Without the support of a promotion or a label already, most musicians likely know that learning to promote is probably among the most valuable of skills. A performer can be amazingly talented, but take forever to reach the success they know they are capable of. That's because the focus is primarily on making quality music, and unfortunately not on the mindset of the promoter. Often the question is how are those two mindsets different? At their basic levels, they're not. But they're approached differently and performing is proving what promotion says about it. Both should be top notch. Promoting music isn't easy. Here are some tips for musicians who are feeling a bit lost, on how to promote your music without label support.
1. Identify Specific Goals Before You Promote Your Music
When you promote your music, emulating the best is actually not a bad way to go. You may not have the money to match the scale, but think about how labels promote. They push a specific part of the experience around, and don't spend a lot of time trying to go in all directions at once. Choose one thing to promote, such as an album, a single, or your web page and focus on that for a while. Once you've learned what people like to know about, you'll know what specific things you can promote in order to catch attention and drive growth. As well, knowing what to promote allows for more specific goals. For example, when the promotion is for the web page, the best goal to track is visits to the page. By setting specific goals and tracking metrics related to them, you can measure success and keep an eye on trends within your self-promotion.
2. Promote to Specific Audience Segments
When you have your goal in mind, you have to then decide who in your audience will respond well to your promotions. Say you want to promote a show. Your audience is your local print and other advertising mediums. If you have an LP or an album coming out, your audience is your band mailing list, and the media. If you go for the wrong audience, it could have disastrous effects on your finances. Ensure that the organizations you mail or contact about your promotions are relevant. You don't want to promote in town X if you're playing town Y, or send information to publications that deal in genres that don't have anything to do with you. If you're putting out a promotion for adult venues, you don't want to alienate your youth fans by showing them something they can't have.
3. Build a Package to Promote Your Music
When you try to get a label to pick you up, you sent them a demo. In order to promote your music, you'll need to build a package of information that tells the media and your fans why they should help you promote your music. In that package, you should have a number of things. You should have a press release detailing your news, so that if a media rep wants to promote you, they have a prepared release, as well as a short bio of yourself and/or your band. Your press release should also include a link to your site for more information. You also want a photo or link to a photo for press members to promote without chasing down pictures. The press are more likely to promote if the material is readily available. You want a demo or an advance copy of new music for certain promotions such as a single or album release. Ideally you also want a comprehensive record of previous press coverage. The more you have, the more likely you are to pick up more. By building a package to promote yourself and modifying it for the type of release, you have a blanket of specialized packages that can go out to each organization of that type when the time comes.
4. Stand Out – Find And Promote Your Niche
In terms of the media, or even with your fans, there are plenty of sources wrestling for their attention. You need to stand out. Generic blanket messages are the worst way to promote because of this. You want to stand out. Find something that will make people curious. Entice them to follow your social media and mailing lists, and promote things that make people want to know more. Think of major music groups. Love or hate them, Marilyn Manson and Eminem achieved great fame due to their attitudes musically and when on camera. Daft Punk did well as faceless performers who did their best to stay out of major "stardom" media as themselves. Finding a theme, or a niche that you exist in differently than anyone can be powerful when you plan to promote.
5. Incentivize Your Music Events
Incentives can be quite powerful, particularly when you're trying to bring in new fans and new media representatives that don't already know you. Everyone loves getting something for free, and they love being able to compete for it even more. This is a good way to whip up a lot of energy and excitement about your music and your events. Here are a few ideas.
- When playing in a new location, leave some money with the bartender or the wait staff, and offer new industry people free drink passes.
- Push a remix or a new single to your fans every month or second month to keep interest, and provide them with something new and exciting. Offer a contest to decide what track they want, allowing your fans to not just receive free things, but to share with them.
- When you're playing venues, offer a sample of your music as a raffle. You can do this in the form of mix CDs made by the band, and use your mailing list as entry. This way, they get to compete for custom mix CDs and you get more names on your mailing list in order to reach out more during your next promotion.
These are just a few ideas that will help you think about how to promote your music independently. There are a ton of other options, including promoting Loudr or Patreon, and including those things in your email newsletters and so on. In fact, you can even incentivize those further, offering exclusive benefits. Do some research and look into our music page for marketing and promotion tips. In addition, you can have a look at marketing automation and what that can do for you.