As an independent music promoter and a 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 and completely not to approach the poisonous snake, there are certain aspects of promoting your band you should know fully…so much so that you never, ever use those tactics again. Through knowing what not to do we can walk a clear path and “clean up our own game”. 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 typically hear on a daily basis. Social media does have it’s place, 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, and endless groups and pages dedicated to music abound. It seems as simple as just posting your new slideshow Youtube video on their walls and waiting for the fans to arrive. However, this just isn’t 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.
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 and friends may support them, this behaviour makes them look desparate and amateur to everyone else, and 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, podcasts and other tastemakers, 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 and press pieces to say thanks to the publications, and providing 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. Matthew from Song by Toad provides some excellent information on this topic in his “Guide to Self-Releasing an Album“.
Most bands are so excited about their new release that they post it on Bandcamp or CDBaby and 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 require up to 3 months lead time to plan a piece. This is something most musicians don’t take into account. NME Magazine doesn’t get written instantly. Larger magazines require the full 3 months to plan their new issues, assign writers, secure advertising, and distribute. Beyond this, many of them only review material on it’s release date. This means that if you release an album and 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 do not 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 and Musicsubmit.com. You can bet that your message will be going straight to a junk folder if you go this route, and 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 and fire away, but the results, in many cases, are zero. I even tried Beatwire recently to test out their services, and 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 and 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 and 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 and 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 and 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), and 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, and 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 and 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 and 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), and advertising. These things should all be churning away together over a 3 month period to seriously build your bands buzz.
For more information on how to promote your band and get press, check out my music marketing book “Your Band Is A Virus – Behind-the-Scenes & Viral Marketing for the Independent Musician” below.