I promote to establish and nurture a genuine relationship with my fans. I measure my success by the number of subscribers to my mailing list. Notice I said mailing list, not Twitter followers or MySpace “friends.” I’m talking about the people who grant me permission through a double opt-in process to email them directly on a regular and consistent basis. Right now there are just over a thousand, but there are plenty more out there who might love my music if they heard it. So how do we reach those potential fans?
In the pre-Web 2.0 days, you’d court a label, or if you were really adventurous, you’d hire a PR firm yourself. The PR firm would leverage their relationships with press and radio, which in turn maintain relationships with their audiences. That left you three degrees removed from your potential fans, the vast majority of whom you’d never hear from. Today, social networking allows us to cut out the middlemen and establish those relationships directly. Let’s dispel a couple of myths:
- It’s all about exposure. My bullshit detector goes off whenever I hear the word “exposure.” It’s nebulous and generally worthless. I’ve spent a lot of time and money courting press and radio, resulting in bucketloads of “exposure” but few sales or follow-up contacts. While “you never know” who might be listening or reading, chances are good that nothing will come of it. The best promotions are targeted to as specific an audience as possible.
- You need to impress the gatekeepers. No, you really don’t. You’re better off letting them come to you. Bloggers, DJs, music supervisors, labels, and the rest of the industry want to discover you for themselves. Grow your fanbase and the rest will follow. I know that may seem counterintuitive, but one small leap of faith could save you years of rejection and frustration. It is my sincere belief that lasting success comes from the bottom up.
While your goals may be different from mine, they probably involve more fans and more money. You already communicate with your fans and sell your music online, perhaps exclusively. It’s difficult and in some cases impossible to convert an offline fan into an online one, so why waste your energy? Promote where the action is: online.
Let me be clear – I’m not suggesting Dave Matthews stop touring and start blogging instead (he should do both). While you may consider your live show or your latest album to be the best promotion of all, performing and making records is what musicians do. For the purposes of this discussion, the term “promotion” refers to the many non-musical efforts you make to raise awareness of your music.
You might feel like you need to promote both offline and online to “cover your bases,” but there are an infinite number of bases to cover! You’ll never run out of things to do online: your web site, blog, podcast, remix competition, iPhone app, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, iMixes, thesixtyone, Jango, Stereofame, Last.fm, OurStage, Pandora, Amazon, iLike, Podsafe Network, ccMixter, Blip.fm, Music Xray, Bandcamp, and a hundred others.
Of course, you don’t want to spread yourself too thin. There’s no point in setting up profiles you aren’t going to maintain. A web presence is not enough – you have to actively promote. You’ll need to come up with your own promo combo platter and make it part of your regular diet. I’m busy recording a new album, so my bare bones routine consists of regular updates to my mailing list, blog, Facebook, and Twitter, plus a daily check-in at thesixtyone.
Photo by Ruben Schade