It’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve written, but I’ve been steadily ticking items off my promo to-do list. Whether or not I’ve actually accomplished anything remains to be seen. You can expect all the gory details when the results are in.
Speaking of the results being in (and of horrible segues), I was a real political junkie up until the election. On November 5th I began a slow detox, progressively limiting my exposure to Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Real Time with Bill Maher, Meet the Press, even NPR (the fact that it was pledge week made it easier). To fill the void, I’m keeping up with the music promotion gurus. Now instead of checking the latest polling numbers, I read their RSS feeds while I’m standing in line at the post office. I’ve discovered that I’m even more cynical about promotion “experts” than I am about politics.
For the most part, they aren’t musicians themselves, at least not successful ones. Those who can’t do, teach? Maybe that’s not fair. Being a successful artist requires a different skill set than being a successful promoter. The whole “practice what I preach” thing rubs me the wrong way, but I’m having trouble putting my finger on what bothers me the most. Maybe it’s that I feel like the experts are more interested in promoting their wares than they are in promoting my music. Are their blog entries just teasers to get you to buy their “book” – actually just a PDF file – for $35 or more? I don’t doubt that they genuinely want to help musicians, but it seems less a goal than a possible side effect of their business model.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ll keep reading the promotion blogs. There are plenty of great ideas to be found, though there is little consensus between the bloggers. I’ve met a handful of these folks myself, and they all appear to be genuinely nice people. Of course, the guys who can actually get you on Conan aren’t blogging and peddling their PDFs. My little rant is mostly directed at the few bottom-feeders who prey on the naive and inexperienced, the hobbyists who think that their songs are better than “all the crap on the radio.”
For example, I received an e-mail solicitation from a radio promoter last week. The presentation was persuasive and professional, linking to a snazzy web site with a roster of artists and testimonials on every page. After reading the e-mail and perusing the web site, I’m sure many musicians would be ready to sign on the dotted line, but I dug deeper. I looked at his artists’ MySpace pages. How many friends did they have? I checked their official sites. What was their Alexa ranking? I looked up their CDs on Amazon. What was their sales rank? I searched on iTunes. Were there any reviews?
It turns out the emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes. Some of the artists didn’t have official sites. One of the bands, who he supposedly got signed to a major in 2006, had 74 friends on MySpace, no web site (they didn’t even have the .com registered), no CD on Amazon, and only a demo on iTunes. Another band with a great new album and professional web site had Alexa rankings far lower than my artist site. By any metric, I was doing better on my own than any of his artists were doing with him. And I’m not even an expert! Not until I finish up my e-book, anyway.
Bottom line, if you want to sell me your services, show me the money. I don’t want to hear about all the extra “exposure” your artists received. Unless you’re willing to work on commission, I want sales numbers.