Personality goes a long way in promoting bands

Published 5:28 pm Saturday, March 15, 2014

A little personality can go a long way for a band.

Before the last year’s Caravan du Nord performance in Austin, Charlie Parr, The Cactus Blossoms and several Minnesota musicians hosted a forum at Riverland Community College to discuss how to reach the public, how to network and how to promote their music. Recently, I discovered another simple solution for bands to gain and keep a fan base: Mingle with the fans.

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I first noticed this with Parr when he talked to several fans and old friends before and after his homecoming concert in Austin.

I witnessed another prime example on a recent trip to visit a friend in Chattanooga, Tenn., when we attended a concert featuring Future Islands, Wye Oak and Ed Schrader’s Music Beat.

My friend became an avid Future Islands fan about a year ago and converted me, largely through sheer willpower and persistence. A few days before the show, he promised there was a good chance we’d meet the band. He was right. Not only did we meet singer Samuel Herring and bassist William Cashion, but we were able to talk to them at length before and after the show about the band, their tour and their recent appearance on  the “Late Show with David Letterman.” Letterman liked the band enough that he replayed a meme of Herring’s dancing on stage saying, “Let’s dance,” during a monologue.

Herring even let my friend film a video of him to send to another friend who couldn’t make the show.

Herring elbowed us both on separate occasions during the opening bands’ sets to urge us to buy the other bands’ albums or mention something about the show.

He served as the mascot of the show, cheering on and singing along with both openers. Wye Oak singer Jenn Wasner stood in the crowd singing along throughout much of Ed Schrader’s Music Beat.

The fun, open attitudes were infectious — and they worked. I bought Future Islands’ and Wye Oak’s albums afterward — buying “Civilian” from Wye Oak’s Andy Stack, who even recommended which of their albums to buy.

Such self-promotional methods seem pretty obvious, right? They’re really not. I’ve seen several musicians at small town shows — some in Austin — hunkered down backstage or using back doors to avoid fans. Others I’ve seen in Minneapolis shouting at their sound crew from the stage.

The laid-back approach helped Wye Oak and Future Islands gain fans — including me — and both put on great live shows, too.


Other Listens:

“Civilian” by Wye Oak

After seeing Wye Oak live, I’ve been listening to their “Civilian” album, and I can’t wait for their fourth album, “Shriek,” after hearing them play “The Tower” live. Listening back over previous albums, the band is adding more electronics and a more beat-driven sound. “Civilian” is the perfect soundtrack to the — hopefully — warming weather.