This article originally appeared on Soundfly.
One of the worst things about being an independent musician is the feeling of stasis: when you have no shows coming up, or you just put out an album, but you still feel like you’re going nowhere. You feel powerless against the forces of the music industry and the insane number of other people just like you trying to do the same thing.
Believe me, I’ve been there! So, in order to feel proactive, I created a daily to-do list to keep me moving through my band promotion goals. This routine has created a habit of continually putting myself out there, and has let to a multitude of opportunities, from press coverage, to gigs, to new industry contacts, and even to writing for Flypaper right now! Here’s how I structure my day.
1. Come up with a list of goals
Establish and try to frequently consult a list of goals. What exactly are you trying to do with your music at this moment? Do you want to route a tour (meaning, building your band and venue contacts)? Do you want more press? Do you simply want to book more local gigs to work on your live show, or improve your online presence? Defining your goals will help you organize your tasks in a meaningful way. Sometimes it’s useful to whip up a three-, six-, 12-, and 18-month plan as well, which can help you keep your mind focused on long-term goals and prevent band tunnel vision.
2. Update spreadsheets
I’m a geek for spreadsheets. My entire Google Drive is chock full of radio, blog, and label contacts, color-coded and organized into different folders. If you’re interested in using my spreadsheet template for your list, click here to download a blank version of the spreadsheet I use.
3. Talk to the press
I try to send at least two press inquiries a day. I maintain a spreadsheet of press contacts, generally an "info" account, but also specific editors’ emails if they are listed on the blog’s website or are accessible otherwise. Researching and contacting the specific writer you’re interested in is optimal.
In your email, include links to your music and photos and a short bio. Don’t include any attachments, except for a press photo and/or press release, in specific cases. Try to offer the blogger something new to exclusively premiere. Explain what drew you to the blog (did they interview one of your favorite artists? Did they cover a band with a similar sound?). Be ready to back up your interest by following the blog’s social media accounts and engaging with their content. I like to keep a "Twitter handle" column for each blog in my spreadsheet. Always offer to comp the blogger at your next show! Keep track of the dates you submit so you can plan follow up and avoid spamming.
4. Reach out to venues
When I’m in a booking period (I try to book about a full four to five months ahead), I send two emails to venues per day. I keep a spreadsheet of venue names and booker contacts. I add about two entries (venues) a day. When I email bookers, I tend to pitch a full bill of three or four bands to make their lives easier, even if the bands haven’t yet confirmed a date. That way, they know your draw will be maxed out and the evening will be full without the booker having to do additional outreach. Generally, I’ll ask a few friends’ bands if they’re available in the time window I’m writing about before sending the email, and use their names on the potential bill. If you’re reaching out about a tour date, include local bands when you can. Don’t lie about your draw, but do link the booker to examples of major press, social media following, and any other accomplishments.
Try to stagger your emails, time-wise — I would advise sending no more than 10 emails for each month you’re booking, or you might end up with too many dates in too short a window to draw well in your area. I try to stick to the “two shows per month” rule when I can.
5. Talk to your band friends
Remember that gig you played when the opener was really nice and brought a ton of friends out? What the heck was their name again? To alleviate frustration trying to memorize the multitude of local and out-of-town bands out there (I mean, I live in Brooklyn, it can get pretty hard), I keep a handy list of local bands and contact information. I try to add one band a day, and update it whenever we play shows with acts we’ve never played with before.
6. Discover new radio stations
This is a fun one. I add two college radio stations to my "radio" list per day. Most indie bands kind of forget how essential college radio play can be for developing young fans in cities across the country, and most are too lazy to work on this anyway. Keep sending out tracks and making your presence known in this circuit, and you’ll be surprised at how many times random stations play your music, plus the online playlists really help your SEO, too!
If they accept digital submissions, I’ll send one or two emails with download links. Otherwise, I wait until I have a day free to put together a hard mailing of CDs and a cover sheet including links, a photo, bio, and contact information to each college radio station on my list. Try to find a main email or snail mail address, as DJs turn over every year (and sometimes every semester!). Remember to include a clean edit of any songs that contain curse words. A great way to look up colleges is to go down Wikipedia’s comprehensive list of US colleges.
7. Email record labels
I write about two emails submitting my demo to record labels per day. In my "labels" spreadsheet, I keep a column for "relevant roster" to remind me why I’m submitting in the first place. If you’re a hip-hop artist, but are submitting to a label that solely puts out hard metal, you’re going to have a hard time. Knowing which artists have a similar fanbase or aesthetic is a great way to start a demo email to a label so you can explain what it is that drew you to them.
Also be sure to talk about what you’re looking for. Tour routing? More plays on Spotify? Vinyl cost coverage? Be as specific as possible. I like to send a private SoundCloud link with three to four of our album’s best tracks, along with a list of relevant accomplishments (festivals played, number of Facebook likes, press coverage, etc.). Same rules apply as for press submissions: don’t include attachments, and keep track of when you submit so you can follow up and avoid bugging label reps.
8. Research studios
When I was trying to figure out where to record our album, I kept a simple spreadsheet with the names of several local recording and mastering studios, their hourly rates (sometimes I had to email for a quote), and links to reference tracks so I could hear their work. It really helped us narrow our choices down, and we were super pleased with the result!
So, that’s it! These are just suggestions, and you shouldn’t feel like you need to tackle these areas all at once. In fact, it all comes down to your list of goals; what's your top priority right now? Personally, I’m focusing on press and record-label submissions right now, and plan to update my other spreadsheets at a later date. Download these spreadsheet templates to get started organizing your own band. Happy spreadsheeting, and enjoy your newfound productivity!
Sophie Chernin is an NYC-based songwriter, singer, and multi-instrumentalist. She is the co-founder and manager of the alt-soul band Madam West. Sophie identifies as a musician despite her current full-time job outside of the music sphere — her passion for music and promoting artists she loves drives her every moment of every day.