Self-Promotion Indie Rock Style

Kyle Gustafson of DCist interviewed indie rocker John Vanderslice last Saturday night before his show at Iota. Vanderslice had some revealing things to say about promoting one’s own band, or brand, as the case may be.

Q. Are you familiar with blogs and their role on the internet?
A. Oh absolutely. All I ever do is surf the internet.
Q. How do you feel about blogs compared with the mainstream music media?
A. When I got the “C” letter grade review in Spin, I heard nothing. Not from anybody. No one ever said anything to me. But whenever I got a good review from somewhere like Tiny Mix Tapes I would get emails about it. It was very clear to me then that all that print media shit doesn’t matter anymore. It totally does not matter. I mean, no offense to Spin or anyone like that, but people right now, hard core music people that pay attention, they’re online. The big national glossies just don’t have that kind of impact anymore. I guess. I mean this is all anecdotal, I can’t back any of it up, but the way people find out about us and find out things about us, it’s all bloggers. It’s all online ‘zines. Whether it’s Drowned in Sound or Tiny Mix Tapes or Largehearted Boy, Stereogum, Brooklyn Vegan, the list goes on and on.
You know, it’s weird, if someone posts something on Metafilter, I look on my website and all of a sudden, we’re getting like 25,000 unique visitors in one day, you know. And we got a review on Pixel Revolt in Rolling Stone. And the day that that review came out, there was no bump whatsoever. And that was a good review. And we got no bump in traffic on the website. That’s insane. I can look at where people are coming from and who’s searching what, and what method they are using to get to my site. After that I was like, “Fuck paying a publicist to work your record, lets just email all the bloggers and send them a record or some MP3’s.”
A band will come up to me and tell me “Oh my god, we’re getting a record review in Rolling Stone and what I want to tell them is, ‘Listen, who cares, it doesn’t mean anything.'” What means something is that a blogger with credibility has his or her own fan base, you know what I mean? People follow bloggers because they understand their aesthetic framework and what they like and their sensibilities.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.