Advice for musicians  
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Who are we to give advice?

D Music's partners are themselves musicians, who each have over twenty years' experience promoting and touring live music, and ten years' experience booking bands and solo artists for festivals. D Music can offer a valuable service to unsigned acts: designing and hosting a website, and advice on or design of promotional material. Send us copies of the package you normally send out to venues etc, and we'll give you an honest opinion of it, and how to improve it (and no, we're not just trying to get you to buy our services).

Everything we say here, though, is just advice, and should not be taken as a guarantee of the best way to a future successful career - unfortunately, there are no guarantees.


Ten tips on sending out promotional material:

Firstly, and most importantly (we can't stress this one too much): Put the band's name and a contact number on absolutely everything. We know we're not alone in that when we open packages, we separate the CDs from the bumpf - if we lose one in the 'filing system' later, we'll need the contact number from the other.

Send a CD. Don't send a few sheets of paper, however lavishly produced, and a website address where 'you can hear more'. Whenever we've received those, they've gone straight in the bin. Most people pay to be on-line, in electricity, if nothing else. No one who books bands is going to pay to hear your demo. And if they're sitting down for a CD playing session, then that's what they want to listen to. Simple. But ... if you have a website address or a MySpace page, do include it. You never know when someone might want to know, or hear, just a little bit more. Let them know how they can do that.

Put two or three complete songs on the CD, and if you're sending it to a venue or event for a live gig, make sure the songs are ones you can play live, and that sound like your band. We've had tapes with ten short excerpts that fade in and out (how long are the songs? do they have good endings? do they get boring after two minutes?); CDs with only two songs, one of which was a solo effort by the lead singer with an acoustic guitar (very nice, but what does the band sound like? have they got enough material?); and CDs from two-piece acts with 5 interweaving guitars, 2 trumpets, a drumkit and a saxophone (now, how do they do that on stage?).

Make sure every member of the band can be heard on the recording, not just the drummer (!) - and make sure the vocals are loud enough. That's the bit most of the audience is going to want to hear.

Make a decent cover for the CD, even if it's only by typing on a piece of plain paper. You're not expected to be a top designer, but biro on a CD-Rom case says "We don't really care".

Don't send too much. When we receive a huge pile of CDs or tapes in one go, we can't be bothered to read a loose-leaf novel with each one. Don't send fifteen A4 sheets photocopied out of newspapers with the (inch high) reviews of your band circled in highlighter - cut out the best reviews, stick them all on one sheet (with dates and publications) and photocopy that. A brief biog, a sheet of reviews, a photo and a CD - what more could anyone want?

Make every part of the pack count. Why are you sending it? What is it adding to the overall message? (What is the overall message?) And while we're on that subject, gimmicks seem to work for the music press, but they've never worked on us. We've never booked a band because they sent us sweeties. We've always booked them because we liked the music, and thought our audience would too.

Make every aspect of the package as professional as you can. Use a consistent logo. Use decent paper. Make sure the font is readable (!). Check your spelling. Yeah, yeah, boring, but it matters, because bad spellings can't always be read by other people.

If you send a photo, make it a good one. Stage shots are great, but not if taken with a flash. Posed shots in interesting surroundings are fine, but not a snap taken by your dad in the back garden. If someone's really ugly, let them stand at the back! If you're all ugly, don't let the photographer get too close. On the other hand, don't use full body shots if you've all got beer guts. Look in the music press for ideas - those people get paid for it.

And finally: don't expect a reply, even if they like you. Most people who book bands have plenty of other things to do - holding down a job, getting a life, or organising PAs, staff, insurance, beer deliveries, sound checks, whatever - and don't want to spend all their lives on the phone trying to speak to band members who are generally out. And if they're like us, no one is paying them for their time or their phone bill. So give it a decent interval (at least a fortnight) and phone them. They won't have listened to your CD yet, so ask when it would be reasonable for you to phone again - and make sure you do phone again. And stay cheerful every time you speak to them - we've booked a lot of bands who were on our 'maybe' pile, because they've been so friendly every time they've spoken to us.

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