Taking your band to the next level is not an easy task and unless you are an overnight YouTube sensation, it will take a lot of hard work and some sound advice to make the jump from the garage to the stage.
Attendees at a BIGSOUND Masterclass last month were able to glean some tips from entertainment industry professionals including Jacqui Walter, assistant director of sales for Stage and Screen Travel services; agent Rebecca Young from boutique agency, Collective Artists; and publicist Hayley Connelly, from Little Press in the UK.
Stage and Screen’s Jacqui Walter said that, ”Time proven methods like proper goal setting and being persistent are important, but the overwhelming message is to hone your craft and be the best at performing and song writing that you can." “There are however some specific considerations that young performers and groups need to get their head around so that they can make the leap to the next level.”
Some of the key take outs from the panel included:
What should the first steps be in securing your first show?
It’s important to reach out and talk to local bands that you might like to play with as a support act. You need to gauge that you’re going to have a complementary appeal and ensure that you’re aligning yourselves with people you want to play with. Get known with the managers of the local venues as they’re more likely to take a chance on someone they know. Probably the main advice is to rehearse, rehearse and rehearse! Make your performance as good and as polished as possible.
Is there still value in playing gigs as opposed to relying on YouTube?
It is possible for a band to be signed before they've ever played a gig because of platforms like YouTube, but playing to live audiences is still the best way to get some buzz going and build your following. Get something going in your community — word of mouth is invaluable. Touring is important from a broader press coverage point of view. Labels are considering investing in you and want to see potential for a return. Touring will help you refine your craft and playing live is one of the best ways to do this and showcase your energy.
When should you invest in a publicity campaign?
It’s worthwhile establishing relationships with the music press even if you don't have a publicist. All savvy young performers work hard on their social media channels. To go to the next level, and depending upon your budget, a dedicated music PR professional can make a big difference in getting you noticed by some influential music publications and sites. Timing can be everything and sometimes you can be lucky, but a concerted campaign with a well-connected publicist who can push your barrow can make all the difference — if cash flow allows.
What is the role of the manager and PR rep?
Start-up bands often will approach someone they know to be their first manager. It’s important for individuals within the group to contribute and work to their strengths depending upon their interests and skills. A manager will usually take over pitching to prospective venues, festivals and music labels and also can provide marketing and promotional support. An experienced agent can be worth their weight in gold, especially to wade through potential issues like exclusivity clauses for some festivals that may prevent you playing live for a period of time pre-and post the festival. An agent can help you weigh up these important considerations.
A PR representative can help build profile in influential circles through a campaign that can augment a band’s existing marketing efforts. Content is definitely king and the more interesting posts you can create, and by utilising video effectively, the better the engagement you will have.
How important is a photoshoot?
A decent photoshoot can make a great first impression and done correctly can set the right tone for your touring and other appearances. Make sure the photos are authentic and portray the image you want to project. Not only do fans respond and take notice but so too do possible venues and promoters. It’s possible to tell straight away what level a band is at by the quality of its photos and other promotional collateral.
Travel Management considerations
Don’t let travel and accommodation costs get out of hand and eat into your all-important cash reserves. Think about where you really need to play and what gear you can take with you. You will need to balance transportation costs and weigh those up with the costs of hiring on the road. For a group touring for the first time establish a budget and make sure you stick to it. If you can reduce costs by sharing transport and accommodation then those savings can be invested back in to future performances. An experienced entertainment travel agent like Stage and Screen can assist in streamlining travel requirements and assist if plans change on tour, or things go wrong.