Monetizing your Music or Art part 2
(note: For those of you who are DJ’s or solo producers, don’t let the word “band” discourage you. Many of these techniques can be applied by anyone)
Monetizing with social media.
I’ve seen far too many people misuse social media in promoting their bands. Probably the most popular Social media outlet for bands is MySpace.com. In fact MySpace has become so misused that is has become almost useless in selling your music and bringing people to your shows.
Some poor promotional strategies include:
Randomly adding as many friends as you can.Â This used to give others the impression that you had a lot of people into your band, but these days people know that the amount of friends you have on MySpace doesn’t translate to people who buy your music or come to your shows. It simply shows how more often than not, people accept your friend requests out of politeness or in interest of promoting themselves. Everyone is trying to play the same game and no one is succeeding.
Leaving Spam comments, fliers, links and other promotional jargon on on your “friends” pages. Leaving these “comments” is just rude and it’s also a complete waste of time. Do you have any idea how many comments people get from bands they’ve never heard of? Unless you have had conversations back and forth and have determined that they are indeed a fan and are actually local enough to be able to make your event, you are wasting your time, and theirs. Think about it.. have you tried this and actually had succeess with this lame strategy? I didn’t think so. For unsigned bands, the only people who will support you are those who know you personally, or has heard great things about you through friends. If you are going to leave a comment, make it about them, not about you. The whole “I think you’re great, check out my band too” doesn’t cut it.
Spam bulletins. In the early days, bulletins were a pretty good way to let your friends know what was happening with you. Unfortunately now there is just too much traffic with bulletins once you have 500 or more friends. They are most likely going to miss your post. On top of that, most or your “friends” are in bands as well and are too busy trying to promote themselves to pay any attention to you or your bulletins. The “what are you doing” features in Facebook and Twitter are far more effective. It’s also not considered spam to write on your own wall so it comes across much less intrusive. Don’t write a book though. It’s better to keep it text with possibly a link with more information or pictures. Post pictures on your own page, and your friends will see it as well. The 140 character limit on twitter is a very good guideline as it makes you get to the point.
Sending invites to everyone you know in hopes that you will land 10 people who are interested in trading their money for your music or performances. This is another waste of time. For every 1 person you get (if you actually get 1 person from this strategy) you will annoy or piss off 100’s or even 1000’s more. Is this how you want to treat your potential fans? Is this how your favorite bands get you to buy their music or come to their shows? Have you actually given some random band your time and money through any of these tactics? I didn’t think so.
So am I saying you should delete your MySpace page if you are a band? Absolutely not. MySpace is still an incredibly good way for people to find you. It’s a great way for actual fans to check your show schedules or new music releases. It’s a great way to create new friendships by common interests. I have met a number of people that I keep in touch with although I usually spend most of my time deleting irrelevant friend requests, irrelevant comments and irrelevant emails. Fun huh?
What should you do then?
From personal experience I’ll tell you what worked for me and my band. Although several of these are tactics I used as many as 20 years ago, they worked so effectively that we are planning a reunion show that already looks like it’s going to sell out and it’s still a year away!
1. Don’t suck – This might seem obvious, but some people get so into the idea of self promotion that the actual music takes a backseat. Whatever your sound is, refine it and play it well. You need a great product and you need it to stand out. Don’t settle for sloppy half-assed music with no hook. If you are going to go through the work of getting people to your shows and buying your music, you are going to want them to have an amazing time and keep coming back… with more friends.
2. Make a list – Every person in your band is going to want to make a list of every friend you can think of. Really take the time to do this, don’t leave anyone out unless it’s clear that they aren’t interested in what you do. Tally up all of these people and hunt down their phone numbers. It’s time to get yourself SO pumped about your own music that it’s completely infectious. You don’t want a conversation to leave anyone you talk to on the fence. You want to convince them that your band is going to be the next band to break out of the scene and go huge! It is not time to be humble but then again, it’s also never time to lie to yourself and others. If you don’t really feel that what you are doing is great stuff and worthy of interest nobody else is. Remember, this is going to become your core audience and they are going to be your biggest fans and advertisers. If you can’t get your friends excited about your music, they will never promote you to their friends and you may end up with a handful of friends who will come and see your shows out of pity. Everyone wants to be the first person to discover a great band. It makes them even more proud when they know you personally. This all starts with you and your band. Make sure when you make your calls that you ask your friends for their help in contacting their friends. Have them give you names so you can follow up. Make sure to add all of these people to your MySpace, Facebook and Twitter accounts. I think you should have all three and don’t let a week go by without something to say, new pictures uploaded and of course new music (Just don’t leave this stuff on other peoples comment page without their permission) . Within a few months, you should have at least 50-75 people that you can count on to come to your shows and help your promote. If you can’t muster that up at the moment, you’re going to want to start meeting more people both online and off.
3. Don’t play locally every week – You don’t want to give people the same show week by week. I’d suggest 1 show every 3 months. This gives you time to change up your performance and add new songs. This also gives you time to promote and get everyone pumped again. Playing every week will make each individual show less important and your attendance will suffer. Better to play less and make each show a real event.
4. Flyers – Get the band out of the house and into the clubs. Your band should be going out once or twice a week handing out fliers, talking to people and getting people to listen to your music and become a fan. The flyer should have a place they can hear your music. It’s not a bad idea to bring some burned CD’s with 1 or 2 or your best songs to give away Don’t go overboard. it’s better for each member of the band to bring 1 or 2 CD’s and give them away very selectively. This will create much more value to the people you choose to share your music with.
5. Get the clubs playing your music.Â If you can get in tight with the DJ’s, give him/her the most club friendly song you’ve got (If your song isn’t club friendly, find someone to remix one of your tunes). There is nothing cooler than having everyone in your favorite clubs know your songs. This is a no brainer when it comes to recruiting new fans. If the clubs have video screens or TV’s you can become instant celebrities with a good video. Find an art student who’s good with a video camera and knows how to edit it in a cool way and you’re golden.
6. Look unique, stand out – You are going to want your band to have a look. I know a lot of you want to make it all about the music and I would agree that is of utmost importance but it certainly won’t hurt you if your band has a style that sets you apart from your fans. It’s much more appealing than having a bunch of average Joes in jeans on a flyer. Think of your idea of what a “star” looks like and go with that. If you can stimulate the eyes and the ears, you’re in pretty good shape.
7. Take all negative comments as a challenge for any truly successful band to endure. When you take yourself and your music seriously, it will initially make some people uncomfortable. Nearly ALL successful people tend to get a backlash from the people around them when they attempt to make a dream or goal reality. The drive you have will make others feel like slackers. They might try to bring you down by saying “You’re being ridiculous, you’re acting like your going to be a big star”. Don’t worry, just keep doing what you’re doing and they will soon come around and realize that in fact you seem to be going places and when they DO come around, they will influence and turn other doubters into fans. It’s also important though to not mistake some helpful critiques for negativity. There are some people that want you to succeed and want to help you improve. Try to distinguish between the 2 before writing it all off as negativity.
8. Open for bands who are more popular than you. Of course you want to be sure that the band you are opening for is similar enough to attract the same type of people that might be into your band. This is probably the best way to get new fans as long as you are great live.
9. Know your environment. Some Artists or bands fit perfectly in a coffee shop environment while others have a much bigger sound that requires more space, better lights and a bigger soundsystem. If you are trying to uphold a certain image, don’t settle for a place that can’t offer the type of show you would like to deliver. Obviously you aren’t going to start off in stadiums (if that is your goal) but you should be doing the most you can with what you have to work with. If the club you are considering can’t meet your minimum requirements, pass on it. You are not desperate to play live. Live venues are desperate for good bands that can bring a lot of people. Be that band and the doors will open. When you DO play a good venue, make sure you get a couple camera guys to video it from different angles. You may want to record your mix to a laptop or DAT machine (anyone use those anymore?), that way you have good sound to sync to the video. This can make a great promotional tool to get more shows.
10. Make and manage a mailing list. Yet another forum for keeping in touch with your fans. More about that below.
11. Blogs and Radio Shows. Find music bloggers in your music genre. Chances are they are searching for new bands to talk about and share. What’s great about this is that you have someone who has built him/herself up as an authority on the subject. This is great to have a trusted voice putting your name out to all their readers. The same goes for online radio shows. Getting your music on a genre specific radio show can definitely get you new fans as long as they post their setlist and talk about the artists they are playing.
12. Join forums. This probably goes without saying, but getting your band into conversations (and not strictly self promotional stuff) can definitely put off a good vibe with the online community. Having a name people recognize in regular conversation can make people actually care when you’ve made a new song or have an upcoming show. One warning though is to not get involved with a lot of negative talk that has become a bit of the norm on most forums. Keep it positive and don’t freak out if someone says you suck. I’ve honestly turned many of those people into friends or followers by just keeping positive. Those who don’t come around will just start to look like an embarrassment to the rest of the community in due time.
As I said in the last blog, don’t give away your music and get stuck in the “Free” zone. I said that and I meant it. However, giving things away for free can certainly lead to you selling more in the long run or getting more people to your shows. You just want to make sure to be wise about what you make available for free. A great example of Free might be to plan and promote the heck out of a Free concert. This will obviously expose you to more people who wouldn’t have otherwise paid to see you. A good performance can then lead to selling your music, shirts or other merchandise. Also don’t lose this opportunity to collect emails at the door. Don’t be forceful but definitely have someone asking if they would like to join your mailing list.
Although you certainly want your music to hold value, the “try before you buy” approach can be very effective. One technique I use is to offer a 6 song EP for free download in lower quality mp3 format and offer a high quality version with bonus tracks. Sure most people will just keep the free stuff, but at least they will be listening to your music, sharing it with others and possibly coming to your shows. Otherwise these people would have skipped over you and never been exposed to your music.
You can also trade free music for emails. This is a great way to build your mailing list and keep in touch with new potential fans. Personally, I would give away a few songs for free and then offer more in trade for an email. It comes across less “business-y”. Make sure not to give everything away for free as your goal is to build value, not remove it. As you make more music, you should get yourself out of the habit of making it available for free download and rather allow people to stream the songs at your webpage or on YouTube with a simple graphic or picture Make sure to put a link to where they can purchase your music in the info section and make an annotation pointing to it. Also be sure to use “http://” in front of links on YouTube or they won’t become links. YouTube has become a major “go to” place for finding music. Joining this community opens you up to a whole lot more people. Soundcloud.com is another site to check out. It’s a pretty innovative way to share music.
I hope this has given you some ideas that can take you from a starving artist to an empowered one.
Happy music (and money) Making!