Ah, the music industry! Fast cars, faster women, free everything, and more money than a Saudi prince! At least that’s the way it seemed as I advanced towards rock god-dom on Guitar Hero. In reality, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the companies selling that dream- an industry built to make money off of people struggling to make money from music- rake in more dough than all of the aspiring artists they represent. Most musicians are all too familiar with targeted ads offering guaranteed internet radio plays, digital press kit and bio editing, online or physical distribution to industry pros, creative publicity, how-to-succeed-in-X-amount-of-time-guidebooks, music reviews for purchase, CD mastering by award winning so and so, etc. If it were only as easy as paying a few registration fees this planet would be brimming with well-fed artists. Instead, there are millions of people traveling down the completely unpaved paths towards their dreams. And god bless 'em for it!
That being said, there are certainly people out there who can help advance your career. Just don’t believe every shark ready to take a bite out of the money you haven’t even made yet. A good general rule I find is to not pay for services up front, i.e. $500 to be included on X compilation, $19.99 to have your music reviewed by X, or $X for Y to do Z. You may need to reach a certain level of success before legitimate offers roll in, but when they do they usually operate on a percentage basis, so it is in their best interest for you to make money! But until agents come knocking at your door there are some cheap and easy ways to help get the word out about your product. And for only $19.99 indieAndie will reveal the secret of success- just kidding. Read on for a few tips, tricks and guerilla tactics for independent artists.
The first step in most how-to music business guides is branding. As hard as it may be to accurately stuff yourself into a box, it is even harder to market something that people can’t quickly wrap their minds around. Figure out your goals, make sure the whole band syncs up on this, try to pinpoint some target demographics and ask for feedback from anyone willing to give it (which doesn’t mean you have to listen to every piece of advice). Once you have established your M.O., and have created a consistent feel throughout your bios, logos, photos, banners, merch, etc., figure out how it is different from the other acts in your "box". How can your brand be marketed to be digestible and stand out?
|Creative Marketing by Lithuanian Group Shidlas.|
Next, become as active as possible on the interweb. The internet is the most powerful tool- yada yada yada, you know this already. But it is amazing how everything syncs up today! Your bandcamp can be connected to your Facebook account. Facebook’s connected to your Twitter. The Twitter’s connected to the Myspace... I'm just going to assume you use these tools and offer up a cool little twitter trick. Send a message out to your fans with a hyper link in it encoded as follows http://twitter.com/home?status=XXXX whereas the XXXX is the message that you want your fans to tweet out for you. (e.g. http://twitter.com/home?status=Check out myspace.com/clevelandsteamers for music and tour dates! (Which believe it or not is an active URL)).
Try it out by retweeting me! No seriously, I'd really appreciate it!
But don’t rely exclusively on interwebs. Networking is done best in person. Don't ever shy away from talking about your music, upcoming projects, tours, videos, goals, etc. It is good to be ready with a business card or leaflet. Bandcamp allows you to generate download codes, which you can include on your handout, for an extra incentive to check out your music and perhaps even give off a feeling of special treatment.
Lastly, in my experience, nothing has taken the place of the most tried and true way of promoting music, and that is touring (perhaps with the exception of the viral video, but that is a subject for another post). For those who have never toured you should know that it is totally possible to set up a tour on your own. And contrary to how I started this post, I believe a booking agent can be worth their weight in hassle-free phone calls.
So remember, don’t invest too much of your money with people who are set up to make money directly from struggling artists. Play the game of branding and marketing. Always be ready to network (but for your sake and those around be able to turn it off). And PLAY MUSIC, that is what it is all about anyways!