You might think the musicians of Black Girls could attribute their success to catchy tunes and attractive faces alone. But behind the scenes, manager Erica Jacobs has been in dogged pursuit of every lead possible. A friend of the band members since they met as freshmen at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2007, Jacobs resolved to start managing the group in their senior year.
"I just kind of decided we would be more serious about it," she says. Since she began pushing the band, Black Girls has enjoyed coverage in practically every local publication, sold out every show of a 20-day tour with national risers the Head and the Heart and opened for other notable indie acts such as Fang Island, Wavves and Fucked Up.
When marketing bands, Jacobs says social media should be the first priority. It's easy, free, and there are multiple outlets to promote your music. For Black Girls, Jacobs uses Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, MySpace, SoundCloud, YouTube and ReverbNation. And bands don't need to limit post topics to music and upcoming gigs, she says — even unrelated videos will draw extra attention. And Jacobs advises posting often.
"Every time you post something, you get three new followers," Jacobs says. "Let them know who you are and what you're up to."
As soon as possible, she says bands should get recordings of their music online, even if they're rough. (Many acts included on Style Weekly's Music Issue sampler use Bandcamp to release their music.) Bands can post links to their music and give outsiders a taste of their sound. Eventually bands should pull together an electronic press kit, including high-resolution photos, bios, video of the band and a listing of past tour dates. Though it takes time and money, Jacobs advises creating a website.
"If you want to look legit, every big band has a website," she says. While having a digital presence is important, she says bands shouldn't underestimate the power of a tangible recorded product. "Even when it was just rough recordings, we burned them to CDs, made a goofy cover and handed them out," she says. "It's just good to give people stuff to take with them."
Similarly, merchandise is another great way to get the word out, even if it's homemade. When Black Girls started out, the band screen-printed designs on T-shirts from the thrift store.
As far as booking shows, Jacobs advises being proactive, conducting research and booking shows constantly. She says bands should start locally, and then branch out to surrounding areas. Go to other people's shows and make connections. And search venue listings: If a band has TBA listed for its opener, contact the band management and venue to see if they still need someone.
"Even if nobody responds, they still might check you out and listen to you," she says. "Even if they're out of your league, it never hurts to send a message."
As bands gain traction, they should work toward putting together a real album. Black Girls is at work on its third, which should be released in September.
"You've got to be persistent," Jacobs says. "I'll send like 300 emails and get one reply. Just always keep hustling."