As an independent musician, promoter & blogger, I’ve seen just about everything when it comes to music promotion techniques. I find the best way to learn how to do something effectively is through a process of negation – learning what not to do. Just as you know fully & completely not to approach the poisonous snake, there are certain aspects of promoting your band you should know fully. Whether promoting a new album, a music video, or a single, the process is the same.
1) Don’t over-use social media.
This is contradictory to a lot of what indie bands hear on a regular basis. Social media does have it’s place for certain, but most artists just aren’t sure where that is.
When you first set up your Facebook page for your band, the network, much like Myspace did 10-15 years ago, seems like an absolute playground. Music magazines, radio shows, podcasts, blogs, & endless groups & pages dedicated to music are plentiful. It seems as simple as just posting your new slideshow Youtube video on their walls & waiting for the fans to arrive. However, this simply is not the case.
The only time you should be posting a message or music submission on a Facebook wall is when it’s a) the recommended method of submitting your music to that publication, or b) there is no contact information for the publication. In this case it’s OK to write a simple message requesting an email address.
Another way that indie bands commonly misuse social media is by hounding their friend lists. Whether it’s the latest songwriting contest or a new show, they endlessly hammer away at their friend lists until they manage to publicly embarrass themselves. While their family & friends may support them, this behavior makes them look desperate & amateur to everyone else, & you can bet that other people see it. The solution to this is to not constantly post about yourself, but instead let OTHER PEOPLE talk about you. An effective marketing campaign directed to the outside world will get you buzzed about by music blogs, magazines, pod casts and other taste makers, provided your music is as good as you think it is.
Effective and classy use of social media include engaging the community with new content, posting your new reviews & press pieces to say thanks to the publications, & providing some interesting posts for your fanbase. Post like a professional band, not an amateur one.
2) Don’t just post your album on Bandcamp. Timing is everything.
Next to the first rule, this is one of the most common mistakes I see independent artists make. It’s so common I would guess that 80 percent or more of artists do this.
Most bands are so excited about their new release that they post it on Bandcamp or CD Baby & then announce “Here it is!” on their social networks. What’s wrong with this picture? Well, nothing’s wrong with it if you’re doing music solely as a hobby and have little plans for exposure.
Media requires up to 3 months lead in time to plan a piece. This is something most musicians don’t take into account. Larger magazines require the full 3 months to plan their new issues, assign writers, secure advertising, & distribute. Beyond this, many of them only review material on it’s release date. This means that if you release an album & then mail a copy to them, you’re already 3 months too late! Even significant music blogs like Pitchfork request that you send digital albums at least 1 month in advance. To make a long story short, if you dont leave yourself an advance time period to aggressively promote your new release, you are cutting yourself off from most major press. If you’re a demo artist, this won’t matter, but if you sound professional, it’s a complete waste.
3) Don’t send generic spam-type submissions
There are many services that offer to send your music to “10,000 contacts” or get you to the inboxes of the “music industry professionals” such as Beatwire.com & Musicsubmit.com. You can bet that your message will be going straight to a junk folder if you go this route, & the same applies for impersonal messages on your part. It may seem like an easy way out to have a program input the recipient’s names & fire away, but the results, in many cases, are zero. I even tried Beatwire recently to test out their services, & one posting showed up on a site that had nothing to do with the genre I was promoting. I’ve recently received emails from Musicsubmit.com, meaning, I assume, that I am now on their list of music industry professionals they’re sending artists to. The fact that I’m on their contact list & have not so much as gotten a “hello” email from them should tell you how effective that method of promotion is.
BE PERSONAL. You should open all your emails, or at least send a “Hello” message to every website that you contact. Say something nice about their blog. Read their bio. Put in some effort. Connect with them. They do it for the love of it & most bloggers don’t get paid a dime, so reach out to them as a fellow music lover.
4) Don’t say too much but don’t be vague.
Be brief & cognizant of how much time the person on the other end of your email has. At the same time, you should make sure to include ALL relevant info & selling points for your band so that no Googling is required on their part. Good things to include are band info (Name, similar artists, genres, websites, music video links, bio), album info (Name, production info, release date, label), & the product itself (media zip links with the music, press shots, and bio).
5) Don’t do one thing at a time.
Do everything at the same time! Many bands will release their album, start promoting it a few months later, release a video 6 months after that when they’ve saved the money, & play scatter live dates as all this goes on. That just doesn’t build any significant momentum. I hate to say it, but being in a band is like a business. An indie band’s favourite thing to say may be the defence mechanism response “We’re short on cash”, but if you continue to project that, then it’s your reality – plain & simple. If a restaurant owner says “I have no cash”, he has to DO something. If not, you can bet someone new will move in on the 1st of the month.
The indie bands who have this kind of attitude are the ones who will succeed. Even if it means pushing your album back for 6-8 months, it’s critical that serious bands save up & time a tour (at least some significant local dates), a quality music video (which can usually be arranged cheaply through student directors), an album, a promotion campaign (either self-promoted or via a publicist), & advertising. These things should all be churning away together over a 3 month period to seriously build your bands buzz.
Trust me I know all this as I have, for many years been an indipendent musician, promoter & freelance writer for many of the magazines in the "motorcycle industry" genre that my "biker music" is targeted to. They have deadlines each month & very little time to do everything thsts needed. As a self managed artist Ive found a great way to insure a great write up & to show your petsonal integrity is to arrange an interview/meeting over lunch or a couple beers at your expense & their convenience then they get to know your more intimately over a free lunch!
Ive got more to come on all this so stay tuned here!