I’ve found several near universal truths from dealing with and talking to bands. First, almost every musician is very willing to spend a significant amount of time to market and promote themselves, which is a good thing. Second, there is a pervasive and persistent view that the best (only?) way they can do this is by sending out thousands of friend requests on MySpace, which is not necessarily a good thing. This might have worked in the early days of MySpace but I ask you now, when was the last time you found a band you liked via MySpace? If you’re like myself it was some years ago (if ever). Now, sending out MySpace friend requests is not totally without merit but for a musician this is not an efficient use of your time. If you insist on using this strategy, hire an unpaid intern or enlist a friend/sibling in high school to do it for you.
If MySpace spamming is not the best way to promote your band then what is? Listed below are ten ways to market and promote your band that cost nothing and can be done with a minimal investment of time. If an hour a day is spent pursuing these strategies then the end result will be far more favorable than twice as much time spent on MySpace.
Strategies Involving Blogs –
– Start Your Own Blog – Twice a week write a paragraph (or more) about what you’ve been doing, what you’re thinking, what you like, what you don’t like, what you want to do, what influences you, share touring stories, ask questions, answer questions, post videos of yourself/band, share unreleased material, and engage with fans (potential and current). Make sure your blog is linked to your website and a place where your music can be purchased. Make sure every website you have (Myspace, Facebook, etc) links to your blog.
In 2009 the single most powerful bloc of people in the music industry are music bloggers. If you are written up by 40 blogs then your album will sell twice as much as it would otherwise (LINK). Music blogs are a far more powerful promotional tool than MySpace. This gives birth to two strategies:
– Build Relationships With Bloggers By Commenting On Their Blogs – Pick 10 or 20 music blogs that you enjoy and which write about music similar to the type you produce. Read them every day and at least once a week comment about something they post. These comments should be genuine and relevant to the post. Make sure you leave the URL for your website but do not promote yourself or music at all. These comments are about the blog, not about you. Their purpose is to make these bloggers aware that you exist and that you are an interesting person.
– Send Your Music To Blogs – A great place to find blogs to send your music to is Hype Machine. They have over 1,500 music blogs on their LIST and you can search them by artist. Search on Hype Machine for blogs that have written about similar-sounding-but-slightly-more-popular artists and reach out to them. Send them a personalized message and do not e-mail more than one blog at a time. Write a short note explaining who you are and why you think they would like your stuff. This is essentially an “elevator pitch”. Make them want to check out your stuff. Do not attach your music but give them a link where they can DOWNLOAD your ENTIRE album for free. Let them know which song they should listen to if they’re going to listen to just one. Include a link where they can see your bio and/or grab some pictures. Reach out to 10 or 20 blogs a week. Ideally you will have already built relationships with some of these bloggers by commenting on their blogs so they will recognize your e-mail address and will give your music special consideration. Here is some more advice on how to pitch to bloggers.
Other Strategies Involving The Internet
– Focus Your Online Efforts On Influential Or High Traffic Websites – There are literally thousands of blogs, social networks, music communities, contests, and other music related websites. Taking advantage of them is advantageous but can be incredibly time consuming. Learn to focus your efforts on sites that are influential or have high traffic (these two terms are not always inclusive). Use Quantcast to see how much traffic a website gets. For perspective, MySpace gets about 60,000,000 unique visitors a month, Pitchfork, Stereogum, and Brooklyn Vegan get between 150,000 and 250,000, popular music blogs get between 10,000 and 50,000, and smaller but no less influential blogs often get between 5,000 and 10,000 uniques a month. This does not necessarily mean a site with less than 5,000 uniques a month is not worthwhile. Also use Technorati to see how influential a site is. Technorati measures how many people link to a site. Test out a variety of music sites, popular and not, to see how much “authority” they have. You will find that some sites have an undue amount of influence compared to their traffic. You want to focus your time and effort on websites that have either high traffic or high influence.
– Start As Many Social Networking Sites As You Can Maintain – Start accounts on sites such as MySpace, Facebook, ReverbNation, OurStage, PureVolume, ilike, Virb, and as many others as you can effectively maintain. The more sites the better but if you are not able to keep them updated with timely information then they are useless. Make sure every site is linked to every other site you have. This will serve as a basic search engine optimization strategy. This is also another area where an unpaid intern or little brother can be of use.
– Take Advantage Of Video Sites – One of the most powerful tools in finding new fans can be video sites. There is an entire world of online video that exists beyond YouTube and bands should use it. A fancy produced music video is not needed. Here is a simple strategy to use: Plan to play a cover song at your next show. Have a friend in the audience record the cover on a decent picture camera or video camera. You do NOT need some multi-thousand dollar HD camera for this. I use a $300 picture camera to take live video and it comes out sounding fine. Upload this video to YouTube and at least five other video sites (some to choose from are Daily Motion, MetaCafe, Yahoo Video, Revver, Blip.tv, Revver, Vimeo, Imeem, Google Video, Spike). Title the video [YOUR BAND] covers [BAND YOU COVER]. Tag the video with your band’s name, the name of the song you covered, and the name of the band you covered. Send the link to this video out to your mailing list. Do a new video like this every couple months.
– Use Twitter – Sign up for a Twitter account and post something at least 3x a day. Like with the blog, post about what you’ve been doing, what you’re thinking, what you like, what you don’t like, what you want to do, what influences you, share touring stories, ask questions, answer questions, engage in conversation with the rest of the Twitter community. Do not use Twitter as a purely promotional tool for the band. Your Twitter persona should be your personal persona, the man or woman behind the music. Make sure you link to your website in your bio but don’t overtly hawk your music. Maybe once or twice a week casually mention something about your music and provide a link. There are many fine articles giving musicians advice on how to use Twitter such as THIS ONE by Ariel Hyatt.
– Read “Tribes” by Seth Godin – Buy this book, read it, think about it, read it again, and then act upon it. Start your own Tribe and lead it. I could write more but the book will do a far better job than I of explaining this idea.
– Give Your Music Away For Free – Everybody gives lip service to the idea of “viral” marketing but rarely seize upon the easiest and most effective viral strategy open to them. Of everything you can do, your music is the thing people are going to be most willing to pass along. Not some dumb video on YouTube, not some silly contest. Do not attempt to make money off your music because it has little, if any, monetary value. Instead, sell elaborate packaging (like the In Rainbows boxset did), a connection to the band (such as the Trent Reznor signed, ultimate fan affirming Ghosts boxset), or a souvenir (a CD-as-a-concert souvenir). Read further about how Trent Reznor gave away his Ghosts album away for free but still managed to make millions without compromising his integrity.
– Make Amazing Music – This should go without saying but in the marketing process so little attention to it. The most important part of marketing is to have a great product and the most effective marketing and promotional tool you have is the music itself. The better it is, the more marketing and promotion will take care of itself. If your music is not amazing, why are you promoting it? Create something compelling and, to borrow a line, people will come.