This article is meant to help local musicians avoid common mistakes in self-promotion. Often times we need to take a bad opportunity to spot one, and like all our articles, this advice is mostly whimsical common sense that we hope helps keep the blade sharp.
1) Don’t Assume People Know
It doesn’t hurt to post a couple times a day on Twitter or Facebook when you’re releasing a project. Don’t assume all of your followers see every post/tweet. Make multiple posts and don’t always use the same way of relaying information. You can do written posts with pictures regularly and video content once a week. Find out what people engage with most and play to your strengths. Music has never been this accessible and there have never been this many musicians. Come up with interesting and unique ways to increase your visibility among the sea of singles and projects that get released on a daily basis. Coordinate with your close friends, collaborators and supporters if you have the option. You may have to remind someone multiple times for them to actually listen to an album or attend an event, but typically it’ll be the only time you have to do any convincing.
2) Don’t Assume People Care
Not everyone knows what it takes to do what you do - it’s your job to enlighten us while keeping our attention. Give people reasons to pay attention - don’t just share the flyer for the event every time you want to remind people about it. You don’t want to wear people out, and reposting pictures reaches significantly less people than coming up with new images or ways to phrase it. Try and think of an original way to announce a show or release each time you post about it. Furthermore, if a project is not getting “liked” or “shared” enough, do NOT complain about it. That can really only hurt you and your image. Nobody HAS to give your art an honest chance. All you can do is keep trying new and different ways of getting noticed and hope for the best.
3) Don’t Rely On One Source
Not even yourself. While we stress the importance of owning the main platform you release music on, it’s also important to consider all the options. Maybe your music would do well on video game streams, or you want to license it for film and TV placements. In this case you might want to consider Distrokid, or CD Baby which distributes your music to all the popular networks and registers you with a PRO (performance rights agency). Maybe you’re releasing an instrumental album and want royalties from Spotify but could also benefit from being added to a Lo-fi study playlist on Youtube. Don’t set needless limitations of only releasing your music down one avenue. There are people who don’t use Soundcloud, don’t know what Bandcamp is, or only stream on Spotify. There are so many options when it comes to platforms for releasing your music (FYI, statistically Youtube is the #1 source of streaming music). Test out several options and find what works best for you.
4) Don’t Spam
When using personal accounts or responding to someone on Twitter, don’t just send a link with no explanation of why it’s relevant to the person. Be personable and explain why you think they might like it, otherwise you’re spending time trying to reach the wrong people. Furthermore, do not tag a bunch of unrelated people in posts on Facebook in an attempt to increase visibility. Not only can people simply hide the posts from their timeline or untag themselves, you’re probably alienating people who could actually be genuine supporters if approached professionally/respectfully. Take the time to make connections instead of looking for a few likes on a post. On a related note, don’t tag every established artist and record label you respect. It’s one thing to reach out to someone individually, it’s another when they can see that your last 70 tweets are tagged with every famous person in the field you can think of. I’ve seen Slug re-post things that people send when it’s genuine but I’ve never seen this work on a mass scale when a timeline is riddled with the same link being sent to different people. Your time is better spent elsewhere.
5) Quality > Quantity
It’s better to have engagement than numbers in many ways. You may fool some, but most people smell bullshit when they see high numbers paired with low engagement. The same principle applies to blogs: if they’re charging for interviews or features that’s a red flag. You shouldn’t be paying to supply anybody with content in the first place, but if the only people sharing and commenting on their posts are the artists they’re promoting you know something is very wrong. Furthermore, if you want your release to be covered by blogs or similar sources, do not release the content and then send it out to those sources after the fact. You need to plan these aspects of promotion in advance. Sites with real engagement get a stupid number of submissions on a daily basis and they are much more likely to post brand new content that has not already been passed around the internet. Send out the project at least a week or 2 before you plan to release it to increase your chances of having a legitimate publication support it.
6) Don’t Get Discouraged
An important and often overlooked point on this list is to not get discouraged. Most of us have to get it wrong by trying many ineffective strategies until we find one that works (which seems like either fully embracing and constantly working on ourselves, or disingenuously imitating what already works). As long as you keep things in perspective and learn from those mistakes, you have more ammunition to work with for next time. I like to keep in mind that all of the necessary components to make a steam engine were in the Library of Alexandria, but nobody studied all the required fields to spark the idea before the library became “lost.” Often times we have the right tools but lack the right combination, and the only way to find it is to keep trying. Everybody has songs that flopped and albums that didn’t get the shine they thought it deserved. Don’t give up, just keep pushing and promoting your art and eventually the right people will hear it.