I hope this latest article serves as a quality resource for independent musicians worldwide. It began as an excerpt from “Your Band Is A Virus“, but as I started adding links and new information, I doubled the size of the piece, attempting to cover a wider range of tips intended to help artists create some solid ground beneath them. Not sure what to do to promote yourself? This article will give you some starting points, and if you have a professional release, there are plenty of tasks that are doable right now.
1) Talk to people and create a connecting point.
If you wanted to get popular in school you would find out who the cool kids are and befriend them. If you want to get popular on a social network, look up the top personal users. Contact them and introduce them to your music. Befriend them. Take an interest in them. Create reasons why they should spread your music. Use incentives when needed. Reward the people who are on your side.
The same idea works for the blogosphere, the mainstream music press, the podcasting world, college radio, or any other area of the music industry. There are people who set up platforms for the same reason you picked up an instrument; for the love of music. They’re reachable, and the connecting point is always the music. Did you love a recent review you read on the new Janelle Monae album? Would that writer possibly enjoy your upcoming jazz/soul full-length release? There are connecting points everywhere if we’re perceptive.
2) Use what works on you.
When you scour a music website or magazine looking for a new band to add to your iPod playlist or CD collection, only a select few will stand out to you. Why is that? Is it their artwork? Their promotional photo (an often overlooked piece of the puzzle)? The promotional language used to describe the band? The reviews or press listed (did they impress you with “social proof”)? Was there something shocking? Some mystique?
Rearrange your own press materials and advertising if necessary to emulate (within reason) what looks effective or appeals most to you. You will be marketing to people who relate to you, remember.
3) Be there. Where? Everywhere.
Make sure you’ve prepared the necessary elements to go viral. Part of this is simply being there. The process is nearly endless, and doesn’t cut short once you’ve posted your new album for your social media friends. If your music is only on a few networks, or sitting in a custom player on your homepage, it has no wings. Your music must be spreadable and fully optimized on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Youtube (upload your separate tracks with album cover), Reverbnation, Sonicbids, Rdio, Vimeo, Last.fm (acts as a mixture of Wikipedia and online radio for music), Facebook, and Twitter as ground zero/your starting point.
Join podsafe/podcasting networks such as the ones listed below:
For music discovery, try:
The same goes for licensing libraries, music blogs, magazines (in and outside of the specifically music realm), podcasts, internet and college radio…to optimize and create maximum potential, all of these outlets should be professionally and personally approached with your music. Talk to individuals when you can as opposed to going through the main channels.
4) Use your current allies.
Make a list of everyone who is on your side. Keep track of their names, roles (family, radio dj, blogger, fan, etc), and email addresses on a document such as Microsoft Excel or a custom program. Keep them in the loop at to what’s new with your band and how they can help you. Make it worthwhile and treat them well. Whenever you get played by a new radio show or get covered by a new website, add them to your list of allies. Once again, use cross-promotion, incentives and thank yous to keep them on your allies list.
5) Multiply your allies.
Yes indeed. Ask your current allies if they know anyone else you can contact for airplay or press. This can go on forever, as it’s recommended to ask your new contacts the same question as you get to know them. You may be surprised what comes up. Ask if you can tell this new person that you were referred by them. They will usually be delighted to give you a few names.
Plus, approaching someone new saying “John Smith highly recommended your radio show for our band and suggested that I get in touch with you. John recently interviewed us at his Rock Star Nation website. Would you be interested in a review or interview?” gives you a much better chance of getting coverage than approaching on your own. By helping you, they see themselves doing a favor or coming through for a friend. Their ego is stroked just by knowing that someone recommended them. Most people will want to come through in this type of scenario.
Make your marketing plan your own social network. Multiply your allies to build your army. Pretty soon you will have enough press to rival a major label act. It’s all about image.
6) Randomly reward people.
Word-of-mouth is not always created by set-in-stone freebies and campaigns. What does this mean to you? Well, it’s a very good idea to randomly reward people. Go above and beyond.
If a new person signs up for your street team, mailing list, or buys your CD, why not send them a personal email letting them know you’ve sent them digital copies of 2 of your albums to say thanks. Most people would be thrilled to be contacted personally by a member of the band, and on top of that be given free stuff, they would surely tell a few friends. Be generous on a person-to-person basis and you’ll be surprised at the word-of-mouth this can generate about your band.
7) Use psychological appeal
Ask for advice. This may sound like a simplistic tip, but it’s actually a highly effective way to create real movement in your path. Did you know that it’s been scientifically proven that people are far more likely to want to help when they’re asked for their advice? It’s even better to ask for their expertise.
Why? We all love having our ego’s appealed to. If we’re just asked for help point blank, we may think “Why should I help this person?” There is no relationship building. However, simply foregoing the begging part and approaching an industry professional, no matter the level, and telling them your situation, then asking for their expertise or if there is anything they can recommend, can have lucrative results. They may send you to one of their contacts. They may take you under their wing. They may advise you on something you’re doing wrong and help you with the next steps. Just be sure your request is concise and nothing close to a sob story!
8) Everything at the same time
If you’re an independent artist you most likely have an issue with timing, and it’s directly related to finances as well as the feeling of being overwhelmed. If this is the case, save up for longer before launching your product, because in order to even hope for direct competition with other artists, you need everything to happen at the same time; your album release, your tour, your music video launch. You need to be busy all the time.
This is especially effective when you’ve built up a huge contact list of allies who are loyal to you. Send them your new music video and press release along with a personalized message all at the same time. Dozens of blogs posting about you at the same time can really catch the attention of outsiders, and that’s ultimately what you want. A post here and there can still have effect, but it’s tough to build the momentum.
9) Don’t worry about profit quite yet. The idea alone will hold you back.
You’ve got to launch this thing in a big way before you focus specifically on profit. The CD orders will eventually become a positive by-product of your viral campaign. Be very generous. Create reasons for your band to have an inside circle. Does your website allow people to log in? Are there member benefits such as extra free downloads? Are you providing a good incentive for those fans who are signing up for your mailing list or E-team? When someone does buy your CD, are you giving them something else as well such as a digital copy of your previous album or a previously unreleased track?
If it’s digital, it doesn’t cost anything. One common mistake that independent bands and musicians make in this day and age is being overly stingy and paranoid about their music. Here’s a tip: If your band records a CD, sets up a website with 30 second previews of each track and waits for the fans to come swooping in, it’s simply not going to happen.
Bands spend a lot of time asking “Should we offer this track for free? Will that be too much? But we won’t make any money!” This is the indie band’s paranoia.
Remember that a digital product is infinite. When someone downloads your song, you have a new listener. Period. Yes, they may have downloaded it for free, but you have no less stock. Now that we are beyond dealing with physical products, you don’t have to worry quite as much about running out of product and potentially giving away too much stock for promotional purposes.
Beyond that, you should actively be looking for potential virus carriers to send free music to! Tell them all you’d like in return is that they post it somewhere or send it to someone else. Tell them to treat your music as a virus. They will most likely get a kick out of the idea and be appreciative of your modern attitude. It’s this attitude that is going to get your music spread. Don’t waste time on the old school way of thinking – if you do that you may as well be a record label going out of business.
There are plenty of quality ways for artists to advertise, and I don’t mean paying insane rates in major indie publications, something I typically don’t recommend. After all, you’re paying their rent. Niche websites with more reasonable pricing, ironically, tend to be more effective than massive indie titans. If you’re a desert rock act or a dream pop group, sometimes it’s best to start where your particular niche is – reach out to the medium level publications who cater specifically to it.
Facebook is great when you keep an eye on it, test, and optimize. If you don’t want to take the equivalent of an advertising course, you can always try out Reverbnation’s “Promote It” app for your Facebook advertising needs. Be sure to report to us how things go! Check it out here. Another set of potential ground rules have been outlined by Gen Y Rockstars. I love their approach to the descriptions, although my personal choice tends to lean towards pay-per-click advertising. Props to them for their approach.
Advertise with hyper-targeting on Google through their main option, Google Adwords, which provides pretty much every focusing option you’d ever need to reach your niche audience. They also have a free customer service line to guide you through the many options.
Another avenue that I’ve used with some success is Blogads.com. They offer a very easy-to-use advertising system that enables you to advertise in music publications such as The Deli, Obscure Sound, and Short and Sweet NYC among others. Try their pay-per-tweet advertising, as that’s what was most effective for me.
To cover organic Twitter growth, I recommend Andrew Muller from The Real Musician. He’s who I hire for my own Twitter promotion and the growth has been tremendous. Also, I use his services for all my artist packages and campaigns. Read up on what he does at The Real Musician.