Ariel Hyatt in London to deliver the best music marketing training there is, for one night only..

– Ian Clifford from Make it in Music

Ian put this better than anyone else in his tweet. And this advice is totally FREE to be delivered in person in a seminar by Ariel Hyatt herself in London on Tuesday 27th September 2011.

Rock Bands in London will be collaborating with Ariel Hyatt who runs Cyber PR based in New York. Much of the advice that is given out at our meet-up stems from Ariel Hyatt’s blogs, talks and her Sound Advice newsletters and videos.

Ariel has represented over 1500 musicians over 15 years and she is the leading expert in online marketing for musicians. We will be helping her host a meet-up for delegates of her evening seminar and this really is very exciting news for us!

So how can she help you? With the help of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and our all important mailing list my band has sold downloads, we have started selling t-shirts and have had people come down to our gigs.

My band followed her advice, which more recently is available in the form of her two books “Music Success in Nine Weeks” and “Musicians Roadmap to Facebook and Twitter”. Social media really works, and in ways that you never would have thought possible. At the heart of it there is no magic, it is just taking an interest in people and if you do it the right way in the cyber world, your interest in other people and the hard work you put in can really pay off. You will find that you are finally marketing to fans that are intersted in your music, in fact you will actually find who your fans are. Slowly you will see people take an interest in your songs and music related products. My band is still learning all this but everything she said is actually coming true for my band slowly. This stuff really does work!

And Ariel is coming to London to share this knowledge with you in person and she is doing this for no cost to you whatsoever. So register now for the evening talk via this link.

PRS House has limited capacity and you do need to book your place, so that as soon as possible before seats are reserverd. They will go very quickly, so go for it asap! And then join us for the meet-up after the talk.


Your friends are not your fans.

Your friends are not your fans.

and one more time…

Your friends are not your fans.

This had to be repeated 3 times because I didn’t know the difference between the two for a long time and many bands still don’t. When you are starting out as a band in London (or anywhere for that matter) you invite your circle of friends and family. And it’s really cool that your true friends support you by attending your gig. Your closest friends will keep supporting you in whatever you do forever. If you are lucky you will have at least one or two of these.

Fans at a rock gig

Fans at a rock gig

But a lot of bands make the mistake of constantly marketing their gigs to their friends. And then being dissapointed that their friends didn’t come to their gig. Of course they won’t, they can’t keep coming to your gigs because they are not fans of your music! Heck you are lucky if they are even into the same genre of music as you are.

Marketing to friends is understandable however because they are the first people on your mailing list or phone book. Some friends may indeed become fans, but that is only a small proportion. And the pressure in London is to bring 20 paying people to gigs. This isn’t easy so you start off with friends naturally. But that might actually be doing you more harm then good. Mostly because of the damage it does to your confidence whenever friends don’t show up to gigs.

So what to do instead? Ignore the 20 people requirement and figure out who really likes your music. Who is your real fan? What do they do for a living? What else do they listen to? How old are they? Where do they otherwise hang out? You will in fact have at least a few real fans who come to your gigs. So pay close attention to them and try and find more like those.

According to the article “How Well Do You Know Your Fans” by Johathan Ostrow fans can actually be subdivided into these categories:

  • Friend
  • Bandwagon Fan
  • Listener
  • Hobbyist
  • Committed
  • Superfan

For starters if your friends are into the same type of music as you are, go to the same gigs then you know how to start your targeting. Also other bands you meet are in that “more than a friend” category so you can invite them too with their permission.

So have a look at your mailing list and then categorise the people who come to your gigs or/and support you. You might find you are surprised. You do run a proper mailing list, don’t you? Anyway, I did this exercise and I actually ended up removing people from my band mailing list! I didn’t really want to bug some of my friends about constant gigs.

For more on this, check out these two articles:

How Well Do You Know Your Fans
10 Tips to Get Real Fans (not friends) to Shows

If there’s one thing musicians complain about most during our meet-ups it is that they are playing to empty rooms! Musicians love attention and being one myself don’t I know that feeling too well 🙂 However, I have never really found playing to empty venues much of an issue as I really love playing live anyway. So let me tell you a little story about my first gig with my current band and how I turned that gigging experience into something amazing.

The year was 2002, it was my band’s first gig ever and we had scored the BIG one. We were playing Imperial College’s Summer Ball. This is the biggest college event of the year and they had booked some big signed acts (including Cornershop) for the main stage and it’s attendance is around the 2000 students mark. Sure we weren’t going to play in that big stage with Cornershop and Mos Eisley, we were playing on a smaller stage inside a big hall somewhere else during the ball. Whenever we said we are playing the summer ball to friends and musicians, everyone was like “woah, that’s awesome man…I’ll check you out”.

Audience  watching a live gig

Value the people who come to your gigs

The reality turned out quite different…the small stage was run by a bunch of cowboys (well, students like us) and it ran horribly, horribly late. We were nervous as hell man, it was our first gig…we had worn some awesome rock ‘n roll clothes and we went out and had a good dinner for some band bonding. We couldn’t really enjoy the summer ball as we were so damn nervous but at least we had free entry to this ball and to calm our nerves we drank and drank some more. The party got louder, students were dancing and it peaked around 1am when a big band got everyone dancing and grooving like there’s no tomorrow. We were excited at the prospect of playing to all these people as last and therefore headline act. By 3am the place was dead though…and then as last band we went on stage. By that time the party was totally dead, most if not all students were going back home and there were at my counting 4 people in the audience left. They were all random drunk peeps and one friend who wanted to drink and party more ha ha!

And it sucked playing to an empty hall after all that big build up, on the plus side the massive amount of drinks and having just 4 peeps in the audience made us less nervous. This was not supposed to happen and our cover of Offpsring’s Self Esteem on the night was actually more about us losing our Self Esteem 😦

So in the next few months my friends asked (you know the ones who always say they will be at a gig but never actually show up but still like to ask for niceness sake “how did the gig go?”). I told them with a smile, “It was great man, we played the summer ball”. That’s all I needed to say….in my mind I just re-constructed the past as a massive success playing to hundreds of people and it was their loss to miss out.

The after effects were the most interesting part though. It was our first gig and I had planned well for it…I had someone film it and also got some photos taken. These were our first photos and video live on stage. I tactically then used the best photos to make a one page band website. It was 2002, long before YouTube so online video was out of the question. Instead I captured audio from the best songs on the night and put them up on our website. Viola! We now had a website with photos, audio and a gig portfolio in 2002. And before the age of social websites this effort was a major advantage and a plus to my PR efforts. As far as college press and students were concerned we were now a band that had played the big Summer Ball and had a sweet website to prove it. We scored gig after gig after that at college and I still clearly remember a hot girl musician type introducing me to a another girl at a party “Atul has a band and they played the Summer Ball” You can imagine the smile I had on my face 🙂

I have more stories of how other “empty gigs” led to more opportunies for the band, including one that had two Americans in the audience who suggested we play the SxSW festival, which we almost scored as well.

So here are some tips and lessons I have learnt about playing at empty venues:

  • What happens after a gig is sometimes more important than what happens at the gig. Think long term.
  • Respect the two people who are at the gig. No one owes their attention to you.
  • Give it your best to everyone who’s there, even if it is just the sound guy. Humans like me and you can sense crap vibes and energy. If you aren’t happy to be on stage, your audience knows and that’s not cool.
  • Being on stage is totally different to being in the practice room, if there is no one in the audience it is still not another rehearsal, it is a performance. Learn a lot by playing on stage, how to move on stage, how to deal with live sound and lots of other stuff.
  • The less people there are in the audience, the easier it is for them to approach you and vice shyness right 🙂 Better to build deeper connection with fewer people than shallower connection with loads. My best moments have been getting drunk with the 2 people after the gig.

Now, go out there play to bucket loads of empty rooms, give it all you got and enjoy every moment of it.

Useful Article

With such a wealth of information out there on the internet on how to promote and market your band it is often so easy to get lost in other people’s thoughts and opinions. Someone says your band should gig 4 times a week and some other expert says you should just gig once a month. Some people say you are not a true or real musician unless you tour and tweet about your tour and others have other ideas…The amount of advice out there is conflicting, bewildering and some times even depressing.

Every now and then it gets to me, because when “expert” advice is saying something that I am lacking in my band or the promotional aspect of it, I feel that weakness. And it happened to me last week…I was down for a bit as somehow I thought my band wasn’t a *real* band as we haven’t been gigging loads or touring outside London.

Luckily, a friend who I have met through this group is a session musician and has years of experience gave me some great honest advice and it really spoke out to me and struck me.

And so this is the whole point of this blog post 🙂

No one can ever really understand you, no one knows your thoughts fully, and in many ways no one really cares either. But and this is a big but, it’s ok as we are all alone at the end of the day yet connected to each other through our actions. And what that means is that you have to look inside yourself, see what makes you a musician who is excited about the stuff you do. What makes you unique and you you? And it doesn’t really matter that you are not living up to someone else’s standard of success…as long as you enjoy what you do that’s what really matters anyway, screw what the “expert” thinks! If you well and truly enjoy what you do others might find meaning in that and join you in whatever music you do. Feelings are infections 🙂 and whatever you do is very very *real* already.

And maybe you can find out what does in fact make you tick and make you so passionate about music and promoting your music/band etc., Once you find that out, amplify more of it, be an extreme version of yourself as Derek Sivers puts it so well. If you are a geeky rocker, go for the Weezer look, if you are dark and heavy, go the metal way like Marilyn Manson…all these people looked inside themselves and then expressed their persona outwards. And how to find that out in the first place? You can go to more open mic nights, or post videos on to YouTube, just play to friends in your lounge and of course play loads yourself to enjoy the feelings music gives you…just by doing that you will get closer to knowing what makes you tick.

I know this post is a bit wishy-washy and philosophical but what I am really trying to say is that whatever you are doing and wherever you have got so far is in itself an achievement and as tempting as it is, don’t compare yourself to others who are more “successful”. Just compare yourself to an older version of yourself who wasn’t even at the place where you are now. See how far you’ve gotten so far and then just build up, slowly but surely. That’s what the best artists have done anyway, they’ve all overcome their personal struggles within themselves first and then with the rest of the world. And indeed when the personal struggles are articulated and expressed in the form of music we recognise and connect to it.

In the words of The Police and their Message in a Bottle:

Walked out this morning, don’t believe what I saw
Hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore
Seems I’m not alone in being alone
Hundred billion castaways, looking for a home

Thanks to Facebook and the internet bad word spreads fast and so does good word. No longer is it possible to fool bands and then hope nobody finds out. It just doesn’t work that way anymore!

In one of my earlier posts I mentioned how the unsigned music scene in London works and that there are some venues that do a “pay to play” system. My band experienced pay to play via Emergenza in a sham Battle of the Bands contest and I sure learnt my lesson after that, never ever again to get sucked in. Being given tickets to sell first so that you raise enough cash in order for your band to play a gig is just plain wrong and unethical.

There’s also the “bring your audience” system that is the norm in London where you are expected to bring your own audience who pay for tickets to see you. This system is ok but not good when venues start threatening/banning bands when they can’t bring large enough audiences. My experience with the Bull and Gate was terrible at this. They banned my band from ever playing there again. And Monto seem to be getting a lot of bad feedback in the last two days as well. There was a “Put a Stop to the Monto Bands Ripping Off Culture Facebook group”. And then there is the more generic people against play to play group.

So it is important to have a list of venues/promoters/institutions to avoid. Here’s a list from my experience and feedback from others.

  • Surface Unsigned Festival
  • Emergenza Festival
  • Live and Unsigned
  • Monto
  • Bull and Gate

If you have any more to add to this just post a comment here with your experience and I can add to this list.

Having said all this you certainly cannot expect to bring no fans at all to a gig and then expect to play to fans of other bands. That’s not fair on the bands who have done all the promotion work themselves and built a fanbase. In some ways until you have done the hard work yourselves you will always “pay to play”. It’s just the form of this payment has to be ethical. There are promoters who rip off bands and bands who rip off promoters. It goes both ways. But fear not, this group is precisely there to help the good promoters and good bands find themselves and along the way learn about working together and figuring out how marketing and promotion works.

As for good promoters. There’s a list on the contacts part of this blog. Life’s not all that bad, good word spreads just as bad as bad word 😉

(Update 12 June 2011: The Anti Monto Facebook group got shut down by Facebook so that link has been removed)

Do you have an email newsletter mailing list? Or are you sending emails to everyone using the bcc: method?

If your answers were no and yes, then this is not good news my friend. Setting up an email newsletter should then be your number 1 priority in the world of electronic marketing. Not your website, facebook, myspace, twitter etc., but a dedicated email service run on a proper software platform, no matter how small your mailing list actually is.

You know the friend who only calls you up when they need something from you? Annoying isn’t it? If you only email your fans just before a gig then you are that person! And that’s not cool man.

The reason you need a newsletter mailing list instead of just a mailing list is that you need to connect with your fans and friends on a regular and consistent basis. You need to be in their hearts and minds and keep in touch. A proper mailing list platform helps you do that much more precisely than using bcc: on your email client. My band hasn’t gigged for 6 months yet I have been sending newsletters out at least once a month. In fact I split my band’s mailing list people into two types. “Fans” and “Friends”. Fans are into music, into what we as a band are doing. Friends are more like well wishers. Indeed if you look at the proper marketing funnel there are even more levels of fans. But for starters these two levels are good for what we are doing as a band at the moment.

So once you have a newsletter set up and have decided to send it on a certain date in the month you are committed to producing a nice email with updates on what you are up to in general. If you run out of ideas then just mention a story from your band or about someone. But definately be regular and consistent in your mail outs. And when the big gig comes…well, you’ve been in touch all that time so it will be so much easier to ask your fans to come to one.

The reason you need a dedicated software platform like FanBridge, Bandletter or Mailchimp is that these services personalise emails with your fan’s first name in the main body of the email, how cool is that! They also help you write HTML emails which are rich in photos and colours. Meaning your newsletter looks snazzy and professional. And more importantly they give your fans the options to opt out of your mailing list with just a single click. This is important as people need to be comfortable in opting out of your mailing list. And they can’t do that by telling you directly (your feeling will be hurt after all).

The subject of email marketing is a HUGE one and it is best to hear the experts on this. Infact the world’s best marketers are also the world’s best writers so it will take you a while to learn the art of newsletter writing, but you must make a start at this first. If you want more information start from this classic piece of writing from Ariel Hyatt of Cyper PR.

What successful Internet marketers know and what musician marketers don’t

So for god’s sake stop using bcc: or cc: on your email clients for this, go over to FanBridge, which is the platform my band uses and have a play with it. It is free as well for small mailing lists, total bonus!

What exactly is it like doing a gig in London as a small unsigned band? Are there some cool venues in London and do many people go to see these gigs? How do I get a gig in London?

Lots of questions for bands who would like to get started gigging in London. So what’s the scene really like? To answer that question first I will compare it to say gigging in a smaller town (dare I say Newcastle or Manchester!).

In Newcastle for example there are only a few “rock venues”; the most famous one being Trillians. You can go there to meet some like minded rock people and check out any unsigned band you want together. And because of this Trillians has a good “walk in crowd” that go there, buy drinks and watch bands play live. As a band if you are reasonably good, committed to your cause and gig regularly you can attract like minded “walk in” fans by playing here.

Lots of Venues but no Walk in Crowd

There are loads of venues playing live music night after night in London. There is absolutely no shortage of gigs to go to (and indeed play) in this vast city. There are thousands of bands based in London and the amount of talent out there is humbling to say the least. The great thing about this is that no matter what your niche or micro niche is, you will eventually find your type of music being played somewhere out there.

Another live gig somewhere in London

The downside of this is that there is no centralised rock or live music scene like you have in smaller cities. And so you don’t find a walk in crowd in most small live music venues in London. Indeed the only place I can think of that has a random walk in crowd is the Blues Bar in London.

Bring Your Own Audience

So if there is no walk in crowd then who is going to watch you?

The people you bring to your gig of course! This is pretty easy when you are starting out as a band as your friends and grandma are curious to what you look and sound like on stage and you can draw in a large crowd. In fact scoring your first gig is pretty easy if you just want to get started. Send in a demo of you playing live in your rehearsal room to show you are capable and that can cut it.

If you are looking to get paid, that is not easy. Typically for the first 20 paying fans (who pay £5 to enter the venue and see your band) you get no share of the money at all. But you do get a cut after that, so guest number 21 will earn you £1 and with that logic 30 guests will earn you £10. So if you have bought 30 guests to a gig you can buy the band a round of beers wahey!

After a few dozen gigs bringing audiences to gigs becomes harder. The typical gig consists of you bringing your own audience, the other bands bringing their own audiences. With the very worst promoters there is very little crossover in genre, one moment the funk band has loads of people cheering, the other moment the rock band is on stage and all the funk fans have dissipated. This factory cattle grid set-up means people come only to see their friend’s bands then leave straight out of the venue for cheaper drinks somewhere else. The bands you meet, the crowds they bring…it is all a random mish mash. Given that it is also too loud to actually talk to others, networking off other crowds makes it more difficult. Another reason why this group exists!

Did I mention that some venues actually ban you from playing at their venues again if you fail to bring a minimum quota of an audience? The Bull & Gate are one of these culprits that banned my band in 2006.

Pay to Play

Some promoters like Surface Unsigned and Emergenza commit the ultimate sin in the live music scene. They hand over the tickets for bands to sell in a Battle of the Bands type gig. This is essentially pay to play and no band should have to pay to go on stage. This is a terrible practice and you should avoid this one at all costs. Exactly how it works in detail is highlighted in this fantastic post called The Great Rock ‘n Roll Swindle.

Is there a scene anywhere then?

This random empty mish mash and lack of a scene is not the case everywhere. Indeed the lack of a scene represents London in general anyway, lots of people…very few personal connections….water water everywhere not a drop to drink as they say. But at University music socieities things are different, you already have a circle of musicians and bands. Students get to know these bands slowly and a sort of scene builds up with regulars attending. The same goes for open mic nights that I blogged about earlier.

So there you have it. London does have a huge music scene that is for sure and you could gig here loads. But if you do that, don’t expect audiences to be there for you automatically. Do everything you can to engage those who are actually paying attention to you on stage and for god’s sake get their email address on your mailing list if you’ve caught their attention!

Attention to your music is precious, don’t take it for granted. And that goes for gigging anywhere in the world, not just London.

And most of all…don’t forget to have fun 😉