Most independent bands in the U.S. spend all of their time, money and effort promoting their music here in the States. While promoting your band locally certainly makes good sense, neglecting other markets can cost you money and missed opportunities. Unfortunately, foreign markets are typically strange territory for indie bands and, as such, are often overlooked. These markets, specifically the European countries, present a great opportunity for unsigned bands to promote their music and make some money. Additionally, the European music scene is not controlled by big record labels and mega-promoters, and still offers opportunities to new and unsigned bands. In this article I will pass along some tips to help you break into the European music scene.
Before you begin to make contacts in Europe, be ready for their response. Let's say you get lucky and are offered a slot in a music festival located in Germany. The promoter sends you an information packet and expects you to be on site for promotional opportunities in six weeks. This is a great scenario--unless you are not ready.
Below are a few points to consider in preparation for a possible trip to Europe. 1. Make sure that everyone involved has a valid passport; if not, have them apply for one today. With all of the new terrorism-inspired screening procedures, passport applications, even emergency applications, can take 8 weeks or more to process.
2. Discuss this opportunity with everyone in your band to identify any problems that might arise. Issues such as fear of flying, probation/parole restrictions or getting time off from a job can put a crimp in your travel plans. 3. Start working on an equipment list and consider what you will need to take and what you will need to obtain locally. With airlines charging for every extra bag, you don't want to pay baggage fees on a 18-piece drum set.
Once you have done your preparation work, identify your promotional targets. You should promote your band to a combination of radio stations, internet broadcasters, promoters, print publications and foreign record labels.
Begin by tracking down internet radio broadcasters and online music publications in Europe. Contact these stations by email to ask about music-submission guidelines. Internet radio broadcasters are not under the control of major labels or music directors, and can play almost anything they want. Most will ask that you send a CD and a short bio sheet. Some will even allow you to submit tracks and information by email. Online publications will typically want you to mail them a CD so that they can read the liner notes. Once you have submitted your music to a number of outlets, continue to check back to obtain copies of reviews or reports of listener response.
Contact traditional AM/FM radio stations and print publications. This group will most likely want you to mail a CD and press kit, rather than submit material electronically. It can sometimes take 3 to 4 weeks for the postal service to deliver international packages, so don't worry if they don't contact you a few days after you put your stuff in the mail. Start a log to track when you mail press kits and when you should follow up with these contacts. Again, wait at least a month before you email or call to inquire about your submission.
With some broadcast and print exposure under your belt, start contacting promoters, record labels and booking agents in the areas that have produced the most exposure. Begin by sending an email with references to your local exposure and inquire about possible opportunities. Again, the response time may not be as fast as you would like, but be patient. Also remember that English may not be their first language, so read responses carefully.
Following these simple steps should offer your band a good starting place for European opportunities. Use these guidelines as a starting point and look for new ways to get the word out about your band.
Have your press kits translated into the language spoken in the area you are contacting. This can often speed up the process. Be patient and extremely polite. Sometimes language or cultural differences can be misunderstood and cause problems. Use email rather than the telephone. This way, you won't have to deal with time and language differences.
Don't respond to offers from people who ask for money. Don't send more press-kit material than necessary. Overseas mail is extremely costly.
Jeff O'Kelley is a professional photographer and writer, currently based in the Tampa, Florida area. His images and words have been featured by websites and publications such as CNN, Creative Loafing and Tampa Bay Times. O'Kelley holds associate degrees in telecommunications and website design from St. Petersburg College.