We’ve had a lot of musicians asking about getting their music “out there” and PR firms seem to be busy like crazy trying to promote music. There’s just so much out there. How do you get your music to the top??? Check out these ten steps, largely informed by our experience here at EarToTheGround Music.
- Make Good Music – This might seem like a silly place to start, but some people seem to think that just “throwing a demo out there” is a good start. That’s not. You may never get a “second listen” from labels or reviewers, so make sure it’s all your best work. We in the biz know that your work will change over time, so don’t worry about early career v. later career stuff. What I mean is don’t just throw a backyard improv session on YouTube unless you’re legitimately proud of it.
- Make Friends in Visual Media – From someone to create logos to someone who can edit video, the visual media world is inextricably linked to success in the music world today. Maybe you can partner with an organization or get management to network you with the right people, but it’s very difficult to launch a successful career without high quality video and photographic work to popularize your real art, the music.
- Be True to You – Don’t do anything for the sake of promotion that compromises who you are. From taking promotional gigs to touring with someone you don’t like, be true to your identity as a musician. Here’s why; when you’re miserable doing what you’re doing, fans can see it. We don’t know how we see it or why we see it, but we do. To avoid that, stay tapped into doing what you love.
- Use Bandcamp – No we’re not getting paid by the site to say this. (Although if they want to throw us a few bucks we’d take it.) But seriously, use it. Put your music on a site that lets fans HEAR the music and buy it if they want. Also, set up really awesome merch packages on there and use it for a promotional tool in and of itself. Artists don’t want to “give their music away” streaming, but you know what everyone doesn’t buy a song after a first listen. Sometimes they stream it a few times. But if you have it there and people hear it a few times and realize they can get the album AND a shirt for only 20 bucks. Okay, why not? A LOT of artists use it and have had success with it.
- Submit to Blogs – Submit to THE RIGHT blogs. Don’t send your folk album to a hip hop blog. Don’t put your banjo virtuoso work on the disco revival blog. It’s a matter of reading a few and finding out what they like. Want a pro tip on finding good blogs? Google the bands that you really like and listen to all the time, especially in your “class.” We all know there are classes in the music industry. Rolling Stone doesn’t love us all. BUT, there are sites like EarToTheGround for many sub-genre and even more prominent bands. It makes more sense to have one review in the right place than three reviews in the wrong place. You’d rather have 50 people really read it here than 5000 “views” on a bigger site when no one listens to the music or even reads the review.
- Post Covers of Popular Music – I don’t mean do Jason Mraz songs just like Jason Mraz. I mean do what you do on a song that might get searched on YouTube. Then send it to all of your followers. Shamelessly beg them to share it with their friends. Get those view numbers up as quickly as possible. Send it to said music blogs and ask if they’d be interested in running it. Contact blogs and ask if they’d be interested in you doing an exclusive cover for them. Ask them for requests, then promote it on your own site as “exclusive coverage from X blog.” The world doesn’t need to know you’re the one that solicited it in the first place.
- If You Don’t Like PR, Hire Someone Who Does – In the busy digital world, you need someone out there promoting and hawking the music. I get that “creative” people are not necessarily all the same, but there are some trends among artists versus the business savvy folks. But we need it to be a holier alliance than it often is. Someone has to bridge the gap. It helps to have friends who get both sides of the art and business of making music. Solicit their help in promoting your work without making it seem like pure promotion.
- Create a Loyal Fan Base – There are a million ways of creating a fan base, but one of the best ways is to just do projects and let fans be a part of them. Kickstarter has been a great tool for this lately. People love getting autographed copies of CDs or music. Share handwritten lyrics. Have lunch with fans. Get people so excited about your music and who you are that they won’t shut up about it. That’s the real key. Somewhat ironically the best way to be successful in this business in the digital age is through word of mouth.
- Scrobble, Stream, and Spot as Needed – I’ve heard every perspective under the sun about the evils and blessings of scrobbling and streaming services. Earlier I mentioned bandcamp in a pro-streaming light. But that said, if you’ve reached a popularity level that (means you probably aren’t reading this) garners a good bit of listens, you may want to pull your music from sites like Grooveshark, Pandora, and Spotify. But if you’re still trying to make a name for yourself, every listen is a potential new fan. If you’re still busking on corners, it’s not time to complain over how many zeroes between the decimal and the numeral on the paycheck. The service is helping you distribute your music.
- Gig a Lot – Play shows of all sizes. Get networked with talent buyers and tour managers. Play multiple shows when you go through towns. Set up house shows and small listening venues. Not only does gigging a lot fill your tour sheet nicely, it also helps with #8 the loyal fan base. If you’re putting out quality music and people are inviting friends to hear you, there’s a much greater chance of success. Gig with different sets, too, sometimes as full band and other times maybe a stripped down acoustic set. Be sure to cross promote shows, too.
Some of these points undoubtedly smack of standard industry fare, but the bottom line is that this digital music world is full of voices. There are hundreds of decent singer songwriters. What makes your work so unique? Putting out spammy one-sheets with PR-laden language about the wonders of your “sound” only gets so far. Get your work in the hands of critics. Get vocal, high energy people touting your art and spreading it with the world.
It may sound ridiculous for a writer to tell musicians how to do what they do, but I really felt the need to write this article. While some will be insulted at all the work here… or at the insinuations of free stuff… but the bottom line is we largely run this website for “free.” We put in our time and energy because we love music and telling people about it. We love the mission of spreading good music further into the world. If one person finds a new band because of me per day, I’m a happy guy. If I wanted to make money I’d spend my time researching the stock market or flipping houses. That’s not my bag. I want to help you get your band out there. I hope these ideas help.