Digital Poster Paste

You and your mates are in a band, you want gigs, you book them yourself. Maybe you’re a promoter, with the thankless job of getting everyone in the same place at the same time. You book two or three bands; you get the sound guy there on time, charge a few quid at the door and split the profits. Sounds simple, right?
Not really. Let’s take into account the fact that while you’re waiting for a 6pm sound check, you find out that the night before the band were at Electric Picnic, taking drugs until 5 in the morning, and are too mashed to drive from Cookstown. Or what about the lead singer who decides to emulate Jim Morrison and give the audeince a bit more than what they paid in for, or the guitarist who was clinked up for, ominously, ‘something to do with his mother…’

Shane 2Yes, reader, I took the thankless job of vicariously being in a band. I had a Monday night slot for a local showcase. For every night where the band outnumbered the audience there were others that saw some spark of brilliance on stage, the first headlining slot for a band that went far and on one glorious occasion, a sell-out show.

These were the old days of the paste-bucket and poster, but now your band or your night relies on the internet to make your mark. You need that crowd. A good crowd hears your music and buys your merchandise and physical albums. A good take on the door pleases your booker, who should be cutting you in on that sweet action – (and if not, have a word). A good crowd buying drinks endears you to the venue, which can lead to bigger shows. So how should you go about marketing yourself online?

There’s a plethora of books and blogs on the topic, so I’ll just briefly tell you what helps me out. We all know that the video is king. Invest some time and money in one really good video. It doesn’t have to be the November Rain promo, but a good quality live video will work wonders for your Facebook. There’s been times when I’m pushing a show and the support act gets the glory, as the headliners’ YouTube presence consists of wobbly footage of an ‘illegal gig’ and some confusing poi display.

Think of your bio. We don’t need to know that your band is ‘like no other’. Some brief history, a few influences and some of the gigs that you’ve played really give us an idea of where you’re at. Photos are useful too, but make sure you’re genuine. I once saw a picture of a 20 something local musician on stage at the Concert for Bangladesh.

Shane 1

Keep it brief as well. I was once handed a four page press release that had what the individual members liked for tea on it.

You have an online presence? Use it. Interact with me. Have fun. Send me any footage you want to use, let me know if the pictures are out of date and share, like and retweet as if your life depended on it. Your mate’s just done a new video? Let us show it first. The Ballyhalbert Examiner interviewed you lead singer? Link it up! Having a digital press pack, with all your social media links, the aforementioned video and a few hi-res photos can make all the difference.

 

Shane Horan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter @shanehoran.

Tweeting Ophelia, putting the T in SWOT.

It’s one of the most basic tenets of the whole PR game, and one that’s shared with much of the corporate world, the principle of SWOT.

For those of you who haven’t had it implanted in your head by a succession of lectures, meetings and briefings, it stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, which are all pretty much self explanatory. We must address each of these in turn for any campaign, event or undertaking, but some of us, myself included, are guilty of ignoring the last, and arguably most vital, section.

 

Threats and run the gamut from a member of staff being delayed by traffic, all the way up to, and including, the declaration of war. We can edit out the SH3extremes, with one end being somewhat inconsequential, with the other so improbable we can rule it out. But accidents do happen, acts of God occur and the threat of terrorism hasn’t gone away, you know.

Work anywhere with the public and you are presented with these doomsday scenarios, of evacuation and escape routes, warnings never to shout ‘fire’ at a theatre (though if you hear an announcement asking if Mr Smith or some such can report to the lobby, it might be wise to gather yourself up). I once worked at an event where Bill Clinton himself was due to speak, which included the mandatory snipers and the welding shut of manhole covers. Just in case.

And as I write this the sound of storm Eleanor rattles off my window, reminding me of Ophelia. Storm Ophelia was due to hit Belfast at around 3pm, and projected to last until late that night. Galway had already taken a hiding and the venue I work for had a band booked that night, due to travel up from Dublin.

 

While the preparations were made to shore up the homestead (which, for some reason, included filling every available vessel with tap water) the band were messaged. Fortunately the Dears, an indie-outfit from the wilds of Canada, (who are really rather good, by the way. Would put you in the mind of Morrissey without the unpleasantness) are one of those bands who keep up to date with the twitter.

At 9.58 a message was sent, asking if all was going to plan. They responded within three minutes, saying they were on the way, having left early to beat the storm. “We are road warriors” they added.

At this stage the storm was lashing the west coast of Ireland, and the pubs and shops of Belfast shut down

SH2

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The messages lit up. Was the gig going ahead? Yes! Was it still at the same time? Yes! We’re we still open? Yes!

 

We lost the support group, but Canadians are made of sterner stuff, and turned up before lunchtime, ahead of schedule and loaded in. Reassurance was the order of the day, the Empire Bar has a cosy Basement and Ophelia blew itself out before it hit us. And then they posted this picture, which is when we knew everything would be all right.

 

Shane Horan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter @shanehoran.

It was this time a year ago I quit the job I had for 13 years.

Carrying plates for a living begun as a way to earn some extra money back in university in the heady days of the nineties. University soon fell to the wayside and before I knew it, I found myself trapped in a regional hotel that made Jack Nicholson’s break-down in the Shining seem quite reasonable. This situation had to change, so I took my rabid consumption of the music press and turned my hand to writing about music.

I wrote, for free, for a local glossy magazine called Alternative Ulster. I promoted up and coming bands, I DJed anywhere that would take me. I did stand up comedy, I stage managed, I guested on Across the Line and turned my hand to restaurant critique. I also studied journalism but made the rookie error of starting my course mere months before the bottom fell out of the print industry.

Then I had a part time job as the in-house writer for a large promotions and bar company. It was the heady days before the 2007 property crash, and everyone was so rich we were buying Terry Bradley prints like they were going out of fashion (which they did) and paying to have tiny fish eat our feet. Almost overnight the bubble burst, the money was gone and Belfast’s nightlife died a slow death that year.  I was one of the unlucky ones, and so it was back to the restaurants.

Fast forward almost ten years. I’ve kept my hand in and continue to write. I’m looking for a placement in my third year as a CMPR student, but the market is very competitive, especially for a mature student. I’ve since quit my job in the restaurant, as I now have a family and a degree to worry about. The placement is hard to come by and I’m running through my contacts getting a lot of encouragement, the promise of passing on details, and then, out of no-where, word that a local venue is looking a digital marketing assistant.

It’s not a full time position, but more importantly it’s paid and I can continue to study while working on my final year. Within a few months the social media feeds have benefited from a dedicated member of staff and I am learning every day about the ins and outs of promotion.

Things turn full circle when my original boss from the promotions company gets in touch. He’s running Oktoberfest at Custom House Square and he’s looking someone for Digital. It would have been rude to say no.

What has this taught me? It would be easy to say that picking up work is not a matter of what you know, but who you know, but I would disagree. In these challenging times money is still a big factor and people demand a return on their investment. I’d prefer to say that work brings in work. Do your best, get a reputation and put yourself out there. I’ve since got two leads for more digital work, thanks to a high profile event.

If you’re asked, say yes and work out how you’ll do it afterwards. If you’re asked once and say no, there’s plenty of others who’ll say yes and you won’t get asked again!

Shane Horan is a mature student in his final year of BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter @shanehoran.