Marketing, promotions & publicity. These words have been on my mind a lot lately. Which is funny, because never in my life, until now, have I given a flying fig about them. In fact, I had always treated them with what I considered to be a healthy disdain. But now I'm getting curious.
So my band, Drop Trio, has an email list. Right now, there are about 160 people on it, mostly people who have signed up at our shows. I send out emails weekly, telling people where we're playing, letting them know about new mp3 tracks on our web site, etc. It's been working more and more as the list grows; at every show, now, we've got at least 5 people there who got the email and came out specifically for the show. Not bad for a band that's been around such a short time. (Well, hell, I'm amazed when anyone I don't personally know shows up to see me play.)
So 160 people is okay. But there are 4 MILLION PEOPLE in Houston. Let's say one in ten might actually like our music. Nah, let's even say 1 in 100. That's still 39,840 people in Houston who haven't heard of us but would really like us.
So how do I bridge that gap?
Last night Jill and I went to a concert over at Diverse Works, put on by the Pauline Oliveros Foundation of Houston. It ruled, not least because of the drummer, a woman named Susie Ibarra, who I highly recommend checking out. Anyhow, while we were there, I picked up a flyer - just a half sheet of paper, hand drawn and photocopied - for a band called Quantum 5, playing at Helios, a bar / live music venue a few blocks from my house. No other information - no web site, no genre, nothing but 3 scribbled little alien figures and a place & time. So what did I do? Naturally, I went to see them.
Now, I'm a bit of a special case - I am a musician, and I have a vested interest in seeing every other band in town who even remotely shares a genre with me. But that's not the point - the point is, it worked. Their meager marketing effort, even if it worked on no one else but me, did bring in at least one person to their event. They're a 5 piece instrumental free jazz / improv groove band. They were good, and had some interesting things to say musically. But I was there, I heard about it and paid my $5 and went. Because of a flyer.
As a programmer, working like this makes me uneasy. I like to see results of effort as definite, measurable, repeatable. When someone picks up a flyer, though, it's invisible. The machinations that brought them to your show are untraceable, and uncontrollable. My wife stayed home and watched a movie, and I could've just as easily done that. They put that flyer out there as a guess, a stab in the dark, and it was equal parts effort and chance that I showed up.
But I guess that's the thing - without the flyer, I wouldn't have gone, and the chance would've dropped from a probability of 1/2 to 0. Nobody can come to your event if they don't know about it, eh? So that's today's lesson - find those 39,840 people who will like your music, and just let them know. Which is marketing, which, as it turns out, isn't entirely as pointless as I thought.