On a Thursday night in September, at Old Fire House Books in Fort Collins, Tim Wenger lectured about how to run a band successfully.
There the small audience in the bookstore received invaluable insight taken from Tim’s own experiences touring with his own band. He also talked about all he learned from his experience as a music editor at a major publication and his job as venue manager working nightly at a club in Denver.
Read on to find out what Tim had to say about how to succeed as a band in today’s musical landscape.
- Press Releases
“Pitching media is a big part of being in an independent band and pitching them correctly is an important thing,” said Tim. “Let them know that you’re building a buzz around town and they will cover you. It’s their job.”
Tim explained that the media does not want to “miss out” on something hot or cool like your band playing on a Friday night. Tim also stressed the importance of acting professionally in your email.
“I’ve seen so many emails come into me written in all caps or completely lacking punctuation or using like hip-hop vernacular or any other form of complete un-professionalism.”
Editors delete emails immediately if it’s not done professionally Tim said, so be sure to include a press release, a high resolution photo, a link to your music, a link to your social media account and give the editor a good reason why they should cover your event like your latest record release or a new music video. Tim stressed you should “hype” it up.
“If you don’t get a response in a few days there’s absolutely no harm in sending a follow up email.”
Visit Tim’s website HelpMyBand.net. It provides a sample press release you can use as a reference.
- Image is everything!
When it comes to social media bands should post regularly, use a pic and portray an image of them moving forward in the local scene.
Tim talked about how tempting it is to be negative on social media. For example, it would be easy to bash the club you played at last night because things didn’t go so well, but don’t do it!
According to Tim you need to stay away from negative social media all together.
“The entire foundation of a band is built on attracting people to your band and to do that you need to create an image of positive progression. You need to create an image of a community around your band… You want to be out there mingling, you want people to see you, you want people to see that you’re part of the community and you’re building a movement around your band.”
- Pre-sell tickets for shows.
“What I see a lot of bands around Denver that are very successful doing… actually driving them to people,” said Tim. “Set up like one night a week leading up to the show where one or two of your guys are going to drive around town and deliver these tickets. Take them to people’s work. Take them to people’s houses. Do anything you can to get the tickets in people’s hands.”
The more tickets your band sells the better the times slots, dates and shows you will get down the line because promoters and managers at the venues will see you’re results.
- The night of the show.
“You want people to leave the club with the image of you as being a professional,” explained Tim. “You always want to have merchandise. You always want to have T-shirts, music. Give them away something for free. Everybody should be leaving with something that has your name on it every single time. There’s really no excuse for that not to be happening. Digital download cards are a great way for that to happen.”
Tim’s favorite website for musicians is BandCamp.com. For merchandise he likes BigCartel.com when it comes to selling your band’s wares.
- Touring Hacks
Befriending another band in another town is a “tried and true technique” according Wenger when it comes to finding a way to go on tour with your band.
“Contact a band in that town, in your genre, and just talk to them,” said Tim. “Ask them if they’ll host you, you know, do a show swap. They bring you to their town. You bring them to your town.”
Tim emphasized the most valuable thing a traveling musician could have is other bands that are friends in other towns.
“It’s basically worthless to play somewhere once and never go back again,” Tim added.
He mentioned the term “routing,” which is how you expand your fan base in other areas.
You should go back every six months to a year and the people who saw you last time will come back and bring their friends to your next show.
There is also another term Tim brought up called “circling,” which is how bands expand their circle.
“Maybe it’s Denver, Grand Junction, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Albuquerque, and then the next time you go you add two more dots to that circle, you know, you add Pueblo or Santa Fe or whatever it might be and you slowly expand your circle… It works.”
- Road Etiquette
There’s no sleep on the road and too much junk food is bad for you, so Tim suggests putting ice in a cooler and storing good food to eat while in the van.
Also “me time” doesn’t happen so much on the road and before your live show that night you should take some time to go on a walk, go do your laundry or sit in a cafe to get away from your band mates and to recharge your batteries.
- Can I make a living with my band?
In all of Tim’s experiences in bands he never pocketed any money. All the money made went right back into expenses and merchandise.
“It’s a very taboo subject and it’s something that’s really sensitive for a lot of people,” Tim said. “It’s the ‘dream’ and it drives a lot of bands apart and it’s very stressful over time when you’re not making any money and maybe you have a kid or a wife or whatever it is. You have obligations. You have rent. It’s tough. That’s why I emphasize so much the making it be a part of your life, but not the entire thing. I think that’s the biggest thing that leads to burnout… There’s a reason why I don’t have a chapter in my book called How to Sell a Million Records because I haven’t sold a million records.”
So, I have a band!
Tim says the biggest problem with bands is breaking up and he wrote his book to help keep bands together instead of apart.
“The entire impetus for this book is to help bands manage themselves better, present themselves better, so they can last for more than six months, two years.”
Get all the advice you need on running your band today by buying, “So, You Have a Band: The definitive guide to presenting your band as serious business” by Tim Wenger in Kindle e-book form or print on demand over at Amazon.