What Can You Do

So, I don’t know if you’ve ever wondered or cared about what exactly The Ska Mission is, but its basically here to support the Ska Scene (in the broadest definition possible) and to provide artists whatever means we can so they continue to perform, create and survive within the confines of our availability. Currently, everybody significantly involved either works full time, is in school, has children of varying ages they care for, or a combination of those, just as most of the musicians playing the scene face the same challenges.

Hell, I imagine most of y’all reading this are in the same boat and I know that it can be hard to find a way to help the scene out, save when you’re actually able to get the time to go to an awesome show. However, every now and then people express interest in wanting to help despite being time crunched and aren’t quite sure how to do that, so I’ve compiled a list here that I hope inspires and maybe gives some new ideas on what can be done to support the scene with out making huge time or money commitments. I hope it’s helpful, so here goes, in no particular order and yes, I will be adding to this often. I share these from my limited experiences and am in no way expert on anything:

 

FLYERS

Yep, the original cornerstone of DIY show promotion: paper flyers. They can seem tedious and be time consuming, but it can also be flexible and cost next to nothing depending on your timeline and resources.

By now, I’ve hand cut some where between 3-5 thousand flyers in the last year. Usually, on my lunch break during one of the few days I work, I head over to my local library where I am able to print off 75 sheets (300 flyers) in black in white, or 25 sheets (100 flyers) in color per week, per account FOR FREE. I have access to three, so sometimes I can print 900, just depends on what I figure the needs are. If you are a resident of King County, this service is also available to you at any King County Library Branch if you sign up for an account. It’s a pretty awesome membership perk and the reason why I am able to print so many. Keep in mind, the Seattle Public Libraries charge per each sheet and honestly, I still need to check on the Snohomish Library’s policy, but hell, wherever you live, always see if this is an option, as it can cut down costs.

Anyway, I go in and print usually 4 flyers on a sheet (though I’ve found a format to do 6 smaller ones), take them home and cut them with some scissors I bought at Rite Aid. Yea, one day I may get a paper cutter or whatever, but for now, it works.

As far design, I am no artist. Most of the flyers I have cut have been designed by someone else, but since I discovered canva.com, I’ve been able to make some passable, some eye catching designs, mostly because it can be hard to coordinate flyer production with others, especially when I wanna print another batch. Anyway, I find making a design on canva, downloading and inserting as a Jpeg into MS Publisher or Excel (library computers have these, Google sheets doesn’t seem to translate it as well), and then resizing and adding three more copies of the jpeg usually does the trick. For anybody who does this professionally, I’m sure your laughing your ass off at what is probably extremely tedious and inefficient, which is fair. For anybody, who is as garbage at design, computers, or even drawing a straight line, I hope this is useful.

Of course, if you aren’t throwing events or don’t need any for yourself, hit up a local or even an out of area band and see if they have anything coming up that could use such resources. You may end up having to pay 5 bucks or so to ship depending on where it goes, but if you can send a band in need a stack, they save more than that in printing and they have more time to spend on other functions such as recording, passing the flyers, or even just playing music. Plus, most of them appreciate the effort and extremely awesome at recognizing it.

 

DIGITAL STREET TEAM

Section 1. Facebook Events

Well, life is different with the internet, social media and blah blah blah, where Facebook events are making the previous section feel very dated. It’s super cool that connecting with thousands of people is so much easier than printing and cutting an endless amount of flyers and standing outside of venues night after night to force a piece of paper into usually a less than enthused hand, however, just like flyering, its hard to gauge the digital responses with actual enthusiasm.

We all know that without a second thought you can be “Interested” in an endless amount of events, but that beautifully vague term doesn’t tie you to any kind of commitment other than you cared enough to click something. A lot of the time, the same can even be said when you select “Going,” unless you’re a close, personal acquaintance of the band who can get called out for it. So, it can seem like these serve no purpose, but here’s two reasons why I disagree:

1. Facebook, or even Social Media just in general, is the ultimate butterfly effect. Sometimes just selecting the “Interested” button alerts friends/acquaintances/followers that you have done that and in some cases may actual lead to their genuine interest, especially if it’s a show they definitely want to go that they forgot about or didn’t realize that was happening. Basically, unless you have a social media account that you’ve purposely blocked all other people from (which would defeat the purpose), any little thing you post, like, share or respond to is seen no matter how insignificant it seems.

2. These concepts are still entirely new and while two minutes or less of reflecting on the impulsiveness of human responses, flakiness and the lack of repercussions for changing one’s mind would allow for any reasonable person to decide not to put too much stock into what any kind of Facebook Event response means the bombshell is that plenty of people DO NOT! Now don’t get me wrong: high profile venues, bands and promoters aren’t going to be swayed by anybody without proven ticket sales, albums, etc, but there are plenty of others that don’t even regularly update their calendars, or even have somebody tracking their social media that may naively use such things as an accurate measure of a band’s popularity, especially if that’s what they hoping to be true. Hehe, that sounds evil, but it’s not my aim which is more of a middle ground: If an event is generating a lot of social media attention, whether genuine or not, it may generate scenarios for professional promoters, larger venues and higher profile bands to do investigate and come to their own conclusions, like equal to a quarter of your foot in the door. At the end of the day, any group is going to have to prove themselves anyway, but it doesn’t hurt to help at least get them in the conversation and again, this is neither time consuming, nor difficult.

Now, past the whole event Interested/Going/ETC, another good function of the Digital Street Teamer is to spread event awareness which of course involves, sharing, reposting, commenting on and what have you. All great, because even the smallest action counts, but a more specific thing that can be helpful is when a band you support goes on tour and you are able to provide these functions when they are out on the road. Here’s a perfect strategy for it:

One Month until tour – Go over tour route with band and make sure every confirmed date has a Facebook event attached to it with all information (Venue/Other bands/Date/Doors & Show Times/Cost & Ticket Outlet/ 21+ or All Ages). If you have any contacts within a reasonable to the venue that may be interested, invite them and encourage the band to do the same. Also, for every stop, search Facebook for a Ska Group for that area, region or what have you and join it. Once accepted, post event and feel free to add yourself to any similar groups or even more generic ones (ie. Houston Nightlife, Colorado Concerts, Shit to Actually do in Tuskaloosa) where you can also post the event.

One week until tour – Double check that all dates have a Facebook event, invite any new acquaintances you may have connected with that will be along the tour route and do a “7 days until tour post” with event in each group

Tour – Set the alarm on your phone every morning to go off at the time that translates to 3-4 pm local time at each day’s tour stop and then do one last event post in each group on the day of that area’s corresponding show, telling people to get out to it.

Now, this is just a simple template, so go wild, post videos on other days in the group, learn about their scene and maybe the bands playing with the one your supporting, whatever. At the end of the day though, it’s hard for bands to rep on the road and while facebook discussions and event posts aren’t any kind of guarantee of any size of crowd, it’s any easy, low time commitment, non costing way to support a band you like that might make some of a difference. Most of the time bands can handle this type of promo, but if it’s something you can commit to it means that bad cell reception, traffic, no wi-fi and other issues that may occur for the band in transit will not leave the locals connected through social media in the dark about the event and its one less thing the band has to worry about.

However, this does not have to merely be a Tour Job and in fact can be something fairly easily handled for local shows too. I know this may seem like overkill and that it should seem fairly simple for a band to get an event up, invite some people to it and promote it, but in my experience not every band has even a Novice social media guru like myself and quite often you see a band post a hasty Facebook event without a lot of vital info literally hours before a show in a last ditch attempt to try to get a few followers to show up if Game of Thrones is still on hiatus or the Mariners are having an awesome 5 game slump.

Even though I don’t get out much, I really hate missing out on knowing when shows are and being able to let any and all interested parties know about them in advance. This isn’t a scolding or complaint though, but a recognition that between work, kids, school, practice, shows, recording, flyering, other social media, or what have you, it can be hard for bands to be on top of this all the time and rather than argue about what bands should do, or what they have to do, or why they won’t do or blah blah blah, it would be way easier just to step in as a fan and make the event for them, repost it to the band’s facebook, twitter, instagram, etc (they may even give you access to all this if you’re tight enough with them), put it up in some local area ska/reggae/rock/nightlife/concert facebook groups and maybe even submit to sites like pollstar, events in town, bandsintown, etc.

APPS

Okay, so this section is going to seem complicated, crazy and heavily influenced by the penny hoarder, but before I go any further, I am going to say that with rebate apps and the like I have personally brought back $407.80 to my pocket with these apps. Now, to earn money can be hard and arduous, but I’m going to break each one down and explain how it can help support bands.

BEVRAGE

Do you like alcohol and buy it frequently? If so, this is a great app and the easiest one to get money back, as all it takes is a scan of a valid receipt containing a drink purchased at either a bar or store. What I like about it the most is that unlike a lot of the other apps, every rebate deposits back into your PayPal as soon as its approved rather than force you to hit a minimum amount before allowing you to withdraw. That’s right, you can buy a drink with a rebate as low as $0.50 and it will go right to your PayPal.

Downsides? At times the rebates are very limited to specific brands. When I first got the app, it was offering a dollar back for any six pack or draft and 2-3 for a case regardless of brand, but lately it seems like they’ve done away with what’s referred to as an “Any Brand” rebate. So, unless you love drinking a lot of Sam Adams or random wines, it can be slim pickins at times.

However, if you refer somebody, you get a dollar back when the join and continued rebates as they use the app.