When musicians think of promotion, they often see it as putting up flyers for a show, posting on social media, sending music to radio stations – the usual. It's true that standard promotion strategies are integral to getting your music out there, but who doesn't love getting outside of the box?
Pittsburgh-based garage rock/power pop band the Semi-Supervillains have been incredibly proactive in looking for atypical ways to get their music to new fans. With a love for sports and some good networking, they landed an opportunity to write a theme song for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Not only is that a huge resume booster, but it keeps the band's music playing in their city to new listeners every game. Below, guitarist and vocalist Vinnie Longhi of the Semi-Supervillains gives his advice on how to be creative and imaginative with music promotion.
The Semi-Supervillains recently wrote a theme song for the Pittsburgh Pirates. What a cool way to use and promote your music! Tell us how that opportunity came about.
I was approached by the producer for Root Sports after our showcase at a Pittsburgh local music fest called the Deutschtown Music Festival. He admitted that he had scouted us out prior to seeing us live via the music videos we have on YouTube. (It's important to have an online presence to supplement performing live shows consistently!) He explained that he was looking for a “Friday Night Rocks” theme to be used for Pittsburgh Pirates telecasts. I sent a demo a few days after our conversation for the “Friday Night Rocks” theme, and it worked after a few suggestions and tweaks!
We play energetic rock music, so a pair with sports definitely makes sense. Pittsburgh is a sports town; having my music and band featured with the Pirates is creating a lot of buzz about the Semi-Supervillains.
The theme song is also being used for Friday night telecasts throughout the game. How has that promotion helped draw new fans to your music?
We have seen some new social media interest after each time the song and music video are featured on television. It's pretty cool because the announcers will even plug our upcoming shows! The Pittsburgh Pirates telecasts are broadcasted locally with Root Sports in Pennsylvania; the Semi-Supervillains are based out of Pittsburgh, PA, so that worked out nicely.
Most people generally don't go to the clubs to see unknown bands, but when they see something on TV and hear we are playing down the street Friday night, they may be inclined to come check us out. We have definitely been drawing some new fans at our recent shows.
In addition to writing the theme song, you shot a music video for the Pirates. Tell us about that experience, and how the video helped further grow the song and promotion of the Pirates.
The music video shoot was awesome! It was done at Stage AE in Pittsburgh, and the whole Root Sports crew was there with five-plus cameras, a gib, complex lighting, and a professional video crew. We did at least 30 takes of the song with different camera angles, etc.
Every Friday this season, they have a different version of the music video depending on what team the Pirates are playing; this includes a different edit of the music video with a variation of moves, jumps, and funny faces I make on camera!
You never know when the right person is going to hear your music at the right time. What is your creative process for dreaming up and executing out-of-the-box promotion ideas?
The "Friday Night Rocks" opportunity is huge, and I really wanted to take advantage and "hit it out of the park." As soon as I found out that we were doing the music video for the Pittsburgh Pirates telecast, I invested in our website, semisupervillains.com, because extra traffic is expected there from the viewers.
You have to present yourself in a professional style, online and in the flesh. Definitely know your audience; I geared the song and band image to be a crowd-pleaser when writing the “Friday Night Rocks” theme and refining the band's image. The kind of people who watch the Pittsburgh Pirates games on TV are sports fans, fathers and sons. When I was a kid, my dad and I bonded a lot over baseball and classic rock music. So I created a song that had a retro-rock vibe.
We even borrowed classic-looking Marshall half stacks to backline the band in the music video to help contribute to a classic rock 'n' roll image/performance to appeal to a sports audience. When performing out live, I always adapt my band's setlist to adhere to the venue and other types of bands we're showcasing with.
When you're looking for insight on how to grow your music career in unique ways, where do you typically look?
Reddit has a bunch of threads – you just have to dig for them. I like to use Reddit to help find out where the best fitting venues and bands for local support are when playing a new larger city for the first time.
The Sonicbids blog is my go-to! I have definitely taken advantage of a lot different opportunities, especially thanks to Jhoni Jackson’s blog posts about the #RoadToAustin and SXSW. We made a splash at SXSW 2016 because the Sonicbids blog served as our guidebook for our networking and marketing strategy.
Also, Sonicbids has a ton of opportunities where businesses/individuals are looking for a jingle or theme song, so definitely try your hand at those if you have a decent home recording setup. "Selling out" for bands isn't a thing anymore. Using product endorsements and creating jingles is how working musicians survive.
If you were talking with another independent band that felt frustrated with the traditional avenues of promotion, what are three pieces of advice you would give them?
First, I would say to utilize all of the marketing tools available at our fingertips via the internet. We just talked about a few different types of blogs to check out for advice. Whether you are a beginner or a pro, the Sonicbids blog has something that you should read. If you want to make a career in music, you have to do the behind-the-scenes work yourself because nobody will do it for you. With all the different websites like Sonicbids available, you can practically start your own independent label.
Second, every internet radio station, college radio station, and blog – no matter how big or small – is worth your time. Always follow up with those internet stations that are playing your music and offer to do an interview or a tagline for the station. It's a friendly gesture to send them tickets whenever you play in their area, or even merchandise for giveaways.
If you're getting to Cleveland at 1:00 p.m. and you don’t play until 10:00 p.m., reach out to the local college radio stations (even if it's last-minute) to try to schedule an interview before your show (and invite them to come out, too). Always conduct yourself in a professional manner, on and off the stage. In your emails, make sure you use proper grammar. With that being said, don’t be spammy with your emails, either. The personal touch goes a long way.
Third, probably the hardest thing to [have] is patience. We didn’t shoot a music video and have our song selected for the Pirates' “Friday Night Rocks” theme selected overnight. There will always edits and tweaks; you have to do what your client wants, because ultimately it's their decision to use your music or not.
In the meantime, create blog posts and video updates for your tour, studio, or writing process. Your page followers like to see these things. It can be a fun way to get new followers, too. For example, if you're a guitar gear fanatic, do a rig rundown or a demo of your new amp and post it to YouTube. It's okay to shamelessly plug your band, so take advantage!