How and where to promote a jazz gig in Dublin.
This post is going to be a little different than what I expect most of my blog posts to be like. It’s a practical list of things people need to do (as of April 2017), to promote their jazz gig in Dublin. This isn’t how to successfully build a jazz career, promote your brand, build a product. This is simply, I have a gig with a pick-up band in two weeks, what should I do? You can find more thoughts at the end regarding the bigger picture.
Step 1: Essentials. Put together a (online) promo pack, no matter how small.
Things you’ll need:
A colour photo (or a poster image, or both).
Descriptions/blurbs/details in a word file
A cover letter
Preferably a photo of the band together, preferably in action. Drummer and journalist for the Irish Times Cormac Larkin says in his guidelines for Irish Times listings – head shots just don’t cut it. I’ve had a conversation with him about it. It make sense. I was also talking to Cote Calmet about this who has had a lot of success promoting his bands Phisqa and the CEO Experiment. He spoke about the importance of a good poster and about gaining some skills in design.
If you don’t have a lot of IT skills, there are lots of apps out there that make designing a poster easier. I made the one below in less than five minutes using an iPhone called Phoster, the app costs €1.99. Yes, compared to a professional design, it might be cheap and nasty, but for a one-off gig, it has more impact on social media than ‘I’m really looking forward to my gig next week with Greg.’
Click here for some more about images.
Images just get more complicated the more you look into them, so to speak. To be honest, I never have until now, I would upload an image, if it looked bad, I’d fix it. However, there’s a smarter way.
Apparently, according to Facebook, the correct Facebook event cover photo size is 1920 by 1080 pixels (16:9 ratio). Pictures uploaded in a wider proportion will have the sides cropped. Taller images will be cropped top and bottom. However many people report problems with those dimensions and instead suggest 1200×675 or perhaps even 1640×675 (which will produce the same result but with a different ratio aspect). 1200 x 675 also apparently produces the best results on mobile over desktop. Also, journalofmusic.com crops anything that isn’t a 3:2 ratio. It can be a good idea to use text on your cover photo too.
The folks at www.makeawebsitehub.com have a pdf that covers ideal image sizes for all the main social media sites.
Click here for some more on blurbs.
You will need:
A Brief Description (about 30 words).
For submitting to websites.
A Short blurb (about 60 words).
If you’re really going to do this properly, I suggest at least two and maybe three blurbs. The first one is for your Facebook event, try to make it more like a press release than a bio. If you can’t summon the creativity, just do the bio thing. This will also be sent to most of your online sites (listed later on).
A longer Blurb (around 300 words). (Optional)
Imagine you’re the online editor for Hotpress. Hotpress don’t do gig listings, but if they did… sorry… but they occasionally do features on bands and gigs. If you can make your gig sound exciting enough, like an album launch, amazing concept, something, and give them most of the work done already to a high level, they might, just might, put it online, who knows, maybe even in the magazine. You are basically writing a press release. Not just for Hotpress, but for a number of the websites. The good news is, once they have printed it, you can quote it back in your marketing. You send Hotpress a release telling them that your band is the hottest thing in Irish jazz since burnt toast. They publish it somewhere. Your next press release reads ‘The hottest thing in Irish jazz since burnt toast – Hotpress Magazine’. I know. It seems wrong, it all seems so wrong. But that’s what people do. You’ll never trust a press quote again.
Put it altogether like this, preferably in a Word document (they can cut and paste the easiest). If you can’t do a word doc, then pdf or plain text. Attach the photo separately regardless.
BAND or EVENT NAME
Venue with address
Time, Cost, Website (if no website, put your Facebook event)
Your brief description, short blurb and longer blurb. Label them.
Contact info (email & mobile) for more details.
Links to music samples if you have any.
When sending this to email addresses, include a brief cover letter like:
I’m Damian from the Damian Evans Trio. I wanted to submit my event listing to you, please find attached all the information you’ll need and a photo. If you need anything else, please get in touch.
If you can:
A Youtube video – Yes, you can live without it, but everyone loves a video. I don’t know how many people watch them all, again, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t need to be fancy, use your phone, get a 30 second clip of a rehearsal, put it on social media. Put your cat in it.
Step 2: Decide whether you're setting up a Facebook event.
Decide if you want to set up a Facebook event. It depends on the venue, but it’s usually a good idea, in fact some of the submission forms require it. You can also include the link in your promo packs. Yes, inviting people is a drag, especially picking out all the people living in Dublin from your friends list. I don’t know of anyway to make this process easier, if anyone has tips, let me know. Make sure the event is public. Make band members admins. Allow anyone to post on the event page. Use your photo, or if you don’t have, make a poster like I mentioned earlier.
Sharing the Event:
I honestly don’t know if the law of diminishing returns comes into play with Facebook, but decide for yourself how many walls to post on. Ideally you build a relationship with people and they will share it too. Most posts on page walls get moved to non-prime viewing areas and get missed. I feel like it’s a good idea to target some non-jazz pages though, lest we all end up just talking to ourselves. Although it feels like ‘Irish jazz’ may be the most important place to put it, it will only be seen by the 265 members, most jazz musicians themselves.
Click here for a list of links to Facebook pages:
Step 3: Submit your event to Cormac Larkin at the Irish Times.
Now you have your press pack and your Facebook event page, you can go and share that with as many press and event listings websites as you can find. Start with Cormac Larkin. Step 4 has 16 more. Each one is slightly different. Some you just send your press release, others you put all the event information into a website. They take about 5 minutes each once you have your press pack. You can save time by saving gig details to a clipboard app, so you’re not typing everything out each time. That’s about an hour and a half of work.
Email to Cormac Larkin for the Irish Times listings.
You can use his guidelines for a number of submissions. Cormac won’t just reprint what you give him, he’s too good for that, but the more you can give him the more he has to work with. The Irish Times have changed a lot with their listings, the last change being mid-March 2017. Here is Cormac’s email from the time.
From this Friday 17th, the listing of concerts and events will be changing to a new format. There will no longer be complete listings of all events for the week. instead, the ‘Seven Days’ section – in which Irish Times critics preview their recommendations for the week ahead – will be expanded to four pages and the previews will be longer (about 140 words).
This means that I will be writing up to four extended previews of jazz and related music concerts every week. These previews can be a useful tool in promoting your event, and many musicians/promoters share these previews via social media.
To propose an event for a preview, e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with details of the concert at least 8 days ahead of the publication date (ie. the Thursday prior to publication on the following Friday covering the ensuing 7 days). If you produce a press release with information about your event, with details of personnel and repertoire, your chances of a preview will be greatly increased. If you have good photography of you or your band, that greatly increases the chances that it will be noticed in the paper.
If anyone wants more information about this process, don’t hesitate to contact me on email@example.com
Step 4: Submit it to 15 other sites.
Submit the event to the Improvised Music Company
Go to the website and follow your nose. http://www.improvisedmusic.ie/scene/scene-listings
This website is run by Red Keane, and includes Donald Helm’s podcast The Hot Box. Register and then you can submit gig listings.
Submit to the Irish Time’s ‘What’s On’ section.
You need a brief description of less than 30 words for this one. http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/what-s-on
Run by promotor Dominic Reilly, dublinjazz.ie was initially setup by saxophonist Katherine Wyers. You can submit a gig by clicking on the ‘submit a gig’ image link on the right hand side of the website, or go straight to http://dublinjazz.ie/submit-a-gig
Submit event to the Journal of Music
You’ll need to register here as well. Go to: http://journalofmusic.com/page/listings-help
Submit to entertainment.ie
You’ll need to setup an event partner account. It’s free. Then the submit event link is at the bottom of the page.
Email press pack to Totallydublin.ie
Totally Dublin’s online listings seem to be empty, but their music page is full, so submit it. Sure, you may as well use the same guidelines as the Irish Times. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Who knows if many people use this. Perhaps tourists? Still, putting up an event doesn’t take long.  I take that back. The whole venue management section of the website really slows things down. [/endedit] If you apply for arts council funding in the future you can let them know how Arts Council friendly you are. It has a nice stats page.
Submit event on Jazz Near You
Go on, do it for the tourists. Jazz Near You is part of allaboutjazz.com You’ll need to set up an account again to submit an event. http://jazznearyou.com
Submit to all events.in
This website can import directly from your Facebook event. Nice. http://allevents.in/dublin
Email your promo pack to Dublintown.ie
Dublintown.ie tend to use a short description (30-120 words) and a large photo. Email:email@example.com
Email your promo pack to visitdublin.com
Visitdublin.com is run by Fáilte Ireland. Their blurbs tend to be around 100-150 words. There was only one (international) jazz listing when I looked, so if they aren’t putting them up for some reason, get onto them. Consider it jazz activism.
They tend to use short descriptions and a photo. They also have an Irish Band of the Week, I had a quick look over the last 3 years and didn’t see any jazz groups. Make a case to be the first. My gift to you.
Email promo pack to the Dublin Event Guide. (Free events only)
From their website: If you want to promote your free event send a mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org with all the details about your event and make sure that you confirm that the event is free. If your event is not free, please decide first how many tickets you can make available for a competition and then send all your information to the same e-mail address.
Email your promo pack to thumped.com
Generally more rock and pop than jazz, (all the more reason to send it)
Thumped.com tend to use varied length blurbs, so send your whole press release.
Step 5: Do the twitter thing.
Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat/FB accounts – If you’re in a group that are moving beyond their first gigs, you can consider an account for the group. Otherwise, just use your individual accounts. I’ve only used Twitter and FB to promote gigs, I have an Instagram and Snapchat account but don’t use them for gigs or anything else much. They say the kids do. Maybe a guest blog spot from a millennial?
Tag musicians, tag organisation, tag venues.
Hashtag #Irishjazz and/or #dublinjazz or hashtag of your choice, if you have space. Usually you would include a link to your Facebook event, or to an image of a poster with all the information.
Use your common sense, don’t spam people but here are some that should mostly be happy to be tagged.
@DublinEventG (for Free Events)
These really are, like I said, just ideas for simply promoting your one-off gig, rather than the bigger picture. As both Cote Calmet and Cormac Larkin both rightly pointed out, the sooner you start looking at it as more than just a series of unconnected gigs, the sooner you can make something larger happen. That said, sometimes a gig is just a gig that you’d rather 40 people came to rather than 10. As someone said to me during my PhD studies ‘It’s like this has to be in some way massively world-changing. And it doesn’t—it just has to be a fuckin’ night of music.’ Although the jazz world rightly often talks about having higher aspirations that just a night of music, jazz gigs are often one-offs, musical and social experiments that greater things sometimes from from. But even if it is just a night of music, we still want as many people there as we can get. I’m hoping these ideas help with that.
Cormac Larkin had some insightful comments to make about this blog post, he had a read for me. I think he approached it at a different level than I did, but promotion is his bag, and I’ll bow to his greater knowledge. Rather than leave these ideas for a later post, I thought (with Cormac’s permission), I’d just share them. Here you go:
Musicians should be looking to make alliances with other creative professionals, whether its designers, photographers, film-makers, sound engineers, lighting designers, etc. We are all creatives, and we are all trying to make our way. You might have to pay a designer a few quid to design a poster for you, but a) he or she is trying to make a living too, b) you expect them to pay into your gigs, and c) money spent on an image that will capture the imagination is probably money well spent – you might even be able to get the venue or promoter to share the cost, or find a sponsor. Young designers are often looking for projects to get started on. My advice would be to find a young designer in one of the art colleges and figure out how to barter for work. And, this is most important, don’t tell them what to do. Find a designer you like and trust them. Treat them like you hope promoters or venues would treat you.
The best thing any young musician can do is to learn from the guys that are doing it well already. You mention Cote and CEO, and yes, they have been amongst the more efficient self-promoters. But actually, there are very few (none?) Irish musicians getting this right. Maybe Diatribe, David Lyttle, Choice Cuts and IMC worth checking out. But I would recommend that people look at what is being done by the professionals, both in Ireland and elsewhere in the world. Off the top of my head, the guys that I think are getting jazz promotion right (or sort of right) include: IMC, Match and Fuse, Brooklyn Jazz Underground, Cuneiform, Serious, Edition Records, Les Productions de Vendredi, Whirlwind, Jazz Danmark, (That’s a real top of the head list)
Research. I can’t tell you how often I get emails from people asking things like ‘are you still doing the listings in the Irish Times?’ Idiots. If you are trying to get a journalist to write about you, have the courtesy to buy the paper, check out what they are writing and familiarise yourself with the spaces and slots they have at their disposal. Making an effort pays huge dividends. Like anyone else, journalists will respond to being treated with respect. If you don’t read the paper, or know what the journalist writes about, that will be pretty obvious and is the best way to get nowhere with that journalist.
Communication strategies. There is no magic bullet. It’s not a case of finding the right lever and pulling it hard. Promotion, in today’s infinitely fragmented market for music, is about pulling a little on many levers. So do your research, find out which channels work best, and learn how to use them.
Finally (back to me): Why are there so few jazz acts at the www.musictown.ie festival? Someone should get onto that.
I hope that’s of some use to somebody. No two events or groups are the same, it’s meant to be a guideline, but please, do let me know if I’ve missed anything important, or if I’m completely missing something important (like Snapchat? Instagram?), (but not myspace).