Here’s the bad news. In my twenty-plus years of making a full-time living in the music world, one thing has become more and more clear to me. It’s work. The romantic image of the starving artist being so incredibly talented that one day he or she gets “discovered” and becomes rich and famous is a dangerous myth. I use the word “dangerous” because the more you – as an artist – believe it, the less inclined you’ll be to do any work on your own behalf. The gritty reality is that if you don’t do the necessary – and daily – work promoting yourself and your music, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to make a living.
When it comes to marketing for singer-songwriters there has NEVER been a better time to spread the word about yourself and music. The internet, with its streaming and downloadable digital music files, social networking sites and countless other advances that we can’t even begin to imagine yet, has leveled the playing field in a way that will make the “work” you have to do infinitely more effective.
The more you can identify and reach out to your fans the better off you’ll be. Whether it’s your Twitter followers or friends on Facebook or the email addresses you’ve been collecting at gigs or online, it’s these people who you need to be able to reach effectively to spread the word about what you’re doing. Treat your list of email addresses like the gold that it is. It’s these fans who will not only consider buying your music when it comes out, but more importantly, will also help spread the word about you and your music. Once you’ve got a network of fans that you can reach out to, you’ve dramatically increased your potential to spread the word about what you’re doing.
The fact that the playing field has been leveled and almost anyone can get their music out worldwide is both a blessing and a true challenge. Instead of fans knowing that the local Tower Records is where they should go to find new music, the internet – with its infinite musical venues – has become the new – and overwhelming – place to find what’s new and great. The more creative you are in your presentation, the more likely a fan of yours will be to forward a YouTube link with your video or any one of a thousand other ways you can create to present yourself and your music. Again, the plan is that by putting something out there that’s unique enough to rise above the typical internet fare, it will take on a life of its own and appeal not only your current fans but also to new fans in ways you’ve never imagined.
The outlets for music and ways of marketing online change and advance almost hourly. Taking time out of your day to be aware of the next Facebook or Twitter will pay huge dividends going forward. It’s not enough to find one way of reaching people and stubbornly stick to it. If that were the case, bands would still be mailing postcards to let people know about their gigs. Did I just date myself?
Don’t be afraid to give something to get something. A free download of a song in exchange for an email address is the best deal out there these days. Make it worth someone’s while to give you his or her email address and you’ll be amazed at what happens. Let your music speak for itself. If fans like their free download, there’s a much higher likelihood they’ll come back and buy the rest. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to do this either.
I can’t think of anything more depressing than the artist who comes up with an amazing vehicle to promote his or her music, watches it go viral and generate huge web traffic to their site only to have nothing readily available for sale. Don’t expect most people to wait around or check back with iTunes every few days until your music is up. Make sure that before you go about promoting your music, you’ve taken the necessary steps to insure that if and when people want to buy your music, they can do it easily. Companies like Tunecore make this essential step both simple and cost effective. Don’t wait around for people to start asking how they can get your music. By then, it’s too late. Do it first.
Be patient. Not every online marketing attempt you make will result in thousands of downloads and new fans. However, every effort you make to get the word out about your music – even if it’s fifteen minutes a day – becomes part of the bigger picture of reaching new fans. The more fans you have, the greater the potential for any one thing you do going viral and bringing in not only more fans but income. Think of your work as a series of base hits that will get you ready for your shot at a home run.