Promoting Yourself as a Bassist

Q: I’m currently playing for a punk band that has pretty good local success in that genre, however, having done this for a while I know no band lasts forever and I would like to aim higher. I would also like to get my name out as a bassist available for side projects, lessons, etc. I made a separate Facebook page and bought a domain apart from the band. Since I have never had my own “solo” projects, is it appropriate to include songs I’ve done with other bands on the website? Do I need to create a digital press kit and if so, how do I make one for me as an individual and not for the whole band? I recently quit my job to devote 100% into making a career in music work (have about two years I can squeeze by, then I’ll have to go back). Any advice on how to make the most of this time?

A: There is no one way to get anything done in this industry but here are my thoughts.

I would focus on having a few key things in the bag and then, the rest comes down to networking, luck and timing.

1. Make a solid, clean one-sheet.

A one-sheet is basically a one page attempt to sell somebody on you or an album. They are often used to help promote a specific release and would be sent along with an album in hopes of a review, or for airplay. Many independent musicians use one-sheets as the “elevator pitch” – i.e.: if you had one minute to sell yourself to someone, what would you say? It’s helpful to include any quotes or review snippets from you or projects you’ve been involved in, a brief bio, gigs, venues or festivals of note that you’ve played, popular bands you’ve played or recorded with and, of course, contact info.

If you do a search for one-sheets online, you’ll find a ton of helpful examples and suggestions!

2. Make a website for yourself as an artist, separate from your band.

These days, it’s easier than ever to create a solid, cheap website using Squarespace, Wix or any number of alternatives (presonally, I’m a big fan of Squarespace). Try to keep it fairly clean and not clutter it up with unnecessary stuff (totally subjective, of course). I would keep it simple and include an expanded version of what is in your one-sheet. It’s the perfect place to put videos, audio and some good photos as well. I view my website as a digital business card. I want those who visit to be able to find what they want quickly and I want them to be able to have as much access to me and that which is associated with me without being overly complicated or cluttered.

3. Create a digital music reel.

If you have a variety of musics that you’ve recorded, or snippets from live shows, make a little “best of” compilation. Personally, my first attempts at this primarily consisted of one-minute snippets from shows and any recordings I deemed worthy. I tried to include a variety of styles to present myself as a versatile musician who served the music. I included a solo or two from live shows but kept most of it pretty band oriented. Solid rock stuff, solid groove stuff, solid jazz stuff with just a peppering of flashy bass guy stuff. I was personally selling myself as a freelance bass player and not a solo spotlighted bass artist but cater everything to the audience you are shooting for and the kinds of gigs that you want to get!

There is absolutely nothing wrong with including stuff from projects that you are a part of. Don’t try and separate yourself from your band, just focus on YOUR branding, with that band being one part of the whole picture. “Branding” is the key word here. You want to help foster your personal identity and convince people that your brand could help them with their music.

So envision what your brand is and act in the interest of that ideal. If you want to foster the educational side as well, you might want to give the world a sample of what you can offer. Start a Youtube channel and create some free content. Short lessons that give the listener a taste of what you can offer in person or for online lessons.

Think about who you want to be professionally and just start doing it. Podcasts, blogs, vlogs, online lessons, etc. Don’t worry about, “how will anyone ever find this… nobody will see it”. Just start creating content. The cream always rises to the top, as they say.

Once you have some content, start making connections with other people and organizations online. It’s even easier online than it is in real life. There’s no excuse not to introduce yourself to both content creators, sites that simply link to created content or directly to the people via social media. If it’s of quality, it’ll get shared and that can spread quickly.

If you ever look at my earliest videos, you may notice that I’m in sweatpants and t-shirts and have super low quality video (I still don’t have an HD video camera… geesh). I didn’t think anybody would notice my little videos, but I made them anyway just for the fun of it. Low and behold, people watched them and shared them. I wish that I could go back and change my shirt on a few of those, lol. Point being: if there’s something worth hearing in there, people will eventually hear it.

In person networking is a good idea, too. Go hear the artists that you’d like to be associated with. Introduce yourself to the bass players, give them a business card (with links to all of those websites, blogs and one-sheets, etc.) Mention how you’re looking to expand your musical associations and if they feel like checking it out and they dig it, you’d be more than happy to take any gigs they can’t make, overflow students… whatever. Not everyone will bother to check it out, but some will (I always do and if I dig what I hear and they presented well, I’ll make a note in my contacts about them with my impressions of their playing and what they might be suited for. I’ve tossed more than a few people gigs from introductions like that).

I also used to make sure to take lessons with the best players in town, first because they would have a lot to show me and I would learn something, if nothing else; second, because they often have overflow or just can’t take every gig and I wanted to show them that I could handle myself musically, should they ever be desperate for a sub.

Okay, your turn readers. What did I neglect to think of here? There is SO much one can do to expand their professional horizons. What worked (or didn’t) for you? Please share in the comments.

Have a question for Damian Erskine? Send it to [email protected]. Check out Damian’s instructional books, Right Hand Drive and The Improviser’s Path.

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  1. rob

    Some great tips there. Makes me think I would never go anywhere with my bass playing as I don’t think I could ever get myself to do any of that. Heck, anything I end up sticking on SoundCloud I frantically delete within 24 hours, muttering something like “What in the world was I thinking?”

  2. Manos Karamanos

    Do you know where/how could I create a one-sheet online or Word etc. ?

  3. Ryan T.

    Good stuff! As far as creating content and getting it discovered, having a solid understanding of SEO (search engine optimization) will help you know what “keywords” to use in your content to help you boost you closer to the first page of Google/Bing search results. Lots of online resources out there to learning tricks and best practices. SEO skills combined with leveraging your social media channels should kick you off to a good start!