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So let's assume you've recorded something you're proud of and need to share with the rest of the world. How should you reach all those people who want to buy your music and expand your fan base? Having been involved with the local scene from the band side as well as the recording side for a few years, I'd like to give you a few hints that will help you bridge the gap between you and the label-size artists.

I shouldn't have to tell you to sell your new disc at your shows, but frankly I'm surprised how many artists don't even have it out or mention it while onstage. How can this be? There is no more direct market than those who have already paid to see YOU! Have the album and anything else out that you can sell at EVERY SHOW. People love to shop, so let them. One local band has taken merchandise to the extreme and always has a huge array of things to buy. They trade 10 albums with bands they've played with and sell them every night alongside their own albums. The theory is that people come to the table and instead of thinking, "Will I buy something?" they see all the choices and think, "What am I going to buy?" No big investment from either band and both get their name seen at twice as many shows. If they don't buy something, they will at least sign the mailing list (you DO have a mailing list, right?) Keep one and use it. Four postcards on one page will cut nicely and postcards keep postage down. Also, start an e-mail mailing list. You can always get that out in time for a show.

You must, must, must at least try to book shows out of town to support your new album. There's no point in going to California for one show, but there are countless good places to play within 4-6 hours of home so you won't go broke. Pick up a "Musician's Guide to Touring and Promotion" or a "Musician's Atlas" and get on the phone! Contact other bands from out-of-town and set up favor-trade shows. Send them posters to hang up in their town and do the same when they come to you. Don't forget to mail posters to the clubs as soon as you get the gig. It'll make you look like you're trying hard. Even if you fail to pack the place at the gig, agents WILL remember that you at least put in the effort. Also, don't forget to contact local radio stations and let them know you're coming to town.

The only difference between your group and major-label artists is that they are on the radio constantly and become well known. You can get your songs on as well. "The Point Local Show" (Sunday nights at 11 p.m.) will play almost anything that remotely resembles modern rock, and all you have to do is send in your new recording. Also, do not underestimate the power of 88.1FM-KDHX! Their signal is as strong as KSHE and no matter what type of music you play, KDHX has a perfect show for it. For instance, "Sounds Around Town" is a show that only plays bands that are gigging that week. Listen in and find the deejay that plays your styles and send your kit directly to them. 89.9FM WLCA of Godfrey, Illinois is another big local music supporter and will play most modern rock styles. All these stations might like to interview you as well, so let them know you're available. Lastly, think a lot more globally. There are lots of out-of-town shows that are billed as "regional" rather than "local" shows and are happy to get new material all the time. Consider looking on the Internet for such shows at stations like "The Lazer" in Lawrence, Kansas.

A question I'm often asked is, "How do you get press from the local papers?" This is especially important if you are releasing an album. Get your press kit in order! Do not schlep one together in five minutes before the paper's deadline. Include a cover letter, your recording, and just one or two good pieces of press. Make a good impression. If writers and agents think you've got it together, they'll respond. If you're just starting out or having trouble getting press, remember: Everyone's a critic. Find someone who is knowledgeable in your style of music and ask them to write a review. This could be a radio deejay, a record store manager or a student writer at a university newspaper. These can't compare to Rolling Stone, but it's all press about your group and it will make you look good. In the newspaper business, timing is critical because of their deadlines. Be sure to get your press kit to the writer several weeks ahead of time. Do not expect it printed the week you give it to them. Follow up with a phone call to see if the writer has received it and has listened to the disc.

As long as I've mentioned the Internet, let me clue you in on a few secrets. This is THE place to make yourself look far bigger than you might consider yourself. You should obviously have a web site with pertinent information about you or your group. The number one thing that will turn someone away from your site is if the information is outdated, so update your site constantly! Besides the countless places to list your name like The Ultimate Band List (www.ubl.com), there are some far more useful places to market your products that are ALL FREE: 1) Be sure to link to other bands and list them in your show schedule on your web site. People looking for those bands will inevitably find your site as well. 2) The St. Louis Local Music Pages (www.anet-stl.com/local/music) and The Point (www.kpnt.com) both have great links to bands and band-related issues. This is also a place where people from out-of-town (like those label-types) can easily browse the local scene. 3) Want to take credit card orders? Get signed up with Amazon.com (www.amazon.com). They will make your band a web site, scan your cover art and take orders for you. Your record looks just as important as anybody else's. 4) Mail order is fun and HUGE business, especially outside the U.S. Several bands have sold hundreds of copies to international markets through places like Miles of Music (www.milesofmusic.com). They buy albums on consignment and order more as necessary and send you a check. Many local bands are represented here. A great resource! 5) Look up Fresh Tracks (www.freshtrack.com or call 888-5-FRESH-5). This company just got picked up for national distribution of their compilations, and they are a neat company. For $14.95 a month, members get two CDs from the music genre of their choice and a copy of the Fresh Tracks newsletter. The members send in feedback cards on each disc they receive. If you do well, they order more. They also put out compilations regularly of the featured bands.

These are just a few tips, but you get the idea that with very little effort you could be reaching a whole giant mess of new fans that are hungry for new music. The bottom line is that if you want to share your music with the world, you need to be sure to get it in front of as much of the world as possible. In the end, this effort will hopefully result in enough revenue to fund your next project.