Here you are. You’ve done all the hard work of getting your music together and you’ve finally printed your single, ep or full-length album.
Internet offers an infinite number of opportunities of all kinds for you to spread your art all around the world. Be aware: this can either be your biggest blessing or it could turn against you.
If you’re an independent artist who wants to manage his own promotion, there are a few common mistakes you should really avoid.
1. Creating hype
Hype is a big word in the world of social media marketing. It basically means creating engagement between you (artist) and other people through different types of content, in order to make your audience grow consistently. It can really come from nowhere and disappear in the blink of an eye.
Social networks are certainly the number one tool to create a first solid fan base. There are no fixed rules, but the key is not what you say but HOW you say it, just like if you were talking to someone in front of you.
Basic promotional catch-phrases like “Hey guys, check out my new single!” or “Donate to our crowdfunding campaign!” are totally useless if not supported by some actual interesting content. If there’s no previous engagement, no one is going to care if they read your post while scrolling their homepage.
Because no one knows who you are and that’s why you have to give them a valid reason to find out.
If you’re looking to promote the release of your latest single, try regularly publishing some audio-visual content that leads to an actual countdown. This can create some real hype, not like spamming your post on every possible website!
Most indie artists spend all of their budget on actually making a record rather than promoting it. There’s not much use in producing the record of the year if you have to keep it lying on your bookshelf because you can’t afford promotion costs.
It’s simple as this: promotion has its costs so you better choose wisely how to spend your budget before you hit the studio. Major record deals are usually focused on promotion and up to 90% of the budget the label will invest on you will be used for this.
You have to define your target in terms of where and how you want your music to get out there. Many artists, for example, consider having their first single played on the radio a major breakthrough. It worked in the past, but it’s not an effective medium for exposing indie artists.
It’s expensive and people are simply going to change channel if they hear something they don’t know and don’t like.
In fact, “outside of country music, no new artists have broken on rock or pop radio in the last five years” (Johnny Dwinell).
All the latest radio hit singles have been previously discovered and promoted through other mediums (YouTube, talent shows, TV show soundtracks), so it always comes down to how you spend your budget.
3. Finding your audience
This point is strictly related to the “Hype” one: it’s all about creating a relationship with who can really appreciate your music. It’s up to you to figure out which target of people could really be suitable for what you want to communicate through your art.
There’s no need to spam your music on thousands of different websites and blogs. This move could actually turn against you: if you keep trying to “push through” the same door, it’s likely that you’ll be discredited before you even have a chance to open it.
When you’re looking to pay for web ads (for example contents of your Facebook page), choosing the right target is key.
The music industry is saturated with all kinds of genres and anyone can listen to anything from anywhere. You just have to deliver your product to the right group of people who can really appreciate your music.
We live in a world of merchandising and consumerism, so you have to provide your audience with something to consume regularly.
4. Choosing your opportunities
Live gigs are certainly one of the best ways to promote your music, because it’s a chance to bring your music to a (hopefully) large number of people all in one go. You get to play and enjoy yourself while promoting your art.
As soon as you have a setlist that is decent enough to be brought on stage, it’s time for you to get out there. Most independent bands look for their first gigs in every possible corner and in every possible pub.
This is good for you for many reasons, but remember: you don’t have to say yes to everything. In fact, sometimes, saying no to something can be more beneficial to your career than saying yes.
When you say yes to something, especially something that takes your time, you’re saying no to everything else. Leave yourself open to saying yes to the opportunities that really matter.
Trust your own judgment. Ask yourself if it’s really worth playing in that crappy old basement pub for free on a monday night. At that moment, you may worry you’re passing up a great opportunity and will be missing out.
The reality is, better opportunities will come and you will be ready for them.
5. Free of charge
Another big step of your music promotion is asking for money. Whether you’re playing for a living or just as a weekend hobby, your music is a product and that makes it more or less valuable. A mistake indie artists often make is trying to sell their music before actually promoting it.
Saying something like “Hey guys, check out our first single for just 99 cents!” would be like organizing your debut concert in a really cool venue and making people pay a ticket at the entrance.
It sounds cool, but why should someone give their money for something they don’t know? Asking for money and then attempting to create some kind of excitement about the product isn’t a winning strategy.
Think about it: how many times did you pay to discover a new artist? Never. Because you’ve heard them on the radio, on YouTube or as an opening act for a group you already knew.
Shaking your audience down for cash won’t earn you a penny: you have to get people involved in what you do, make them desire your product and then sell it.
I’m a young musician and sound engineer based in Italy.
I’m also the Artists & Professionals Assistant at Bantamu and I’m here to get the best music out there, whether it’s playing, engineering or simply writing about it.
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