Dave Cool

We Want YOU! (To Vote for our Panels at SXSW)

Patriotic Uncle Sam Wants YOU!

We Want YOU! (To Vote for our Panels at SXSW)

SXSW is the biggest music festival and conference in the world, and also one heck of a great party. Through their “PanelPicker”, SXSW let people submit panel ideas that can be voted on, with the top vote-getters having a chance to be part of the official conference program.

Bandzoogle submitted 2 panel ideas, and we’d really appreciate if you took a minute to vote for them. Voting ends at 11:59 CDT this Friday, September 2:

1- Website Demolition Derby

MC’d by Bandzoogle CEO David Dufresne, the panel is 100% dedicated to live critiques of band websites. The panel includes Bandzoogle Founder and web design guru Chris Vinson, Ariel Hyatt from Ariel Publicity, and Ethan Kaplan, former VP at Warner Music Group. They will leave all diplomacy aside in their critiques of artist websites. So, this won't be for the faint-hearted, but should be a lot of fun.

2- Turn Your Drummer Into a Community Manager

Moderated by Bandzoogle community manager Dave Cool (a recovering drummer himself, *see proof below) the panel will feature community managers from established music web companies who will reveal all of their social media dirty secrets, tips and tricks that artists can use in their day-to-day interactions with their fans.

To vote for these panels:

Step 1: Create a SXSW Account: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/users/register?return=/

Step 2: Visit these links to give the panels a “thumbs up”:

Vote for "Website Demolition Derby":

http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/ideas/view/10158?return=%2Fideas%2Findex%2F12%2Fname%3Awebsite

Vote for "Turn Your Drummer Into a Community Manager":

http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/ideas/view/10685?return=%2Fideas%2Findex%2F12%2Fname%3Adrummer

Thanks for your support, we really appreciate it!


*Here is proof that I was in fact a drummer (and a blatant gesture to get more votes):

Little Drummer Boy

I became a much better drummer after that photo was taken, but also became a lot less cute, not sure if it was a good trade-off...

Posted by Dave Cool on 08/30/2011 | 5 comments
Dave Cool

21 Ways to Collaborate with Other Artists & Bands to Get More Fans

Dynamic Duo

One of the best ways for emerging bands to gain new fans is to be exposed to another band’s audience. Especially if you have similar target markets, fans are more likely to trust a recommendation coming from a band they already know and like. Here are some ideas on how you can collaborate with other artists and bands to grow your fan base:

 

21 Ways to Collaborate with Other Artists & Bands to Get More Fans

Collaborate on Live Shows

Likely the easiest and most common way to collaborate with other bands is to play gigs together. Here are a few different ways to collaborate on gigs:

1. Gig Swap

This is of course a no-brainer. Find other like-minded bands whose musical style either compliments you, or even better, that would make for an interesting combination, giving fans of both bands a unique experience. You can open for each other at different shows, and this will work especially well if the other band is based in a different (but nearby) city. You can do gig swaps to help each other break into new markets.

2. Festival gigs

If you’re playing a festival and there is an artist or members of a band that you want to collaborate with, why not create a special environment at your festival gig by collaborating on a song or two? I’ve seen artists collaborate on festival stages big and small, and it usually makes for a buzz-worthy performance that gets people talking.

3. Conference showcases

Same idea as with festivals, but if you manage to get a showcase at a music conference, why not bring in another artist to collaborate on a song? Just be sure to have rehearsed it live before showcasing.

4. Tours

Take the concept of playing live with another band even further and book a tour together. It could be just a weekend tour of a few cities close to home, or a full-out regional/national tour.

Collaborate on Recordings

For your next album, try and think of some like-minded artists that you can collaborate with. Collaborating on recordings can be done in many different ways, here are a few to consider:

5. Guest performances

The simplest thing you can do is perform on each other’s recordings (sing, play an instrument, DJ, rap, etc.). If you want to get the most bang for your buck, make sure that in the song title it actually lists the other artist “X Song Name (Featuring X Artist)”.

6. Co-write a song

Next step would be to co-write with another artist. This will not only be great for the sake of collaboration, but might help with each of your songwriting abilities and open up some new ideas, which is never a bad thing.

7. Cover a song

Why not cover a song by a fellow emerging band whose fan base would like your music? It’s a great way to flatter the band and also generate buzz for both of you.

8. Produce each other’s music

An even more involved way to collaborate in the studio is to take turns producing each other’s songs. This can give each of you a new perspective on the songs you choose to produce for each other.

Often emerging artists can’t afford to hire a producer, but having that objective ear can really help improve the songs. So if you have an opportunity to have a peer produce a song, it might be worthwhile to give it a try.

9. Remix songs

Another great way to collaborate is to approach an artist to do a remix of one of your songs. You can even remix each other’s songs, or take it further and do remix albums of each other’s music.

10. Release an exclusive single/EP

If you’ve collaborated with another band through guest appearances, songwriting, production, remixes, etc., why not release an exclusive digital single or EP through your website?

Even better, couple that digital release with the release of a limited edition vinyl: Vinyl sales already up 41% on the year

Collaborate Using Video

There are also lots of possibilities to use video for collaborations:

11. Official music videos

If you’ve guested on a song, or co-written a song together, collaborating on an official music video is also a no-brainer.

12. Live videos

If you’ve collaborated with another band live on stage, be sure to get some footage of it for both bands to use to promote to their fans.

13. Cover song videos

Even if you haven’t covered the band’s song on your album, you can still release videos covering songs of fellow emerging bands that you want to collaborate with. Chances are that both of your fan bases will get a kick out of this.

14. Videos from the Studio

If you’re doing any kind of collaboration in the studio, be sure to get some footage of it to release on your website/YouTube, etc. Remember, when you’re in the studio, don’t shut out your fans.

15. Live streaming video

Why not use live streaming video while in studio, at a live gig, or even after a gig to chat with fans of both bands?

Collaborate Using Your Website

Don’t forget to use your website to help in your collaboration with other bands. Here are some of the ways to drive people to your website:

16. On Your Blog

It can be as simple as blogging about the other band. You can:

  • Talk about why you like their music
  • Do a review their album
  • Interview the band
 

17. Photo Galleries

Use photo galleries to highlight collaborations with other bands, including pictures from studio sessions, pictures from live shows, or just the bands hanging out together.

Note: Live Video & Exclusive Music

If you do decide to use live video streaming in your collaborations, be sure to host the video on your own site and not the streaming service’s site. Most services will let you embed HTML to host the feed directly on your own website.

And as mentioned earlier, if you do collaborate on a recording with another band, why not release the track(s) exclusively through your website? Take advantage of any excuse to drive traffic to your website where people can sign-up to your mailing list, shop at your online store, etc.

Collaborate Using Social Media

And last but not least, probably the quickest way to collaborate with other bands and help each other out is to use social media. You can:

18. Exchange Tweets

Tweet praise about each other and encourage your fans to follow each other’s band.

19. Host a Twitter Chat

Why not organize a Twitter chat session for fans of both bands so you can chat with each other’s fans. What’s a Twitter chat? Here’s a great article that explains what it is and how to set one up: http://mashable.com/2009/12/08/twitter-chat/

20. Use Facebook status updates

You can each talk about why you like the other band and be sure to link to each other’s fan page.

21. Post a Facebook Note

Create a Facebook note talking about the other band, just be sure to tag the other band in the note as Madalyn Sklar pointed out in her guest blog about Facebook Notes here on Bandzoogle.

Note: And it goes without saying, use social media to drive fans to your website to view your blog posts, video blogs, live video and other exclusive content on your website.

The bottom line is that the more emerging artists join forces to help each other out through collaborations, the more buzz it will generate, which will no doubt result in more fans for each band.

Rappers do it best

The amount of collaborations and guest appearances that happen in hip hop eclipse’s other genres. As discussed in a Digital Music News Article “The Top 8 Reasons Why Rappers Make Better Businessmen…”, guest appearances help amplify your music to new audiences, and rappers use this tactic often and to great effect.

Making the news these days is the high-profile collaboration between Kanye West and Jay-Z called “Watch the Throne”. But I’ll end this post with a more old-school example.

Here’s a video of one of the most famous collaborations that crossed over genres and garnered both groups increased sales, awards, and arguably spawned a new genre of music:


P.S.- A Shout-out

In the world of music blogging, with so many blogs and writers out there, the chances of overlap are great. Case in point, this blog post was in the can and scheduled to go up a few weeks ago, but with a back-log of content, we delayed publishing it until this week.

Well, ironically, David Hooper over at Music Marketing [dot] com posted a blog recently called “5 Ways to Collaborate (or Partner) with Other Bands”. And although there are of course some similarities, there are a few ways to collaborate with other bands that didn’t make it onto my list, so head on over there if you’re looking for a few other ways to collaborate with bands.


Question: In what creative ways have you collaborated with other artists or bands? Please leave us your comments below.

Posted by Dave Cool on 08/25/2011 | 11 comments
Dave Cool

Musicians: Learn How to Properly use Fonts on Your Blog (and Website)

FontsThis is an excerpt of MicControl’s free eBook: "How To Craft The Perfect Blog Post". MicControl is a music blogging community and social media/ blog consulting firm. This guest post talks about some of the do’s and don’ts of choosing the right font for your blog. Enjoy!

Musicians: Learn How to Properly use Fonts on Your Blog (and Website)

Your blog is meant to be read (or at least skimmed). Increasing the quality of the formatting and content, and making the post as skimmable as possible will help to increase the effectiveness of your articles. After all, your articles are being read by people with notoriously short attention spans.

So if you are really just trying to keep the attention of your readers, couldn't the use of interesting and flashy font help?

Simply put, no.

While it may seem like a good idea to experiment with different styles, sizes and colors of fonts, ask yourself one question:

How readable is my blog?

This is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself because ultimately, if your blog is unreadable then it doesn't matter how great the content within actually is.

Although you may be tempted to play around with the font of your blog in hopes of avoiding the typical 'boring' or 'dull' fonts- this is one place where eye catching doesn't have a positive impact, and in fact can have a down-right negative effect on your blog.

What Makes A Good Font?

Choosing the correct font for your blog can actually have an enormous impact on the effectiveness of your articles. Not because a good font will make a post that much easier to read (though it could), but more simply because picking a bad font can make it much harder to read the article.

Before picking a font, there are some guidelines that you'll want to consider. While we don't claim to be experts in the field of typography, there is an amazing resource for you use from Before & After, a graphic design magazine called What Is The Right Typeface For Text?

Here are a few of the guidelines they recommend considering:

1. Pick a typeface with similar character width

This helps to keep up with the natural rhythm of reading.

Ex: Times New Roman

2. Watch out for mirroring images

Geometric typestyles can cause mirroring images when similar letter shapes, such as db and qp, are placed close together.

Ex: Helvetica Neue Roman

3. Avoid overlarge 'counters'

'Counters' are enclosed spaces inside letters, such as b d p q. When these enclosed spaces are too big, it can become straining on the eyes.

Ex: ITC Avant Garde Gothic

These guidelines and more are explained in much greater detail in Before & After's FREE download! We highly recommend checking it out here here.

Which Fonts To Use

Now that you've explored the many guidelines that make a font good or bad, it's time to go ahead and pick the font that best fits your blog. When it really comes down to it, picking the 'best font' means picking a font that you like and that follows the guidelines above, making it easier to read.

Here are some font's that we recommend trying:

  • Arial
  • Verdana
  • Times New Roman
  •  

    Each of these fonts satisfy of the aforementioned guidelines, are web safe and best of all, are easy on the eyes.

    Avoiding The Annoying

    Working with fonts isn't just about picking the right typestyle. There are also a few things you want to avoid for one very important reason: They can really piss people off!

    Using Caps Lock

    Capitalizing a single word here and there is another effective way of illustrating emphasis. There is nothing wrong with showing people just how HUGELY important something is...

    But if there is one thing that will truly piss people off, it is when they look at a blog post and the whole article is in capital letters. Not only is it unprofessional, it creates a very strained reading experience.

    As a rule of thumb, avoid using caps lock within a blog post.

    Bright Colors

    Using a bright colored font in a newsletter or advertisement may be a good way of grabbing someone's attention, but makes for a not so great reading experience. Stick with a black font when at all possible, or if you must, use a dark blue or dark gray. But be forewarned that even using a gray or blue can make your content a bit more difficult to read. A black font is truly the best way to let your text pop off of your background.

    Big & Small Font

    The standard sizes for web fonts can range from 12px to 16px. We recommend using 12px or 14px font as it can help to make the content a bit easier to read without being too broken up. Again, in hopes of making your articles as readable as possible, keep away from using font sizes that require a magnifying glass (any size 10px or below) or font sizes that require too much scrolling due to the article being overly broken up (any size 18px or above).


    To read MicControl’s free eBook: "How To Craft The Perfect Blog Post", visit: http://miccontrol.com/#/consulting/

    Posted by Dave Cool on 08/22/2011 | 5 comments
    Stacey

    WANTED: Weekend support ninja (Bandzoogle is hiring!)

    Bandzoogle is hiring

    We are looking for a support guru to join our team part-time. In addition to helping customers via web chat and email, you'll get to test new features and suggest improvements for our products. We are looking for someone who loves writing, and is comfortable interacting on Twitter and Facebook.

    This is a part-time, work-from-home position, but will likely become a permanent position as we continue to grow and help more musicians.

    Requirements:

    • You must be friendly, polite, with excellent written English.
    • You must be self-motivated (working from home isn’t for everyone.)
    • You must love helping others solve their problems, big or small.
    • You have a strong understanding of web pages and of the Internet in general (HTML, domains, widgets).
    • You have experience with blogs, Twitter, Facebook.
    • You have expert level computer skills (Windows XP/Vista/7 - Mac OS X).
    • You have an up to date computer and high speed internet connection.
    • Bonus points if you:
      • Blog.
      • Are a musician.
      • Have experience building websites.
      • Are fluent in other languages than English and French (written, too.).
      • Know and love the Bandzoogle platform.

    Why work with us ?:

    • A competitive hourly wage, plus bonuses based on performance.
    • Paid training.
    • A low stress, fun work environment.
    • We're growing fast, even in this economy!
    • We're building cool technology for musicians.

    To apply:

    • Send your resume to jobs (at) bandzoogle.com and make sure to add SUPPORT POSITION to the subject line
    • Send links to your blog and Twitter account, if you have them.
    • Send a link to your Bandzoogle site, if you are a member
    Posted by Stacey on 08/17/2011 | 10 comments
    Melanie

    Reward your Fans - with Digital Download Codes!

    Reward your Fans - with Digital Download Codes!

    Building up your fan base plays a huge role in a musicians marketing strategy. Your fans are the ones that are there for you at your shows, following you online, and digging your music. So why not give them a little something back? The Download codes is a great feature available on the Pro plan that allows you to do just that! It is set up so that you can give a fan a unique download code for a free album or track.

    To get this going: first, in your Edit Pages tab, click your album feature, then click the download codes tab, and you can see a list of tracks. Choose the one you'd like to give out, and then click 'Generate.'


    This will give you to option to export or print your unique download codes. You can save that file and then send it to a printer to make individual cards, etc. with the code. Any printer that does unique codes printed on items would be able to handle the file format.

    If you print the promo codes onto cards or stickers, you can sell those or give them out at your show. If you are selling t-shirts, why not add a free digital download as an added bonus? When your fan goes to your download url (http://yourwebsite.com/dl), they will enter the code and receive their music. The code will remain active for 48 hours after the first time it is entered.

    You can track how many of your codes have been redeemed by clicking on any Album feature, then choosing the Transaction History tab.

    Another way to use these codes: you can also send out tracks to your mailing list using this feature! Just click on the Mailing list tab, compose your message, and choose the track you would like to attach.

    Have you used this feature to connect with your fans? Feel free to share your creative ways to use the download codes in the comments!

    Posted by Melanie on 08/15/2011 | 6 comments
    Dave Cool

    Add Your Voice to the Bandzoogle Community!

    Add Your Voice to the Bandzoogle Community!

    Hello Zooglers!

    Just a friendly reminder that we love to hear from our members. There are lots of ways to add your voice to the ever growing and vibrant Bandzoogle community:

    Community Forums

    When you sign into your account, simply click on the “Community” tab. We have over 85,000 archived posts in our musician community. Through the community forums, you can:

  • Read and comment on Blog posts
  • Tell us about new Bandzoogle features you would like to see in the “Suggestion box”
  • Find out ways to improve your website in “Tips & Tricks”
  • Announce news about your career in “Member announcements”
  • Get feedback on your music through the “Music critique” forum
  • Get feedback on your website through the “Website critique” forum

  • And lots more! There are forums for talking about the music biz, music gear, or chat in the musician chat forum to talk about whatever you would like.

    Connect with Bandzoogle through Social Media

    You can also join the conversation with us on social media. We regularly send out helpful articles for musicians, offer website tips, hold contests, as well as disturbing pictures of Bandzoogle staff.

    Here’s how to connect with us:

    Like Bandzoogle on Facebook

    Like our page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/bandzoogle


    Follow Bandzoogle on Twitter

    Over 4,000 people follow us on Twitter, are you one of them? If not, please visit our page and follow us: www.twitter.com/bandzoogle


    MySpace Sucks

    MySpace: Just kidding!


    Need Help?

    You can always reach us on social media, but the best place to get help with your website is still through the “Help” tab of your Bandzoogle account. Someone will respond to you within 24 hours (often much more quickly than that).


    So thanks for being part of the Bandzoogle community, we look forward to hearing from you soon!

    Team Bandzoogle

    P.S.- In the comments section below, be sure to let us know where we can find YOU on Facebook and Twitter.

    Posted by Dave Cool on 08/12/2011 | 21 comments
    David Dufresne

    Bandzoogle: Band websites that work... for bakeries ?!

    Greetings Bandzooglers ! It is no secret that Bandzoogle is home to a community of many thousands of musicians, songwriters and bands of every genre possible, and from every corner of our little planet.

    What is less known however, is that a small percentage of the websites we host are for very different ventures and endeavours. Usually, those sites are created by "Music Bandzooglers" that also have a day job and figure that, since our platform is the best, affordable, way to easily build beautiful and effective websites (and we're always very humble about it, too), they might as well use Bandzoogle for it. We applaud that decision.

    In other cases they'll build it for someone else (that was impressed by their artist site, and asked "can you make me one like that ?").

    Let me give you some examples, and then I'll suggest how you could use that trend to your advantage:

    Many "non-band" Bandzoogle sites are music related, of course... examples:

    The Goshen Theather, a venue in Goshen, IN:

    The Goshen Theater

    goMusic Production Studio, in Arlington, MA:

    goMusic

    Jasperbridge: The Percussion Guitar - a cool piece of gear you didn't know you needed ;-)

    Jbridge

    The Native American Music Awards : The Nammies !

    Nammies

    Higher Reign: a studio and marketing firm (and great guys) from Quebec City:

    Higher reign


    And then we have many that are outside of music, but still made for and by artists:

    Foxfires: visual artist Aimee Stewart:

    Foxfires

    Thirteenth Floor: an art gallery and gift shop in Massilon, OH:

    13thfloor

    Joel Salom: a comedian (and more) from down under:

    Joel Salom

    Dreams: an award-winning documentary film about, well, dreams:

    Dreams


    And then there are many good-looking Bandzoogle sites that fall in the "other small business" category:

    Sweet T's Bakeshop
    : a mouthwatering bakery in Haddonfield, NJ:

    Sweet T's

    FreeFi: a provider of Free Wifi solutions:

    FreeFi

    Tokyo Joe: a Japanese restaurant in Richmond, VA:

    TokyoJoe

    Emerge: fashion design from Orlando, FL:

    Emerge


    ... and maybe my favorite "they have that !? awesome !" website:

    The Cat Wheel Company: Exercise wheels for your favorite pet:

    Cat Wheel


    Bandzoogle: Everyone Is Welcome. And those are just a few examples. So... why am I showing you all of these ?

    A) Because we love showcasing good looking Bandzoogle websites, and the diversity of website designs you can build on the platform. Can also help with inspiration for your own designs.

    B) Also, because I think there's an opportunity for Bandzoogle, but also for our members to make use of our member referral program, save some $, and get free membership months.

    For those not familiar, when you refer a new user, they get a 60 day free trial (instead of the 30 day standard), and if they become a member, you get a free month of Bandzoogle service. You can use the widget we have in the "home" tab of your control panel (top right) to either send e-mails (don't spam!) or add buttons to your site. Looks like this:

    widget

    Both options create a link to bandzoogle.com and a promo code that is unique to you, so anyone that signs up from it is automatically your unique referral. You can share the link in other ways, too.

    So... yes you can keep telling all your musician friends about the wonders of Bandzoogle (and many, many thanks to all of you who have been doing just that), but now you know that you can do the same with that small restaurant in your neighbourhood that has a terrible, all-Flash website that plays muzak midi files when you visit it. And when your second cousin asks you for advice to build a website for her new flower shop, you can actually offer to build it for her ;-)

    Let us know in the comments if you're aware of other "non-band" Bandzoogle sites that deserve a mention. And thank you for flying Bandzoogle.

    Posted by David Dufresne on 08/11/2011 | 26 comments
    Dave Cool

    Musicians: Stand Out Using Facebook Notes

    Madalyn Sklar

    This is a guest blog post by Madalyn Sklar. Madalyn is a music business coach & consultant, blogger, social media maven and fearless leader at GoGirlsMusic.com. She has spent over 15 years working with a wide range of independent musicians as well as music industry professionals all over the world. This is an article about how artists and bands can use Facebook notes to stand out. Enjoy!

    Musicians: Stand Out Using Facebook Notes

    Are you engaging your friends and followers on Facebook? Probably not enough. These days you have to always be in engagement mode. You cannot simply post something static or bland like, “Hey, buy my shi*t!!”. Well, you can but you won’t get far. You must be creative. If you’re not, start learning so you won’t get left behind.

    I love Facebook. I will admit it. It’s a great resource we all have at our fingertips to get our messages out. It’s an amazing engagement tool. Are you utilizing it to its fullest potential? Probably not. There are so many aspects to Facebook and I find that some are greatly underutilized. One that we’ll talk about today is Facebook Notes.

    You can post a Note, which is really just an article or piece of information, then tag relevant Facebook friends and Facebook (fan/biz) Pages to it. It’s a great way to get something viral on Facebook.

    Here’s an example of one I posted recently: GoGirls Interview with G.U.T.S.

    GoGirls Interview with G.U.T.S.

    Here’s what I love. This Note shows up on my personal Facebook Wall as well as those I tag. I tagged one of the band members I’m friends with on Facebook as well as the band and GoGirls.

    Note: DO NOT tag non-relevant people or Pages in your Notes. It’s spammy, will make you look bad and will piss people off.

    How do you write a Note? Easy. Just head to your personal Facebook profile and click on Notes.

    Facebook Notes

    Next, you’ll see Write a Note in the upper right hand side of your page. Click on that and follow the steps.

    Write a Facebook Note

    This is my Facebook Quick Tip for today. Try it out and let me know what you think. I’m eager to hear about your results!

    And while you’re on Facebook, come visit me at Social Networks for Musicians, Social Networks for Biz and GoGirlsMusic.com. And if we’re not already Facebook friends, hit me up at www.facebook.com/madalynsklar and let me know you found me through this article. Thanks!

    Posted by Dave Cool on 08/09/2011 | 13 comments
    Dave Cool

    How to host a show

    David Newland (Photo: Ali Eisner)

    This is a guest post by David Newland, Editor in Chief of Roots Music Canada, the online hub for the folk and roots scene in Canada. David is also an accomplished musician and an experienced host, not only hosting Roots Music Canada’s own Woodshed Sessions, but also many other events and festivals in Canada. Hosting shows is something many artists must do throughout their careers, whether it’s an open mic night that they’ve organized, or simply hosting their own show and introducing the opening bands. In this post, David offers some valuable tips for how to be an effective host. Enjoy!

    How to host a show

    Hosting, in my experience, takes as much preparation and skill as any other form of public performance. The host is responsible for maintaining the energy of the house, and weaving the thread that links all performers, sponsors, presenters and audience together.

    Like all the acts that may take to the stage, the host has to be “on”; unlike them, the host has to be “on” throughout the entire performance, and ready to jump in at a moment’s notice to cover gaps or smooth things over.

    It’s a tough job, and one I keep learning about. My role models are folks like Shelagh Rogers, Holmes Hooke, Magoo and others on the scene who excel at it. (Most of the mistakes, I’ve made myself.)

    Here are ten tips for hosts I’ve picked up along the way.

    1. Be yourself.

    Who else would you be? Well, you might try to be a big-voiced radio jock, an undiscovered comic, the self-aggrandizing star of the show, an ironic commentator on something you’re way too cool for… Forget it.

    Trying to be ANYONE or ANYTHING but likeable little your-name-here will leave you high and dry. Just be you.

    2. Be a fan.

    The best thing you can do for the show you’re hosting is to let the audience know why it matters. Find what you admire about a given act’s work, and speak to that. (If you can’t find something you like, you may be in the wrong place, and you need to consider that before you take the gig.) If you’re stuck, mention an artist’s schedule, albums or awards.Know what matters, believe it matters, and tell the audience about it.

    The audience cares; it’s why they’re there. You, too.

    3. Be prepared.

    Confession: I rarely take notes with me onto the stage, unless I’m reading off a list of sponsors or something similar. I prefer to be spontaneous. Ironically, to do that you have to be prepared.

    That doesn’t mean memorizing a bio; for me, it means simply having in mind three things worth saying about the act I’m introducing, and improvising from there. You can learn those three things while the previous act is on stage, if necessary. But to be in the moment, on stage, requires experience, forethought, and the right attitude.

    The more you do to prepare yourself, the more you can simply be yourself. You can’t learn that at the last minute.

    4. Be a professional all the way.

    A pro doesn’t act like a snob, on stage or off. A pro doesn’t make off-colour jokes. A pro doesn’t make fun of acts or sponsors or presenters. A pro shakes hands, talks to the presenter, the sound crew and the stage crew, asks what’s required, respects the time limits given, and whenever possible, says something meaningful that will enhance the audience’s appreciation of the show.

    A pro always puts the show first: dress for success, ask for what you need, communicate well, do a thorough job, smile, and treat everyone well. It pays off, bigtime.

    5. Get to know the acts you’re introducing.

    Because of my work in the scene, I often know the acts I’m introducing, at least by reputation, if not on a personal level. But if I don’t, I make a point of getting to know them, first by doing my research, and second, by reaching out in person.

    At Mariposa I even had a mutual friend introduce me to Emmylou Harris backstage so I could tell her I’d be bringing her on, and ask her if there was anything I should or shouldn’t say. That kind of heads-up puts lets artists know what to expect from you. It also reminds everyone that you’re a part of the performance, and that what you do matters to the flow.

    6. Less is more.

    Wordiness, and excessive praise can both throw an act off their game. You may think you’re flattering, but take my word for it: if you call someone a legend and they don’t see themselves that way it will freak them out and affect their performance. Plus, the audience doesn’t want to be oversold! And don’t forget: if you blab on too much, you’re cutting into the time allotted to the act. Not cool. Until you’re sure of what you’re doing and can get philosophical or conversational on stage, three bullet points is all the intro just about anybody needs.

    7. Know your go-to material

    That said, sometimes you have to fill dead air. This is TOUGH, even for people with the gift of the gab. Deep space is nothing compared to the vacuum of being at a loss for words on stage, where every second feels like a millennium. This is when you turn to your go-to material (including some tried and true stories or songs of your own) and be sure you can trust it out there.

    By default, you can always thank presenters, sponsors, artists, crew, volunteers and audience; remind people of the placement of the washrooms and the exits; encourage patronage of the merch tent or table, and that sort of thing. You can highlight items from the program, or remind people how important this event is in the local cultural landscape. (It’s still not the time to try out lame jokes or to engage in banter with someone in the front row no one else can hear.) But don’t be afraid to talk when you have to.

    If all else fails, sometimes it’s okay to say “this is going to take a few minutes to set up. Get to know your neighbours and we’ll be back shortly.”

    8. Take your role seriously.

    Hosting, like other jobs in our business, is frequently under-appreciated and under-compensated, but you shouldn’t see your role that way. Make it your goal to show how much the host can enhance the show, and you’ll be amazed what you get back.

    At the same time, you need to ask for what you need to do a good job. That means being compensated appropriately, in cash or in whatever form makes most sense, and it means ensuring you have the tools to do the job. That may be a dedicated mic, a stack of printed bios, a place to sit backstage, a warm meal or a warm welcome at the after party. Whatever it is, don’t be shy to ask for it and negotiate what you need.

    In return, you must treat your job as an important one and do it to the very best of your ability. Your own pride, at least, demands it, and the audience and the artists require it!

    9. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

    Your role is important to the show, but it’s not about you. To put it bluntly, all you have to do is say a few words and get off the stage. You’ll be mercifully forgotten if you did it badly, and you’ll be kindly remembered if you did it well. Humility will help in either case.

    While being the MC is special, and important, face it: you’re probably not who the audience paid to see. Relax. It’s just a show!

    10. The audience is your best friend.

    Your natural inclination may be to fear the audience. If so, you need to get over it, or get out of hosting, pronto. The truth is, the audience is your best friend. At your say-so they will clap, cheer, stretch, shake hands, shout encouragement, laugh or groan at your jokes, and acknowledge the work of everyone who participated. Plus, they have a vested interest in the show going well. They paid to get in! They don’t want to have a bad time.

    And think about it: you, more than any other person on stage, represent the audience. You are one of them! They don’t want you to fail. They are more terrified of public speaking than you are, believe me. They admire what you’re doing even if you think you’re botching it. As long as you stay classy, the audience is on your side, and they will come through with the thing you need most: heartfelt appreciation for a great show.

    Which, after all, is why you’re there…


    David Newland’s summer hosting (and strumming & singing) schedule includes Elphin Roots Festival, Mariposa Folk Festival, Blue Skies Music Festival, Lunenburg Folk Harbour, Summerfolk, Eaglewood Folk Festival, Shelter Valley Folk Festival, and The Woodshed Sessions

    Photo courtesy Ali J. Eisner

    Posted by Dave Cool on 08/02/2011 | 9 comments