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June 2, 2011

A Conversation With Ross Barber Of ElectricKiWi

Filed under: website promotion, Band Promotion — ian @ 8:13 am

Ross Barber (ElectricKiWi) and I met through Twitter (@rossautomatica) - it feels to me like we’ve put our arms over each others shoulders and we’re weaving down the road together singing and having a laugh, but at the same time being serious about our journey and we’re each of us striving to reach to our destination - so there’s bound to be a little bit of jostling ;)

Ross Barber - ElectricKiWi

UBP: We opened our friendship by talking about flyer design, which I’m interested in because I promote the idea of bands using a Vertical Rectangle Banner Ad. (a reduced A6 flyer) - a good combination I feel! Ross, what are your thoughts on the different sizes of flyers, and how do you feel about turning them into website banners?

Ross Barber: Hey Ian, I think it’s a good idea to reduce physical flyers into an online format. As more and more people are discovering music online than ever before, online promotion cannot be ignored. I would say it does depend on the design of the poster/flyer as to how well it will transfer to a digital environment. As you mentioned in Band Flyers and Banners, it can be difficult to read when a poster has been re-sized for online use. It could be a good idea for designers to create a separate version once the background image has been re-sized. This would not take up a great deal of time and would maximise potential exposure for the band in question.

For use offline, I think varying sizes of posters and flyers are great, too - particularly if the designs are creative and can match the band’s style. For example, cutting posters into different shapes if the band’s name is associated with a particular shape or object. Different poster sizes work for different locations so it’s always a good idea to have at least 2 different sizes for the purpose of maximising the number of places you can advertise.

If the flyers can double up as both an offline and online method, then even better! I’ve always said that it is so important not to ignore either environment for promotion as each is extremely valuable and together they can be even stronger. They enhance each other massively when the strategy is right!

Terra Naomi Music

UBP: Thanks for the flyer, it’s an ideal working example. Yeah, I totally agree with you, promoting and marketing your genre, style, image, aura and brand simultaneously using both online and offline methods, can have an ultra-powerful effect.

Cost is always in the back of my mind, different sizes, full colour etc. cost money; one of the reasons I recommend bands should start with a simple A6 flyer, is so they can self-print four to a normal sized sheet of paper (A4) in monochrome and slice them accordingly; most bands don’t have much money - I’m aware there is also a professionalism issue here! Most venues use a local printer who may also do the designs, how do you feel you fit in with this, who are you targeting?

Ross Barber: Cost is always going to be an issue. I know that money is an issue, particularly if a band is dedicating a lot of their time to their music and don’t have another source of income. Even someone who does have a steady income may not have the extra funds available to spend on flyers. I do think that high-quality flyers which are relevant to the band’s style can make a big difference when it comes to promotion, so I would say that if they can afford to spend some money on a design which reflects their music, they definitely should - it could be very good value for money.

As for the venues who may have printers and designers in place - there is not going to be much we can do in this situation. The downside to this would be that often the designs may not represent the style of music as accurately as an in depth consultation with someone who designs specifically for musicians and bands would do. I’m not sure how you could combat the venues who will only allow flyers made by their chosen agency, though - that would be something I would look into when the situation arose.

UBP: Well from a band’s point of view, a venue who promotes their gigs is brilliant, a band can still, and should, produce their own flyers, it’s all part of branding.

Even though you’d never know it from my websites, I love art and have had a life full of art and fashion. What initially attracted me to your website was the Jackson Pollock-esque, James Brooks-ish, abstract expressionist header image. The ‘era’ of the 1950s to the 1970s (with a little 1930’s surrealist movement thrown in) is my main love and influence, what are your main influences and how do you reflect them in your artworks?


Ross Barber: Bands should take advantage of any promotional services the venue can offer, absolutely, but I agree that they should have their own flyers made wherever possible.

As for my inspiration, it’s a difficult one to place. Unlike you, I’ve never really been that involved in art. It’s strange though because I love graphic design but don’t think I could cite any specific artists or eras that inspire me. I would say I am inspired mostly by artwork I see everyday - whether it is online or elsewhere. I do love abstract and experimental graphic design and have always liked combining elaborate abstract designs with grungy textures and patterns.

Music gives me a lot of ideas too - I often get images in my head when listening to music. Listening to instrumental bands like Explosions in the Sky or This Will Destroy You never fails to conjure up a few ideas! Sometimes they are vague such as a basic colour palette to start with and sometimes they are more complete visions. It varies so much! I always try to match the visuals with the audio so there is a level of consistency and branding to some extent so I try and listen to the artist’s music while working to keep the vision focused!

UBP: A while ago I was sitting and chatting to my wife, when the thought suddenly popped into my head ‘What colour is rock music?‘ and something odd happened, I could see the colours! I wondered how this would translate into branding as well as marketing and promotion. It does! Almost! Sort of! Wow!

Do you see/feel the differences between Marketing and Promotion? I ask this because of the way you present your website (BTW., that’s not a negative criticism). Also, one of my hobby-horses is ‘local band promotion’, how do you interact with your local bands in Glasgow?


Ross Barber: Haha, I wouldn’t solely rely on the ideas that music creates, but I definitely think there are certain colours that are more appropriate for a style of music than others. It’s funny though, because music and art affect people in different ways - what one person "sees" music as could be something completely different from what another sees. This could be a fairly interesting topic to research!

I would say I have a pretty good understanding of marketing and promotion. Marketing has more to do with defining your target audience and presenting the product (in this case, the gig/website/album etc.) in a way that will appeal to the audience. Promotion is more about spreading the word and advertising in a sense. I offer an online marketing service, which is mostly about ensuring that a band’s website has copy which is going to be SEO friendly while also being engaging to their audience. I do provide online promotion services, marketing and promotion do go hand in hand. The services I offer are tailored individually as everyone has different needs.

I’ve only recently moved to Glasgow and am still getting to know how the music scene works here. It’s definitely different from the small town I moved here from! I do most of my interaction online at the moment and have made quite a few connections this way. Before starting ElectricKiWi, I had done quite a bit of writing for The List magazine and which introduced me to a lot of new bands and allowed me to connect on a slightly more professional level.

I’ve always embraced the internet as a networking tool. I started building websites and participating in online communities around 12 years ago. I think I maybe spent too much time online when I was younger and as a result find it far easier to make connections via the internet first, I would say in all honesty that I’m perhaps a little shy and reserved in social settings at first which is why I find it harder to introduce myself in an offline environment than online. Online I can showcase my abilities far easier than I could in a real-life setting, I guess!

UBP: Interesting name ElectricKiwi, where did that come from, do you have connections with New Zealand?

Yeah, small town band promotion is completely different from big city promo. Bands who come from London say, have a big advantage in terms of getting gigs and fans, over bands who come from the provinces - I was talking with a London based band who were trying to make it big on the internet, they’d ‘forgotten’ where they lived!

The most common question I get asked by bands is, "Can you help us get our name out there?" How would you respond to that?

Ross Barber: The ElectricKiWi name has been around for a long time. I originally purchased the domain about 8 years ago and it started off as a personal blog, then it evolved to include and showcase my own music. I decided a few months ago to relaunch it as a design and marketing service. As for the name itself, there is no real meaning behind it. When I decided to buy a domain, I wanted an unusual name and just tried pairing random words…ElectricKiWi was the result!

You’re absolutely right. Bands in larger cities have a greater chance of getting gigs but at the same time there is so much competition it can be harder in some cases to stand out.

When a band asks for help "getting their name out there", I think it’s important to know if they mean locally, nationally or internationally. I would offer some assistance or advice in on-site and off-site SEO to ensure their website ranks for the most appropriate and effective keywords, encourage them to network and communicate with their target audience and other bands/venues in their local area to start with. Without a big budget, it is usually going to be a slow process building up a large fanbase and becoming known either in their area or elsewhere. Of course it is possible but they have to be dedicated and be willing to stick it out for the long haul!

UBP: Put the elasticated stockings on, We’re Going Long Haul - that’s So True :)

Ross, I really like your individual and personal approach when engaging with bands, and I think that you have got it absolutly right when you talk about, encouraging bands to start off by networking and communicating with their target audience, other bands and venues in their local area. It’s always a joint effort between ‘us’ and the band :)

ElectricKiWi - I’m disappointed! I was expecting tales of travel into the mystical heartland of New Zealand, hey-ho, what’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet - actually I’m not so sure that’s true anymore after watching ‘Secrets of the Superbrands’ presented by Alex Riley last night!


Get in touch with Ross Barber for graphic design, web design and online marketing and promotion - he’d love to help you with your band’s next flyer campaign. Ross: ElectricKiWi, Twitter, Facebook.

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