Tuesday 25 March 2014

What even are bands? People who like percussioning at the same time? What a weird concept. Mine's a group of amateur ukulele players who meets once a week at the pub. Despite our novelty status, we still have goals as a group, and to meet goals you need organisation. Organising between 6 and 20 grown adults is like herding cats. Anyone who's tried to get more than two people in the same place at the same time can join me here for a moment of wonder that bands even exist at all.

I declared myself Marketing Manager a while ago when I decided we needed buttons for a show. Since then, I've taken on all our digital. Taken on - I created it from the ground up!

A band button that says "Uke the World". There's a picture of a ukulele which is also a mushroom cloud.

There's two parts to how we use tech to work with the group - outwards and inwards facing. The outwards stuff - Facebook, Bandcamp, Twitter and so on - doesn't really need explaining any more than our badges do. A lot of it's on my Pinterest, if you're interested, but the inwards stuff, which we use to organise the group, is a little more interesting.

Here's a list of tools which we use, and a little about how we use them. Because we're a ukulele covers group, we have a budget of nothing, so all these tools are free and easy to use. If you have a group to organise, you might find it useful.

Getting it together with Google

  • Google GroupsThis was the one piece which was already in place when I joined. We have lists for the main group, and the subset of the group, so we can be sure no one ever misses an email.
  • Google FormsWe use forms to collect contact information, and song suggestions. Having everyone's contact information seems like a little thing, but when you need to text someone about gaffer tape, you really need to text someone about gaffer tape. And the song suggestions helps too - it forces people to put all the information is in one place, rather than derailing practise with "We should play this cool song I heard on the radio - I think it goes like this - wait no, I'll look on YouTube, what was it called again…"
Screenshot of a google form asking for name, phone number, and email address.

  • Google Docs - Google Docs are used for taking notes on what was covered in each practise - players who missed out can catch themselves up. Docs are nice here because they can be updated by anyone of the three "owners" we nominated, without having to mess around in the back end of our website. We also have a doc containing all the passwords to all these services! 
  • Google Calendar - it's a fact that practises go better if people show up to them. We practise every Sunday, plus a subset of the group practises every other Wednesday, and every other Sunday. Plus we have performances. Um, sorry, when are we next meeting? A calendar keeps it all in one place. Because it's loaded on to our Gmail account, several of us in the group can access it, plus people can sync it to their own calendars. I've embedded it in our website anyway, so there's no excuses.
    Screen cap of a google calendar. Every Sunday is booked out.

  • Gmail - we have a gmail account for the group: it keeps all official correspondence nicely threaded, and while we mostly point people towards the contact form on our website, it's very nice to have. It also holds all our docs, so they're not scattered through personal gmail accounts.
  • YouTube - We upload videos of strumming patterns and so on for songs we're working on. These are unlisted (so no one can stumble over them without the link), and embedded into our website. Again - they're all stored on our shared Gmail account. 

Music and sharing

  • Spotify - We maintain a playlist of all the music we're working on, so people can listen to the melodies in spare moments. It's a collaborative playlist, and we encourage people to drop new music into it. It works pretty well - not quite every band is on Spotify though, so we sometimes end up with covers groups, like "Ohasis." 
  • Dropbox - All our music files are in one place, in alphabetical order, and can be accessed and updated by anyone in the group. Brilliant. 
  • FourDollarsThirty.com - Our website is one of the most important tools we use. It's hosted on Tumblr, so it's easy enough for anyone in the group to use. It's a simple theme, prettied up with the help of our graphic designer, Jon Kay. 

  • As well as an outwards facing website, it's a really valuable repository of information for the group. I've created a handful of pages with easy-to-remember but hidden-from-the-public URLs. The URLs aren't shown on the site, and I turned off robots, which should keep them safe from searches. They contain everything the band needs - notes from practise, links to the Dropbox and Spotify, plus videos of strumming patterns and the harmonies we're working on. It's easier to put all those notes in one place than trying to keep track of emails.

    Some of the pages are designed to be shared around more widely, like fourdollarsthirty.com/images, which contains high-res versions of our logos. How boring does that page look? But I'll never have to attach those logos to an email ever again!

    Creating a page only takes about as long as sending an involved email, so it's worth doing for anything I might have to send out more than once. (There's a non-boring link to our designer's portfolio on the images page, check him out.)

Bonus tech

  • GoodReader. GoodReader's a PDF reader which I use to organise my collection of music on my iPad. I don't read the music files straight from DropBox - that uses too much internet, plus GoodReader lets me scrawl notes all over PDFs and organise them in folders. Not everyone in the group uses it, but it makes my life a whole lot easier.

Scrawly? Yes. But I can read all those notes, and to me they're essential. 

That's it! Is there anything I've missed? Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter.


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