Archive for February 4th, 2008

Sorting Through What’s Real (And What’s Not) In Band Promo

Monday, February 4th, 2008

The purpose of promo is to make every band seem perfect for your party. Attractive pictures, rave reviews, and professionally recorded song demos showcase each band’s strengths, making it difficult sometimes for clients to choose which group really is the right one for their special occasion.

What’s a potential customer to do? Well – for starters – read on.

1. Understand that promo can both over-hype and under-sell a band. The best promotional packages accurately reflect a band’s personality, style, and repertoire. But not all promo is the “best.” I’ve known some really good bands whose demos were 2nd-class or worse. Conversely, I’ve seen some outstanding promo for very average combos. A few things to look out for: If the group’s photo shows only one female, but their song demo features 3-part, Andrews Sisters-style harmonies, then you have a band who can’t reproduce “live” the sound you are hearing. (The same thing would be true of a combo with one guitarist whose demo features Allman Brothers-type twin leads.) This is unethical, and should serve as a warning sign for you. Which leads us to tip number two:

2. Use promo only to rule out the groups who are a bad fit for you. Your life is too busy already to actually go see every band who might (or might not) be right for you. For this reason, on-line band demos are a great time saver. If you are planning a very classy evening, and a group’s photo makes them look like Hell’s Angels in tuxedos, you can safely move on to the next candidate. Only as a last resort would I ever recommend hiring a band from their demo, but you can frequently eliminate many of the “also-rans” while sitting right at your home computer. Your best bet is to pick 2 or 3 groups who seem promising, then make the arrangements outlined in tip number 3.

3. Whenever possible, audition each band in person. It is only face to face that you can see how a band looks when they are not posing for the camera. Are they bored and chatting among themselves? Or do they stay engaged with their audience? Do they sound like their demo, and is their volume appropriate for the size of the venue and age of the crowd? How much time is spent in between songs or on intermissions? Demos don’t give you this kind of information, and the success of your party may depend on – not just the look and sound of the band – but their professionalism, as well.

I am personally such a believer in having customers audition my band in person, that I all too frequently neglect to update my promo. (An agent took me to task for this sin, just last week.) My philosophy is that you wouldn’t buy an expensive outfit without trying it on, or purchase a car before you test drive it. The same should be true – if at all possible – with your choice of bands. To ensure the best fit for you, “try on” your combo.

You wouldn’t want to get stuck with a lemon, would you?