Self-promotion in the music industry is a topic that has been explored extensively over the past 20 years. Some of the basic ground rules are the same that apply to any business or freelancer. Most people in the industry, however, bands included, don’t know a whole lot about it. Many prefer to hover around the topic of social media because it’s all they know. After all, once you call yourself a “social media coach”, there’s really not much room for expansion besides posting an analysis of every new Twitter or Facebook development/etc. Artists flock to new music technologies, discovery platforms, unsigned networks, indie authorities, and crowd funding platforms looking for the answer, and yet, the message generally being sent to the artists tends to do them a disservice. Promises, promises. Even the term “submit your music” can be very misleading. Submit it where? Well…the junk folder, to be blunt.
Just as people starting businesses often under-estimate the amount of work necessary, so do unsigned musicians and bands. A quick disclaimer: it IS possible to be very successful as a musician in 2013. You can do it. It’s helpful, though, to do away with some of the lies that we typically accept from today’s music authorities, and I’ll go over some of those here. The intention isn’t to be overly blunt. Just to tell the truth. Below are some reasons why your music self-promotion may not be working.
1) You’re waiting in line.
It’s wonderful that there are so many services for artists to use to send their music to either industry professionals, festivals, blogs, magazines, and radio promoters such as Sonicbids and Music XRay. Mixed feelings abound about these sites, but to call them positive or negative would be a snap judgement. Does it suck that it costs $40 to simply apply for X music festival given that this is a digital submission we’re talking about, and chances are your music will not receive a fair listen? It sure does. Would it possibly be a life-changing experience if you were chosen? It certainly would. Musicians today are accustomed to waiting in line for just about everything. After all, it’s busy as hell out there. While it’s necessary to wait in some lines, and good results can come of that, if you merely play by the rules and wait in lines you’ll get stagnancy, and that isn’t a very fun gift to open up for Christmas.
Artists need to think as creatively in their promotions as in their songwriting. Outsource your duties. Get momentum by getting freelancers on your side. Promote outside of the music blog arena. Hire people to promote your music; preferably a lot of them. Get the forums buzzing. Get people requesting your music. Get people writing about your music. Donate to blogs you like. Use Fiverr and similar micro-job sites. Read Tim Ferriss. Read business books. Get out of the “band” mentality. Ignore the music authorities and start infiltrating.
2) You’re only promoting on social media.
Don’t get me wrong. Social media, when used correctly, can have a massive effect on your success. The only problem is, since most industry guru’s and music marketing publications tend to focus on social media exclusively, the current generation of artists are spending all of their time posting, pinning, tweeting, hashtagging, reblogging, liking, sharing, tagging, stumbling, digging, and cultivating the perfect “reddiquette”, but in the end, without the proper balance, the result is something close to a Warcraft or Angry Birds addiction. Time down the memory hole.
It’s easy to forget that not everyone hangs around on these networks, and even if they do, they’re often tuned into only what their personal perceptual filters will allow; not something new. It’s important to keep your communication skills in tip-top shape, to send actual, conversational emails, make phone calls, and speak with promoters in person. The worst faux pas is messaging companies or industry people through networks such as Facebook. These often go unanswered, as these networks are riddled with spam, and real messages get lost in the shuffle. Send a real, personalized email and notice the difference.
3) You’re on automation.
Thought it might be a good idea to outsource your music marketing to a robot? Some of the most heavily advertised automated services such as Beatwire and Musicsubmit look very attractive to most artists. They promise to send your music to X number of journalists, radio hosts, and industry professionals, and charge a flat rate for doing so. The rates are often less than what most publicists charge, making it even more enticing. But how are these emails received? For one, most journalists and bloggers receive dozens, if not hundreds, of real emails daily from promoters, labels and artists who either wrote the message personally or at least prepared a proper email and clicked the “send” button. How much respect do you think they have for the “easy way out”, an automated press release, or possibly a Reverbnation profile delivered to their inbox? If your music submissions say anything along the lines of “powered by…”, you can expect little to no results. I’ve been added to lists by companies like these without so much of a “Hello” or “Would you like to be added to our recipient list?” You know what that’s called? Spam.
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