There was a time when all bands had to do was make music and the suits would take care of the rest. Now, thanks to the internet, that’s all gone. Boo, hiss, etc.
But hang on, the internet is great, right? It’s so good that you’re on it right now, clicking stuff, enriching your life. Oh, it may have thoroughly shafted the traditional music biz paradigm, but it has also give musicians – that’s you – everything you need to create and distribute music, find an audience and build a career.
But being Good At Internetting is harder than it looks – just ask your solo project’s long-neglected blog. So here’s a quick rundown of everything you and your band are getting horrifically, crushingly wrong online, with some thoughts on how change your ways…
1. You rushed it
You’ve just come out of your first rehearsal and you’re grinning from ear to ear. The band sounds great and you have never been more convinced of your own genius. It’s time to tell the world… except it’s not.
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and never has that been truer than now. What you put online stays online, and a set of enthusiastic yet fundamentally quite bad early demos will follow you around forever. Keep your powder dry and wait until you’ve found your feet as a band, then start getting out there. Your future selves will thank you.
2. You have no plan
Somebody once told us that planning prevents piss-poor performance. And while such obvious management-ese demands a swift kick to the groin, the terrifying fact of the matter is that it’s true. So before you spray your creativity all over the internet, do some research.
Look at how bands you like do things, and ask yourselves some basic questions: who’s going to run the Twitter account? Do you actually need a massive, multi-page website right out of the gate? Get a rough idea of how you want things to work and spend a little time thinking – it’ll make the doing a whole lot easier.
3. You’re spread betting
You have a Facebook profile, a Twitter account, a YouTube channel and a MySpace page. God help you, you’re even on Google+. Often, the first thing new bands do is set these accounts running, as if by doing so confirms their existence. And it’s fine to have all those social media accounts if you’re using them properly, but let’s face it, you aren’t.
So cut them loose and be free, and keep the one that the band does best and concentrate on doing it well. In the wise words of Ron Swanson, don’t half-ass two (or more) things; whole-ass one thing. One engaged, busy social media channel is infinitely preferable than half-a-dozen dead ones.
4. You aren’t thinking ‘brand’
Your aim with everything you do online is to make your band easy to find. Let’s use a blandly professional group as a case study: Coldplay. Google Coldplay and what do you see?. . . Follow their lead and use the same word – ideally your band’s wonderfully original name – as your handle across every platform.
Make sure you check your new band name is available on social media and as a domain name before you get 300 t-shirts printed. Think of yourself as a business (because you want to be part of the music industry, yes?) and apply the same logic. Build your band into a brand.
5. Your music. Where is it?
It’s all about the music, right? So where the hell is it, you moron? Let’s spell this out: you have one chance to showcase your obvious, towering talent to anyone who finds you online. If people don’t get to your music very, very quickly, they’re gone, never to return.
So make it easy to find: Soundcloud, Bandcamp, whatever you’re using to host your songs, they all have plugins and apps that will allow you to easily integrate players with your website and share links on social media. It never ceases to amaze us just how many bands get this wrong – don’t be one of them.
6. You don’t understand social media
The clue to understanding social media is very much in the name. You’re supposed to be social. What you are not supposed to be is a constant, uninterrupted barrage of self-promotion. Nobody likes that. The whole point is to engage.
So if people comment on your Facebook posts or @ you on Twitter, make sure you respond. Big up other bands you like, proactively follow people and make friends. Do it right and those online friends could soon become actual, real-life fans of your band, who come along to gigs and everything. Be human, play nice, and folk will welcome you with open arms.
7. You never update
Most of the internet is made up of dead social media accounts and stagnating blogs. Check out the web presence of artists that have broken through in the past few years and be staggered by the sheer amount of stuff they post.
Remember, the aim of the game is to build an audience, and these days that means communicating a lot. It can be hard work, but it can also be a lot of fun. Your creativity is your biggest asset here – experiment, try different things but most of all, keep going. Regular content is key, and if you post it, they will come.
8. You are impossible to contact
If, by some stroke of immense fortune, the internet gods smile on you and send an honest-to-goodness journalist/producer/celebrity who is willing to boost your feeble signal to a significant audience, then you need to be contactable.
Are you? Do you check direct messages? Do you have an email address attached to all your online homes? Does somebody actually maintain said email address? If not, you’re punching your potential career in the face. Trust us: if it’s difficult to find your contact details, people will quickly move on to somebody who is easier to get hold of.
9. Your design is just terrible
Design’s just mucking around with fonts and Photoshop, isn’t it? Well, no. It looks easy, but trust us: you can’t do it.
Unless you are a graphic designer, don’t design your own logos. Talk to somebody who knows a bit about photography before getting your mate to take a photo of you all stood in front of a wall. When you build a website, keep it clean and simple – consider using something like Squarespace so that you know everything will work and look good.
Think about the bands you like, and ruthlessly steal aesthetic ideas and inspiration. We all do it with our music and you should be able to apply that same canny thievery elsewhere.
10. You live in a digital bubble
The internet is one big connectivity tool where people talk to each other and build connections and find people just as weird – if not weirder – than themselves. If you aren’t talking to people, you’re missing a trick.
Build relationships with blogs and websites by interacting with them and showing you actually care about what they do, and not simply cold-calling them asking for coverage. People will be a thousand times more likely to share your stuff and talk up your band if you’ve made a tiny bit of effort getting to know them.
Ultimately, you want people sharing your content and linking back to your website and social media, pushing your band name up Google’s rankings, building you up into a digital behemoth. You can’t do that on your own, so get out there and get connecting, damn you.