When I think of some of the most creative promotional strategies I’ve seen from emerging bands, none of them include posting about their shows/music nonstop on social media, shoving their CD in my face as I walk by them at a festival, or otherwise trying to harass me into listening to their music. In fact, it’s the complete opposite.
The most effective promotional strategies are the ones where the audience feels an honest and natural kinship with what’s happening. They don’t feel pressured or sold to, and the effects are subtle yet long lasting. That is almost always due to your promotional strategies being aligned with your brand.
So how can you do the same thing? The truth is that some of the best ideas will come through your own experiences and specific branding strategies. But if you’re feeling stuck, take a look at some of these ideas and let us know what some of your favorites have been!
Create a scavenger hunt
I almost want to create a band just so I can do this. Doing this for an album release or some other special, one-of-a-kind show is ideal, but you could certainly use it for a regular one as well.
Here’s how it works. In anticipation of your upcoming show, create different merch bundles and ticket packs to hide around your city, then offer clues to find them on your social media. Riddles, obscure photos of the locations, anything to give your fans a hint without totally giving it away. Keep it small—-maybe 2 pairs of tickets and a few small merch bundles with things like stickers and CDs. You can run the scavenger hunt the week leading up to the show, hiding a new pack each day. Once the winners find your loot they’ll be able to snap a photo and share to social media with a hashtag you’ve created especially for the event. (And then you should share that photo!) This is such a fun way to do something different, create hype around an upcoming show/album, and engage with your fans in a completely new way. Someone please do one in Boston so I can participate!
Play a charity show
If you can find a cause that your band believes in, that aligns with your overall brand and messaging, get involved. An ideal way to do this would be to play a festival or charity show centered around the event that you care about. Not only is it a chance to get in front of new fans that likely never would have seen you, but it allows for incredible photo and video content to share on your socials to show that you aren’t just full of talk—-you’re actually taking action on the things you care about, and you can encourage your fans to do the same.
Become a sponsor
When I was at Launch Music Festival a few years ago, I realized as I was sitting in the panels that I was feeling pretty thirsty and yet, had forgotten to bring water. Lucky for me, I noticed tons of cases of free water just sitting on one of the tables, there for the taking. What I was expecting was to quench my thirst and move on with my day. What happened was much cooler.
As I grabbed myself a bottle, I noticed that where I normally see a label telling me the company’s name, instead was a band’s name (Glass Mansions) along with their set time at the festival!
THE BAND HAD SPONSORED THE WATER.
It stopped me completely in my tracks because, how clever. Here we are all devouring this free water and instead of just thinking nothing of it, we’re getting dose after dose of seeing this band’s name and set time over and over and over again. (and yes, I definitely caught their set because of it.) It was one of the most clever and innovative ways I’d seen a band promote themselves in a long time.
Sometimes, subtlety is key and in this case, I’d say it was brilliant. Now, you don’t have to sponsor water at a festival (but it’s a great idea), but something like this is a great, fairly low cost way for a band to have a presence outside their show that night. Get creative, think outside the box, and see what you can come up with to do the same.
Collaborate with other bands
One of the most tried and true ways to find new fans and shake things up with your own audience is to collaborate with another band. Typically this would be by doing a split EP where each band contributes (usually) 2 songs, thus appealing to one another’s existing fan bases, while finding new listeners, but it could also be through hopping on an existing show, or even honing your skills outside music. For instance, say you have incredible graphic design skills. You could offer to design the album art for another emerging band (you might even get paid for it!). It builds bonds and relationships within the industry, while exposing you to new people.
Get brand specific
As mentioned in the intro, one of the best things you can do when it comes to promoting your brand is to get hyper specific to your own values, ideals, and messages. This means brainstorming ideas that have everything to do with your brand and your brand alone, and then creating a strategy from them. This could be custom merch that speaks to who you are, a highly personalized show experience, or anything else that shows fans who you are and what you’re all about.