6 great tactics to connect with fans on the road

In this guest post, blues and rock musician Josh Urban shares the social media tactics he got from his recent railroad touring experience.

The greatest advantage of being an independent artist today is ironically also its biggest challenge: Anyone can jump in the game. So while the playing field may be level, it’s crowded. Access isn’t the issue – recognition is.

Here are 6 suggested tactics I’ve had success upping my game using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to go beyond music and build a fan base:

Josh used Amtrak to tour the East Coast.

1. Create an experience

Good music and showmanship are vital — but here’s a radical idea:  What if there’s even more that we can do?

Musicians have always been the ones bringing the coolest thing to town. If the traditional live show is already saturating the market, what else can we do to create an experience?  In my case, I decided to take a tour by train, harkening back to the blues musicians of old. I invited people to virtually “tour” with me using hashtags and social media.  I believe that everyone has a story, so I invited them all to share their worldview by using the hashtag #JURT (Josh Urban Rail Tour.)

“My stage became theirs as they posted text, photos, and ideas back to the tour, creating an exciting environment of inclusion, democracy, and conversation.”

At the end of the tour, I assembled all of the photos posted into a giant collage, a collaborative view of the world as we saw it.  The question is: what can you do to create a unique experience for your fans?  Ask yourself:  Do I have interests outside of music I can draw on? Is there a cause I care deeply about?  What else moves me?  

2. Involve people

For a long time, I forgot the first word of the phrase “social media.”  Unlike traditional media, social media allows conversation.  Engagement with fans turns them into friends.  People like to be heard, and to have others hear their opinions.  Check out the comments section of a news article, and you’ll find folks debating viewpoints — and the input has little or no outcome on the story.  It never seems to stop people, though!

So, instead of talking at people, I like to invite them to talk with me.  Since they’re doing it anyway, we might was well have a conversation.  The challenge: Give ’em something cool to talk about!  My tour turned into not just a journey, but a sharing of sights and ideas for everyone.  Plus, it made it a ton of fun!  How do I suggest involving people?  Which brings me to…

3. Make it easy

For me, I’ve never had much luck with asking people to remember things like “See this website on my CD?  Go to that later when you go home and sober up, then follow the link, and like my page.”  But  if I’m putting on a colorful show, people are probably going to snap a few Instagram shots of me.

On the rail tour, I told them that if they simply use the hashtag #JURT, they’d be part of a worldwide project.  I handed them a business card with the tour info on it and guess what – it worked great.  It was easy, and most importantly, they were doing it anyway.  I was able to throw a hashtag at them and get them to join in (and of course, follow them back on the networks!)

There are many other ways, but just remember: the simpler, the better.  I love hashtags, because you don’t have to know the person to interact, which is vital for building a fan base.

4. Their words, not mine 

People like to talk about stuff that involves them.  My new EP does not involve a stranger yet, so no matter how loudly I shout about it, they have little reason to listen to it, assuming they’ve never heard me play.  But, if they take a picture of me playing guitar and post it, now it’s in their worlds, and has something to do with them. This translates into interest, which turns into “Hey, I saw you in New York!  When’s your new EP coming out?”

“The more you get people to talk about your music in their own images and words, the better.”

5. Crossover appeal

By getting out of your comfort zone, you end up meeting people you would normally never meet. Future collabs anyone?

With the rail tour, I was able to interest not just fans of blues music, but also people who were intrigued with the idea, or who liked any aspect of it, such as traveling, trains, adventure, or stories.  It broadened my base, and made each conversation relevant to the project.

And believe me, I told everyone about it, meeting great connections accidentally! It also made it much more interesting to traditional media sources.  I was able to successfully pitch the tour to radio stations, newspapers, and even community television.  Another question to ask yourself:  Who else besides fans of your genre would enjoy knowing you?

6. Refine 

After every experiment, learn, refine and improve.  (Examples of things I learned: never try to eat a microwaved bagel, and give magazines plenty of lead time to meet their publishing deadlines.)

Remember to get busking permits ahead of time!

I’m looking forward to applying those lessons — and others — when I tour again this week, this time on my Search for Good Tour.  I’ll be touring by rail, playing children’s hospitals, street corners, cancer centers, and places that don’t have music.  I’ll be looking for the people, sights, and sounds that rock the world and I’ll be putting some good on the news for a change. (You’re invited to join me, of course!  Find some good, and post it with the #JURT hashtag!) I’ll be adding some other “cool factors,” such as bringing my home-built cigar box guitar and releasing an album on download cards in the form of a tour lanyard.

I’d like to end with six questions you can ask yourself:

  1. What can you do to create your own experience?
  2. How can you involve people?
  3. How can you make it easy for them to join in?
  4. How will they express it in their own words?
  5. Who else will this appeal to?
  6. What will you learn from the project?

I’d love to hear what you cook up!  Leave a comment below with your social media ideas and questions.

Josh Urban is currently recording an EP inspired by his first rail tour, and will be touring by rail again to support its release in May and June of 2013. He firmly believes all the world’s a stage, as shown on his Instagram feed. He can be reached via his website, Facebook, Twitter @DontJoshMe and Instagram @JoshUrban.

Kevin6 great tactics to connect with fans on the road
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ReverbNation band wins the 2013 Hard Rock Rising Global Battle of the Bands! Drum roll, please…

Over 12,000 bands entered for a chance
to win an opportunity of a lifetime.

Only one was left standing: The Carnabys survived three rounds of voting, battling it out on the live stage and securing thousands of votes online to make the Top 25 in Hard Rock Rising 2013 – THE global battle of the bands contest held by Hard Rock Cafe in exclusive partnership with ReverbNation.

Chosen as the grand-prize winner by a panel of music industry experts, The Carnabys secured a spot on the bill at the Hard Rock Calling festival in London as part of a WORLD TOUR. “This year we saw some really high-level competitors and with such an amazing prize on the line, the scoring process for all of us on the judging panel was more difficult than ever before,” said John Kirkpatrick, Hard Rock International’s Head of Music & Artist Relations.

“Ultimately it was The Carnabys who stood out because of their songwriting, musicianship and performance level. We look forward to welcoming them to our Hard Rock stages!”

In addition to sharing the stage with Bruce Springsteen, The Black Crowes, Zac Brown Band and Alabama Shakes, The Carnabys won tons of new band gear, earned the opportunity to make an album and video with Hard Rock Records, and are lined up to go on a World Tour with stops in amazing cities such as Sydney, Chicago, Tokyo, and Honolulu. Now that’s rock star treatment.

Let’s not forget about this year’s two runner ups: Bop Skizzum and Sunwill! With $10,000 worth of new band gear and their music exposed to new fans around the world, they’re certainly not going home empty-handed. Check ’em out here:

Bop Skizzum (Denver, Colorado)

 

Sunwill (Moscow, Russia)

 

A huge congratulations to these talented and well-deserving bands!

KevinReverbNation band wins the 2013 Hard Rock Rising Global Battle of the Bands! Drum roll, please…
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5 Tips for Preparing for Your Hip-Hop Mixtape Release

In this guest post, Kayla Calloway gives independent and up-and-coming hip-hop artists tips on how to effectively prepare a mixtape release.

Whether you are prepping for your first mixtape or this is your next go round, here are 5 tips for preparing for a successful mixtape release excerpted from “The Essential Guide to Hip-Hop Marketing & Publicity.” So in the words of Trinidad James “Lemme give you a checklist:”

1. Choose a DJ

When starting out, especially if it’s your first mixtape, choose a DJ who is on the come-up as well and who truly believes in your music. Or you can go the latest route used by emerging Atlanta hip-hop artist, Rich Homie Quan, and host your own mixtape.

2. Find a Studio

Find a studio that you are comfortable recording in, and once you have blocked time, make sure that you come prepared. Write your rhymes at home and be ready to go when you arrive to the studio.

3. Mix

Have your mixtape cleaned up and mixed by a professional engineer who knows what he is doing. Make sure that the sound is clear and crisp and that the sound levels are balanced throughout your mixtape.

4. Hire a Graphic Artist

When hiring a graphic artist for your mixtape cover, you need to make sure they understand your music and brand and that they can bring your ideas to life or that they can bring forth their own creative cover ideas that will represent you and your mixtape effectively. So, with that being said, here are three tips to consider when hiring a mixtape cover graphic artist:

  • Versatility: When selecting a graphic artist, make sure that they are versatile, creative, and have a range of design skills, because you want someone who can convey your individuality and the themes and messages of your music, not someone who has a one-size-fits-all approach to designing mixtape covers.
  • Track Record: Request to see work they’ve done in the past. Additionally, when you’re hiring for services, such as PR, marketing, or website design, check track records as well.
  • Professionalism: I know that the hip-hop industry can be a little casual, but business is business. Make sure you have a timeline for the work and ask that the graphic artist is being consistent with you and communicating effectively with you throughout the process.

5. Use Social Media to Gear Up for Your Mixtape Release

  • Engage: Follow other hip-hop artists, both up-and-coming and established, who have similar fan bases and followers. Additionally, follow DJs and other hip-hop influencers, such as hip-hop editors, bloggers, etc. Keep track of who’s mentioning you.
  • Get Fans to Promote for You: Constantly engage with your fans and include them on your journey. For example, you can ask fans for feedback regarding the title of your mixtape, which track to promote, mixtape cover art, etc. Join their conversations; don’t just always flood them with links pertaining to your music.
  • Plan: Plan a content strategy so you do not get distracted from the bottom line.

This list covers the basics. However, I would like to also mention the importance of working to build your fan base prior to releasing your mixtape. For more hip-hop marketing and publicity tips, visit kaylacalloway.com. Got any questions for me? Leave a comment below!

All the best with your mixtape release!

Kayla Calloway is a hip-hop enthusiast with over 5 years of PR experience, with specific concentrations in media relations and writing. Kayla has a strong rapport within the hip-hop editorial community and is the author of “The Essential Guide to Hip-Hop Marketing & Publicity”. She has secured media placements in XXL, The Source, Allhiphop.com, Creative Loafing, AJC and more. Kayla can be reached on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Kevin5 Tips for Preparing for Your Hip-Hop Mixtape Release
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VIDEO: Jed Carlson discusses promoting upcoming shows and more on Renman Live!

Haven’t seen Renman MB Live? Then you’re missing out on one of the music industry’s best kept secrets. Steve Rennie — AKA Renman — is the longtime manager of Incubus and a driving force behind the band’s multi-platinum commercial success.

Last year he launched a weekly live web show, Renman MB Live, to provide “insider access” to the music industry. His no-holds-barred feedback on what musicians are doing right – and wrong – is fueled by 30+ years of music industry contacts turned guests; producers, promoters, marketing execs, breaking and signed bands.

This week, our own Jed Carlson, President and Co-Founder of ReverbNation, joined in right after Seth Hurwitz, owner of the legendary 930 Club, and shared some true pearls of wisdom (and some colorful language!)

In the video below, Jed gives insights on promoting shows. He includes a quick demo of how artists can “poster the web” with the details on their upcoming show, targeting likely fan on the very day they’re set to play using Promote a Show (after all, 81% music venues say same-day concert marketing is critical to drive awareness).

Jed concludes with a quick tour of Music For Good — our innovative music download platform that connects artists, fans and 13 amazing charities. Check out this video and discover just how much good downloading music can do!

KevinVIDEO: Jed Carlson discusses promoting upcoming shows and more on Renman Live!
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STUDY: Most music venues sell at least 75% of tickets at the door

81% say same-day concert marketing is critical to drive awareness

We recently surveyed 470 music venues around the world and their answers revealed that the majority of music venues sell most of their tickets at the door through walk-up traffic. Over eighty percent described day-of-show marketing and promotion as ‘important’ to driving that attendance.

While this may not come as a surprise to touring artists working to pack a house, these statistics suggest that consumers have a lot of choice when it comes to things to do on a Saturday night. And that many of them may be making their decisions about whether to go to the basketball game, the movies, or the concert, on the day of the event.

“Day of show promotions can be critical and with many shows, pulling out all the stops then is key to a successful event.” — Tonya Cooke, The Roxy Theatre, West Hollywood

We asked some artists and venues exactly how they create awareness for their concerts on the day of the show and consolidated this checklist:

Q: Is there a way to “poster” the web?

 

A: Actually, there is!

It’s the latest innovation in our Promote a Show service and it essentially makes it a snap to digitally poster the Internet with details on your show.  It blankets potential concert-goers that live near the venue with online ads across virtually every website they might visit on that day – making them aware of the concert as an option for their evening plans.

 

Here’s how it works:

 

The ads blitz fans through repetition about the show — increasing the awareness and the probability that consumers will recall the concert and suggest it to friends.

“Promoting shows used to mean shipping posters to venues and hoping for the best. But with Promote It, we can reach 1,000’s of local fans online for the cost of a stack of posters!” — Blameshift

Artists and venues are becoming more sophisticated about same-day awareness and promotion, and we hope these ideas help. 

Ready to “poster the web” for one of your shows?

KevinSTUDY: Most music venues sell at least 75% of tickets at the door
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SXSW 2013: Through the eyes of independent bands

Delta Rae shares their excitement for being at SXSW through Vine, Twitter’s 6-second video app. It seems that bands are using Vine just as much as they’re tweeting!

Many, many incredible musicians are at South By Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival in Austin, TX, right now. Bands of all genres, ages and corners of the world.

Check out the SXSW social media diary of 4 amazing emerging bands!

Sure, there are plenty of big-time performers there (Dave Grohl, Snoop Lion, Paramore), but the artists we’re really interested in are the under-dogs, the emerging bands that  DIY’ed their way into gigs and music festivals like SXSW.

This is the day-by-day diary of a few of our favorite bands, as told by the bands themselves via social media! Tweets, Instagram pictures and Vines… head out to our >> Storify page << to see them all in one place.

The bands: Delta Rae (Americana from Durham, NC), Vinyl Thief (rock band from Nashville), Congo Sanchez (drummer of Thievery Corporation and See-I, from DC), and Andy Suzuki and The Method (acoustic pop from NYC).

Vinyl Thief (obviously in the wee hours of the morning): “Hey, hey, HEY! Serious time.”

Vinyl Thief goes bowling the minute they arrive in Austin, as shown by their first Vine of their SXSW trip.

Andy Suzuki and The Method ran into Jared Leto (of 30 Seconds to Mars) in Austin. No big deal.

Delta Rae plays in front of an awesome crowd at the Nikon Warner Sound stage!

There are plenty of other fun pics and videos on our Storify page! Check it out: http://storify.com/ReverbNation/sxsw-2013-through-the-eyes-of-independent-artists

KevinSXSW 2013: Through the eyes of independent bands
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How to Tour Without Losing Money

In this guest post, full-time DIY musician Ari Herstand gives you tips on how make a profit while touring. Ari has opened for artists such as Ben Folds, Cake, Joshua Radin, Matt Nathanson and Ron Pope. His songs have been featured on TV shows like One Tree Hill and various Showtime and MTV shows. His latest studio album debuted at #11 on iTunes singer/songwriter charts. He writes an independent music business advice blog, Ari’s Take.

I’ve played over 500 shows in 40 states. I’ve played every possible venue imaginable from arenas and theaters to living rooms and high schools. Every tour I go on is still a combination of all sized venues (well, not quite arenas as consistently as I’d like).

Once I quit working at Starbucks years ago, I made the decision that I would find a way to make a living with my skills and talents that didn’t include knowing the proper amount of foam on a caramel macchiatto. I hit the road and since then I have learned how to make every tour financially successful. Let me say that again. Every tour that I have ever done, after expenses, has been profitable.

It blows my mind that musicians tour and LOSE money. This is totally avoidable, but I hear many musicians just accept this as a reality of the road. Don’t. If you want to be a professional musician, you have to figure out how to actually make money with your music.
+Book Your Own Tour: A How-To Guide

Follow these tips on the 8 basics of touring. If you can think of anything else, leave me a comment below!

Booking shows

Every show needs a purpose for the tour. Too many bands think that at every show the CEO of Atlantic Records’ brother will be in the house and he’ll make one phone call and turn them into superstars. That doesn’t happen. So once you accept that this is a business and it’s a slow grow and not a quick dash to play in front of “the right people,” it will change your mentality on the purpose of your tours.
+Shows Sell, Events Sellout

The purpose of every show should either be (or a mix of):

a) To help fund the tour (and your lives)

b) To gain exposure and build a fanbase.

Every show I play I still put to this test. For the shows with the biggest amount of exposure (for merch sales), I’m willing to accept a smaller guarantee. The shows that won’t offer much for exposure, merch sales or career advancement, I need a much higher guarantee.

But don’t get into the trap of convincing yourself that every show you’ll sell hundreds in merch and DON’T take free shows from restaurants or friends of your parents promising a big crowd and “you can sell your merch.” This is a trap and it almost never is as worth it as you think it will be.
+Our Tour Page Is Totally Full (of Empty Shows)

Play house concerts! These are some of my most profitable shows. If you’re a singer/songwriter it’s much easier. The promo is done by the host and most of the people that come (even just 20) buy lots of merch. Charge the host a guarantee of about $350 (but ask them to charge their guests $15 and if 24 people come they get a free concert). Every tour I include a few of these.

House concerts or living room concerts can be very profitable.

Of course most of your shows will be a percentage of the door — so you need to promote each show in each town heavily!
+50 Is The Magic Number (Book A Headlining Tour)

Once you have a tour made up of a healthy balance of (more) money shows and (less) exposure shows then you are ready to begin.

Who to bring on tour

Only bring people on the road who are absolutely necessary for your operation to work while still making a profit. If you can’t afford a sound guy at this stage, well, then don’t bring one. Even if they agree to do it for free, it’s not free. You’re gonna have to feed them, lodge them and once they see all the money coming in from the door or merch they’ll make it uncomfortable enough where you’ll get guilted into throwing them something.

Selling merch

Learn more about >> 4 Reasons Fans Buy Your Merch <<

Merch is your #1 income generator on the road. Believe it. Some shows you’ll make next to nothing from the door, but hopefully you’ll be able to leverage those in the house to buy some merch.

Make sure you always have someone manning your merch table from when the doors open to when people leave. If you can’t afford to bring a merch person on the road find a friend in that city (post status on Twitter and Facebook to request help) to run the table in exchange for free entrance to the show (or even a small % of sales). It’s worth it.

Especially if you’re on a bill with multiple bands or are playing for hours, most people won’t stay until the end of your set. If they like what they hear (even after one song), but have to take off early and they want your CD, if no one is at the merch table to sell it to them, you just lost a sale. Get a credit card swiper (like Square – it’s free). I nearly doubled my sales with this.
+Double Your Income… No Really

Saving on gas

Gas can kill tours. Don’t tour in a larger vehicle than necessary and don’t pull a trailer unless ABSOLUTELY necessary. I know 5 piece bands that can fit all their gear and merch in the back of their van.

Or you can buy a super economical veggie oil bus and drive coast to coast on less than $100 like the rock band Blameshift:

Routing

The best way to save on gas is to make sure you’re not driving out of the way. No huge tour routing will ever be perfect, but keep the backtracking to a minimum (if ever).

Lodging

Don’t get hotels until you’re making serious money. And even then try Priceline “name your own price” (not getting a kickback but I SHOULD) — I get $45 4 star hotels that way. It’s a nice little mid-tour perk to get off of the beer stained couch for a night. Invest in an air mattress and sleeping bag so you can keep your lodging portable and all you’ll require is floorspace.

Blowing money

You must (as a band) make a decision early on if you want this project to be just for fun or for profession. If everyone is on the same page that you want to be a professional outfit then you must act like it.
+Double Your Income…No Really

Most venues will give you drink tickets. Don’t ever buy drinks at the bar you’re playing — it’s a waste of money and you don’t need it (BUT always tip your bartender on free drinks).

When you stop to fill up you don’t need the $2 bottle of water or soda. Those add up. Get a water bottle and fill that up.

Saving on food

If you’re out for awhile, go grocery shopping as a band. Buying in bulk obviously saves and if you bring a cooler along, you can spend more on ice and less on Subway.

The road is a mix of saving money and making money (as is life), but it’s magnified when you’re on tour. Always keep coming up with ways to make more money (merch combos, house shows, PLAY COLLEGES, better targeted promo to get more to show up). Don’t tour to just say you’re going on tour. Tour to grow your base WHILE making money.

If you’re still stuck and need more specific ways to get your tours to become even more profitable or want to embark on your big first tour, let’s Get Specific. 

And if you have questions or want to share your touring experience, leave us a comment below!

Ari can be reached on Twitter and Facebook, and you can find his music hereSign up on Ari’s Take Newsletter: http://aristake.com/signup.html

KevinHow to Tour Without Losing Money
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VIDEO: ReverbNation 2012 Year In Review

Thanks for making 2012 absolutely amazing!




2012 was a great year for us and for you, independent artists! This year, 2.5 million of you…

  • Topped 15 million in songs uploaded.
  • Logged more than 5 million shows.
  • Had over 1 billion monthly views on YouTube.

On top of that, ReverbNation…

  • Reached 1 million of Likes on Facebook and over 160,000 followers on Twitter.
  • Opened a new Twitter channel for finding @Gigs.
  • Hired 25 new employees.
  • Moved to a new office space.

We’ve got big plans for you in 2013! Stay tuned…
– The REVERBNATION Team

KevinVIDEO: ReverbNation 2012 Year In Review
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