If you asked an independent musician what their biggest frustration was you’d get a wide variety of answers, from “no one buys music anymore” to “I seem to be getting nowhere fast”. What would your answer be? Chances are, if your answer is definitive in any way, then the answer itself is your own illusion; an assumption that leaves no room for exploration. So how do we drop our illusions and see things clearly? We have to see the falseness of our ideas to do that.
Now, it may sound counter-intuitive, but both negative and positive illusions are harmful when it comes to promoting your music. We all know someone who puts no effort into marketing themselves, all the while excusing this by repeating the mantra “Good music will be found.” What a waste of vital energy. Could you imagine waiting for that knock on the door when the party invitations were never sent out? Opportunity knocks when it’s invited in, and that takes serious effort. Plus, those of us who obsess over our music can all verify that there is plenty of great music that doesn’t get the recognition it should, simply because those artists either don’t have marketing minds or don’t have the right people around them.
Most of us, if we’re being honest with ourselves, focus more on what should be than what is. This is another bad habit that saps our vital energy, leaving us with very little to work with when it comes to taking action. Whether you wish that more people bought physical product or that musicians earned more money from streaming services, you are focusing on how you think things should be. That keeps you from acting on the way things actually are. What do I mean by this?
An artist who, say, complains about the decline of the CD, is most often not advertising on streaming networks, heavily promoting their streaming network profiles to their audiences, encourage playlist adds and exploiting every opportunity available in this new format. How can you complain about not making money when all you’re pushing is a dead format? With Apple not making ipods anymore, most people don’t even have enough room on their phones to buy your mp3’s if they wanted to! It’s backwards to provide potential fans with such a tiny funnel to support you through. And music fans genuinely do want to support the artists they love. They just don’t need CD’s and mp3’s anymore.
If you focus on what’s actually here, you can work with it.
I’ve discovered enough artists on Spotify and Rdio who I’ve since bought merchandise, seen live, and spread the word about to know that the possibilities are endless. Last.fm is now linked with Spotify, so this gives artists another reason to optimize and heavily focus on building their Last.fm profile.
Music promotion and the music industry is constantly changing, so why do we often have static images in our minds when thinking of it? In the past few years alone we’ve seen the rise of streaming networks, crowdfunding companies, social media advertising breakthroughs, online distribution advances, and now, innovative companies such as Patreon, where determined artists can take things into their own hands and help their fans support them. Many of these outlets give us an opportunity to take our power back, earn money through direct-to-fan offers and be at the center of our own marketing efforts. This brings me to my next point.
One of the most harmful ideas prevalent both in our personal lives, in business/employment, and in the music industry, is the idea that we need to be saved or ‘scooped up’ by someone. We want to be signed. We want to be put on tour. We want a manager to find us and plan our successful career. We want something for free.
Pick yourself. Take the responsibility that you were hoping to hand to someone else and act as if there is no one else who can do it. Having dropped the illusion that someone is going to take you under their wing, you need to act as your own label, your own management, and your own publicist. You need to engage your audience through advertising, high quality content and consistent communication.
Artists today need to either do every promotion job necessary for the public to discover their music, or build a team and outsource. You need to provide your fans with ways of supporting you besides 99 cent downloads.
This is where limited edition merchandise, crowd funding, and cutting edge platforms like Patreon come into play. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Once you really take on this attitude, you won’t ask for a handout ever again.
Lastly, I find that often with independent artists and businesses, there is a tendency to focus too much on analytics. Sure, we’d all love to know what’s going to happen before it happens, but guarantees rarely come in marketing. That’s the exciting part; not knowing what’s around the corner. I’ve seen artists quit Facebook advertising after investing just $5, simply because they didn’t achieve the click through rate they wanted yet. They assumed it wouldn’t bear fruit and shut it down.
On the other hand, another hard working band I worked with invested roughly $5,000 in Facebook advertising. That’s a lot of money – I know. They quickly gained over 25,000 fans and fielded several North American tour offers in short order. Investing in yourself is absolutely essential.
You’re the only one who can create your own momentum. Popularity is the highest currency, so hoping for success before you’ve invested in your popularity is futile. Knowing the truth of this is freeing.
About James Moore
James runs Independent Music Promotions, a music PR company focusing on music with depth. He is also the author of the music marketing guide Your Band Is a Virus. Reach him at facebook.com/independentmusicpromo and firstname.lastname@example.org.