What is the best way for a gigging band to get local exposure?
If you're in a band and you play out right now, it's most likely true you try but ultimately fail to sell anything at shows.
You should treat each gig as a way to further your local exposure. And the best way to do that is to make your fans walking advertisements by giving away free t-shirts. Yes, I know this sounds "corporate", but the fact of the matter is this:
- Everyone loves free t-shirts.
- Fans will not mind advertising your band because at least you're not some huge faceless corporation.
- Free t-shirts always work. ALWAYS.
Things you MUST have ready before doing this
1. A web site
...as in the-band's-name.com. This has to be up and running. This web site is going to be on every t-shirt, so it has to be working.
2. A blog on the web site (or linked out from it)
The web site must have a blog or at least a link to a blog where you post updates regularly, and you must post updates AT LEAST twice a week.
It is strongly suggested that the blog be something not on Facebook. Use something like Tumblr or Blogger instead.
3. Links to your music that's ready-to-buy
Bandcamp. No further explanation needed.
Now that you know the basics, here we go.
How to make your giveaway t-shirts cheap
Step 1. Buy a crapload of the cheapest bulk blank XL unisex t-shirts you can find.
Step 2. Buy 4 cans of spray paint. I suggest using Krylon brand.
Step 3. Print a black-and-white photo of something (your band logo maybe?)
Create a stencil, then spray-paint on the shirts like this (this shows it on a wall but you can do the same on a shirt with no problem at all):
You don't have to be anywhere near as detailed as the video above. Just get something legible that can be seen on a t-shirt from a distance.
Step 4. Have a stamp made at your local stationary shop.
The stamp you have made will have your WEB SITE on it in plain text and only that. After spray-painting the stencil, stamp your web site on the shirt. If you have the stencil in black and the stamp ink in another color like red or blue, this helps make it stick out. The best place to stamp your site is on the back right under the collar.
Step 5. Give these shirts away at every show.
DO NOT sell these things. Just give them away.
Other ways to get creative, cost considerations and the benefits to your band
These shirts are so easy to make that you could customize them for every gig you play.
If you were playing a gig in Tampa Florida, you could create a separate stencil of "TAMPA ROCKS!" and put that alongside your band-logo stencil. That's just one idea, as I'm sure you could come up with others.
The places you play really like it if you actually put their establishment logo on your shirts, because you're advertising them for free at that point and may even give you special treatment when you go to play there again.
For a lot of 100 cotton t-shirts (cotton does soak up paint best and lasts longest), you're going to spend about $125. Yes, that sounds expensive, but it's a worthwhile investment. Remember, 100 shirts for $125 means you only paid $1.25 per shirt.
The ultimate benefit to your band is when your fans start wearing the shirts you gave away in public. At that point they're adversiting your band for free, and that's why you gave away the shirts for free in the first place. This kind of adversiting is something companies pay BIG money for, and it's ridiculously easy to have people do it for you for NOTHING just by giving away shirts.
Now of course, the drawback is that this only works on a local-only level. Giving away free t-shirts is unlikely to make you world-famous, but it will make it much much easier to get local gigs once you start giving them out. Remember that thing I just said above about putting an establishment logo on the shirt for certain gigs you play? You save that establishment hundreds of dollars in free advertising every time you do that, and they will really love you for it. They'll love you so much that they'll keep asking you back, which means more money for more gigs...
...assuming your band doesn't suck. 🙂