As indie artists and musicians, some of us simply want our work to speak for itself. Unfortunately, with so many new developments in music marketing and the way people find and listen to music online, foregoing an online strategy is no longer an option. But as long as you focus on the right kinds of strategies, the work won’t feel grueling or tedious.
Unsure of where to start? You're not alone. Here are a few tips to help build on your audience, gain traction in the indie music sphere, and make the ride smoother for you.
Develop Your Point of View
Starting out as an artist is tough. With so much competition, how do you stand out? That's why you need to develop your point of view. Without it, your fans won't know what you stand for. Do you perform music from the middle east? Are you a gospel rapper? By developing your point of view first, you'll be able to tap into your audience sooner, an audience that wants to support you and your career.
Once you have your stance or message down, the rest of your online marketing strategy should come easy. Research publications and bloggers who share the same stance or the same message. Are you an eco-conscious rapper with an affinity for the Detroit techno scene? Chances are, there’s a music writer out there that can get down with what you’re selling.
A music colleague, hundredmillionthousand, performs "wavy tragedy music," a blend of highly technical production-based sound with dark visual effects intended to create an experience only those who attend his shows can identify that genre with. It's also helpful to music writers. When writers tag categories on posts, search engines and people can find it easier when the genre and description is in sync with the specific style the artist performs.
Speak Your Truth, Loud and Proud
Everything in music marketing boils down to trust. I hear so many musicians saying, "I don't like asking for money. All of my friends are in the same boat. Why should I be so privileged to do so?" Whatever the medium or artistic field you work in, trying to get people to pay you for your work is a struggle.
Artists who take their craft seriously don’t entertain the haves vs. have-nots debate. That keeps everyone stagnant, and serious artists crave evolution. You can fancy yourself a social entrepreneur in the music industry if you speak your truth in an accessible manner.
When you own your truth, such as how Amanda Palmer did with the largest crowdfunding campaign in music history, then you aren't "begging" people to give you money. You are LETTING them. Don't be afraid to make a connection with your audience by choosing the personal aspects of your journey you are comfortable incorporating in your music campaign strategy and running with those to create your vision for a socially-conscious future.
Try creating a Facebook ad for $5 to reach people outside of your network, but pair your video or Soundcloud with creative copy that explains in story how your music solves their problem. Is it therapeutic, and for who? Let people know why you create the kind of music you create. Were you a shy kid growing up who was bullied often, so you turned to heavy metal as a way to escape? Are you a percussionist who plays the drums with quirky, self-taught methods that few percussionists know about? Speak your truth and allow it to bring out the best in you and your art. NB: Facebook now requires licensing if a band is posting live performance footage or music videos for a song they didn't write.
Gather Feedback From Fans
Before promoting your work, take a step back and put effort into creating a profile for your ideal buyer. In marketing, this is the "buyer persona,” and even bands have ideal profile types. Look no further than your earliest fans to garner your feedback from for these; after all, they were with you from the start! They know how you got to where you are now. They’ve witnessed your cycle of progression.
This is the reason why so many creatives, including musicians, are hopping onto Patreon. They aren’t just selling their art, they’re selling their process. This is behind-the-scenes-marketing at work! Patreon allows fans to participate in their favorite artists’ creative processes, so they too feel like they are creating something magical with you. If you have a decent social media following, Twitter polls are also a great way to get quick feedback.
A classic example of someone who has successfully mastered the power of feedback is Lady Gaga. She released songs online for YEARS as an indie LA singer-songwriter before perfecting the mixes of them. Once she made it big, her songs became medallions of the electronic dance world. Her fans were an integral aspect of her career, and without their feedback, it may have taken her quite longer to hit it big. Bottom line: Always interact with your fans when you release new music and listen to what they have to say.
Make Beneficial Blog Alliances
Many musicians, when they're starting out, use an approach I like to call the "spray and pray" method. Just as a news photographer snapshots everything in a chaotic moment around them, the novice musician messages random people to "listen to my new song!" to push the word out. You’re excited, I get it. You should be, but remember: Editors are busy people, always on deadline, always on the go.
And I hate to break it to you, but your spamming is opening the floodgates for the wrong kind of attention, at least in online media. Trust me, editors will remember that disingenuous email you sent two years ago, because you CC’d 100 other bloggers on the same email and they were happy to dodge the bullet.
Personalization matters when talent is a dime a dozen. Really get to know the vibe of the publication you’re pitching your music to, even if it's a smaller WordPress site. These writers usually end up breaking out as some of the more well-known names in music criticism. No matter how large or small the publication, the writer will appreciate the research you did and you’ll stand out in a professional manner.
Hype Machine is a superb tool for researching writers to pitch to at niche blogs, but it takes time and dedication. If you don’t have the time to do it yourself, I recommend hiring a freelancer to help you research bloggers that fit within your genre of work. Creating an ad on Facebook jobs through your music page, or even putting out a job posting on Craigslist or Twitter should do the trick.
It’s also more important now than ever to find blogs that are also publishing music playlists on Spotify. Multiple playlists are even better. CHILLFLTR is always switching up their indie rotations for every genre under the sun. Look for this kind of diversity when you’re researching blogs online, and it’ll be smooth sailing from here on out!
Cover photo by Slidebean.
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