A whole bunch of agents, promoters, journalists, musicians and PRs have taken part in the Jazzfuel Q&A series and, in this article, I wanted to pick out 9 highlights.
Each one of them answered around 10 questions specifically related to their area of expertise and I’ve picked out a few personal favourites here. I’ve enjoyed reading their answers – some great inspiration for my own booking & management work – and I hope you as career-building jazz musicians have found them useful too!
If you haven’t read the full articles, you can check them out by clicking on the relevant images below. There are some real gems in there, including…
- How promoters want you to contact them
- Things to think about when releasing a new album
- Using Youtube to build your profile
- Making the most of a big performance opportunity by working hard in advance
- PROOF(!) that sending regular & interesting mailouts to fans really does get more people to come to your gigs
- “AND THEN?” Why this is the key question to ask yourself whatever you are doing online
- The importance of using your contacts to create a ‘buzz’ at industry events when you are showcasing
- Why social media is so useful (from the point of view of journalists, agents and promoters!)
- Regarding promo materials and your online presence: a promoter amplifies what you provide. The more active you are, the more exposure you get
- Shoutouts for specific bands and musicians – including Snarky Puppy, Laura Jurd, Ethan Iverson & Moses Boyd – who are killing it in their own way!
Q&A Interview Highlights (2016 Roundup)
YOU WERE INVOLVED WITH SNARKY PUPPY FROM THE EARLY DAYS. CAN YOU PINPOINT ONE FACTOR THAT HELPED LEAD TO THIS PRETTY FAST RISE IN THEIR PROFILE?
It’s not easy to pick up one factor because it’s really a combination of different factors – with a good timing and bit of luck.
I think the basis of their success is still that they really love what they do and that they’re doing it as a real collective (of very talented musicians).
Snarky Puppy did a very good job in their social media. They produced elaborate and high quality videos of all their album tracks and posted them on a weekly basis. The videos captured the extraordinary energy of the band and their skills as musicians.
As this became a viral success they constantly followed that path and regularly fed their fans with new material.
In this manner they created an ever-growing worldwide fanbase which then came to their concerts. And as the band performs very well on stage they won their fans over also on stage.
Once they had established a considerable fanbase they made themselves independent from the classic music industry by reaching out to their fans directly.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR A CAREER-BUILDING JAZZ MUSICIAN TODAY TO BE ACTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
I think it’s crucial. There are not anywhere near enough press outlets covering jazz to make it without doing your own outreach directly to fans – and every music writer is on Twitter, anyway!
But it’s not enough to have an active, frequently updated Facebook page, or be a witty tweeter; you’ve got to maintain direct connections, preferably by building a strong email list. Emails are somewhere around 10 times as effective as any social platform when it comes to actually getting people to give you their money.
So while you should be engaging with your fans online in order to determine what they like about you, and make yourself real to them (thus inspiring loyalty), you should also be signing them up to hear directly from you once a month or so.
IN YOUR EXPERIENCE, HOW MUCH DOES AN ARTIST’S SOCIAL MEDIA REACH HELP IN PROMOTING A LIVE SHOW OR PODCAST?
Social media is undervalued by some artists, and it’s a missed opportunity.
The way we consume and record music changes from decade to decade, and the way we discover it has also changed, although some seem less enthusiastic about catching up with the latter.
Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are all shop windows into your music and, thankfully, your personality. Social media shows potential fans your human side. Sure, you want them to interact with your music, but you want them to interact with you as well. That’s how you create a loyal fanbase.
Sure, there is a lot of great music about there, made by talented artists who have little or no social media presence. Would it put me off playing their music? Absolutely not. Would it make me think twice about inviting them to be an interview guest on Jazz Standard? Yes.
THROUGH YOUR WORK AS A PUBLICIST, WHAT DO YOU THINK SEPARATES THE GREAT MUSICIANS WHO GET SOME LEVEL OF INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION AND THOSE GREAT MUSICIANS WHO DON’T?
To get international recognition I think it’s important to, beyond obviously presenting great music, invest your time and effort into establishing a following outside of your country.
This involves having a great e-mail list, or some other subscriber-based program to help you keep in touch with audiences outside of your immediate area. This also includes touring on a semi-regular basis, and having a great online presence through your website, social media and whatever else fits your “brand”.
WHEN THINKING ABOUT TAKING ON A NEW ARTIST, HOW MUCH OF THE DECISION IS THE MUSIC AND HOW MUCH IS ‘OTHER’ STUFF? WHAT IS THE OTHER STUFF?
The music is the most important factor – and for me the live performance of the music is even more important than the recorded music, as it is pretty easy to do well-produced albums nowadays. If available, I also look at the press coverage, which shows whether there is a general interest in the music.
Musicians can improve their chances to be discovered by agents by having a really good promotion kit – such as live videos, good pictures etc., which can make it easier for the agent to begin the process of booking the artist, but it’s definitely not enough to convince me. If the music isn’t interesting or within my area of expertise, the ‘other’ stuff is of little or no use.
For me the musical idea or concept is the most important element. I’m primarily working with live music, so that means it should be captivating to watch.
WHAT SORT OF INFORMATION MAKES AN ‘UNKNOWN’ BAND’S EMAIL STAND OUT TO YOU?
I always take notice of reviews, either published in a magazine or on a blog site, or informal reviews from people I trust.
So quote as many as possible in the emails you send.
HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE HEAR YOUR NEW MUSIC?
– Get your existing fanbase to start talking about your release somehow.
– Promos for journalists.
– Get existing listeners to sign up to your mailing list, or follow you on social media channels.
– Use a tool like Soundcharts to see what popular playlists your music is on and try to pitch curators with the new music when it’s released.
– Use a tool like Thunderclap to get fans to simultaneously post a message to social media when my new album goes live.
– Buy 1, send a free copy to a friend.
– Listening party with influencers, etc.
HOW SHOULD BANDS CONTACT PROMOTERS, IN YOUR OPINION?
The first pitch should be done via email and you should include all the interesting info like images, audio and video. Don’t forget links to follow up on.
Something like “I want to play at your club” is too obvious to catch my attention. You want to stand out from the mass of emails we all receive on a regular basis. So please be tangible and most importantly have your promo info ready if we ask for it.
Personal contact is important. However, as we all volunteer our free time to the Jazzclub, it will be very difficult to reach us by phone and we unfortunately won’t have time to listen to every detail of your project. However, we read all emails and listen to audio and video linked in those mails. Especially young artists wanting to play in our curated local ‘Heimspiel’ slots catch our attention.
If I didn’t get back to you yet, it doesn’t mean that I don’t like the music. It is more likely that our regular slots don’t fit into your tour schedule or were filled up already.
YOU HAVE BOOKED A LOT OF SHOWS FOR YOURSELF. WHAT WOULD YOUR #1 TIP BE IN CONVINCING A PROMOTER TO BOOK YOU?
Up until now, VEIN never had the support of a really good booking agency or management, so our thing has always been to expand step by step.
For us, it didn’t make any sense to approach a promoter ‘just like this’. We always try to have a certain idea of how to achieve our goal: to be booked.
There are countries like the UK, Benelux and Germany where we hired a very good PR agent which helped us a lot, but also countries (mainly in Eastern Europe), where we got some great gigs by knowing other local musicians.
So, my #1 tip would be to try to find out first how things work for each place and then how to approach the promoter.