When Clear Channel controls the radio and the monopoly newspaper doesn’t like you, how do you win over new audiences?
The good news: there are many, many ways. Here are ten of my favorites.
1. Approach a local college or alternative radio station or community access cable TV station with a programming idea, like a live songwriter showcase. Other musicians will want to be a part of your show, and you’ll build an audience for your own music–and theirs.
2. Write CD or concert reviews for a local alternative (or mainstream) paper.
3. Give copies of your CD away to public radio and TV stations for their fund drive premiums.
4. Organize, publicize, and perform at charity events for your favorite causes.
5. Lead songwriting or performing workshops in the schools (these are usually paying gigs, and all the parents hear your name). Invite some of the kids to perform with you; they’re sure to bring a bunch of relatives along who will pay for their tickets and maybe buy a CD.
6. Announce your gigs in every community calendar. Newspapers, magazines, radio stations, community web sites, cable TV stations–they all run event listings. Type out one paragraph that includes a tag line about what you do, such as “Sandy Songwriter, River City’s ‘Homegrown Bono,’ will perform labor songs and love ballads at The Trombone Shop, 444 4th Street in Downtown River City, Wednesday, January 15, 7 p.m.” If admission is free or there’s a charity connection, say so. Include contact phone number and e-mail.
7. Find Internet discussion groups related to your cause. Whether it’s immigration, voting reform, peace, safe energy, the right to choose…there will be discussion groups online. Post responses and include a “sig”–a short on-line business card. Use different sigs for different purposes. Here’s one of mine (in a real e-mail, it would be single-spaced):
8. Set up a simple low-cost website. Include a couple of sound clips, pictures of you performing, a place for people to sign up for your fan newsletter, a link to your favorite musicians, and, of course, your tour schedule and gig availability.
9. Get exposure on other people’s websites. Write CD reviews, endorse their music with a blurb, submit articles on the local music scene…and always include your contact information and a statement that encourages people to visit your site.
10. Use the letters columns. Call in to talk shows. Post messages to Web forums…in short, use every feedback tool you have to spread the word.