Over the past 25 years, I’ve heard a lot of bitching by local musicians and bands about OffBeat’s Best of The Beat Awards, because they aren’t nominated for an award.
I’ll try to explain what works, in an old adage: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” I’ve had so many musicians who have never come up to the OffBeat office to tell us anything at all about their music, bring us a CD to review, tell us about an upcoming gig, or put us on their mailing lists. It’s becoming more and more common, and I blame it on the devolution of personal relationships that’s been the fallout from the growing use social media. Note here: OffBeat‘s social media is alive, kicking and growing daily. So we do know about it and we do use it.
OffBeat does its best to try to give everyone some ink and a review (although you may not like the reviews that are written—guess what, that’s part of playing music for the public). But unless you can make a concerted effort to let us know about you, you may just get lost in the hundreds and thousands of emails and calls we get from publicists all over the country for bands, restaurants, events, festivals, new music. There’s a lot of information out there, a lot more than you can imagine, and while we try to stay on top of it all, I will guarantee you that you are much more likely to get coverage if you at least talk to us in person.
This is the way the world still works when it comes to exposure.
Sure, you can get a blogger or a friend to promote your music, or your gig, but it’s pretty rare that they have the reach and credibility of media that’s got 30 years of reach, loads of fans and readers and serious social media chops.
It’s very easy to attack anyone via social media, and lord knows OffBeat, as well as other established media, has had their share of that. If a band or their manager doesn’t agree 100 percent with our reviewer, all hell and serious cyber-bullying can break loose via Facebook and Twitter (and it has). But at least the music was reviewed. Whether or not you agree with the OffBeat reviewer, it still comes from a place of our caring for and supporting the music community.
But back to the squeaky wheel: While the world of self-promotion has changed drastically since social media took over, what still is most important is a personal connection, even something personal written by the musician or band on social media. A good example of that is Jon Cleary, who writes about his experiences on the road as he travels the world. It’s personal, it’s him, it gives us a real connection into his psyche and his music. It keeps him real with his fan base and creates new, interested fans.
You can play your ass off in local clubs. But that isn’t all you need to do. We don’t have enough writers to be in every music venue every night of the week. You need to do more. Most musicians don’t have the time or the writing (or the photographic) chops to create the connections they need with their audience on social media. So they get someone to do it for them, a fan, a manager, a wife or girlfriend/boyfirend, or a social media “guru,” maybe. But often, that doesn’t create a personal connection.
I can tell you that the musicians and bands who make a real impact and create a connection with their audiences are the ones who are going to be the most successful. It’s hard work, though. The best way to make a connection is to talk to another person. If you’re in the New Orleans metro area and you haven’t told us about your music—and haven’t maybe even dropped a CD off at our office, or just stopped to say hello, your chances of getting exposure via OffBeat drop drastically. Take the time to make it personal. Take the time to talk to us.
So if you haven’t been nominated, you may need to consider how you market your music and how you make the connection with the people who you want to support your efforts. There are actually people behind media. You know, people who you can talk to, in person. This would be true if it were OffBeat or any other specialized media.
We can’t know everything about every musician or band that’s here. We need your personal input. Try it. It works. Maybe you’ll be nominated next year, but it’s up to you to make the effort to communicate.