Market Yourself on the Internet
BY PHIL PARLAPIANO

We have established that having an internet presence may be the most important move you can make for your career. It is a fun and incredibly potentially profitable conduit between you and your fans or clients. What materials on your website will bring up this potential to the highest degree?

A VIRTUAL PRESS PACKAGE

The amount of information that can be available on your website can be expansive. A bio or resume is a must, and a good place to start. As with any press package, make sure this is complete (almost to the point of being silly) and up to date. The more info, the better, as it will make bigger impression to the viewer. Acts you have played with, records you have been on, TV or movies you or your music has appeared in, people that you have opened for or guested with will be of interest to the reader. A list of places that your band has played is mandatory. For cover bands, a few letters of recommendation will be helpful as well as complete song lists for every kind of occasion.. Be certain to include lots of photos of the band on stage. Be sure to include all news and magazine articles or reviews about yourself. Teachers should be sure to include a list of education, awards, and special training methods. Make sure all this info is easily accessible (through the title or home page), as this will be the most visited places for future employers. I have used this 'virtual' press package to my advantage many times. Instead of having to send a package through the mail, I tell the potential client to check my website. It's easy as well as sounds (and looks) impressive. Plus, they can review the materials immediately. A tour schedule with up to date engagements will let fans as well as club owners know how busy and happening you really are! Put a list of all your band gear if you think it would impress. You can even use this space to print downloadable dollar off coupons for your engagements.

Thanks to programs like Real Audio and now Liquid audio, you can include full high sound quality versions of your music and even video without a viewer waiting to download the file. This would be a must for your Stones tribute band. People want to see what you look like in action and real audio, albeit jerky, looks pretty darn good. Needless to say, whether you are a player or have an original or cover band , your web viewer will be impressed to hear an actual snippet of your music or a video and that could very well influence them to hire you or buy your tape or CD.

Be sure to include a place on the home (title) page where people can submit their email address. When you collect addresses, you can mass-mail everyone about your engagements, new releases or anything else that you think might be of interest. And as opposed to a mailing, you can do all this for free! Of course, the website will have a separate return email address than your own. This way you can keep your personal address personal-highly recommended.

Your website can function as a great place for your fans to have a place to talk about you or your band. This is referred to as a message board. People discuss your records or shows, talk about related acts or even meet each other for romance (I have seen it on ours!) on your message board. Many acts have thousands of entries. It keeps the enthusiasm going even when you are not touring or are between CD releases.

Always let your website show your personality and sense of humor. I have seen people put anything from love advice and dream analysis to suggestions on how to change the carburetor on a '57 Chevy. All on a music website! Just have fun with it. My site (www.parlapiano.com) includes record and film reviews and stupid tirades about anything as well as a passion of mine-a virtual vintage keyboard museum. This is your chance to let your writing talent shine while promoting your band.

BUILD YOUR AUDIENCE

Once you have your website together, don't hide your light under the bushel. Let everybody know about it. As well as the obvious-putting the address on your band flyers, cards, CDs, cassettes and t shirts, there are other ways on the internet to let people know about you. Firstly, do a mass email to everyone you know with a link (the web address highlighted, ready take the addressee there with a click-most email programs support this). Other ideas include banner adds on other related (music) websites. Sometimes you must pay for these, but if it a friends site you may do it for free. Make sure to ask all the people you play with to have a link to your website somewhere. Search engines such as Yahoo and Alta Vista will put you in their directory merely by requesting. Web rings are a good way to get the word out. These are basically organized link pages depending on the subject matter. You better believe that if you have a Lynyrd Skynrd tribute band, your site qualifies for the 'Southern Rock' web ring. If you have a party band, get on some fraternity or college web rings. They are there for free. Use them. Don't forget to enter your act in the Ultimate Band List. This is another free service that will list your act with a web link, bio and sales info, if applicable. More obscure ways of advertising include chatting in music rooms or newsrooms and instead of using your email address to use your website. People can always get in touch with you there. (Be sure to have a contact button linked to your business email on that home page.) If you are a writer, submit your work to another website and leave your address on the bottom of your article. Embrace anything you can imagine to highen your web visability. The more traffic you get-the more effective the site will be. It will be great to see that 'hit' counter go up and up.

SALES ON YOUR WEBSITE

Most domain name web servers will supply a template for a secure browser page-meaning that a listener can hear your snippets then give their credit card info and order your cd with the security that the numbers will be encoded and therefore safe from piracy. If you hype your CD correctly, you can get into a co-op with a bigger internet CD seller like amazon.com, or iuma.com. Here, you pay a certain amount to have your CD displayed on their website, supply them with x amount of CDs, and they keep a cut. Daryl Berg of theorchard.com tells me the company runs in a different way. Any artist can contact the Orchard, pay 40 bucks, mail them some CDs and the orchard will take the music to several online CD merchants, including CD Now, one of the biggest. They can even take the CD to regular retail (an actual store) through Valley Media., functioning as an internet distributor., taking a percentage off the wholesale price. Their philosophy is that there is lots of good music out there, and everyone is given an opportunity to sell it. Since my band, The Brothers Figaro (brosfig.com) has been with Orchard, we have had a great increase in CD sales as well as hits on our website. It acts as free advertisement.

Don't forget about selling other merchandise on the site. A good pic of a great T-shirt design could sell itself-even if the viewer has never heard the music! Use your site as a store for your stuff-videos, keychains, caps, shorts, whatever you got to sell. Your site is your virtual marketplace.

I would encourage everyone to do a good amount of websurfing of other band sites to see what is out there. The possibilities are endless. I recently saw a great idea on Todd Rundgren's personal site (www.tr-i.com). He was actually selling subscriptions to his new songs, videos and autobiography. For a certain amount of money, you would be alerted when he had a new tune done, then you could download it, at full CD quality on to your computer. He would also supply downloadable artwork for the whole album when it was done. I found this idea to be quite unique, although I heard a few people were starting to do this. Pretty forward thinking, eh?

It is obvious the internet is here to stay and the sooner you jump into the water, the more your act could benefit. Many people (including some record companies) are predicting in the very near future that more music will be bought off the internet than from CD stores. A lot of artists without any record company may be able to sell their wares as easily as one who does. This can open up a lot of doors. Your website is the doorway. All in all , your site is the best and most complete advertisement, flyer, or brochure that an act can have, whether you are playing your own brand of alt/dance/metal or having fun with a retro-disco cover band.

1999 Gig Magazine
Reprinted with permission