Tuesday, November 12, 2013

unsolicited advice re: musicians' websites

OK... nobody asked for my opinion but that has never stopped me before.  I'm speaking here as one who books a venue (Cambridge Drive Concerts), not a fan looking at musicians' websites.  Some of the needs are very different so take that into account. 

As a booker, when I go to an artist's website, there are a number of things I look for and I want to be able to find them relatively easily. 

First, I want to be able to hear the artist's music.  It is better yet if I can actually hear their live sound rather than a CD they're selling (which tells me next to nothing about what they sound like live) and even better yet if I can watch a quality video of a live performance. 

Next I want a good, useable bio.  If it includes recommendations or reviews, they are worth more to me if they are related to live performances than to a CD.  And if you have quotes from venues that are similar to mine, even better yet.  Te whole thing doesn't need to be press ready, but if it is, I appreciate that.  One performer sent me a press kit with three different length bios... I loved it.  I didn't end up using any of them verbatim but took pieces from two and put together something that fit our requirements and seemed to reflect the performer's personality.

I want to know where the musician is based.  I hear lots of music on the web, have a feeling the person would be a good match for our venue, make a contact, only to discover they're based in Maine and never travel outside of New England.  You wouldn't believe how many websites don't even give a clue as to where the musician is based.  It would have been so much easier if somewhere the website might have said, "New England based" or "I spend 50% of my time driving cross country and perform everywhere."  Maybe even a "I'm currently putting together a west coast tour for next fall..." 

Last, I want to be able to find a good high rez photo to use for my press materials.  I can't tell you how many artist's websites have zero useable photos for press releases.  Yes, I can send an e-mail and ask for one and wait for it to be sent, but it is soooo much easier when I can just go to the website and download it.  And of course, there are those times when I forget to ask until a day before the press release needs to go out and there just isn't time and I end up using something inadequate that I pulled off the web somewhere.  As likely as not, that photo doesn't get included in the announcements in the media and maybe we lose a few audience members.

Once I've booked an act, I need a few other pieces.  What do you need from me for sound, ie how many microphones, inputs, DI's?  Do you have any food allergies or requirements?  We like to feed folk.  Any pet allergies if we're putting you up?  Where are you coming from and going to?  That helps with our plans.  Send me a CD a few months before your date.  It isn't just for me (although I've gotten a few of my favorite CD's from performers).  I'll play it at shows as people arrive and during intermission and inform the audience... "You're listening to John Doe who is performing here next month."  The high rez photo becomes more important here.  I need one, one way or another and I have to have it more than a month out as press releases go out before the 1st of the prior month.  And most important, give me your cell phone number and get mine as soon as we solidify a date.  It isn't likely we'll need to call one another, but if you're stuck on the 101 outside of Ventura because of a mud slide an hour before our scheduled soundcheck, I need to know.

One more piece of advice.  I love to get e-mails from performers looking for someplace to play and have connected with some wonderful folk that way.  More often than not though,  the sender has done no research and they are not the right artist for us.  I get e-mails from hip hop artists, alternative rock bands, you name it... and it is a waste of time and bandwidth.   Find out who we are and what we do before you make a contact.  FWIW, I usually book about 6 months out and do the fall in a block and then the winter/spring in a block.  We present once a month on the first Friday.

One of these days I'll give some more unsolicited advice about performing.


Bev Barnett said...

As a concert series promoter, I feel your pain. I've had an eBook project on the back burner for a long time that addresses a lot of this. But, as I've been told, you can't teach people who do not think they need to be taught.

When we were hosting house concerts, I contacted the well meaning person who was helping a nice, successful singer-songwriter that we both know, to get a short version of his very long bio that detailed his history in the music biz... I was told "no, there is no shorter version. That is his bio." Insert eye rolling here.

As a performer, the idea of the bio in three versions is one I've done for a long time, and encourage others to do as well in my consulting practice.

My philosophy is that your job (the musician) is to make my job (the promoter, the DJ or the fan) easier. Make it easy for the booker to book you... for the DJ to promote your music... for the fan to find you, love you, buy your music and attend your concerts.

It's surprisingly simple... yet so many just don't get it.

Michael Mahoney said...

I feel your pain bro. There are so many BAD artist's websites out there. And not even indies... signed, touring artists whose calenders are out of date, every link leads to a store, etc...

You're right, a good online EPK with bios and pictures. I love it when I see a copy of the rider before I talk to the booking agent, so I'm not wasting anyone's time with an artist who needs some huge backline or some insane hotel request.

Oh, and who you contact for licensing. I can't tell you how many times I had to go around with a very well-known Christian band to licence one of their songs for a recording. "Hey, I'm trying to give you money, guys!"

So, when's the post on bad church websites?