Five Marketing Ploys That Bands Need To Quit Doing
Today, I received a Twitter message from Battlecross urging me to listen to their new single and pre-order their album. This is perhaps the fifth Twitter message I have received from the band since I started following them — there was the one I got when I followed them, the one I got when they revealed the album cover art, the one I got when they had 10% off select merch at their webstore… you get the idea.
I like Battlecross’ music — that’s why I follow them on Twitter — but every time they send me a Twitter message, I hate them. More importantly, I don’t read the messages, partly on principle. If you’re going to bombard my inbox with a ton of promo bullshit, I’ll quickly become desensitized to you. They become an annoyance — What, another Battlecross e-mail? What more do I have to know? — and I won’t read your promotional material, either because I’m irritated by your band or because I automatically imagine you’re going to tell me that your lead singer said he wears socks in an interview with yet another online radio show.
So many bands over-market these days, and it often does them more ill than good. The idea of “building one’s brand” and amassing a high number of followers results in bands wanting to post or send you everything. But these days, you’ve got to show some tact about it, or at least understand what it’s like to be a fan. Lose that and you’re fucked.
So here are some things that I’d urge you not to do on the promotional front. The running theme is “inundation,” but you’ll see that it comes in a number of forms:
1. Flooding my social media inboxes
If your band is on my social media radar, it means I’m already interested in what they’re doing, which means I’ll either a) check in with them every so often, or b) see their updates on my news feed. But if I’m already interested, why do I need a half-dozen e-mails saying the same stuff written in weirdo l33t speak so that it can fit 140 characters?
It’s especially bad when you take a familiar tone, using my fucking name and pretending to talk to me about the calendar. What are you, my drunk absentee father? Hey, there, Rhombus! How was your Memorial Day? Hope it was filled with fun and sun! Listen, I need fifty bucks.
You don’t know me. You’ve never met me. I’ll see you 0n my news feed. Stop writing to me.
2. Teaser trailers
There’s nothing more pathetic than a promo for a promo. A thirty-second YouTube video telling me there will be a YouTube announcement tomorrow is a surefire way to make me contemptuous of your art. Something’s coming! Tune in Friday! Fuck you. Go take a suppository.
When it comes to art, I don’t want a trail of M&Ms, I want a steak with all the fixins. I want you to drop a video, or piece of cover art, or new clothing line that wows me, that craters the metal scene around it. I want to see it, drink it in, sit there for a stunned moment, and then rabidly send it to my friends or post it online. If the thing you drop has been carefully hinted at for weeks, I think, Oh, right, that. You’re not Dethklok — you can’t wow me with a smattering of riffs. One big, cool, announcement is better than a bunch of little ones.
3. Counting down to your contest/promotion/crowdfunding campaign every fucking day.
ONLY TWELVE DAYS LEFT! Are you kidding me? Why the fuck would twelve be the number of days that officially throws me into a panic and sends me to your site to enter the promo code?
Once again, it’s all about tact. If you’re doing a countdown to something over the course of, say, a month, break it down in obvious increments:
- Announcement at start of countdown.
- Announcement with two weeks left.
- Announcement with one week left (you’re doing a variation on Zeno’s paradox at this point–halves)
- Announcement on day five (at the earliest)
With five days left, you can begin a daily countdown to really get the diehards stirred up into some last-minute participation. But if someone knows about the contest every day, they’ll assume that they always have time to take part in it, until they don’t, and you’ve fucked yourself.
4. Make every show into some legendary event of the season.
We all know when a show is awesome. It’s that mix of the right line-up, venue, weather, night of the week, and level of drunkenness. Those are the shows you should release footage of — those big free-for-alls that make a viewer mumble, “Oh shit, look at that” and check your tour listings.
Your half-filled Tuesday night eh-level concert at the Launchpad in Albuquerque isn’t the show to put your back into. Even if you felt like the band was tighter, louder, and more reliable than they’ve ever been, that footage rarely makes you look amazing. All people see is the space between the few attendees, and maybe that single fan going full bore in the entirely-empty area by the stage (not to insult those dudes — as a guy who’s played some horribly-attended shows, those maniacs make the night worthwhile — but they aren’t huge boons in live footage).
Go simple. Get on your social media and write a quick, Thanks, Culver City, last night was a blast! Tonight: Portland! Don’t try and fool me into thinking you FUCKING CRUSHED THE PLACE and then post footage of you playing to your mom, Dave’s sisters, and five other people.
5. Streaming your whole album too far out from its release
When you stream your entire album, the world can listen to it. The record is out there, officially or not. Sure, your loyal fanbase will probably still buy the CD or download it from iTunes, but if you’ve waited too long between the stream and the release, you risk losing the fan’s interest as they wait for the album to appear on Spotify, and therefore losing any impact your album’s official drop date might make.
Track premieres and streams are great and drum up a lot of hype, but honestly, if you’re going to stream your new record in its entirely and you’re not a notable band like, say, Lamb of God, I say do it the Friday before it comes out at the earliest. That way, your tunes will be fresh in the listener’s mind when you announce the release that Tuesday. But anything longer than a week is easily enough time for people to get so familiar with your record as to not give a shit when it “officially” comes out.
BONUS MERCH GRIPING: Jewelry
Okay, this one’s pretty random, I know. But it’s a personal pet peeve, and I just needed to include it, because I still see this shit at shows, and it still makes me shake my head.
Has anyone ever truly loved a pewter Cannibal Corpse pendant? Has anyone’s personal fairy tale involved the moment where the Princess lowers her head so that the Prince can slip a Psycroptic necklace onto her neck? There are exceptions, of course — certain images like Eddie or the War Pig are iconic enough on their own that rocking them on rings and chains is more about metal at large than band promotion — but in general, having your band logo as a necklace is lame in the first degree. Maybe in 2001, but for the love of God, not now.