Hi, my name is Lauren and I run Mills On Wheels PR. I represent d.i.y. punk bands. Through my years of writing for zines and doing publicity, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to help bands. I believe the music community and the ability to spread art should be a democratized collective. We’re all in this together. I’m here to go over some of the things I’ve learned. These tools can serve as a guide on ways to effectively promote music. Please take it with a grain of salt. Each band is different and you’ll have to find the approach that works best for you. If you’re interested in teaming up on a project, hit me up. Laurenmillsfla@gmail.com

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The Basics

This may seem like an obvious point to make, but the more effort you put into whatever it is that you do, the better off you’ll be. You can’t control how an audience will respond to your music and how far it will take you, but you can control what you put into it. Think of music and everything goes with it as a puzzle. Creating good music and performing your part should be your top priority. There are other aspects that matter such as visuals, networking and more, but they’ll all part of the puzzle. Don’t use being involved in the punk / independent scene to be lazy, unreliable or unkind. Everyone struggles to get by but you aren’t doing anyone any favors by not following through on promises or failing to put all of your heart into what you do and taking care of what needs to be done. The genre / community you’re in does not dictate what you put into something or how you treat others, you do. It’s your responsibility. I’m not saying be perfect, but always try your best. Don’t waste people’s time. I think some people use it as a defense mechanism. it’s a cover so when you fail, it makes it seem like it doesn’t fall back on you. Sometimes having pride in yourself is hard to do because not everyone is confident, but don’t get in your own way. I don’t mean to preach. It’s just a general observation I’ve had in this scene and I wish it would change.

Never start promoting a record before confirming a title, record label (or lack thereof) and a release date.

  • Create an outline for your promotional plan
  • Make sure the Bandcamp and Facebook art is the right size and looks good.
  • No label is going to release music that’s already out unless it’s a repress.
  • Make sure your music will be released on all formats at the same time, (Spotify, Youtube, Bandcamp, Itunes etc.)
  • Answer emails in a timely manner
  • Follow up on inquiries
  • Be kind and consider other points of view.
  • Practice your instruments and performances. Being the terrible, drunk opening band is so cliche
  • Carry small merch items to hand out so your name gets out there.
  • When communicating make sure you’re going through the proper channels. Most site staff are divided by editors, interviewers, photographers and reviews. Explore the sites and find the right person. You can usually find the info in the FAQ.

Your main goal when communicating on the band’s behalf or trying to get coverage is to keep things simple, but informative. Writers don’t have a lot of time to cover each band, so you want to spoon-feed them every bit of information they need. The more information they have to hunt down on the internet, the less likely it is that you will get covered. Plus, with the overcrowded music scene, it’s easy for fans to focus on another band. They are many elements to consider when promoting your band. I’m going to start with photos and music submission and go from there.

Submitting music to a label: When doing so, please include all of the info and a direct download to the songs. Also set up a private streaming link so labels to check out. A lot of labels will discard emails with just mp3s. I recommend using Haulix or uploading the whole album on a dummy Soundcloud account. Soundcloud private streams don’t work on mobile devices, so be careful that it’s mobile friendly.

Make sure you’re submitting the music through the right method. Sometimes they want an email and sometimes they require you to go through a form on their site. Scope it out.

When sending any band related emails Include a list of your releases, when they came out and what label they’re on. That way people know what music you’ve put out. For this example, I’ll use California punk act, The Shell Corporation.

List of releases:

2018 – Fucked La Escalera Records

2014 – Mandrake CD/ LP: Paper + Plastick Records/ Gunner Records / Solidarity Recordings

2013 – The Shell Corporation/Uncommonmenfrommars Reacharound tour 2013: ‎ Delete Your Favorite Records (Europe)

2012 – Time and Pressure EP CD: Solidarity Recordings

2012 – Split 7-inch with The Mighty Fine: Solidarity Recordings

2011 – Force Majeure CD / LP: Solidarity Recordings (US) Delete Your Favorite Records (Europe) Death To False Hope Records (Digital)

2011 – Bread & Circuses 7-inch: Self-Released (2011)

Videos:

Promotional Photos are needed in order for your band to get press coverage. I know a lot of musicians hate taking them because they think they’re cheesy, but they are imperative. Use high definition photos in your promotional materials so they can be resized without being distorted.

Your photos should not look like they were formerly on Geocities. You’re going to need both rectangular and square photographs so that you can accommodate various websites who have different formatting rules.

Photo albums on Facebook: Take advantage of Facebook’s option to create photo albums for your images. A smart thing to do is create separate folders for each kind of image. For example, an album for promotional band pictures, a folder for live pics, a folder for tour flyers and a miscellaneous folder. This way the appropriate image can be retrieved quickly by media members.

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Your photos should at least be 615 x 345 and 615 x 447. I suggest creating a new folder on your Facebook called Band Photos. This way they’re easily accessible to journalists and fans. There’s nothing worse than having to dig through an entire website to find two good photos for a news article or interview.  Make the original version of the photos  available for download via your official band website. That way, they are available to be easily, downloaded and used. Make sure when you’re sending an attachment email photo that the file size isn’t huge.

It’s important to credit the photographer. They put in the dedication and want credit for their work just as you do. You can credit them by simply including the name and a link back to their website, or by using a watermark. Photographers are often taken for granted, so being courteous will get you in their good graces. Most zines remove their names or do not care, but if you make an attempt, you’re doing the right thing.

Here are some examples of great promotional photos featuring PUP. I’m using them as an example because I am a huge fan of them as people and musicians, and their photos are pleasantly crisp and clean.

Cover Photos: The cover photo is the big banner that’s up top on your band’s Facebook. Make sure it looks nice and corresponds with your latest album or tour. I should be album to look up top and tell what the name of your latest album is or the tour dates you have coming up.Take this example from Winnipeg punk legends, Propagandhi. On the cover photo it lets me know that ‘Victory Lap’ is their latest album and it’s out now on Epitaph Records. It’s simple, easy to read and ties in with your music.

Examples:

Or if you’re a band on tour, take this example from Massachusetts punk veterans, A Wilhelm Scream. It lets us know when and where they’re on tour and who they’re with. It’s not cluttered and is easy to read. If you’re on tour, make sure you include the tour listing in the caption of the cover image.

Additional cover photo examples:

Here’s an example of a good cover photo by Cancer Bats. It’s nice because it has a band photo, their logo and the info on their latest album:

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Here’s another example from Seaway: It’s easy to read and lets people know when the album will be released.

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Facebook now allows videos to be in your cover photo section. It’s neat. Here’s an example of a band that has made one. Here’s how to do it.

Tour apps: included somewhere on your official page and included on a tour app for Facebook such as Bandsintown. This way fans don’t have to scroll through your entire feed to find the tour date information.

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This is how you properly write dates:

Sharptooth Tour Dates:

Oct 29 – Gainesville, FL – FEST 16

Nov 1 – Augusta, GA – The Iron Heights

Nov 2 – Apex, NC – The Lodge

Nov 4 – Howell, NJ – Loud Fest @ Game Changer World

Dec 15 – Worcester, MA – Palladium

Jan 16 – Detroit, MI – Magic Stick

Jan 17 – Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge

Jan 18 – Minneapolis, MN – Amsterdam Bar & Hall

Jan 19 – Lawrence, KS – The Granada

Jan 20 – Denver, CO – Summit

Jan 21 – Salt Lake City, UT – Metro Music Hall

Jan 23 – Boise, ID – Knitting Factory

Jan 24 – Seattle, WA – El Corazon

Jan 25 – Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theater

Jan 26 – San Francisco, CA – Slim’s

Jan 27 – Santa Ana, CA – Constellation Room

Jan 28 – Los Angeles, CA – Troubadour

Jan 30 – San Diego, CA – Soma

Jan 31 – Phoenix, AZ – Club Red

Feb 2 – Austin, TX – Mohawk

Feb 3 – Houston, TX – Walters

Feb 4 – Dallas, TX – Gas Monkey Bar & Grill

Feb 6 – Atlanta, GA – Masquerade

Feb 7 – Nashville, TN – Exit In

Feb 8 – Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop

Feb 9 – Pittsburgh, PA – Mr. Small’s

Feb 10 – Washington, DC – U Street Music Hall

Feb 11 – New York, NY – Highline Ballroom

Why do you write the dates like this? I prefer to write the month and dates in words (ex. Feb. 6) because if you use numbers, it might confuse people. In America, in order to write the date Feb. 6 in numbers, you write the month first 02/06 but in Europe you’d write the day first, (06/02), and I find that to be a bit confusing because I have dyscalculia. I find abbreviating the months makes it easier for people like me. The spaces and hyphen create nice separation too. I bold and underline the band name and words “tour dates” because it differentiates it from the tour dates listing.  After the date, write the city name, state abbreviation, a hyphen and the venue name in initial caps.

NEVER LEAVE TOUR DATE INFORMATION BLANK OR TO BE ANNOUNCED BEFORE SUBMITTING IT FOR COVERAGE: As a zine writer, one of the most frustrating problems I’ve encountered is when information is missing such as a venue or a certain aspect of the date left blank or to be announced. Never do this because the dates will not be published and make sure everything is lined up. You’re lucky to get coverage once. If you announced a few dates later, they might not be covered.

Tour Flyers: Tour flyers are fine, but if you include them, make them easy to read and always include written out dates with the flyer. Why? Because it’s easier to read and can be quickly copy and pasted.

A good size for tour flyers that you post as a timeline post or in an email is 800px x 1064. That way the poster is big and can easily be resized without distorting the image quality.

Credit Pouzza Fest:

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Bio: One of the hardest tasks to accomplish is to write a good band bio. It’s hard to boil your band’s existence and importance down to a few paragraphs to people who probably don’t know who you are, or have a reason to care about you yet.

Don’t get cute. Bands attempt to write a quirky bio because they think it will be interesting and make them stand out as original and funny. Let me let you in a little secret: Every band thinks they’re funny. Unless you’re Propagandhi, you’re probably not funny. Get straight to the point. Tell people what kind of music you play, what you’ve done and what your latest album is. An example is Propagandhi released their latest album Victory Lap, on September 19, 2017 through Epitaph Records.

Logos: Besides having promotional photos available for download, include a logo.Make sure the log is recognizable and easy to read from a distance, because if you’re going to put it on a shirt, it needs to be legible to the average person. Nobody will be impressed with your grindcore font. Here’s an example. PUP’s logo is basic and cool.

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The Buzzcocks also have a killer band logo:

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Building a website: Building a website is essential so that people can easily seek out your band. Even if you just have a landing page, that is great! A landing page is the section of a website accessed by clicking a hyperlink on another web page, typically the website’s home page. HERE are some tips on how to build an effective landing page. The advice is applicable even if you don’t end up using Bandzoogle. I’ve heard it is great.

Free Site Builders: There are plenty of free website builders like Wix, WordPress and Weebly. Explore your options and determine which one works best for your needs. Personally, I use Squarespace and my designer is Dylan Wachman.

Maintaining contacts / staying organized. Creating a Google Sheet / Excel Sheet to keep your email contacts organized and a to do list to save on your desktop in order to stay on task and motivated. I open mine each day to see what tasks I must get done. This is example of how I have my contact sheet laid out and how it’s categorized.

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Google Drive: Google Drive should be your new best friend. You can upload all of your band photos, logos, mp3s, artwork and contact sheets there. In my opinion it’s way better than Dropbox because there’s more space and I use Gmail anyway, so it’s convenient.

Composing emails and EPK: When you compose an electronic press kit (EPK) it should look like this:

First you’ll want to write the subject line. For this example, I will use the fake band name, The Joyless Wonders.

For Immediate Release: The Joyless Wonders (Florida punk rock) announce new album ‘Kernel Panic’

Body: Introduce yourself and say what role you play in your band.

Hi (writer’s name), my name is Lauren and I play drums for the Florida punk act, The Joyless Wonders. We are streaming our new song, “Kernel Panic” off our upcoming album Who Cares? on Youtube.

We will release our new album ‘Who Cares?’ on May 17, 2018 through Pretend Records. You check out the album art, track list and song below.

Song link:

Who Cares? tracklist:

  1. All My Best Friends Are Sellouts
  2. xNegativeXMentalAttitudex
  3. Forever Ryan Young
  4. Florida Is For Giving Up
  5. We’re Sorry, Your Happiness Has Been Cancelled
  6. Kernel Panic
  7. My Dog Doesn’t Like You Either
  8. Too Many Feelings
  9. It’s Cool, But Bracket Did It Better
  10. Hero Worship

‘Who Cares?’ will serve as a follow-up to our latest album, ‘Bound To Disappoint,” which was released on November 3, 2016 through Roadside Records.

After you write this information, include a bio, your social media and Bandcamp links.

Formatting rules: Before writing your band name is an email, say where you’re from and what style you play. Winnipeg punk act, Propagandhi, (The rest goes after). Band names are generally in bold. Album titles are in italics and song titles are in quotes. Record labels are usually in bold, but it depends on the site.

Ways to promote your record:

Podcasts: Another promo tool is podcasts. Submit your music to your genre’s related podcasts. Ask if the host would like to include it on their show or interview you about your record. Every state has a college station. Aim for that or use google to find podcast names and info.

Interviews: Duh.

Track-by-Track: Another promotional tool you can use is a track-by-track. A track-by-track is when you take an album, preferably one that is coming out or new, and write a breakdown of each track’s meaning and musical components.

Reviews: If you’re sending your record in for review, definitely include all of the regular info and a direct download link. They want the files. Having streaming links as well is a bonus though.

Premieres: Premieres are when you team up with a website to exclusively present a song before anyone else does and before the record drops. The promotional cycle for a record is typically 3 months before the album comes out.  Always leave plenty of time for a writer to respond. When setting up a premiere, give at least a week head’s up to the website you want to team up with. That way, you can get your ducks in a role.

Include:

  • Promotional photos
  • Info about the album you’re releasing such as the title, record label and release date
  • Info about the previous album
  • A blurb about the song such as an explanation of what the song means or something interesting about it
  • A general idea of what day and time you want to premiere
  • Social media links
  • Pre-order links if available
  • An Mp3 of the song or songs
  • Social Media and website links to the record label

Make sure there’s a link to your music in your Facebook about section, ya goof! Nobody wants to do a Google search for music they might not like. Make it easy on everyone!

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Photo editing tools. You don’t need a fancy photo editing software or graphic design skills to create images for your band. There are plenty of helpful ones that are on the internet for free. The one I use is Photoscape. It allows you to edit photos, combine photos, create gifs, screen captures.

There is also Canva which allows you to make cover photos, flyers, logos, letterheads and anything else you could dream of.

Videos: When you release a video, make sure it’s uploaded to Facebook video as well as Youtube. Facebook videos will get better reach because Facebook considers Youtube competition.

Useful Graphic web pages: To help you create your tour posters and cover photos, there’s plenty of free graphics sites such as Vecteezy, (which also has a free online vector editing tool), Freepik, All Free Download. For background images, I enjoy Toptal, and Premium Pixels.

Winrar: Use Winrar to compress, encrypt and package files. When sending people your music, you’re going to make the mp3s and photos into a rar or zip file that can be uploaded to a hosting site and sent to press and friends. You can download it for Windows or Mac.

HERE is an article detailing great apps for touring musicians. Check it out!

Finally, I will talk about e-commerce and music distribution. Since that’s a little out of my area of expertise, I recommend reading THIS website. You need to have your music on Google Play, Itunes, Spotify and Bandcamp at the very least. The aforementioned link will help you explore your options.