If you are a musician, or any type of creative for that matter, you want to have your product consumed. In the digital age, an age where people can consume media for free and, as a result, an age with drastically shifting ways to produce and publish your content, sometimes finding the tools and strategies that will work for you can be difficult.
Some people want to publish their content with strict copyrights and old marketing models. However, in this day and age, unless you have a big record label or publisher behind you, getting that ‘big break’ can be difficult if you are unwilling to let go, take a risk and take advantage of some of the wonderful tools at your disposal that will allow you to have control and a lot of freedom over how you distribute and market your content. In my opinion, getting your music heard is the most important thing. It will be easier to make money from it if you make it easier for people to listen to and share your music.
I work with a lot of independent musicians. Most of them use some combination of new marketing tools to publish and distribute their music, plus to reach out to their supporters. Some have yet to find the perfect formula that works for them. Others have been quite successful. All of them do not regret the choices they have made because at least their music is getting heard and those who are listening are not afraid to pass it on.
Yesterday, I wrote about one of these tools: Entering songwriting competitions. As I was preparing for Music Week, I asked a handful of the independent musicians that I work with to tell me what new marketing tools they prefer. A lot of the tools that I use to distribute some of my own materials, such as Bandcamp and making use of Creative Commons, I learned from the musicians and other creatives I’ve worked with over the years.
Here is what they had to say.
When I release a new single on Bandcamp, I make it available for free. People only have to sign my mailing list to download the track.
FanBridge is a mailing list server. It does a great job of organizing your mail list into geographic locations, new fans, etc. That way you can send targeted e-mails to certain groups, without annoying your whole list with irrelevant information.
When I put out a new song, I let the people on my mailing list know that they can get it for free, but please let other folks know about it on Twitter, Facebook and their blog. Bandcamp has great tools for spreading that info. This has really helped to grow my mailing list. My mailing list has grown from 300 people to 1000 people in the past six months by doing this.
Fanbridge’s free service gives you 400 messages per month. So if you have less than 400 people on your list, you can send them 1 e-mail a month for free. I had to switch to the first tier of their paid service ($10 a month) once my mailing list went over 400 people, but was happy to pay it.
I like that you can search your list by area. For instance, I’m playing a house concert in Maryland in a few weeks. I can search my mailing list to give me the people that are within an x mile radius of the house zip code. I can then send an e-mail to only those people and not bother anyone else on the list.
Once a month, I make a group of the new people that joined the list. That way I can send them a welcome e-mail and ask them to check out my catalogue of music and to friend me up on the various social networks.
Glen Raphael said:
ReverbNation.com makes getting your act together online feel a little like collecting achievements in a video game. There’s so much stuff that needs to be done when you first start out – posting pictures, writing a bio, getting some reviews, posting songs/videos, accumulating a fanbase, linking up the things you need to link to, announcing shows…that it can be a little overwhelming. So they give you a progress bar and tell you what you should do next, and as you do it your “Progress” numbers improve and you “climb the charts” relative to other performers so there’s a competitive aspect too.
For instance, as I look at my profile right now–http://reverbnation.com/glenraphael–right now it tells me:
“Your Profile is 78% complete. After you Add/Link to Blog you will be 84% complete.”
“Your Promotions are 13% complete. After you Promote on Facebook you will be 26% complete.”
I’m also told that my rank is #174 in “New York Folk” and that I still need to “mobilize my street team.”
Noah McLaughlin said:
I very much like bandcamp.com, but my use of online music distribution is quite limited compared to many other musicians I know. I just need a place to post my music where I can point interested parties–friends, family, Song Fighters and folks from SpinTunes. The integration with Facebook is very nice from Bandcamp: Post the link to the song and it automatically creates a miniplayer in Facebook; I wish G+ had that feature. I like that Bandcamp’s interface is simple but flexible, though the “upload music first and then create an album” process was counter-intuitive for me at first.
Another service I’ve begun to explore is Jamendo.com, which has many more tools and facilitates a wide cross-section of listeners with its built-in “radio” feature.
Also, rockin’ it kind of old-school, I know quite a few Song Fighters who use Spud’s Amazing Website machine: http://www.cybertoys.org/
Tom Giarrosso of the Boffo Yux Dudes said:
While we have hundreds of songs and bits up on our Bandcamp, there’s not much up on ReverbNation, MySpace, or the streaming sites because I’m notoriously lazy.
We have a Facebook page that links to our Twitter, YouTube and Bandcamp feeds, as well as the main blog BYD365 project. That blog is a little stalled at the moment, but I think I’ve still averaged a bit a day over the year.
One thing I’m a big fan of is the ‘Touch it once, send it everywhere’ philosophy. The more you can cross link to other platforms, the better your overall reach will be.
So any Twitter posts show up on the Facebook page, and the blogs, and MySpace and other pages. You’d go mad trying to keep up otherwise.
As an aside before I continue, I think you need to be careful how much you cross-post the same content to various platforms, especially if you have the same core group of followers at each place. Otherwise you risk having your posts looking like spam. Even though the people who have ‘Liked’ my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter and have circled me on Google Plus are mostly distinct groups of people, I seldom cross-post. Not only does this prevent the people who do follow me on each platform from becoming weary of my content, it encourages people to follow me on all places so that they don’t miss out on stuff.
Along that same vein, it is also very important to take some time doing the social part of social media and social networking. Take time to talk with those who are following you. Pay attention to the things they are posting. Build some form of relationship with them. If you take the time to care about them, they will care about you and be more willing to consume your products.
Mick Bordet said:
I’m another one using Bandcamp and finding it hard to beat at this level. Over on the Lunacy Board website, we’re trying out MusoPress, a WordPress theme that is custom-designed for music sites and integrates with Bandcamp, YouTube and other services. It is still early days, but it is fairly simple and works well for what we’re doing at the moment.
I haven’t investigated FanBridge beyond a cursory glance, but I know a couple of people who do use it and it produces good results.
We did have an album up on Jamendo for a while, but I took it down for two reasons: 1) Because of the quantity of MySpace-like ‘friend’ requests only looking to plug their own albums; and 2) Because we had a review on there that was pretty nasty and contrary to all the other reviews that affected the album’s overall ‘score’. It was particularly annoying because the person who left the review was supposedly not even interested in our genre of music, prompting the question “why review an album that you have no other reason to listen to?”
I’d recommend taking a look at Steve Lawson’s website too. He’s a solo bass player who has embraced the ‘Pay as much as you like” and house concert model, as well as being heavily involved in the ‘New Music Strategies’ group. He has written a lot about engaging with music fans and making a modest career in music.
Errol Elumir of Debs and Errol said:
I don’t know if I can add to the conversation much because I just started our new band a month ago and our first album isn’t even out yet, although the recording is done! HUZZAH!
As someone starting out, however, marketing presses on my mind a lot. And there is so much just to set up!
Getting a website going, finding a theme that fits your site, finding the right plugins to put on your site, finding a good mailing list, setting up a Facebook page, setting up pages on the myriad of music sites, finding all the music sites.
And with the musical landscape cluttered with social media sites like neon lights in Vegas, how does one get others to listen? I get tired talking about myself this much to my friends.
And so I’m trying desperately to think creatively to get new people just to listen. Of course, there is nothing to listen to yet, but hey. We’re almost there, stay on target.
At least I know the demographic that I may appeal to, so I’m trying this and seeing if it works:
- A daily webcomic – I think it will be hard to mesh a site to be both a comic and a music site, but hey, may as well try.
- A text game – Yes. I want to make video games for our band.
- Google Hangout Concerts – Because they’re fun.
- YouTube cover requests.
Deborah Isaac of Debs and Errol said:
Our “model” of marketing really comes down to a few points:
1) We collaborate with fans and try to keep our fans as involved as we can with our projects.
Actually, I’d much rather call them “friends” than “fans” because “fans” sounds unbalanced and impersonal and creates an “us vs. them” space which doesn’t really fit us. We would rather have a two-way street than throw things at them.
Here are a few ways we have done this with the CD we’re releasing in a few months:
- We held a contest asking fans to suggest song titles and then had everyone vote on their favourite, which we then fleshed out into a song that will appear on the CD.
- We put out an open call for fans to record clips that we will edit into one of the songs.
- We’re fan-funding.
A few other ways:
- We’ll take their input and turn it into comics (sometimes bringing them on as guest characters).
- We’ll take their song suggestions and add to our repertoire.
2) We keep it transparent (aka real!).
People genuinely want to know the ins and outs. When something great happens, we talk about it. When something not so great happens–like, if I’m having a really tough time recording and go a little crazy and Errol comes over and washes my dishes–we’ll talk about that too. It’s human, way more realistic and infinitely more interesting than presenting a one-dimensional cardboard point of view. The comics are a great tool for this, so are blogs, vblogs, tweets, etc.
3) We don’t force it.
Well, we try not to, but like everyone else we’re learning. We have never sat down together and thought “how can we get more people to listen to our music?” We didn’t decide to create a comic because it was a great marketing tool; Errol just thought it would be fun. It just also happens to be a great marketing tool.
Often, marketing just happens alongside what we’re doing anyway. For example, including clips of fans on our CD will make them far more likely to say to their friends, “Look, I’m on this CD, you should check it out!” As part of our fan-funding package, we will do YouTube covers or write songs for fans who donate a certain amount. That means our fans feel special and we add another song into the mix. That also means more videos which will potentially reach more people.
In other words, most of our marketing isn’t done for the sole purpose of marketing. We try our best to market in ways that don’t feel like marketing at all, so it won’t turn people off.
Of course, we’re still a fairly new band. We’ll see if this ends up working, but so far so good!
Paul Potts said:
I am pretty much a complete part-time amateur and although I’ve been playing guitar on and off, mostly off, for quite a few years, it’s only in the last few three or four years that I’ve gotten to the point where I can actually sing a song while accompanying myself. I’ve written five or six original songs to date. It’s a very, very part-time endeavor for me, and I’m mostly someone who spends that limited time with headphones in my home studio recording or mixing rather than performing live. It’s a goal of mine to do more of the latter and especially to find some local folks to collaborate with.
I’ve done approximately zero promotion with the exception of a few tweets and Facebook posts and some podcast chats. I know almost nothing about it. One thing I have learned is that videos seem to be very important. It seems so far to be the case that ten times more people will circulate and share a video than they will an audio track. You can make a video really easily. My cover of Today’s the Day by Inverse T. Clown took me very little time, just an hour or so.
By comparison the Bandcamp page of the song shows about zero plays.
Something else I want to continue with is collaborating with more of you–recording parts for your songs or vice-versa. I haven’t done this yet but the plan is actually to upload all my source tracks for every complete original song. What’s the worst that could happen? No one will do anything with them. So I wasted a little bandwidth and disk space. Those things are becoming vanishingly cheap.
My license of choice is Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike, but people might have different opinions about that.
Heather Miller said:
If you are keeping track of the things that come up over and over as good things, then yes, I’m a big fan of Bandcamp and Twitter and also Reverbnation and Steve Lawson’s philosophies. Also Derek Sivers has a great blog and ebooks. So does Bob Baker and Ariel Hyatt.
One thing that seems fairly obvious and yet sometimes still surprisingly underused/poorly used is YouTube. It’s so easy to make, post and share videos these days that I am rather shocked when I come across a musician who doesn’t have even one video! There are definitely the people who really finesse YouTube and have high quality stuff and a great regular “show” and following, but I really believe that if you want to play out and about, you’ve got to have at least one video that you can share with promoters/fans! And include your website address in the video! You never know when or where it’s going to be posted and therefore not shown with any and all of the information you may have put in the description box on YouTube. But please, also fill in the description box with something! And use the tags!! I’ve had more than one musician complain to me that people can’t find their videos on YouTube, or that YouTube is “broken” when people try to search, and when I ask them if the video has their name in the title and/or tags, they don’t. Argh!
http://soundcloud.com/ is a site I haven’t used all that much yet, but it’s rather like Bandcamp, I think, and I know a lot of the musicians I play on my show have used it to send me tracks. It has a feature where listeners can leave comments on specific parts of a song, and their comments pop up as the song is played, at least on the Soundcloud site, because you can also embed a player. Not 100% sure what the difference/advantage it is to Bandcamp, but another good resource.
http://noisetrade.com/ is an interesting one where you can give your music away for free in exchange for an email address, and it encourages people to tell their friends about you and leave tips. There have been times where you were required to suggest an album to 5 friends in order to get the free album; I don’t know if they are still using that model.
http://www.thesixtyone.com/ turns music listening into a game. You get points for listening to songs and giving the songs “hearts”, and they come up with different “quests”, like listening to the newest uploaded songs, or listening between the hours of 1am-3am, etc. The interface is kinda pretty but sometimes a little confusing to me.
If I was touring, I’m sure I would use http://www.artistdata.com/us/ more. It allows you to enter your tour dates in one place and to update on something like 30 sites at once. You can also schedule for it to send out messages/reminders, like “I’m playing a show at this venue tonight. 8pm.”
Speaking of scheduling, I often use http://hootsuite.com/ to schedule tweets for my radio show, so I don’t have to be distracted with tweeting while I’m on the air, and it can also send updates to Facebook at the same time.
http://www.stageit.com/ is an “online concert venue” that intrigues me, though I haven’t tried it out yet, from either a viewer or performers side of things. I guess it’s a lot like Ustream, but people have to actually buy tickets so you have a lot more control over who shows up, way, way less potential for trolls and I am pretty sure, but not entirely sure, that there are no ads.
That’s the top of my head stuff. There is so much out there!
Jeff MacDougall said:
Although I’m optimistic about Google+ use for musicians in the near future, nothing comes close to Twitter as a useful social networking tool. There are different strategies that can work that can use another social network, i.e., Facebook, YouYube, or social music platform, i.e., ReverbNation, but I feel they all need Twitter as the glue to make any of it work. Bottom line: In order for any social networking idea to work, it requires authentic posts, or tweets, to be successful. The best tool for that is still Twitter.
One thing that is missing, just a little bit, from the above conversation is live performances. A lot of people are still trying to be heard in a noisy bar or other ‘traditional’ locations. I suggest making use of house concerts. One musician who is very successful with that is Marian Call. I understand that not every one does music full-time like Marian, however, there is still the opportunity for you to do house concerts in your area. A few months ago, I interviewed Marian and we discussed her new marketing tools, including her crazy house concert schedule. If you are interested in this interview, you can listen to it and download it here.
Something that John Anealio left out was that he has done a couple remix contests. This not only gets your music heard by other musicians, but the musicians who remix your song will be bringing in new listeners. Alternatively, you can invite your supporters to remix any of your songs at any time.
Publishing your content under a Creative Commons license makes this possible, without having to worry about copyright infringement. You still own the copyrights, but depending on which license you attach to your content, your content is free to share and be used for other projects, thus increasing your listening audience. A few years ago, Jonathan Coulton and I had a good discussion about why he chooses to release his music under Creative Commons and what it means to do so. If you are interested in listening to and downloading this interview, you can do so here.
There are still loads more tools for you to use, but I think the above novel is a good starting point. Don’t be afraid to mix things up and try new things. If the first thing doesn’t work, ask your supporters why it isn’t working for them and what you can be doing differently. Get them involved.
If you use any new marketing tools, what are they?