Once you’ve chosen your members and decided what style of music you’ll be performing, it’s time to choose a name. Your group name is the single most important marketing decision you’ll make, as it will conjure images in the head of everyone who’s never heard you, and act as your trademark for those who have.
Before you finalize your name, you’ll also want to check to see if your desired website name is available. It is also useful to check popular social media sites as well. Your name is your calling card. Make sure it’s yours, and once it is, protect it.
Building a Press Kit
Eventually, you’ll need more than a business card and word-of-mouth to get you gigs. Most groups offer an Electronic Press Kit, or EPK, directly on their website, but some still offer a physical press kit upon request.
A Press Kit should have the following:
- Overview – Quartet, genre, date founded, members, history, web address
- Quartet member info – experience and background on each member
- Repertoire list – list of your various set packages or repertoire
- Music samples – links to music samples online
- Endorsements – nothing can sell a quartet faster than review quotes or testimonials if you are fortunate to have them
- Media coverage – all the media outlets that have covered you with list of the outlets, articles, and dates.
- Photo and Logo – the 8″ × 10″ photo is the size most often used by venues. A logo file will also allow customers to include your logo on performance announcements.
- Video link – possibly the most effective part of your press kit would be a link to a YouTube video of your group in action.
- Booking and Pricing Info – for event booking, don’t forget to add your pricing information. It’s also OK to say “contact us for pricing info.”
Make sure the content is consistent, accurate, and arresting. Studies have shown that you only have about six seconds to grab attention with your press kit. It should be visually arresting and should give prospective customers the information they want quickly.
The best way to get gigs is to gig. That doesn’t make sense, you say? Well, there’s no better way, and nothing’s keeping you from taking the first step: perform for free – as often as possible – in public locations. Even if you only know a handful of songs, you should agree to meet on weekends and spontaneously jam on the street corner. Just make sure that your performance is public-ready. Ask your coach or trusted chorus colleague for feedback.
Nothing hones performance instincts more than performing, and it’s the best way to get lots of people really excited about your group. Initially, this means performing at friends’ parties, street-singing in tourist areas, volunteering at charity events, entertaining at office parties, etc. There are many people and organizations interested in free entertainment – explore performance opportunities with friends, fellow students, and co-workers. People who have enjoyed hearing your group perform in person are now all doing word-of-mouth advertising for your group. Make sure they all get business cards, which all group members should carry, and get their names on your mailing list! That will pay dividends for a long time.
The next way to get gigs is to actively network and market your quartet. Just like a good job hunt, talk to as many people as possible about good places to sing. Ask if you can sing on a radio show, have a friend hire you to sing at the mall, or send your recording of the National Anthem to every sports franchise within driving distance. The more contacts you make and the more people you impress with your musicality and professionalism, the more fun the whole experience will become.
This kind of thing requires dedication from the entire group, not just one obsessive person. Make sure everyone is looking out for and generating opportunities. The initial hard work will pay endless dividends down the road.
Some ideas of areas to network and market your group include:
- Register as vendors at large senior living corporations
- Reach out to local churches who have a need for entertainment at scheduled social events
- Contact social and business organizations
- Leave information with social directors of country clubs and local banquet centers
- Contact social directors at retirement centers
- Search for local open mic nights
- Search for local arts-related organizations such as a songwriters group, music association, music store or school art department that hold workshops or public events
- Search for local fundraising events and charities you might team up with. Every year you should probably perform at least one or two charity fundraising events. Doing so is a good idea for many reasons. For starters, it feels good to help a nonprofit organization and help with a worthy cause. As an added benefit, you can get a lot of exposure to new audiences.
- If you’re interested in getting your music in a theatrical performance, contact the local theater, improvisation, or sketch-comedy community in your area.
- House concerts are private events in the homes of music fans. Friends, neighbors, and acquaintances are typically invited to attend a performance. Often there’s a pot luck dinner or dessert
- Apply at local festivals that could use live entertainment
Two web-based entertainment booking sites that have been used successfully by several Society quartets are GigSalad and GigMasters. Both provide a means to market your capability as well as receive requests for bids on a performance. They also solicit ratings and testimonials from your patrons that can be helpful in getting new patrons to book you.
Websites and Social Media
The Internet is making it easier than ever to market your quartet and get performance requests. The following are some examples of technology available to you in marketing your group:
- Facebook is the avenue that most groups use for candid media (i.e. photos and videos) and to communicate with supporters.
- A website provides a professional image with information on upcoming performances, information about the quartet, repertoire, contact information, press kit, media coverage, photo gallery, and endorsements.
- Twitter and Instagram can be used for quick communication with supporters and sharing candid photos.
- YouTube has become the platform of choice for sharing videos of quartets in action.
- SoundCloud is a way to give people full-track streaming audio samples.
One thing to keep in mind is to maintain consistency between social networking profiles. For starters, think about how you’ll want to speak to your fans. This is a business page, after all, so you’ll probably want to avoid using too much slang or abbreviated speech. However, it is important that you sound like YOU. It’s also a good idea to use similar themes or images across the board. For example, if you have a CD coming out next month, it’s wise to include a graphic announcing the album drop date in your Facebook cover photo. You can also use a similar image as your Twitter header photo. Being consistent in your voice and image makes your act seem more credible as a business and is just a good marketing practice.
While a presence on social media is important, establishing an actual website increases the professional appearance and legitimacy of your group. If you aren’t skilled in web design, there are many programs on the web (some are free) that can help you get started, or may offer consultant services. Or contact your high school or college for a web-savvy student who wants experience for a small fee.
Keep your site easy to navigate and make sure you update it frequently. If someone checks out your page to book you and your upcoming gig list includes shows from six months prior, they may assume you’ve gone on hiatus.
Some key elements of a website for quartets include:
- Homepage -It all starts with a great header image. This could be a professional photo of your group, or a professionally-shot live photo from an event you performed at. You should also include a short bio, along with a strong testimonial from a previous client. Including a video of a live performance or a demo/show reel will also help to give a great first impression to potential clients. Also be sure to have a clear call-to-action to book your quartet!
- About – This page should tell the story of your group, with an emphasis on past experience, the types of gigs that you have performed, as well as a few strong testimonials from past clients. Once again you should include a strong call-to-action to book the group.
- Song List- You can organize the lists by era, genre, or simply in alphabetical order by artist or song title. Snippets of songs can also help get you booked by showcasing your harmony as well as making sure that the prospective customer knows what the song sounds like if they might be unfamiliar with the title.
- Testimonials – Positive reviews will help get your group booked at more gigs, so this might be the most important section for your website. Even though you should have a few testimonials on your Home and About pages, you should also have an entire section on your site dedicated to displaying testimonials from past clients.
- Future Shows – Even though many of your gigs will likely be private events, it’s important to show how active your quartet is. If a potential client sees that you have a bunch of shows booked, that makes you look good!
- Photos- You can use your Photos section to display high quality photos from past events. Photos that show the quartet in action, as well as an engaged crowd, can help get you booked.
- Videos- Even better than photos would be to have a few good quality videos that show the group performing. This will give potential clients a very good idea of what the experience will be if they hire you. If those videos show an enthusiastic crowd that is dancing, clapping, and cheering, even better!
- FAQ – A section for Frequently Asked Questions can be helpful for potential clients. Here you should include information about the steps in hiring the quartet, and what can be expected of the quartet before, during and after the show. You can also include what the needs of the quartet will be in terms of sound equipment (do you bring your own, client needs to rent, etc.), performance fees, and how payment can be made and when.
- Booking/Contact- Finally, make sure to have a clear way to contact the group both by email and by phone. Many clients will still want to pick up the phone and talk to someone directly. You can also place a booking form right there on the page.
Building Your Website
Site Builder Report (review of website software)
Instagram for Musicians
Market Your Music on Sound Cloud
Twitter for Musicians
YouTube for Musicians
Musicians Guide to Social Media
Suggestions for Social Media for Musicians
Recording a CD or Demo Video
At some point in the quartet’s lifecycle, recording a CD will be considered, either as a marketing tool or as a source of revenue. Many of the steps your quartet will need to go through in a recording project are the same regardless of the format(s) you choose. Your personal involvement will vary, depending on whether you are working with an organization that does most or all of the work for you, or if you are going to handle the details yourself.
The actual recording sessions are the first major step. The options range from first-rate major recording studios to basement studios to semi-professional on location individuals. Prices range from $30 per hour to more than $100 per hour. A higher price does not always mean better end result. Many top-price studios do not understand the barbershop sound, and they may not be interested in the unique challenges it presents and how best to record and process it.
The second major step is referred to as editing, post or mix-down. Songs are put in final order, volume levels are adjusted, etc. During this time, ambiance (echo, reverb, etc.) may be added to dry studio recordings, or too much ambiance from live (show or contest) recordings may be processed to lessen the effect. Careful work here can make or break the final product.
The third major area is the actual production (mastering and duplication) of the product. You will likely receive a proof copy from your duplicator. This is your final chance to review the CD itself as well as any artwork for the finished project. Most duplicator companies will not begin the duplication process without final approval from you.
Finally, the packaging needs to be prepared. Design, copy, layout, typesetting, artwork, photography, color separations, and printing are the major concerns here. How plain or fancy you get depends on time, budget, and taste.
An alternative to the CD is an MP3 download which doesn’t require the packaging step but still requires the first three steps.
If you are recording a CD or recording for download, a mechanical license is required. Fortunately, this has become easier to obtain than in the past. Three excellent sources for licensing are Loudr, Easy Song Licensing, and Songfile. Any of the three companies will file the proper paperwork with publishers in order to lawfully license the song for you. They take into account the distribution methods of the song, and provide you with a mechanical license that allows you to record the song. They charge around a $15 service fee per song, plus the publisher royalty for the mechanical license of 9.1 cents per song on a CD or 9.1 cents per download.
Some quartets are turning to video as a marketing tool as well. If you go this route, it is best to use a dedicated, high quality video recorder (as opposed to, say, a smart phone video camera) and have the audio connected directly into the video recorder rather than through the video recorder microphone. Never upload raw video from the camera. Always use editing software to edit and enhance the video clip. If you need help here, contact your local high school or college and ask for someone in their creative arts department. Remember that you want to put your best foot forward and quality does matter in a video.
YouTube is the video publishing platform of choice. Since YouTube is a video platform, you would technically need a synchronization license to legally post a cover there. But because it’s so difficult for independent artists to get a response from large publishers, and would be even harder to negotiate a synch rate, YouTube will automatically contact the owner of the song when uploaded and either have the owner agree to not charge a fee or will display ads on the video. So, if you’re just going to release a video of a cover song on YouTube but won’t be selling it, you don’t need to obtain mechanical license. YouTube will simply pay royalties to the publishers from the monies collected through ads displayed on your video. As this licensing process may change in the future, contact YouTube for the latest information.
Recommendations and Lessons Learned
“Apply at local area events. Routinely contact senior and assisted care facilities.” – Pride of Peoria
“Don’t rely on advertising in the paper or radio. Get out there and talk-it-up and sing-it-up.” – EKG
“Technology has become central to our marketing. Being able to include a web address, Facebook page, and email on business cards and other publicity materials makes it easier for people to find us, and being able to continually update the digital media lets us make sure we get the latest info to those who need it.” – hmmm
“It works best to have one single point of contact for scheduling, so all publicity should include contact info for that person”. – hmmm
“Be active and get your music out there, then post about it in your social media and ask friends to do so as well”. – Slice
“A demo video was a big step forward for us … new customers wanted to see this or go to a gig before hiring us.” – Men in Stripes
“Most people who reach out tell us that they read about us on our website and/or watched some of our YouTube videos.” – Gimme Four
“Our website has links to a composite of various songs as well as short (20 second) snippets of all of our songs. Both have been helpful for helping prospective customers hear what we sound like.”– Smooth Brew
“We have received lots of positive comments regarding our videos and CDs. The biggest lesson is that it is very hard to cut through the massive amount of “clutter” on social media to reach audiences beyond Barbershop.” – Vocality
“Providing a professional appearance online, with uniforms and with printed material is key. We have developed our own website but if that capability doesn’t exist in the group, then an investment in a web design firm is suggested. We have a Facebook site but find it doesn’t do us much in getting new business and we don’t really have a big following like a band that would find Facebook helpful. The reviews we have received from GigMasters and GigSalad customers are posted on those websites and we also put them on our website.” – Smooth Brew
“The key is to get your name out there and to get yourself registered as a vendor for the types of organizations that hire quartets like ours.” – Fireside
“As the saying goes, you’re not really in business if you’re not online.” – Fireside
“Business cards help when the opportunity arises. Mostly our successes come from word of mouth after we have sung/performed. Always best to show the product first!” – Stay Tuned
“It’s important to be easy to find on the internet and easy to contact. We give audio away for free because it grows our fan base, and we’re still able to sell ample CDs at shows.” – ‘Round Midnight
“Use a lead generating website like GigSalad or GigMasters if at all possible. It expands your marketing reach tremendously.” – Smooth Brew
“We hand out business cards at every performance, and we always send a “thank you” letter to the person who hired us. These things get us a lot of repeat business.” – Four Old Parts
“Our internal webpage has our recordings, song learning tracks and sheet music, our upcoming performance information, and our next rehearsal information.” – Smooth Brew
“Our website and social media have made us infinitely more connected to our base and others alike. Our website especially has been a great tool for people searching for a quartet to find us and our social media has allowed us to cultivate an image.” – Yonge Guns
“We use two entertainment web sites almost exclusively now for our marketing – GigSalad and GigMasters. Previously we had printed up flyers and posters as well as postcards to distribute to local businesses, retirement homes, and other venues. Both GigSalad and GigMasters have been so good in getting leads and business that they are essentially all the marketing we do. We have prepared a press kit for several local booking agencies and have received some business from them.” – Smooth Brew
“Partner with as many organizations as possible. Include them in your promotions and craft your brand and activities such that your community partners resonate with your brand. Go out of your way to be deliberately inclusive. If somebody wants to partner with you and include you, say yes. Even if it doesn’t seem like something a “barbershop quartet would do”. Some of our most significant successes have been the result of our partnering with a local improv comedy group for one of their gigs, and we’ve ultimately gained many other opportunities from the connections we created through that.” – The Regulars Quartet