Happy 2015 to my small band of readers. Hope all is well. This is a blog inspired by a Facebook group called ‘Things Local Bands Do’ and it makes you realise how much of the stuff posted there is actually real. Its pretty scary when you think about it.
I love Facebook. Okay, I’ll rephrase: I love the concept of Facebook, it’s that some people don’t use it for the specific things that Mr Zuckerberg had in mind when he first coded it. We’ve all seen those posts: “1 like=1 prayer”, “share if u fink dis is a discrace!” and so on, and so on, and so on. Great for keeping up with old friends you haven’t seen in ten years or those who live on the other side of the ocean (shout out to the Jam Session guys), not so good if all you see is the riff-raff that you stayed inside to avoid in the first place.
What Facebook (and other social media outlets) are great for is networking. Networking not just human beings but companies and business as well (If you consider your band to be a business or a company, which you should- You want people to hire you) and can help you interact with your fans, with studio owners, PR people and so on and so forth. More professional sites such as LinkedIn and even the new but as-of-yet unpopular site Yammer are also great places to network. Yammer is essentially Facebook, but only for businesses.
So where am I going with this? Social media has to be one of the three best things to come out of the twenty first century. The other two being Wispa Gold and the Dyson vacuum cleaner. But the problem is so many people are doing the whole band-on-Facebook-or-Myspace thing completely and utterly wrong. You can often tell the band that is desperate for that record deal from those who gig on a regular basis, are professional in their approach and are taking things seriously. And it’s because of the latter’s approach that they are getting the gigs, getting paid for those gigs and are able to make a living out of what they do.
One of the biggest mistakes some bands make is that they post far too often; and they’ll post about crap that isn’t relevant. Ideally, two to three posts structured over the course of the day are fine. But the more you keep on posting the more people are likely to head to your page and click ‘unlike’ or ‘unsubscribe’ because their Facebook news feeds or their Twitter feeds are being clogged up with stuff they’re just going to ignore, especially if you’re begging for likes or shares. Think of it as the social media alternative to nagging someone. I’m one of those people who is less likely to do something the more he is nagged- Think of it like the way Google+ tried to shove its unwanted dick down your throat. When you are about to go on tour (that’s an actual tour, and not four dates in three weeks) then by all means, encourage your audience to buy tickets or merchandise. But when you’re just getting started, don’t lose all your audience before you’ve even got one. Personally, as the guy who looks at your page I couldn’t give a fuck that you are working on something. Show me what you’ve already got, even if it is a short three second demo. It’s something.
The worst culprits are those who say “We’ve got something very special coming soon. Stay tuned.” If you have something, post it. If you don’t, then don’t. Not even the ‘superstars’ aren’t depriving their fans by waiting three years for the next album. “Stay tuned for tour dates!” No. Post them when you’ve got them. You’re not creating suspense, you’re turning people off. If you’ve got something going on, post some quality content to go with it: Instagram your sound check or studio sessions. Tweet from the studio, tweet from that dodgy service station on the M5. But don’t say “New album coming, stay tuned!”. People want content, they want it now. If you don’t have anything, they’ll just move on. If you must post in just text form, say something along the lines of “We’re planning a tour, where should we visit?” or “Hey, Shrewsbury! Would you like us to visit your lovely town on our next tour?” This not only creates discussion on your feeds, but also gives you an idea of where your audience actually is.
It should be obvious, but correct spelling and grammar is crucial to your social media dealings. I know that the use of shortened words and text speak is the ‘hip n’ happening’ thing to do these days but if you have bad spelling or grammar skills then don’t be the one in charge of the band’s social media business. If you want to be a professional, then act professional. Yes, fans will probably want a band that sticks two fingers up to the ‘rules’ but if you want any management, label or whatever to take you seriously then instead of “R U REDDY 2 B ROCKED 2NITE WULFERHAMPTON!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Say something like “Wolverhampton! We’re coming tonight! Who’s got their ticket?” One exclamation mark or question mark is enough. Speaking of going to a gig- Let people know about it AT LEAST three weeks in advance, and certainly don’t use the ‘going/not going’ bit of the event invite to gauge how many people are attending. Some might say ‘yes’ just to be polite.
Youtube is amazing. There’s no denying it that YouTube is more than just a video hosting site. Hundreds of people have made careers out of it and are making something along the lines of six figures a year and have gone on to bigger and better things beyond what they could ever have hoped to achieve. Danisnotonfire and AmazingPhil are vloggers who have their own BBC Radio 1 show; KSIOlajideBT travels the world visiting video game conferences and tours British university student unions playing FIFA; Zoella (a makeup and beauty vlogger- she ‘wrote’ a book, apparently) appeared with her brother and boyfriend on the latest Band Aid single and Michael Buckley (of What The Buck?) fame gets to attend fancy award shows and stuff. And then of course we have Boyce Avenue who are still the most viewed band on YouTube (of total YouTube hits) after Linkin Park. If you’ve never seen those guys live, do so. They’re brilliant. What they did was start out by doing covers. Their material still is mostly covers but they then used that to then write their own material, providing an alternative for their existing audience. Covers are a great way for people to find you, especially if you’re in a pop punk or metal band as people are always going to search for a metal or pop punk cover of the latest Taylor Swift track.
Now, using YouTube does come with a word of caution. Grainy, noisy live footage of your latest ‘messy gig’ that was recorded on an iPhone where most of the band is barely recognisable due to the shaking isn’t going to get you any subscribers whatsoever. A weekly band practice vlog (if you practice enough) can be a great way to interact as someone could bring up something and you can ask your audience what they make of it whilst discussing it as a group- Almost like a band podcast but the audience can see your faces. Same can go for studio sessions (if applicable): Take a video of the drummer tracking his parts and caption it with something along the lines of “Dave has added this new part to one of our new tracks- He makes it look easy!” The best YouTubers (And that is the correct term for them) post videos once or twice a week, so you should be fine. If you can’t stretch that far, then before you upload a video ask yourself if it’s going to be worth putting it up. An iPhone camera in this context can work or any HD video recording device. It will look like a quality job rather than a grainy mess that would be more at home in the Blair Witch Project. If you’re insistent on recording your rehearsals so people can get a demo of the latest track you’re working on, then invest in some microphones. Ideally ones that are better than the one on your phone.
And the best way to make use of these social media things is to allow each band member to access the Facebook account or the Twitter account or the Instagram page. That way, any band member can post on the move and it’s relevant to the band or to your fans then you can post. Instagram stuff like “Jeff here: I’m on the A151 with a flat tyre. Should I call the RAC like a wimp or should I try and fix the thing myself? I’m freezing!” Or, for if/when you do get enough exposure: “Holy crap! Just saw our EP reviewed in Total Guitar! Has anyone else seen this?” So on, and so forth. Make your band page more than just an update of your musical endeavours: Make it interactive and engage with your audience whether it’s what happened on last night’s episode of The Walking Dead, a funny sign you saw in the street or mentioning something that’s happened in the news lately. But do NOT use the news (for example the horrific shootings in Paris or the bombings in Nigeria), soldiers or clickbait as a way of drawing more ‘likes’ to your page.
Just a few tips from someone who sees this often enough. Hence the reason I follow very few local bands on the internet…
Oh, and take some better pictures of yourself… You look partially digested…
And try to avoid the word ‘official’ until you’ve got a significant following (read: National or international). No one is impersonating a band with four hundred fans on Twitter…