Seven marketing tips for up-and-coming musicians
Not everyone can post a few videos on YouTube like Justin Bieber and become an overnight sensation. Most musicians start out with a much smaller circle of influence, building their talents gradually, playing a few gigs, and hoping that one day they'll get picked up by a record label.
29 Apr 2017 11:19
For that overwhelming majority, hoping isn’t enough. If you want a decent chance at becoming more recognised and making it to the professional circuit, you need to know how to market yourself. The goal
Ultimately, your goal is to get noticed by a record label or become so popular that you can make a full-time living off your musical performances. For that, you’ll need a provably large audience, a unique hook, and enough public visibility that new people (and industry authorities) can discover you. Now, let’s look at how you can achieve that.The elements
These are the most important elements you’ll need to be successful, working together in harmony to create and promote your image:
- A unique personal brand. What kind of music do you play, and more importantly, who are you? What do you represent? There are millions of musicians out there, but most of them blur together in a kind of white noise — the generic hipster guy with the guitar, the group of punks with simple instruments and loud volume, and so on. So think carefully. What is it that makes you truly unique? Do you defy generic standards? Does your music include elements rarely seen in your genre? What attitudes and emotions do you represent? You’ll use this information to craft a personal brand for your band (or yourself), so you can become more easily recognised and appeal to your target audience. Once that’s in place, you can build a website and start promoting that image.
- A blog. You can also earn a better reputation, become more authoritative for your techniques or signature style, and get more visibility by creating a blog. Writing blog posts adds more content to your website, which people will be able to find through search engines (so long as you’re optimising for the right target keywords). Those who find your site will also learn more about what makes you worth listening to; for example, if you use complicated sweep picking techniques in your songs, write a post about it. If you specialise in screaming vocals, describe how you do it. You can also talk about your songwriting process and creative inspiration, but the more practical your blog is, the more attention it’s going to get.
- Audio and visuals. Obviously, your followers will need some way to hear what you’re playing. On your website, as well as through Bandcamp and other artist-centric platforms, upload your work and make it available to as many people as possible. You’ll also want to create videos, whether they’re full-fledged music videos for your songs, live performances, or just introductions to the band.
- A social media following. With the bank of content you have from your audio and video files and your ongoing blog, you should be able to start building a social media following. This will be the biggest indicator of your popularity, so publish new content on a daily basis, engage in conversations with your fans, and don’t be afraid to follow new people, especially on public platforms like Twitter.
- Live performances. If you haven’t already, start getting some live performances under your belt. It’s one of the best ways to gain new exposure for your band (and hopefully, make some money while you’re at it). Meet and talk to other bands in the area to learn how they do it; they may be able to offer you a slot as an opener, or put you in contact with the business owners who hire musicians. Don’t be reluctant to start small; any live performance is a positive step for your brand popularity.
- Evolution. Over time, your audience will expect an evolution — and you should give it to them. Your image and sound should gradually shift based on the feedback you receive; do people go crazy for one of your songs? Try to write more like it. You’ll also need a steady stream of new material if you want your followers to remain interested and invested in your brand.
- Escalation. From there, everything is about escalation. Play more gigs. Record more songs. Gain more followers and meet new people. Consider going out of state for new gigs, and network with other musicians to expand your possible playing zone. It’s a slow process, but it will be worth it.
Following these steps isn’t going to guarantee that you’ll be picked up by a major record label
; you’ll still need talent, a sizable target audience, and a lot of luck. Still, you can greatly increase your chances by knowing how to market yourself properly. Don’t assume that people will naturally discover you or that you’ll make it big by luck - get your name out there, and get more attention for yourself.