Like a bird without a nest
Like a stranger in the night
My soul cries out for rest
And the end is not in sight
By The Amazing Rhythm Aces
from the album Too Stuffed to Jump
I have played this month’s song on about half a million Saturday nights during my decade long stint as a guitar player in a country cover band. “The End Is Not in Sight (The Cowboy Tune)” was released from the album Too Stuffed to Jump. The Amazing Rhythm Aces won a Grammy that year for Country Vocal Performance by a Group. The single reached #12 on the country chart and #42 on the pop chart. In addition, it was in the repertoire of every bar band in Texas for several years due to it’s cool guitar riff and great lyrics. It also gets to the point of this month’s column.
My new CD, But Wait, There’s More, is finished after more than a year of work and is finally in my hands. In the end, I’m pleased with the results, though as I write this I am still waiting to read the first review. So, I have yet to discover if the critics are pleased. Since I am totally absorbed with promotion of this new project, it seems appropriate to talk about it. Besides, with a new CD in your hand, it would seem like you are done, at the end of the road and finished. Sorry to tell you folks, but now is only the beginning. As the song says, the end is not in sight.
So, the work is done, the recording and mastering behind you. The artwork is complete, the proofs approved and the cases and cases of your new CD project are in your possession and stacked to the ceiling in your spare bedroom. You eagerly open a case and take out a box, opening it with almost reckless abandon. The moment is finally here as you rip off the shrink wrap, remove the disk and put it on the CD player. Ahhhhhhh, all the work is finally done, and it is time to relax. Well, hold on just a second. Certainly enjoy the moment, but relax? I don’t think so. You have thousands of pieces of merchandise that you would like to sell to recoup production, recording, graphic design and manufacturing costs. They are not gonna sell themselves, get reviewed, or get radio airplay without a huge effort, and guess who gets to do it? If not you, at the least someone you get to pay to do it. So let’s examine what comes next.
First, you need to get the word out. Hopefully, you have legions of fans ready to snap up a copy of this, your latest masterpiece. Or maybe not. You have given copies to your mom, best friends, everyone who played on or helped with the project, your most vocal fans and the odd person you just met who took a copy so you would stop talking about it. With that done, you have now successfully gotten rid of what? 50 CDs. I believe it is now time to knuckle down and strike while you still are buzzed by the project. Some things you should be doing now that you have a CD in your hands:
Take it to some places where it can be easily received by friends and fans. That would include local retail outlets and online venues like CD Baby, Amazon, iTunes, and My Texas Music to name a few. I would try to get as big a variety as possible so folks have every opportunity to acquire it in a way that is most convenient.
With a little distribution out there, you need to get a buzz started. Talk about it on Facebook, Reverbnation, SonicBids, SoundCloud, your website and to your email list. Put up a song or two at several locations so that it can be heard, and when you talk about it, share those links. Many people need to taste (hear) a product before buying.
Take a copy to your local genre appropriate radio station and arts publication so they can hear and play/review it. Suck up to these guys. Remember they can make or break you. Offer to do personal or on-air interviews. Play a freebie show or two for their remote spots. If it’s a public radio station, offer to help them during a pledge drive. Do anything you can to endear yourself to them and make them love you as a person. Then it will be easier for them to like you as an artist.
Seek genre specific pundits, reviewers and bloggers and send them a copy with a personal note thanking them for listening. Maybe they will review you, maybe they won’t, but they have to hear in order to review it. Be pro-active, no one is going to come begging.
Start up the old booking machine and book some shows. Make sure they are billed as a CD release. Make it an event. Bring some folks with you who played on the CD and send out press releases to the local papers. Tell everyone; invite your friends. Even get them in for free or at a discount if necessary. Nothing gets bigger notice than sold out or packed shows.
Make a couple of simple videos and put them up on YouTube or Vimeo. They can be simple, but use the songs you are promoting as a soundtrack. Then push them on all your lists, forums and social networks.
Find tie-ins for the CD or songs contained that might let you team up with a local charity. Advertise you are donating a portion of each sale; play at fundraisers. Do whatever it takes. This makes your potential audience instantly bigger.
If you have connections with bigger but similar acts, offer to tour with them as an opener. Help them sell and promote their product and in return you get yourself in front of a whole new audience. Plus, they are bigger than you for a reason. Listen, watch and learn.
Enter songs from your new CD in songwriting contests, if they are yours. If not, try to get the writer to enter them. If either of you gets recognition, then both of you do.
Talk it up to everyone you meet. Your barber, the cashier in the grocery store, anyone that will listen. Keep a couple of copies with you at all times. You never know who you might run into. Never, never, never be without business cards, CDs and one sheets.
Do at least one new thing every day to get the word out.
So, is that enough? Well probably not, but it is a really good start. Promotion is a never ending process and is also endlessly creative. Everything you do every day can be a tie in. If you are like me – a tiny insignificant member of the music industry – you have to stand out. I don’t have thousands of dollars to plow into promotion. I only have my time and energy, and I will try to use it most efficiently and effectively. You probably should too. Just remember that once that magic new CD is in your hand, this isn’t the end of the project but the real beginning. Besides, I love doing this and don’t want it to be over. So, I can honestly say I am happy, that the end is not in sight.
Talk to you next month.
As always, thanks for reading, and if you have comments, suggestions or criticisms about this or any of my columns, feel free to send them to me: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you ever simply get curious about what the heck this rambling old man does, then go to www.brownrandy.com/music. Listen to a few songs and let me know what you think.
Randy Brown is a singer/songwriter living in East Texas and has been involved with many sides of the music business over the years, from being a sideman, a sound man, touring songwriter, operator of a venue, and a recording studio owner/engineer. Promotion is not his strong suit, but it is a suit he must wear. If he wears it long enough, it even starts to fit a little