Dear SXSW Band, You’re Screwing Up Your Career With Your Profile
"You made it through the SX gatekeepers and have a shot to impress writers, producers, PR people, labels, publishers, sponsors and all manner of music biz peeps, so why are you crapping on your own good fortune?"
Guest Post by Jason Gross
Hello SXSW bands and congrats on making it into what former Spin writer/marketer Dan O'Conor calls "adult spring break”- the huge clusterf*ck deep in the hear of Texas that hipsters call "South-By." You've heard that bigshots like Gaga, Kanye, Springsteen and Prince have all shown up there, along with thousands of smaller, hungry acts that are fueling up their vans and maxing out their cards to get a flight there to be at big shindig next week. That's not even counting the premiere-filled film conference or the tech conference which is already going on now.
So in the middle of this miasma, you’ve been lucky enough to be deemed worthy to participate and what are you doing to get your name out there and make your own splash? You post on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram to get the word out if you're smart but you're also granted a nice little SXSW page that’s been designated by the festival where anyone who's attending can find out who the hell you are and why they should go to your show there. That last part is important- WHY should they care about you if you have a SXSW profile page that sucks? You made it through the SX gatekeepers and have a shot to impress writers, producers, PR people, labels, publishers, sponsors and all manner of music biz peeps, so why are you crapping on your own good fortune?
As a yearly masochistic ritual, I got though every band that's playing at SX, just to see who's worth checking out. I make my own list (see it here) in hopes that I might catch a fraction of the good ones and sing their praises later so hopefully they’ll get the recognition they deserve. As I go through the pile of bands though, I keep seeing ridiculous, pathetic profile pages that look like the band doesn't want to get noticed. Sure, there's some mystique about being mysterious and anonymous but you get the feeling that most of these bands are just plain STUPID and don't know how to take a few minutes to get themselves noticed.
For their benefit, we have some cautionary tales, tips and examples so your own band doesn't look like a bunch of pathetic losers to the SX festival (unless that's the image you want)- you could easily take these lessons to heart about how to show off your musical goods after SXSW or even if you’re not part of the big festival.
To be fair, we're not saying that these bands stink- in fact, I'll want to see most of them at SXSW. We're just saying that their SX sites and/or websites or social pages aren't up to snuff. Some of them might actually read this, wise up and make some changes to their page, in which case, they won't look like the screen shots below but we can vouch that this is what they looked like when this article originally came out.
TIP #1: FACEBOOK ISN'T YOUR HOMEPAGE
The only reason it should be is if you have videos and music set up there, but you probably don't. So what happens? Your would-be fans have to scroll endlessly to see all your photos, gig notices and end up finding zero music there. It's fun for fans but it's lousy for non-believers. FB is just ONE of your fan pages, OK?
Let’s start with Austin band Sweet Spirit and their SX profile page…
…and the Facebook page that they link to. You gotta scroll down their FB page to find any music there and for their homepage, there's a link that says 'Ask for Sweet Spirit's website' (see the bottom left in the screen shot below). C'mon, this shouldn't be a treasure hunt, right?
Some other SX bands who link to their Facebook pages make better use of their FB sites- Betrayal posts videos on their Facebook page and Gengahr links from FB right to their Soundcloud page, plus they're smart enough to have a Soundcloud plugin on their Facebook site too.
TIP #2: TUMBLR/BLOGS (USUALLY) AREN'T REAL HOME PAGES EITHER
Again, you can get away with it if you have nice, neat links to music, video, etc. but let’s face it, you probably don't. Just like with FB, you pile on pics, goofy stories and other fun stuff that fans lap up and leaves everyone else eye-rolling. That’s a fail if you want anyone to give a damn about you.
TIP #3: DITTO INSTAGRAM- NOT A GOOD HOMEPAGE
Sure it can be great promo but there's gotta be more than just the pics. First, here's the SX listing for Dirty Shoes Music Crew, which is only a picture plus a link to his Instagram page. All you get there is pictures there (which is what you'd expect at Instagram) but where's the info on this guy or crew and where's the music? You won't find it there so that's a fail.
Compare that to the much savvier Ka'Ron, who also links to his Instagram account. The big difference here is that on his Instagram page, you can actually go to his latest YouTube video, plus his general YouTube page and to iTunes to buy his music. Smart move, K.
TIP #3: GET A PHOTO AND BIO- IT’S EASY, YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE
My 10-year-old nephew can rattle off his life to you in about 15 seconds and you honestly can't? He even takes pictures of himself (plus he's adorable, see below). Aren't you ashamed, or at least jealous of him?
Here’s two acts who can’t master the feat of my brilliant nephew- BJ the Chicago Kid and Jameszoo. Sorry gents but we’re signing you up for “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” At least you have links to your home pages though.
TIP #4: UNLESS YOUR MUSIC REALLY SUCKS, WHY ARE YOU HIDING IT?
Seriously, what are you thinking? A place like SX is nice enough to give you a page to show off your goods, so why can’t you take a few minutes to show off what you've done and embed a music track there like hundreds of other bands have done- SXSW gives you the ability to upload a song to your band profile so take advantage of it. You're a band so you probably have music, right? (if not, maybe you're a cool performance art project) Otherwise, why are you wasting your time and our time?
See the band Got a Girl, which has a nice swinging '60s vibe to it. True, they have no bio or photo (tsk, tsk) but at least has a sound sample on their page to give you some clue about what they sound like. Note that I have 'em starred- I'll be going to check 'em out. See that? Having their music there already got 'em at least one fan.
TIP #5: THROW A VIDEO EMBED ON YOUR PAGE
It's a nice way to draw people in more, with that added action component, y’know? Again, SXSW lets you add that to your profile if you like. Here's the Sour Notes' page with a video at the bottom. Since YouTube makes it kids' play to embed videos, you don’t have the excuse to cry ‘it’s too hard, I’m not a techie!’
TIP #6: CHECK THAT YOUR LINKS WORKS (FILE UNDER: DUH)
Until a week ago, the page for Lieutenant didn't have any info or a picture there. It does have a pic & bio (it's one of the Foo Fighters who isn't Dave) but the link there still takes you an error page, which is kinda embarrassing for the artist and/or the promo people. In case you're interested, the right link would take you to http://www.lieutenantmusic.com/.
Some acts get part of it right and part of it wrong meaning that you gotta check ALL Of your material out on your site. Check out Austin DJ Loki who's got a great photo but a link to a placeholder page (he could have used https://soundcloud.com/lokimuzic).
Related to that, use the easiest, most direct link to your homepage.
Lena Willikens is an German techno DJ that you'd wanna check out but her SX page has only has a link to her label page. The smarter move would have been a direct link to her own page here: http://www.musicacomeme.com/post/45416195734/lena-willikens
TIP #7: DON'T DO SLOPPY COPY FOR YOUR BIO (OR MAKE IT BOOK LENGTH)
Your bio space on your SX page is to introduce yourself to the world and lets you show off a little, but not too much- no one wants to read a short story here. You don't need to be an pro writer, you just have to make it readable. One problem that keeps coming up is what editors call 'text flow'- you paste in your text from somewhere else and the line breaks are all over the place, making your bio look like experimental poetry or just the bad formatting that it is. A: use your backspace and delete keys and get it right. See Lilly Hiatt’s bio below to see what that looks like.