grass-roots aspects of the concerts obviously appealed to the regional mainstream and entertainment press, and allowed us to make each new show even more successful when we combined our free advertising with targeted promotional techniques.


A few examples of basic promotional techniques, some of which are pretty obvious, include:


1. Place posters and flyers in high-visibility locations where your target audience frequents. Use your imagination -- bathroom stalls are great places for an imaginative flyer. Make sure you're not violating any littering laws, and then paper the town. Check that your flyers are still up in a few days, and stick to the places that work. Also, distribute stacks of small, pocket-size flyers that list all your upcoming shows, retail outlets for your product, and contact information for the band.


2. Prepare monthly or pre-gig mailings and e-mail to your entire mailing list. E-mail is a highly effective way to stay in touch, so use it whenever you can. Hint: steal e-mail addresses from other bands, radio stations, or venues who send e-mail to you, but be sure to get approval from them first. You couldn't ask for a better source of potential fans: these are people who have similar interests and want to stay informed.


3. Begin a thorough telephone campaign a week or two prior to the gig. A personal phone call (especially from the band members) is the most effective way to draw people out to shows and maintain a great relationship with your fan base. Fans love to hear directly from the band--it is vital that you stay in touch with them, because they are ultimately financing your career.


4. Don't forget that other regional bands interested in working with you or playing the venue you've booked are prime target customers, and can really help your draw if you work together. The key to successful promotion is a group effort. Each member of the organization, especially the band, is responsible for promoting each gig, and everyone should assume his portion of the responsibility. The band members, management, and a couple friends can reach so many more people than just the management alone. Use your human resources effectively: divide up the work of promotion. The success of the gig is directly related to the amount of combined effort the organization puts into it. Don't believe it? Try it. Six people can hang six times more flyers than one, which might be seen by six times more people ... There is strength in numbers, especially in promotion. Despite your best efforts, many gigs will fail. Many variables (such as weather) which are beyond your control can affect a concert's draw. Make sure you know the difference between these varibles and honest mistakes. Learn from the mistakes and do not allow them to affect your outlook. As an artist manager, you must have total confidence and a positive attitude 100% of the time. Don't let problems grind things to a halt -- keep working, because success makes everyone happy (usually).


Scott Curtis and Janet Johnson are co-founders of Curtis Johnson Entertainment, an entertainment consulting and production company in Nashville, TN. Two current projects, the CJE Original Rock Series and the CJE Rock and Roll Revolution (All Ages Series), have garnered extensive regional media attention, as both projects are delivering high-caliber regional and national original rock acts to territories that were previously considered to be inaccessible to developing original rock acts.