It's a great big world out there. Or at least it used to be. The advent of the Internet has shrunk the world down to a global village. Sending a message to anybody in the world is now as simple as clicking a button; entire encyclopaedias of knowledge are now at one's fingertips; and news from the other side of the planet can be reported within a matter of minutes. It's also good news for the thousands of unsigned bands and musicians, searching for an audience and that ever-elusive record deal. MySpace, YouTube and countless other music websites allow them to get their music listened to and even reach out to their potential fan bases.
Almost everyone knows somebody who is an unsigned singer, or is in an unsigned band, and so will be familiar with the dilemmas faced by people in that situation. The Internet helps to bring an enormous array of different people together into one place where they can all potentially hear your music, regardless of age, gender, social class or locality. Unfortunately, that's also part of the problem of the Internet- with so many people, so many websites, how can you ensure anyone will hear your music? Can it be done?
Jay Brannan is one of the best examples of an unsigned musician utilising the newfound tools available on the Internet to achieve success. Jay is a young singer-songwriter based in New York City, and was also an actor in John Cameron Mitchell's 2006 movie Shortbus. Working a day job as a proof-reader, Jay publicises his music via YouTube videos, playing live renditions of his songs and delivering honest, personal messages to his audience. Despite still not having a record deal, Jay has used the Internet to achieve a lot of success- cultivating and interacting with his fans via YouTube, Jay has managed to record his own EP, Unmastered (available on iTunes) and play shows all over the world. Now, he has finished his first full-length album, Goddamned (available from his website), on his own record label, Great Depression Records, and is about to embark on an extensive set of shows in America and the UK. Jay has also managed to make great use of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace to reach out to new listeners, and broadcast his work.
If Jay's story is anything to go by, it takes time to build up success on the Internet, and a lot of dedication, planning and innovation. The problem then arises when you need to reach the maximum amount of people in a short time; for example when advertising a gig- the Internet is not always the best way. There is, of course, the option of sending the ever-popular messages to all of your MySpace/Facebook friends, but that rarely wins you anyone new. No, in this case it's necessary to revert back to the Dark Ages- a good, old-fashioned poster. The Internet is too vast a place to be able to easily advertise an event- there are a seemingly infinite number of pages for people to stumble through, and almost no way or guaranteeing that they will find yours, and even if they do, no way of making sure that people who see it will be people who can attend the gig. On the other hand, a poster, well designed and situated in the right places, can catch the attention of dozens of people whom otherwise might never have known about you, your music or the gig.
As with everything, posters have one serious drawback- cost. For a professional-looking, eye-catching poster, unless you or a close friend with plenty of free time are gifted with an impressive artistic ability, or the capacity to print on a large scale, you most likely may have to pay for someone else to design them for you, and generally that won't be cheap- sometimes up to £150. For an unsigned band, very often composed of students, that's a hefty sum. Luckily, it's at this point that the Internet comes in handy again.
WeDesignPosters.com, a new website, offers professional poster design for only £15; a considerable amount less than others are charging, especially good news for the eternally cash-strapped undergrads. Think about it from a student's perspective; that's sacrificing a night out versus losing out on a few weeks rent- a significantly better deal. The website utilises a team of graphic designers, often also students wishing to add to their already impressive portfolios, to create affordable but effective posters for gigs and events. It is worth noting that many clubs and bars will charge bands that do not muster a large enough crowd, and very often a little bit of good advertising goes a long way, so it's not too hard to see why an affordable and effective way of getting more people to your gig might be a good idea. The Internet, revolutionary and forward-looking though it may be, occasionally fails to be as effective as a piece of paper.
Roy Ward is a second year English student at the University of Leeds. He enjoys cocktails, menthol cigarettes and Lush, and despises olives, whiskey and Keira Knightley. Roy is a freelance writer with an incorrigible sense of humour and too much free time. He keeps his own blog at http://internationally-ignored.blogspot.com