– Quentin W. Buetow –
– Robi Nickoli –
The Essentials Of Promoting Yourself And Your Music
As most of us are aware, the dawn of the digital age has had a profound effect on the music industry. Up until around twenty years ago, give or take, becoming a known recording artist meant being spotted by a record label, agent, or publisher. However, the Internet has empowered thousands of music performers and lovers of the craft to become independent artists … and this particular route to musical acclaim is still very much on the rise.
Although being an independent artist allows a freedom that often isn’t possible with major labels, promoting music becomes the responsibility of the artist … and presents a major challenge to someone with little to no marketing experience. Music promotion is a complex issue and the market for independent artists is growing ever larger. However, with a comprehensive marketing strategy – and the help of music promotion companies – independents can spread the reach of their music significantly.
The Internet has revolutionized music in all its forms. Consumers possess the ability to download the latest tracks from the second they are released and from the comfort of their own homes … or even on the go, as it were. However, this new age of downloads has also transformed the way music is marketed to the masses. It represents an incredible opportunity for amateur music makers; it’s just a question of putting a cohesive strategy in place.
It is now possible for artists to create their very own music labels with the help of specialist music distribution services. Music promotion companies will charge by the track or album for the uploading of songs to most of the major online music stores. However, these organizations will often offer a range of extra services in exchange for one-off payments … giving amateur musicians the chance to access professional methods of music promotion.
Artists who choose to make use of music distribution services will be able to make their material available to consumers via a myriad of online music stores. They may also have the chance to create their own label and their releases to be issued with bar codes and International Standard Recording Codes (I.S.R.C.’s). To all intents and purposes, this gives anyone the chance to become a published recording artist … as long as they have a catalog of material in the public domain.
Social Media – particularly Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, ReverbNation, and YouTube – allow artists to interact with music fans directly. Getting involved in discussions, giving opinions on music in general, and introducing their own work to music lovers is why social media platforms are so important to independent recording artists. As more followers are acquired, artists can deliver tailored messages, updates, and sneak-peeks of new material to the very people who might be interested in buying their music.
All sorts of people get involved with on-line discussions in forums, discussion boards, and artist web-sites. By playing an active role in these communities, artists can reach out to people with a genuine interest in new, up-and-coming songwriters and musicians. Links to music clips, videos and websites can often be posted, and artists can garner feedback from other musicians. Most forums will give artists the opportunity to join discussions based on genre, so it’s possible to reach out to a potential fan-base.
The power of blogging in the twenty-first century is huge and every major brand, company, label, and recording artist will (or should) operate some form of blog on their own web-site. For recording artists, blogging is a way to share creative processes, musical influences, and upcoming projects. An engaging and entertaining blog will attract a natural following … and eventually will provide a means to garner increased music sales.
In addition to the normal means of exposure and publicity, the off-line world presents a number of opportunities for music promoting, including internet-based radio stations … which often run competitions for unsigned artists. Selling C.D.’s at gigs and playing their music at every opportunity gives independent artists the chance to grow their following by letting the quality of their music shine through.
The music industry – as the older generations know it – has changed forever. Anyone can now become a published recording artist: the seemingly insurmountable barriers erected by major recording labels are no longer there. Online music distribution and a sound marketing strategy can empower independent artists to shape their own destiny, free from the shackles of corporate music labels.
Have you ever wondered why there are a few super-talented musicians and performers out there who don’t get the fan-base and recognition they deserve, while other not-so-talented musicians get a lot more exposure and are seen in all the so-called right places?
Well, while there could be a number of different reasons for this, one of the most common is that successful person’s ability to handle the business side of the music industry. More specifically, they probably know how to market themselves well.
Music marketing is that key piece to the puzzle many musicians simply never put into effect. It’s because of this that many don’t get where they could have otherwise been … and why they struggle to make sales, get gigs, and generally move their music career forward in any meaningful way.
The good news, however, is if you’re willing to put in the work, it’s possible to learn how to market your music. Before you learn specific tactics for marketing your music, though, it’s important you get a good idea of what music marketing is … and what it isn’t.
There are a lot of common misconceptions about this among musicians, so take a moment to check out what I’ve written below to see some truths about what it all entails. I truly hope it gets you on the right path when it comes to how you approach the promotion of your craft.
I. Marketing Your Music Is Necessary, But Doesn’t Have To Be Difficult.
As someone who speaks to and interacts with independent musicians on almost a daily basis, I know that many have the feeling that marketing their music is going to be difficult. This is an understandable fear: most people involve themselves in the music industry for the love of the music and don’t think they’ll ever have to learn how to market in order for them to get their music heard.
That being said, if you do want to get your music heard, marketing is a necessary part of things. The good news, though, is promoting your music doesn’t have to be hard. Pretty much all of it can be learned and it doesn’t require a degree in science or math to put into place a solid promotion plan for your music career. As long as you’re willing to learn and put the work in where needed, after a time marketing your music should become second nature to you.
Who knows, you may even start finding it to be fun and exciting!
II. Music Marketing Is All About Raising Awareness.
A lot of musicians and performers starting out feeling that if they make their music good enough, they will get noticed; that all they have to do is record a good album, make it available to people in stores (or somewhere online) and their music will start making sales and getting downloads.
While I can see why people would think this, it’s so far from the truth. Anyone who’s tried this tactic before will know that this isn’t the case. All that happens is you either earn nothing … or you sell a few C.D.’s to friends and family.
Being talented and letting people know about your talent are two very different things. As well as making music that people actually want to listen to, you need to get them to give you a listen in the first place. After all, how will people know you’re talented if they don’t give you that initial chance?
New acts are coming out all the time, fighting for people’s attention and taking the competition to such levels as telling people that they make music and then go so far as to give them a free copy of their new album. Unfortunately, most people won’t even bother downloading it. It’s because of this fact that you need to convince people your music is worth trying out. This is what music marketing is, sum and substance.
By marketing your music, you’re accomplishing two things:
• You’re showing people that your music exists;
• You’re convincing people to give it a try.
If these two things don’t happen, don’t expect your next release to do very well. In fact, throw the towel in because you’re not giving it your all.
III. Marketing Is Often Most Effective When It’s A Two-Way Process.
While some of things you do to market your music will only involve one-way interaction (i.e., relaying a quick update or message to fans and potential fans), things will really start taking off for you when you make this interaction with fans down the two-way avenue of approach.
What I mean by this is: you don’t always want (or need) to relay messages to your fans and then disappear. You’ve got to maintain complete interaction with the very people you’re attempting to draw in. When you update your social media sites, for example: as you get more followers, chances are people will often reply to something you’ve said. They want to continue the conversation you’ve started. Continue that interaction. Get personal and up-close. Get to know your fan-base. Get comfortable talking to these people who you hope will be one day buying your product!
What I often see, however, are fans commenting and posting on musician’s walls, but the musicians are not replying in return … even if they’re asked a reasonable, thought-provoking question. While the effects of this won’t be as big if you’re always gaining new fans and have a very big fan-base, such a move can still help you grow a lot quicker and will also make you appear a lot more approachable to your growing fan-base.
By getting them (your growing fan-base) proactively involved in your music career, you’re creating more loyal fans who will stick around for a lot longer. When you speak to them, you make them feel like they’re part of your journey. Because of this, they’re more likely to support and share what you do. If you don’t reply to them, however, it’d be more likely that they’ll eventually become frustrated trying to talk to you while you continually ignore them … and they’ll move on to the next wonder kid down the line. Get my meaning?
While marketing doesn’t always have to be two-way, if you don’t implement a two-way dialog somewhere in your music career, you’re going to find it a lot more difficult to build up a fan-base than those musicians who do.
IV. The Marketing Of Your Music Is An Ongoing Requirement.
As well as being aware that it’s important to market your music, it’s also important to realize the amount of time and effort that goes into this process. Most people initially think that the marketing process should start when you’re about to release your next album or single, and should end before you start working on your next project. This isn’t strictly true.
The marketing of your music should begin as soon as you’ve a good level of talent (and product, of course) to promote. While the degree of marketing you undertake at the time will depend on what exactly you have to promote and what else you have on your plate, marketing should be an ongoing process for as long as you’re trying to become a more successful musician.
V. Getting Others Involved Will Make Your Marketing Efforts Easier.
While marketing and positioning your craft isn’t that difficult once you know how to do it, it still requires a lot of time and energy to do it to the extent needed to make consistent money from your music. Often, doing all the marketing needed alone can lead to much slower progress, frustration, and possibly burnout.
The solution to this is to get others involved with the promotion process. This can be in the form of getting your fans to help you out, hiring a marketing team or a knowledgeable individual, or eventually letting a record label largely handling that side of things for you (although it’s still important you learn how to promote your music, too, so you know if the label is taking things in the right direction for you.)
More hands make for lighter work. In spite of what we may think, it’s not a good idea to do everything by yourself. The potential is far too great for eventually growing overwhelmed and losing focus on the most important thing: your craft. So, get others involved once your talent level is at a proficient level and you know what direction you should be heading in.
VI. Initially, No One Will Help You.
Let me say it again: initially, no one will help you. When you’re a new or independent musician, you won’t get much outside help. Okay, so you might get some help from a friend who likes your music, but other than that, don’t rely on record labels or fans to help you promote your music. Why is that?
Simple, because record labels do not generally work with unproven musicians … ergo, you’re an unknown quantity at this point. You’re not a bankable commodity, in other words. You won’t have any sort of a sizable fan-base at this stage in the game, so you’re not going to present any sort of reason – beyond your talent – for a label to undertake such a mission.
In order to move things forward for yourself, you’ll need to learn to market your music as well as increase your presence all by yourself. Once you’ve done this and have something to show for your efforts (notable and consistent performances and appearances under your belt, being covered or featured in respected forums and venues, etc.), then it’ll become a lot easier to get people to help you push your music further.
VII. You’re Losing Out If You Promote Your Music Only Online.
Lastly, don’t make the rookie mistake and automatically think that promoting your craft online is the only way to go. I know the Internet has made it easy to sit and promote your music from the comfort of your own home … but … if you only market your music on-line, you’re missing out on a load of other worthwhile opportunities!
Gigging (performing at venues, et. al.) is one of the biggest reasons you shouldn’t stick to on-line music marketing methods. By gigging, you get to connect face-to-face with your audience, make instant money by selling merchandise (t-shirts, bumper stickers, and even C.D.’s) and make money from royalties.
Another thing you’ll want to do off-line is chase down opportunities. E-Mail can be a slow process, but when dealing with companies, often a phone call or going to see them in person can speed things up considerably. Not only that, but you have the chance to potentially connect with them in ways others who go through E-Mail simply won’t.
Of course, these aren’t the only ways to promote your music offline, but they are some of the best methods of getting not only yourself out there in the public view, but your craft as well.
What you need to remember – and stay ever mindful of – is the plain, hard fact that there are other performers out there just like you. It all boils down to how hungry you are; how committed you are to making your dreams come to fruition.
You need to stay focused on not just the long-term goals, but the short-term as well.
Until next time … keep grinding!!!