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Marketing your music
There is a thought that underpins the way a lot of artists approach the promotion of their music. It is the notion that art should speak for itself and gain an audience in an entirely organic way. Then it is true art. Anything else is vulgar, over commercialised etc. There are probably stories out in the public domain of when an act has gone viral without anything other than just showing up. There is also that thing where the telling of the story leaves out certain key elements. Things like managers, a countless number of small gigs in dive bars, paid advertising, unpaid advertising, and all manner of hustle. All of that effort and industry and talking and straining to building an audience is always behind a star on the rise..and the backstory to every legendary artist.
Muso snobbery. I’ve experienced it. I’ve lived it. As a younger man, there were bands that I wouldn’t listen to because they were ‘too commercial’. Of course the music I instead listened to or created was ‘true and authentic’. Been there? One of the things muso snobbery promotes is the myth that a band/artist must rise to success on the strength of word of mouth alone. That’s somehow the truest validation of your talent. It’s the ‘build it and they will come’ theory. And it’s complete bullsh#t. In this day and age, there is no such thing as a successful (i.e. charting/selling/fans at shows) artist that was not the beneficiary of a large amount of marketing...and really, there never was. The short of it is, if your band (i.e. brand) is not actively working on getting themselves known you are going (and will stay) unnoticed for the most part. Quite simply you are leaving a lot of opportunities, and fans...and money, on the table. Just for fun, google ‘how many songs are uploaded to Spotify every day’. Last time I checked it was forty thousand! Now get a calculator and times that by 365. Those numbers are only going to grow. That’s a lot of noise you’ve got to cut through. You need people to somehow find you in amongst all of that...and magic isn’t a thing, sorry.
You MUST have a presence on ALL of the main social platforms. Then, you’ve got to work with the platforms, and their niche (or unique attributes), and the algorithms. As a band, post regularly. Consistency is a must. Post 2-3 times a week. Everyone in the band should then share each post on their own personal accounts. I used to worry that this was spammy, but it turns out the algorithms don’t allow that to happen for the most part, and, if by chance someone does feel spammed...they were not your audience anyway...problem solved.
Pictures and/or video are a must with each post. So that means cameras out at rehearsals and gigs and in the studio, and anything that can be related to the band (BTW - The Electric Recording Lab is very Insta friendly). The text is important too, but it’s the pic or video that gets people to stop scrolling and pay attention to you. Keep it to the point though, attention spans are not what they used to be! Create a shared album in the cloud (E.g. Google drive) so that everyone in the band responsible for curating social media posts always have a large bank of material to draw from. Post maybe 2-3 pics the day after a gig, not all twenty. No one is going to look through a large collection all at once. Thank all those that came...it’s a little dose of missed-gig-envy for those that didn’t make it. Then next post, add one (or two) more pics from the gig collection. Tag any other bands on the bill - vital scene networking. Rinse and repeat. Video is really popular on Facebook at the moment - so make the most of that. Put up a snippet of a gig or a new song from a rehearsal with text to the effect of, ’Can’t wait to hit the stage with this one’.
The goal is engagement. Engagement is the word that Facebook etc use to describe the activity around your posts. If you can create engagement, the algorithms will work FOR you. If you’re entertaining you’ll end up in more people’s news feed. You create engagement by posting interesting, quality content consistently. It can be a long game...but an essential one! If a post is going well, promote or boost it to find a wider audience.
There are a lot of great resources out there now to help you with all this. (NOTE: Links at the bottom of the page)
When it comes down to it, you’re selling a product - and the product is you! There’s nothing dirty about that (say that last line again...slowly). It’s how artists can afford to eat and put a roof over their collective heads.
Lastly, there’s the fear of talking yourself up. Aussies hate doing it for the most part. Some of this marketing (aka self promotion) stuff is difficult because of that little voice in your head worried about what others in your network are thinking about you - that you’re big noting yourself etc. It’s the Tall Poppy Syndrome alive and well. You have to kill that voice. It is not serving you. It’s bullsh*t anyways. Most people are happy for the content in their feed. And the small percentage that aren’t...as I’ve already said, they were not your audience to begin with. You are an artist...and a legitimate one. Beginner or advanced. Promote your band/music with confidence. The truth is that most people are in wonder of musicians. They marvel that you’ve been able to learn an instrument, that you/your band write their own songs. It’s all a mysterious dark art to them. Use that to your advantage. Just don’t be a dick. Hopefully that part’s obvious...and just general life advice. People on the whole are curious about your music. They may not end up a fan, but they may refer you on to someone who likes ‘that type of music’.
Summary: If you’re making music that moves YOU...there’s a really good chance it’ll move a bunch of other people as well. None of us are truly 100% unique. Your job is to find those people. Learn about what best practice is regarding leveraging social media from the resources about you, don’t just flail about hoping to accidentally find the way through. Make a plan and get to work.
I hope that’s helpful,
Social Media Marketing Podcast (transcripts):
Bonus link for the advanced reader. Seth is a marketing guru with a lot of great insight into how to get your message out there. He has podcasts, books and blogs...all of the things. I’ve subscribed to regular email nugget from him and they’ve been pretty interesting and useful.