101 Secrets to Indie Rock Success 

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1. Use Twitter and other forms of social media, but use them wisely.
You want to promote yourself, that’s perfectly acceptable, but be careful not to overdo it. It helps if you’re good at jokes to break up all the self-endorsement. (Look to @Tanlines and @ HarlemWhateverr to see how it’s done.) And, hey, if a publication says something nice about you, retweet that shit! You didn’t even write it!

2. Play shows at whatever venue, on whatever bill, whatever day of the week, at whatever time you’re invited to play. “It’s hard being an opening band,” Win Butler told us once in the back alley of a venue in Kentucky while debating whether he should splurge on a hotel room that night. There’s a reason it seems like every band has a story about playing for a room with three people in it: it happens a lot. Later those experiences may become badges of honor. In the meantime, you’re not really in a position to turn your nose up at certain venues or bands offering you a spot on a bill.

There are incentives for playing too: the bartender’s brother could work at Sub Pop, someone could be prompted to give your Bandcamp page a listen after seeing your name in a show listing (including writers at a certain biweekly arts-and-culture guide, ahem, who notice you’ve repeatedly opened for bands they like).

Take of-the-moment buzz-makers DIVE, for instance. By playing so many gigs over the last few months, they’ve made it nearly impossible for local music writers to ignore them. Playing shows might be your best shot at getting noticed. At worst, they’re band practices.

3. With that said, as more and more “bands” consist of one person in their bedroom on their laptop, it’s important to really think about and conceptualize a live setup before heading to the stage. Think about how your songs are going to sound outside the confines of your apartment and ways to make it a dynamic, fleshed-out performance.

4. If you’re debating whether to wear goofy costumes, the safe bet is not to wear goofy costumes. Unless you’re really going to own it (and are prepared to always be associated with it, see: Kevin Barnes’ bedazzled horse), stray away from theatric outfits, props and all that.

5. Aim to be like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart in interviews: smart, self-deprecating, excited. You can also just be yourself (you actually should just be yourself). At the very least, don’t act like talking to press is the biggest drag of your life.

6. If you’re selling two songs on the internet, or even if you’re just giving them away, please, for the love of all that is sacred, stop calling it a digital 7”. It’s just a coupla MP3s, which is fine.

7. Actually, it’s not. Save some money, pool it all together (this is when it helps to have an actual band—your laptop probably sucks at saving money) and then press a real 7”. It will feel good, you’ll have something to show your kids, and your parents will think you’re slightly less of a joke .

8. Regarding CDs: No digipaks till you have a label, or we’ll roll our eyes and make assumptions about the size of your trust fund. As for traditional inserts: four-panel, full color on the front, just one on the back. It’s all you need. But spring for the clear tray. The black one is gauche.

9. Don’t underestimate the power of a good sticker. Print ‘em up and make sure one appears in the bathroom of the bars that are most in keeping with your style. It’s quaint and old-timey and awesome.

10. If you put out a record exclusively on cassette, that’s cool, but realize that not everyone owns a tape player. Include a code for digital download.


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