If you’re at all involved with the music industry, you know how fast everything changes and evolves. One year everyone is illegally downloading music, and the next everyone you know is streaming it legally.
The examples of rapid change are too many to name, but the point is that the only thing consistent about the music industry seems to be the constant production of new songs.
This makes being an independent musician hard. Finding time to write music is difficult enough without having to keep up with the fickle trends of the music industry.
Even an article written five years ago may be irrelevant by the time you get to it in 2016. So here are a few outdated music promo tips that just don’t work anymore. Don’t waste your time!
1. Sending Demos Until Someone Hears Them
If you’ve been doing this for a couple decades, you’ve probably sent your fair share of demo CDs to record labels by mail. It’s okay, this may have been a reasonable thing to do at some point. But you can stop now.
The truth is, your demos will go straight to a big trash bin with everyone else’s demos. It doesn’t matter how nicely you’ve packaged it – nobody will care.
That being said, you still need to get your music in front of people who matter. So how do you do that?
There are basically two ways to get your music to labels. You can get your music to an A&R rep, or you can get your music to a person that works with an A&R rep or the label that you are hoping to work with.
If you’re targeting an A&R rep, you need to leverage every single industry connection you have. Ask other bands and managers, and see if you can come up with a direct email address. From there, you need to send them your music, or better yet, get them out to a show.
When the demos/songs you send them are genuinely incredible, that may be enough. But your live show is just as important in today’s musical climate, so it’s important to have someone hear both if at all possible.
Sometimes, getting your music into the hands of someone working with the label is just as effective. If you can make a real fan of someone who has some sway at a label, that means a lot to the people that matter.
You can often find these people through LinkedIn and a little bit of creative internet hunting. You can send your music direct to their inbox or you can try to meet them in person. Attending one of their artist’s shows in one of the best ways to make that connection.
2. Giving Out CDs
There was a time when CDs were basically the only way to consume music. Believe it or not, that time has come and gone.
Artists are always giving out CDs to people at conferences, gigs, and even on the street. The truth of the matters is that you’re basically throwing $2 in the trash every time you do this.
I’ve heard countless speakers at conferences say that they end up with over 50 CDs by the end of the weekend, and 95% of them get left behind at the hotel room or conference centre.
Most people a) simply do not listen to CDs, b) don’t want to download some random artist’s music on to their computer, and c) don’t want to lug around a bunch of CDs all the time.
So save you money and try something else.
The best way to send someone your music today is with a link (not an .mp3 attachment) in an email. If you meet someone you want to connect with, get their card and send them a follow-up email.
Everyone is more inclined to listen to music online. That way they can listen on their phone, they can check out your social media simultaneously, and they don’t have to dig around for you contact information.
If you’re really stuck on giving someone something physical, try a download card or a USB drive. Both will be as or less expensive than a CD, and it’s a much better way to give someone your music.
Better yet, if the situation seems right, play them your music right then and there. Often industry pros will be a little wary or even cold when they meet a new artist; every artist they meet wants something from them and most of them probably aren’t good (in their eyes).
Don’t be pushy with it, but playing your music for someone is generally the best way to get them to take you seriously.
3. Just Working Hard
So many people will say “wow, what a hardworking band”, or “this artist has a huge amount of ambition and drive”. And they’re right, that’s important and those are great traits to have.
But it’s not enough.
Your career starts with great songs. You have to have the songs. Otherwise, nobody will care. If your songs are mediocre, or even just kind of good, you can tour, publicize and spend and spend and spend but only ever make a few fans at a time.
Even once you have great songs, that’s not enough. You will then need a great team. You’ll need great branding, great publicity, and a strong, knowledgeable guiding force.
And finally, you need fans. Some artists have the songs, they have the team, but they never find an audience. This is a horrifying matter of luck and being in the right place, making the right music, at the right time.
A great career is built off of a foundation of great songs, the scaffolding of a hardworking, smart team, and passionate fans. It may sound dire, but it happens for a lot of artists. Why not you?
When it comes to building a music career, it’s not about making mistakes or not making mistakes. All artists will commit blunders in their careers. It’s about course correction – being willing to adjust your trajectory as needed. It’s a tough thing to do, because of how fast the industry is changing. But if you do just a little bit of study and research every single day, you will stay on top of the trends and keep a level head.