December 11, 2009
How to Promote Your Music Online
To say the Internet has changed every aspect of promoting and building buzz for your music would be a huge understatement. Because it has, and then some.
Remember back a decade ago, when promoting your band simply required having a band mate who had access to a copy machine? Make a flyer, print a few
hundred thousand copies to plaster everywhere and hope for the best on the night of the show.
Today we have the Internet! With the rise of these connected tubes and the launch of social networking sites, indie musicians have a whole new world of opportunities with PR and music promotion. Today your flyer doesn’t go on a pole in the cool part of town. It gets plastered up on blogs and social networks all across the Web. You can form a connection with your audience before they even come out to hear you play!
The good news here is that artists no longer need the deep pockets of a major label to get their music to an audience. The bad news is that the Internet has opened the floodgates for millions of bands trying to compete for the very same goal – to use the Web to get their music heard. And to do that, it’s not enough to simply get your music online. You need to take your online promotional efforts to the next level. You need to learn how to use each social media tool to the fullest to spread your music and help get it in front of an engaged audience.
But in the land of Web sites, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and traditional media where do you start? You start with the online music promotion guide below and by learning the ins and outs of each of the Web’s most important portals for indie bands and unsigned artists. Pay close attention, because we designed a plan especially for you.
Build your Artist/Band Web site
Your first step should be to set up a home base for your band on the Web – that means creating your very own Web site dedicated to promoting and telling the story of your band. The social networking sites like MySpace and YouTube are great places to build exposure, however, nothing carves out your corner of the Web more than having your own Web site. To build your site, you’ll have to register a domain name from a registrar like GoDaddy, pay for hosting, and then use a platform like Wordpress to house your content. It may sound intimidating but, in truth, it’s actually fairly simple. It’s also really cheap so whatever excuses you were already forming for NOT claiming [yourbandname.com] have just gone out the window.
If you don’t know how to build a Web site yourself, fret not. We recommend trolling the local colleges for Web design or marketing students looking for real world experience. College kids make awesome free labor. We mean, interns. College kids are awesome interns. There are also sites like BandZoogle.com dedicated to helping bands build a presence online. Both present a cost-effective way to get your site up and running.
Why do you need your own Web site when the Internet gods have blessed you with MySpace? Because you don’t own MySpace and you don’t know that it will be there a year from now. Creating your own site gives your fans a place to congregate and gives you credibility, and an open forum to talk to them one-on-one or to house content (and dirt!) that your community can’t get anywhere else. Oh, it also gives the music reps someplace official to go to when they want to contact you. You do want to get signed, don’t you?
Use your Web site to give your fans an up close and personal look into what your band is up to. You’ll want to create bio pages for your members, information about how you got together, your biggest musical influences, where fans can come see you live, and information designed to help them get to know who you are. Putting an official blog on your site is a great way to let people interact with your music and find out more about who you are. It’s also a fun way to keep adding fresh content to your site to keep visitors coming back. As a musician, you’re creating experiences that many people only dream of. Don’t be afraid to share them and allow comments to help people get involved.
MySpace has become the Holy Grail for indie artists looking to get their music heard. Every musician, wannabe musician, and stage parent has created a page through MySpace Music looking to highlight their sound. And some of them even have a sound worth highlighting!
To get started on MySpace, create a profile for your band by signing up through MySpace Music. Once you have your account created, you’ll want to fill out your profile to include an email address for the account, your band name, Web site URL, personal info, label, genre, etc.
Once you claim your MySpace, don’t just let it sit up there with a pitiful default layout. There is no greater shame than being judged (and judged poorly) by 14-year-olds. You have a solid fifteen seconds from the time someone lands on your page to grab their attention and show them what you’re about. Otherwise, they’re gone. Make your time count by customizing your profile so that it brands your band from the very start. If you have artwork from your latest album release or professional-quality photos – set that as your background. If not, try a quick Google search for [free myspace layout] and find something that you think accurately represents your brand. Thanks to the huge explosion of MySpace, there are free templates available from everything covering death metal to kittens to hard core to unicorns.
Obviously, the site’s biggest draw is that it allows bands to post streaming audio of their songs. As you meet and befriend new people, uploading music can help them get a taste of what your stuff is like. This is really the point – to find evangelists for your music and get people excited about visiting your page and hearing your music. Try to give them lots of stuff to snack on.
With your page set up, it’s time to make some friends. After all, it’s no fun hanging around in the playground with no friends. (Yes, we are saying that Tom doesn’t count.) If you have a mailing list or street team associated with your Web site, you can jumpstart the process by plugging their emails into the site and immediately friending them. You should also send Friend Requests to people located in your area and to members who have ‘friended’ bands with a similar vibe or style. You want to find people who you think may be interested in your sound. Also take a look at the various MySpace groups and look for ones that focus on your particular genre, hometown, style, or other quirky interests.
Utilize the Bulletin Board and Blogs that MySpace offers to stay in touch with your fans. These tools let you make announcements that are then sent to or shared with your entire community. If you just played a great gig, had a fantastic night in the studio or uploaded a new song to your MySpace page, write about it and start a conversation with your fans. When appropriate, go out onto their pages as well and leave comments and talk to them about what they’re working on. The more personal you make your page and their experience, the more you’ll keep them coming back and out to your shows.
Creating a full promotional presence on the Web means also taking the time to create a Facebook Fan page. It may seem like double the work, but the truth is, Facebook caters to a completely different audience than MySpace. MySpace is for casual affairs, Facebook is for long-term love.
Marketing on Facebook is a very different animal than marketing on MySpace. Why? Because much of Facebook is closed off to actually prevent the exact type of marketing you’re trying to do. That said, it can be done and it’s important that you at least establish a presence there. It will allow you to tap into a network that you wouldn’t be able to reach any other way.
Facebook offers pretty standard profile pages for artists to take advantage of. You’ll find a music player, event listings, videos, photos, wall, discussion board, notes and a place to house your discography. When creating your Facebook fan page, make sure to use your band’s full name. This will help it to appear in the Google search results when someone does a search for you. Facebook pages aren’t as customizable as MySpace pages, but there are ways to help the page look and feel more like home.
We recommend uploading the following to your page:
- Photos of the band with fans
- Any available album art
- Behind-the-scenes or live videos
- Pictures of items fans have sent you
- Videos speaking directly to your Facebook group
We’d also suggest using either iLike’s music applications or the one offered by ReverbNation. Both are great, however, iLike has a much larger community (so we’d go with that one). The folks behind iLike have created a great tutorial for how to promote your band using iLike that you can check out, too.
The trick to Facebook (and most other social networking sites) is to consistently update your page with new and unique information. The more you update your page, the more often you’ll be showing up in your community’s News Feed and encouraging them to click through to check out what you’re up to. Keep the fresh content coming by using the message board feature, holding contests, syncing it with your blog or asking your fans to upload videos/photos and any experiences they’ve had with your band. If someone “tags” your band in their Status Update, make sure you go back over to their page to say thanks or comment on what they’ve said. Doing so not only reinforces your relationship with them, but it raises your brand awareness with everyone in their network.
You can also experiment with Facebook Events to get your Fan page more exposure. For example, if you have a big gig coming up, create a Facebook event to show it off to your entire network and encourage them to RSVP and tell their whole network they’re going to check you out. To further promote the Events, you can also buy ads to run on Facebook and target them to people in your home town who either list your band/the venue as an interest or simply people who are interested in groups with a similar sound. It’s a great way to help build exposure for what you’re up to and to leverage the power of the community.
Twitter is THE social network of the moment, which means you can’t get away from being on there. Twitter differs from many of the other social networks in that it’s really just one never-ending conversation. That means while it’s relatively easy to get set up and create, learning how to tweet and how to interact with people can add a whole other dimension to your promotions efforts.
Get started with Twitter by registering an account (it just takes an email address) and then customizing it by uploading a recognizable profile photo and a background that matches your band. It could be a group photo, album artwork, the same background you’re using for your Web site/ MySpace, etc. Twitter doesn’t allow for a huge amount of personal information, but you will be able to include a brief (and we mean brief) bio and a link back to your band’s Web site. Once you are up and running, it’s time to find followers.
Sites to help you find followers:
- Find People on Twitter: Find friends and fans on Twitter itself. Click “Find People” in the main navigation and you can follow your contacts through email if you have a Gmail, Yahoo or AOL account. You can also search for your friends by name or invite them if you have their email address.
- Twitter Search: This is Twitter’s very own search tool. Do searches for your home town, your favorite venues to play, your genre of music (we know it’s hard to narrow down!), bands you’ve been influenced by, etc, and locate the people already talking about these things. Once you find them, follow them. You’ll also want to pay attention to Twitter’s #musicmonday to see who participates and if anyone’s talking about your band. If you find someone who is or someone who you think is influential in the space, follow them!
- Twellow: This is one of the most popular Twitter directories that allows you to search for other Twitter users based on interest, category or location. Twitter users create their own listings, which then become searchable. You should both be performing queries here to find interesting and relevant people to follow, as well as listing your band to help fans find you.
- WeFollow: Similar to Twellow. Rinse, wash, repeat.
- Listorious: The creation of Twitter Lists brought us Listorious – a directory that helps you find the best and most active Twitter Lists on the Web. Do a search for terms and interests related to your band, town or favorite venues and see which Twitter users are associated with them. Once you know, follow them and start a conversation.
- Record Labels, Other Bands and Venues: If someone’s following one of the major record labels, it means they’re obviously pretty interested in music. Maybe they’d be interested in you, too. Check out who’s following bands with a similar sound and mine their follower lists. Or maybe the local bar that you play at every weekend has a Twitter account – friend that account and then go through and follow everyone who’s following them. If they’re fans of the bar, they’d probably like to know about the next time you’re there.
Once you’ve begun developing your network of people to follow, start reaching out and tweeting at them. The thing to remember when you start these conversations is that it’s really just that – a conversation. People want to get to know your band and to hear about what you’re up to and passionate about. Don’t be afraid to share bits of your life. You’re a musician – tell Twitter what it’s like to tour, how awesome the city you’re performing in is, what it’s like to live a life some only dream of. Twitter is easily accessible using an iPhone, BlackBerry, or even a not-so-smart phone, so take advantage of the ability to tweet while on the road to give people a sense of your life in real time. Tweeting “Wow! Just got off stage and Cleveland really DOES rock.” will gain you followers across the country and make people excited to hear about what you’re up to next.
Once you become acquainted with Twitter, each band member may want their own personal account. This is fine, but make sure you maintain a band account for your group’s identity on Twitter. You can place one person in charge of the group account, or pass the duties around. If you pass them around you may want to add initials to the tweets so fans know who in the group is saying what.
Fans scour YouTube looking for videos of their favorite bands because it’s far more intimate than going to an artist’s MySpace page. Here they can see and hear you in your natural element. They can get a sense of the crowd and what it felt like in the room. Just like MySpace, Twitter and your personal site, you’ll want to skin the YouTube artist channel with artwork from your album or a professional group shot. From there, start uploading your videos!
What types of videos should you post?
- Official music videos
- Videos of live performances
- Behind-the-scenes or on-the-road footage
- Interesting video interviews
- Videos that fans have shot and sent in
- Video blogs or podcasts talking directly to fans
- A video introducing yourself
We’re still obsessed with this video from our interview with Ólafur Arnalds!
If you have videos of your band performing covers of other famous songs, upload them as Replies to the most trafficked version of the original video. This will link your cover video to the original and introduce lots of new people to your music. It will also get your video to appear in the Related Videos sidebar since you’re telling YouTube that you’re similar to what that person has already viewed.
If you want to spruce up your YouTube channel, hold a contest and encourage fans to create their own videos and send them in. Challenge them to mashup one of your songs with another of their favorite band’s. Ask them for gig footage that only they would have. Let them record themselves recounting their favorite performance of yours. Or maybe encourage them to go crazy. Remember what that treadmill video did for OK Go? You could be next. Don’t forget to comment on other people’s videos. It will encourage them to click through to your profile to see what you’re about. They may even leave a comment in return.
We mentioned above how putting a blog on your Web site is a fun way to engage fans by giving them an inside look at your site. Well, blogs that live off your site can be equally powerful. They can build buzz for upcoming shows, introduce you to new fans, allow you to tell your unique story and help you to build strong press relations. Because the Web is so socially connected, bloggers often come complete with their own loyal fans and evangelists. Take advantage of their networks as a way to build your own community and brand.
You can take advantage of blogs by doing Google searches for [indie music blog] or [indie artist interviews] to find the blogs in your space that are eager to help new artists get some exposure. As an example, helping to promote new bands is something that SendMe Mobile believes in very strongly. We created our own indie artist interview series in order to share the stage with some of the great up and coming talents of today. We’ve helped artists plug upcoming shows, showcase their vocals and build them a community. As a savvy band of the Internet age, you should be looking for opportunities to get your band the same type of exposure.
Bloggers are always in need of fresh content. Contact local bloggers and let them know you’ll be playing in a Battle of the Bands next weekend. Invite them out to see it go down or help them write the lead-in article for the event. Establishing relationships with music bloggers or bloggers dedicated to a particular location is a great way to build continual buzz for your music. You never know who’s reading and it’s a great way to expose your band to a brand new community.
Using Traditional Media
Once you’ve established your band’s presence across the Web, you’ll be able to use what you’ve created to reach out to traditional media. If you create buzz online, it means you already have people’s attention. And nothing gets press like a little press. Today, most print media outlets are rapidly embracing all things new media, which means you’d be hard pressed to find a music journalist who isn’t using sites like Twitter. Music journalists using such sites are most likely talking about music, a subject you probably know pretty well. If you take part in the conversation and engage them in a meaningful and non-pushy way, you’ll suddenly be on their radar. Don’t be surprised if they ask you for a press kit or information about whatever you happen to be working on.
Someone once said that you’re not a writer if no one is reading your stuff. While writing and playing music can be its own reward, the statement still applies. If you’re like most musicians you would probably feel a little empty if no one ever listened to your songs and you live to play to a packed house. By embracing the wide range of social media sites found on the Internet today, indie artists can get their music in the hands of a far flung audience. By taking the time to set your profiles up properly and organize your efforts once they are up, you can clear a path between your great songs and the people out there just waiting to enjoy them.
Questions, suggestions or want to share your story? Talk to us at SendMe Mobile on Twitter, we’d love to hear from you!
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Posted by A. Sogal at 7:46 am