Many artists have YouTube accounts these days. In fact, most emerging artists have a few of their videos on YouTube, but often can’t get more than a few hundred hits. In truth, most musicians aren’t really “marketers,” which is why the most successful in the “market” are those who hire professional public relations firms to handle that side of “the business.” But here’s what’s different in the 21st century – artists are no longer beholden to the corporate machine of promotion. We’ve seen artists become wildly successful in the past few years with little more than an active Twitter account, a YouTube video stream, and a website of free (but high quality) music. How do they do it?
I’m admittedly coming at this from a unique angle as a music blogger, rather than “pure” consumer of music or producer of music. But what I’ve learned from a lot of YouTube pages is that marketing is key. Product is key. What matters more than anything is overall exposure. The difference between three figures of “hits” versus six figures of “hits” often has more to do with the world outside of YouTube. For example, once Grey’s Anatomy used Matthew Mayfield’s hit “Fire Escape” his numbers skyrocketed. That helped his other videos get hits as well. So the moral of the story, despite the skeptics, is not just “get your music on a TV show.” The key is to ensure that bands have high quality content available for when the “big break” happens. Make it easy for writers, listeners, and fans to find your work.
Here are some helpful hints that might help artists not just get more “hits” but more overall exposure to their music through the vibrant, exciting, free tool of YouTube.
1)Once you record a good video, LINK LINK LINK. Links go two ways, hence the term “link.” Put links in the description of the video to your own site. Then, also, enter the video in competitions. Send it out to blogs and your friends. Ask them to “share” the video with friends. Put it on your Twitter with creative hashtags that will get it out to people other than your typical fans. Be sure to tag genre and themes. It is extremely important for Search Engine Optimization that your content be linked to other well-respected sites on the internet. Contact blogs (like this one) to put one of the videos up as an “exclusive” but then embed links in that video to the rest of your content.
2)Take advantage of external radio stations and other recordings. Some of you are undoubtedly thinking this is a common sense suggestion. Seriously some of the best recordings on YouTube are conducted by NPR stations and other non-profits that have a mission to record real music. It might seem like too much work for a non-paying gig, but the exposure could be priceless. WNRN, KEXP, and other smaller stations have some of the most productive YouTube pages for high quality new music.
3)High quality, but not always serious. The world famous Crackerfarm station perfected this for the highly-successful Avett Brothers. Some of Crackerfarm’s videos involve Scott and Seth laughing their way through a song, or chatting before a show. These moments are still interesting for fans, but your content cannot be full of these moments. Show the lighter side, but in moderation.
4)Cover a favorite song or two. Covers are a great way to bring in new listeners. I found one of my favorite artists, Kiersten Holine, through her cover of Buckley’s “Hallelujah.” Put up seasonal videos or cover current hits, as well as classic songs. You don’t have to leave it up forever. Just use it to bring new exposure to your art. Enter it in a cover contest. Send it to “fans of” groups for the artists you covered. Send it to the original artist via Twitter. Some artists are really flattered by that and it might lead to some other type of connection (such as opening for them at a local show).
5)Don’t expect immediate results. Internet hits take time. Fans are not immediately zealous. Don’t spam with “sub to our channel” pop ups everywhere. Put your art out there and link it responsibly, then WAIT for it to get out there. If you’re constantly working to improve the content on your YouTube page you will see results over time. Improve your equipment, bring in special guests, and give away your music for a while. Then, when your big break comes, you will have plenty of quality content on your page for people to enjoy and further link.
These might seem like common sense suggestions, but it amazes me how many artists have one or two songs on their “official” page. If someone searches for you (as an artist) on YouTube, they should find something more than a front-row, up-your-nose, shot-with-a-phone video. You don’t always have to pay people to record your music. Offer some free tickets to a show you’re doing. Buy the videographer a case of a choice beverage. Make it work, but make sure that your content is good quality and well linked.