- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 15, 2005

Forget about handing out free CDs or having an upcoming concert announced on the radio. The fliers for the Dec. 8 rock show at Club East Coast in Woodbridge, Va., used a much more effective means of promotion.

The bottom of each piece of paper sported a simple Web link: www.Myspace.com/apexbooking.

To an outsider, the tag may have looked like just another Web site, but to the show’s patrons it was likely the most important piece of information on the flier. The link took fans to the Myspace profile of Apex Booking, the agency marketing the show. There, they could find directions to Club East Coast, preview the bands performing and find out about other local concerts.

Welcome to the new era of band marketing, where geography means nothing, mass communication is instantaneous and promotion is free. Young bands, especially up-and-coming acts, are increasingly turning to online forums like Myspace.com, purevolume.com and blogspot.com to increase their fan base and disseminate information.

Here’s how it works: A band sets up a profile on a burgeoning number of free Web communities. In the profile, each group describes its musical style, influences and any other miscellaneous information fans may want to know. The band then puts its music and videos onto the profile. Next, band members post personal messages via blogs and Web post options. Then finally, they solicit friends among the millions of profiles in the community.

Once a band starts to gather “friends,” its name is spread through cyberspace via a kind of online word of mouth. Each time, for example, the band posts a bulletin announcing an upcoming show, every fan gets a notice.

Whenever a fan visits the band’s Web site and listens to one of their MP3s, the band finds out. Fans can post comments on the group’s profile along with feedback about the music, requests to see the band perform in their area — or even pleas for a date with the lead singer.

Local bands have hundreds, even thousands of friends.

Mainstream bands have hundreds of thousands.

“It’s really simple, most of it is free, and it opens you up to a massive amount of people,” says Tim Brennan, singer and guitarist for June, a Chicago-based rock band that performed at Club East Coast on Dec. 8.

The interactive trend began years back with www.mp3.com, a rudimentary Web site that let bands post music for fans to listen to. Soon, mp3.com was replaced by the more sophisticated multifunction profiles that have become a must for any band that wants to stay current and get through to tech-savvy teens.

“The whole world is online right now,” Mr. Brennan says.

June drummer Mark Sutor agrees that online promotion is the most logical form of advertising because it instantly hits thousands of fans nationwide. It’s cheaper, easier and more effective than traditional marketing.

“We have a live journal community, we have a blogger account where we update from the road, we have a Myspace account and a pure volume account,” Mr. Sutor says. The fans seem to be responding. Most of the patrons at East Coast had heard about the show through Myspace.com, the largest of the online communities.

Brie Casucci, 14, said she came out to see opening act the Vibe after receiving a bulletin for the show from the band’s lead singer. Brie, a freshman at Woodbridge High School in Woodbridge, says she wouldn’t have found out about the band if the lead singer had not “friended” her through his personal Myspace page.

“I thought he was pretty cool, so we started talking,” Brie says. “He posted a bulletin about his new band. I listened to the music on the band’s Myspace page and thought they were pretty good.”

One of the Vibe’s two lead singers, 16-year-old Alex Katz, says most of the band’s fans are generated through Myspace. Because one of the features of online profiles is a list of music preferences, bands can search for users whose taste matches their style.

“We look at their music lists to see what their playlists are, and if we think they’d be into our music we add them,” Alex says.

The band currently has about 950 Myspace friends.

However, individual bands aren’t the only ones taking advantage of Web forums. Local marketing companies have fully embraced online promotion as an efficient and effective way to do business.

Musicbox Promotions, one of the area’s biggest rock marketing companies, is connected to about 3,000 fans through its profile, www.Myspace.com/musicboxpromotions. Founder Patti Tenicela, 16, says she updates Myspace daily with information about more than 50 bands the company works with.

“It’s really useful when you’re promoting a show because there are millions of people on Myspace, and even if only five people see your bulletin, they can tell their friends,” she says.

Patti says another advantage is that cyberspace crosses geographic boundaries and reaches out to fans all over the country. Not only can a user in California become a fan of a Baltimore band, she says, but that person can also help the band find a performance venue and a place to stay when they come to the West Coast.

Because communication is so instantaneous, online forums like Myspace become “kind of addictive,” Patti says. When touring bands stop over at her family’s house, she adds, one of the first things they ask for is an Internet connection to update their online communities. The online forums suit the bands because both band members and concertgoers are tech savvy, and it lets them see how popular they are, she notes.

“(Band members) grew up using the Internet, and most of their fans use the Internet a lot,” Patti explains. “Bands want to put up a lot of pictures of themselves and have lots of friends.”

June has about 16,000 Myspace fans, Mr. Brennan says.

He says he uses Myspace not only to communicate with fans but to see which songs they are listening to. Online tickers count the number of times a given song is played and downloaded off a band’s profile.

“The sound byte functions are giving you a way to gauge who is listening and interested,” he explains.

Unlike many fleeting band trends, local promoters say online marketing is here to say. Moreover, with growing numbers of fans getting online, interactive promotion through companies such as Myspace are becoming less of an advantage — and more of a must — says Mike Raffiqi, owner of Apex Promotions.

“Myspace is one of the biggest marketing tools right now,” Mr. Raffiqi, 23, says. “The majority of people’s time is spent on Myspace right now. It’s almost replacing e-mail.”

Mr. Raffiqi says about 40 percent of his business is generated through Myspace. And for new bands like the Vibe, online promotion is even more essential because they haven’t yet gained exposure through performing.

The Vibe’s Alex Katz agrees.

“The second we formed we knew we had to get on Myspace,” he says.



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