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Promoting Yourself

What you need to know

Across the UK, at any one time, tens of thousands of musical acts are trying to get noticed.

So how do you attract attention and win the coveted review or radio airplay? It is not just about how good your music is, it is often how you play the publicity game that can make or break your chances of successful exposure.

A press kit should fully reflect the unique quality of your work and reinforce the fact that your music is extraordinary and worth listening to. The three tools that will make the difference between getting noticed and being ignored are:

  • High quality recordings
  • Outstanding photos or artwork
  • A tightly-written, one-page biography detailing your background, gig and release history.

Once the press kit has been honed to perfection, then research the radio shows and journalists dealing with music that is similar to your own, as targeting a sympathetic ear is likely to reap larger rewards.

Every publication or radio station has its own editorial ethos, which may not be apparent from just reading or listening. If in doubt, make contact before sending your press kit.

Top tips to impress

A solid game plan will ensure your hard work earns greater coverage:

Get your act together

If you are only in first rehearsals, there’s no point trying to drum up publicity, unless you have a reputation to back up your current project, act or release.

Assemble your press kit

Put together a press kit that you are happy with. This should include a slick photo that reflects your musical genre, a great recording with your best music, and a punchy, entertaining biography.

Target publications

Read publications which review your genre — jazz, classical, dance, pop, etc. Target those that are most likely to cover your music. Research submission policy and reviews editors, and address the press kit specifically to them.

Research radio

Research local and national radio shows. Listen out for DJs who play new music. Research the submission procedure before sending in your material.

Set up web pages

Start up a well-designed website or social networking page that give a good visual preview of your music. Include strong photos, engaging info and a biography. A Twitter profile and Facebook page will help build a relationship with fans.

Work the web

Scour the internet for any potential web publicity, podcast opportunities, gig listing services and networking.

Review tactics

Listen to feedback you may receive from journalists or DJs. If you are getting the same negative message about your approach, rethink your press kit.

Express yourself

Your presentation is down to your own talent and personality - so do make sure that you exploit it!

Top promo tips

The very best techniques to help you get your musical message out to potential fans.

Promo pros Help promoters by defining your target audience for them so that they can bill you with similar acts.

Build a database This is full of your new best friends. Gather people’s names and contact details, at every gig you perform or via such social networking sites as Facebook and Twitter.

Design top flyers Ensure your flyers boast an eyecatching design and easy-to-read gig information. Carry on the visual theme for your next live date so that people will recognise you.

Distribute Send a physical copy of flyers by post or email to your fans two weeks before a gig. Then remember to send a reminder email two days before the event itself.

Get listed Get your performance into the listings sections of local and national media. Do not forget to include a press kit and, if applicable, tie-in a local interest angle.

Blag radio Try and get an unplugged session at local radio stations on the day of the show, or at least in the run up.

Post web updates Use the alert or events facilities of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to tell online friends about your gig.

Wage logo warfare Give out T-shirts, temporary tattoos, teabags, balloons — anything with your act’s name emblazoned on it.

Co-promotion

Traditionally, promoters handled the vast majority of promotion surrounding gigs. However, most artists are now involved with the promotion of their shows, especially on the grassroots live scene.

The MU believes that artists should be appropriately rewarded for the role that they play in promoting shows, as outlined in the Fair Play Guide.

Communicating with your fanbase

If you have a database of your fans’ contact details, send e-mails with details of upcoming shows. Keep the e-mails tidy, accurate and don’t send them too frequently as you may find that people unsubscribe.

You may also choose to include details of your social media pages in order to drive your fans to more interactive platforms.

Don’t be tempted to share your database of fans’ e-mail addresses with other artists or fans – not only will this annoy the recipients when they receive e-mails that they didn’t subscribe to, but it’s also a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Social media

Ideally you will have dedicated social media profiles for your music which you can use to communicate with your fanbase.  Although very useful for promoting yourself and your music, social media profiles can be time-consuming to maintain, so be prepared to  dedicate some time to them on a regular basis. If you’re in a band, you may all choose to have access to your pages, or you may nominate one member to take care of online activity.

  • Don’t assume that fans and friends will automatically find your social media profiles - list the profile names and handles on your website, blog and e-mail signature etc. 
  • Keep your platforms tidy so that gig info is easy to find and synchronise different platforms so that info is consistent.
  • Ensure that you reply to comments and questions across your pages, as fans will often want to know more details about releases and gigs or your music in general. You may also find that you get offered gigs and opportunities through social media.
  • Use your pages to share details of your gigs, shows and tours. You can create Facebook events and invite the fans of your page and friends. This also allows people to contribute comments and ask questions.
  • Use Twitter to send tweets highlighting gig details and including a photo of a poster and/or a link to further details and tickets. Include other artists that you’re playing with and also the venues within your tweets.  If you present the information accurately and clearly, you should find that fans, artists and venues share the details of your gigs, which will help to widen your reach and promote your shows.

Working with promoters and venue owners

When you’re negotiating a gig with a promoter, establish the level of promotion that they will do for the show and ensure that you support their efforts by sharing information across your own platforms. Make the promoter aware of your online profiles and pages and ask them to use the details in promotion relating to the show.

Whether your deal with a promoter is based upon a ticketing deal, a cash fee or another method of remuneration, promotion is important as it will help grow your fanbase and your future gig bookings.

If you’re added to the bill of a show that has already sold out, you may feel that promotion isn’t required. However, you can still communicate news to your fans that you’re playing at a sold out show and let them know who else is on the bill. Follow up with links to reviews and photos.

Promoting your own shows

If you’re promoting your own show by hiring a venue, you will need to promote the show extensively. However, you can still ask the in-house promoter or venue manager to get involved by sharing your info and including the gig in their listings etc.

The in-house promoter / venue manager may have their own local press contact list – ask for a copy of this in order that you can make contact with the relevant people directly. 

Physical promotional materials

A lot of promotion for live shows now takes place on line. However, flyers and posters can still help to promote shows, but they should only be produced if you have the means to distribute/display them. 
Where possible, posters and flyers should include details of multiple shows in order to keep costs down and promote your shows as widely and effectively as possible.

It’s useful to display posters in the venue/s that you are playing at in the run-up to shows, but it’s best to check that the promoters/venue owners will be happy to use your posters.

If you’re producing flyers, ensure that you have ample opportunities to put them to good use. If you’re intending to distribute them on the street, you will need to obtain permission/a licence from the relevant Local Authority (LA).

Due to environmental concerns surrounding litter,  some LA’s  are taking steps to limit the use of flyers, it’s worth taking the time to check with the LA on this issue. There will usually be a cost attached to this, as well as various stipulations which will be stated on the application form.

Press/Media

Many publications and online music/arts websites feature listings pages whereby you can submit details of your shows for inclusion. This is usually free, but you need to be aware of deadlines, as many national publications work many weeks, or even months, in advance.

You may also wish to use press contacts for reviewing purposes. Live reviews are now particularly common online, but becoming less so in print. A positive and well-written review can be useful when promoting future shows and can also be included within an Electronic Press Kit.

Creating your own mailing lists

Start your mailing list with the street and/or email addresses of friends and acquaintances, adding any local or national press journalists that you think would appreciate your act. At each gig, try and collect the details of the audience members who enjoy your show and, before too long, you will have a sizeable array of contacts.

Email lists are an efficient, cost-effective way of maintaining such contacts.

N.B. Spam email filters maintained by many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) block messages that are sent to over 30 people at a time, so it is a good idea to sort your list into alphabetical groups, which also helps to reduce email duplication, manage the data effectively and make sure you message gets through.

Making a database

Information is a valuable resource for promoting your work, and how you collect and manage it can help expand your profile enormously. It is vital to collect the contact details of your fans and make a database and keep them regularly updated with all your news.

You can do this either through a form on your website, or physically by getting someone to go out and harvest this information with a clipboard or an iPad at your gigs.

N.B. Do bear in mind though that you must be aware of the Data Protection Act. Any such data should be collected for a specific stated purpose, should not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose (six months is a reasonable duration unless otherwise instructed), must be stored in a safe, secure place, and wherever possible you should give those on your list the chance to opt out or unsubscribe if they so wish. In doing all this you are not only protecting the people on your list, but saving yourself from any potential Data Protection issues.

Paul Gray, MU Regional Officer

‘It’s really a case of thinking out of the box. I’ve had band T-shirts printed up and given them out to venues’ barmaids and sound engineers. And if they wear the T-shirt, people are going to ask them what the band is like. You never know who’s going to look you up.’

In the studio

Pete Thoms, MU Sessions Official:

1 “Your potential employer needs to have the confidence that you’ve been in a studio before, that you’ve played with other people and, ideally, that the product of those recordings has been released. There’s nothing more telling than being able to say, ‘I played on that record that you’ve heard on the radio’.”

2 'Session agencies are inundated with promotional material from musicians, so having a strong promotional package — the CV, the biography, the photos and the demos — makes a massive difference.'

3‘Not all music employers are impressed by slick promotional packaging, however, and the CV is by no means the first port of call. A personal recommendation from a trusted source can speak volumes about a player’s ability.’

The art of self-promotion

What if you are interested in studio sessions for pop bands, big bands and orchestras, but also for film scores, adverts, corporate events, cruise ship slots and musicals?

A polished promotional package will help you stand out from the crowd. This should present a concise view of what you and your music are all about. With the right CV, photographs and optional audio and video clip links, you will provide potential employers with the overall flavour of your musical talent and experience.

A CV is a snapshot of your musical career to date. Begin by stating your main instrument, any other instruments you play, and the genres in which you specialise. Next, compile a list of your best gigs and achievements.

This need not be chronological — you may want to highlight the most impressive gigs first. Keep information to the point, making it easy for potential employers to assess at a glance.

If you are after mainly live session work, do make this clear. If, however, you are seeking recording session work, it is important to flag up any studio experience you have had and also the people you have worked alongside.