First off, before I even begin writing about marketing, you’ll need to find out, who you are as an artist. Differentiate yourself. What this means is: are you different compared to everyone else or are you just glueing together collages of other people’s ideas to make you appear interesting? If everything else looks polished and professional, it just might work, right? Wrong! All trends fade and people who’re in the spotlight are the ones who deserve it. They’re the trendsetters, promoters of their sound and as they’ve devoted all of their lives to build it up to the point where they are now. Don’t follow, innovate. At least do what comes from your heart. Perhaps it’ll never become trendy, people won’t like it and your career won’t bloom, you’ll still have the satisfaction of calling yourself an original artist (as you wake up for your 9 to 5 job). You’ll at least be unique. I really like how it took 20 years for MK, one of the most recognised house music producers, to become a household name. It could’ve never happened ... but it did. Just be yourself, it’ll work out better than imitating someone else’s success story. I believe in you.
Okay, before I even start with the marketing juju bullshit, I want you to understand that being a talented musician has nothing to do with telling people how talented you are. Music marketing is an art form in itself and you need to devote time to know how to do these things properly. The thing about music is, it needs to be distributed and promoted the right way. If you somehow mix it up the wrong way, neglect it or just aren’t aware that it needs to be taken care of, you won’t be able to truly connect with your audience, further drive interest, sell tickets to gigs and boost sales of your releases. It’ll keep you guessing if your music isn’t good enough, but maybe you’re just lacking at promotion and marketing skills. Admit that you love the attention you’re getting in your hometown, people keep high-fiving you wherever you go, but honestly, nothing major happens with your career. Why?
With all the social media available, one thing is crucial and you need to understand it fully before reaching out to people. The market is saturated. This makes promotion very tricky. How do you successfully promote your music, when there’s so much competition? Artists spent years cultivating their Facebook followings, only to discover they had to pay to reach their own fans. And Twitter has always suffered from the same problem: tweets are only read a tiny percentage of the time, by a tiny percentage of followers. But the worst part about these platforms is this: you don’t own your followers, because you don’t control the platform upon which they exist.
As an independent musician, a digital PR campaign is a critical component to an overall marketing strategy, which’ll serve as a perfect tool to reach new audiences, increase your online presence and influence, produce new creative content which’ll help strengthen interest of your existing fan base through social media and it also serves you to better understand your marketplace position. Many artists fail to grasp the sheer importance of communicating with their fans the right way. Just blindly posting to social media without a goal, will not result in big bags of cash pouring in. Not having a clear timeline for your campaign will result in a clusterfuck of posts without structure and won’t reach the desired results. What’re your goals? What am I trying to convey with my posts? Who am I trying to reach, who is my audience? What tactics should I be using to reach new audiences or which channels to best spread my message? Write them down, set dates of to publish your posts and write them down as well, write down all the channels that would best fit the campaign of your ‘product’. It has to look like a blueprint.
A well-structured plan of promotional success conducted and performed by you. Yaaay!! So what are the goals of a PR campaign, you might ask?
- Reaching new fans,
- Increasing online influence,
- Creating new content which can be used to continue to build strength of the existing fan base through social media,
- Better understanding the marketplace position.
Disclaimer: many young artists jump into full-fledge PR campaigns a bit too early. First thing to do is to READ our first HOW TO, where I try my best to explain the essentials, that need to be sorted prior to contacting the record labels (it applies to promotional campaigns as well).
Note that having hundreds of thousands of fans isn’t the point here, but rather you need to have a consistent content strategy that covers all 6 corners of your social media house, which includes Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, blog on your website and a newsletter. Here’s a quick outline of how often you need to post to each platform in order to remain consistent: Facebook: 1 Post Per Day Twitter: 2 – 3 Tweets Per Day Blog: At least 1 new post every other week Newsletter: 1 newsletter per month Youtube: At least 1 new video per month (it doesn’t need to be a professional music video) Instagram: Posting at least 5 times a week.
Another thing I want you guys to understand is the importance of owning your own website for easier branding, merchandising, blog posts and most importantly – newsletters. Why? Because email marketing is 40 times as effective as Facebook and Twitter, combined (from a McKinsey & Company study). If that wasn’t convincing enough, this is a platform that has undergone dramatic improvements over the years: Gmail cleaned up spam, Mailchimp solved bulk email and ‘unsubscribe’ opt-outs became standard. But the biggest transformation happened with smartphone ubiquity, which put the inbox in your pocket and according to research, boosted engagement across all age demographics. ‘Email is having a renaissance through mobile,’ explained Thomas Ford of Show.co. ‘People are more connected to their inboxes than ever before and getting your message in there is absolutely essential.’ Why, you might ask?
No one can keep up to speed with every post in their news feed. It’s impossible. I agree to an extent that it’s essential to have social sites such as Facebook and Twitter because different fan bases and different niche markets use different social media platforms. But know this: No one reads every tweet or every status update! They just can’t. Who has that much time in the day? There’re people who’re actually glued to their feeds (myself included) and even they don’t catch every post.
PRO TIP #1: You can achieve a lot by using the ‘Show First’ lists, a great tool on Facebook, where you can assign which pages you want to appear on top of your Facebook feed – up to 25 pages, but other than that it’s just too much. PRO TIP #2: Set up notifications for pages you want updates for as-they-happen. You only have so much time you can devote to these errands in your already full schedule, why not optimise the time needed to check everything?
When you send a newsletter out, it should be an extension of your presence. It should take on the same tone that you use on stage. It’s the longer version of a 140 character tweet. Newsletters inform your fans of what’s to come, tell them what happened in the past, and fill in the gaps to create a more cohesive story of who you are as an artist. Newsletters are essentially your opportunity to brand yourself.
Instead of posting yet another photo of a product at your online store or another release of you climbing the charts or some inspirational pic you found on Tumblr (or some similar bullshit I see people post on their pages) try posting something that’s a bit more engaging. Maybe that means your update won’t have anything to do with merch or your music. Maybe instead of talking about yourself or your music, you ask your fans to share their favourite song. It might not seem like promotion, but that’s the kind of stuff that intrigues people, makes them interact with you, brings traffic to your page and comes off as more personal. People hate being sold to, being marketed to at every corner.
Sometimes you can achieve more by using a more personal approach. It’ll put your fans in a more comfortable place. The key to promotion is knowing when to do it. You won’t see a condom commercial pop up during the Pope’s visit to *insert random country*. It’s just not gonna happen. In the same way, you can’t post about your show at midnight when the average person is still asleep. Your posts need to happen during high-traffic times and to the right audience. Learn the best times, study the insights of your page and the statistics of your previous posts. Your posts also need to happen when people can adequately respond to them. Also, track out which posts are getting the best results and why and then abuse the shit out of that newly-acquired marketing knowledge of yours! Now, you’re becoming a real marketing expert (not really, but don’t give up). Learn the demographics of your fan base.
I was just watching the documentary about a great artist in the ‘70s named Rodriguez from Detroit. He sold 8 copies of his best album in the US. People just didn’t respond to his music at that time, so he prematurely ended his career. He sold more than half a million albums in the SAR, but was absolutely clueless, because the label never told him and was robbing him of his royalties big time (they actually fired him due to his albums doing so poorly in the US). I won’t say anything else, because I don’t want to spoil the rest of the documentary for you guys, see it in full and you’ll see what I mean. Need to tell a long drawn out story about something interesting/funny/meaningful that happened at your gig last night? Don’t do it at 9 am, when the average person begins their work day, unless your demographic is a lazy/sleepy college student, who wakes up at that time or possibly even later.
9 am posts are great for questions like ‘Hey guys, which track of mine would you love to hear at the Friday’s gig? I just might play it for you.’. Posts like this not only serve as a reminder about the show, but they also get your fans posting about their favourite songs and tunes they think would be perfect for your performance. Same goes for your newsletter. Don’t send a newsletter out on Friday morning! Statistically the best times to send newsletters are Tuesday and Wednesday – in the heart of the work week, when more people check their email.
Good promo has a lot to do with planning well. Artists, who plan well, get the best feedback from fans. If your next show is 6 weeks out, planning well means dropping a ‘save the date’ post on your social media for fans, who need that extra heads-up. It means sending posters to the venue 3 to 4 weeks out, so you can get the attention of everyday foot traffic. Planning ahead means communicating with other artists on the bill, so that everyone knows the facts and can also do their part in promoting the show. Planning means the Facebook invite is created 2 weeks out and shared with your bandmates and other bands on the bill so they can share. Planning ahead means spacing out your social media posts, so your fans have no excuse for not knowing about your show. There’s a fine line between too much and not enough. Find it!
Last but not least, doing great marketing means to tell your story! This pretty much wraps up this blog and reiterates the first point. The one thing that distinguishes you from every other performer is your music. Your sound has to be one of a kind. You have a story that no one else has. How you shape that story, tell that story, and invite others to identify with that story, is what makes you real to your fans. It’s what makes you human and keeps fans sticking around for the length of your career. Promoting your music is essentially finding clever ways to tell your story – through content, how you brand that content, and how you share that content.