I can’t quite figure out why, but it seems like at least once a day I try to look up a musician to check out their touring schedule or to see if they have any new releases coming out, and either I can’t find a website for them or their website is incredibly out of date. Most recently I found a website of a certain guitarist who had his upcoming shows posted on his website – for 2009.
I understand that music is their craft – and not website management. But these days getting the word out is probably easier and quicker than it has ever been, and for whatever reason jazz musicians seem to struggle to understand this. So I have decided to offer up these five easy tips on how jazz musicians can better promote themselves and their music with very minimal time and effort using “modern” technology.
1. Build (or have built for you) an easy to find website.
People are impatient. No one wants to go on a hunt to track you down, so create a website with a URL that makes sense so you can be easy to find. If your band is called The Jazz Celery Sticks, then purchase www.jazzcelerysticks.com and get a website going. As you can see in the photo on the top of the page, the website for Herbie Hancock is easy to find, navigate, and is updated regularly. By the way, there are websites practically giving away URL’s, and other websites that show you how to easily build your own at a very minimal expense. This doesn’t have to cost you a lot and it doesn’t need to take up a ton of time to create or manage. Need some help getting started? It is definitely worth doing some research, but you can find some helpful information from PCmag.com by clicking here. It just needs to be something that can host your information and can be updated regularly. Speaking of which…
2. Update your website regularly!
A website for a jazz musician, or a musician of any genre for that matter, doesn’t do any good if the information on it is several years old.
A musician will spend several hours a day practicing, writing music, getting rehearsals together and booking clubs for their show. They will then spend several hours on planes, trains, buses and in cars traveling to these shows. They then play these shows, sometimes 5 or 6 days a week, sometimes until 1 AM in the morning. The only problem is that the room was half full because your website didn’t have your current shows listed.
Hours and hours of preparation, but the musicians didn’t take the 5 crucial minutes it would take to update their tour schedule. The same goes for updating information on new albums. I can’t get excited about the album that took a musician three years to complete if there is no evidence that it even exists.
3. Enough with MySpace
When people started leaving MySpace in droves for Facebook, I heard a lot of chatter (likely started by MySpace) that MySpace was transforming itself more specifically as “the place for musicians.” Nonsense.
Why on earth would you want to spend your limited free time promoting your band on a social networking site that only musicians use and visit?
Your time is valuable to you, so when it comes to social networking sites, create a band or musician page on Facebook. It is far more user-friendly, and, oh yeah, the whole freaking world uses it. You can post virtually any and all information and media you want to it, and you are maximizing the number of people that can become exposed to your craft. Google-plus and Tumblr are also great places to share video and easily expand your range.
Twitter is a simple resource that can be used in a very unique way for jazz musicians. I follow about 150 jazz related twitter handles and easily half of them are actively tweeting jazz musicians.
What a jazz musician posts on Twitter does not necessarily need to be an extension of their website (the fact that you have a show tonight in Poughkeepsie is helpful…if you happen to be in Poughkeepsie tonight. I tend to scroll right past the tweets that musicians put out about their show for the evening because it doesn’t have much appeal to the masses.
What Twitter does offer for a jazz musician is the opportunity to humanize themselves to their audience and interact with them.
One jazz musician who does a wonderful job on Twitter is bassist Christian McBride (@mcbridesworld). Not only is he regularly active on it, but in recent history I learned that Christian was exhausted from a 14-hour bus ride, his feelings on a Dianne Reeves CD, and his disappointment with the Philadelphia Eagles football team.
It not only shows that he is a real person, but he also interacts with his followers, allowing them to become attached to him more personally as a human rather than just a fine bassist. Your personality can be good for business, and you don’t have to use more than 140 characters to show it.
5. Let them SEE you play, not just HEAR you play
You are an amazing musician, and your albums are fantastic. But part of who you are as a musician is what you can do live on stage. For every 300 people that come and see you at a club and love what you do live, there are thousands and thousands that have no idea what an experience that is. So show them.
Video tape a live performance (not with the camcorder from the 80’s, but some sort of high-quality video camera), and post some live music videos. I think just about every musician agrees that there is something that can be done on stage that cannot be done in the recording studio. And while it is certainly not the same for a viewer to watch a video as it is to be live in the audience, it again allows them to at least experience in some way a more personal side of you. Keep in mind that even a video recorded on a cell phone is better than no video at all. Your viewers are going to be watching these on a computer, tablet, or cell phone…not in a large theater, so the exposure can be the most important element.
All of these tips can make you a more accessible, personal musician with minimal effort. You have put in all the work to become the musician you are … why not share it with as many people as you can?