Written by Mikey Jayy
Before you do anything you need a product (your music). Once you have your EP/LP, you want people to hear it. It may take 1, maybe 2, or even 3 years, but you need to market yourself. Building numbers to back up your music is key, especially if you want to impress labels, talent buyers, and promoters that put on big events at the larger venues, and...well, pretty much the entire industry. The way to do that is by getting signed up with online sites like Reverbnation.com, Ourstage.com, and Musicxray.com, and have a dedicated fan page on Facebook, and band page on Twitter. You need to be where the music listeners are. If fans can't find you, they won't be fans for very long. Don't limit people to just MySpace either. They will forget about you if that is your only site where people can listen. You will alienate your audience before it even gets off the ground.
Twitter is the most under rated social marketing tool out there. I’ve personally seen people disregard its importance and ignore the platform and wonder why they get nowhere in their careers. It's because they didn’t embrace Twitter or use it correctly. What ever you think you know about Twitter …throw it out the window, because it can create the most loyal fans if you do it right. Twitter allows you to connect all your social media networks with just one function. It’s very useful. Use it right and you’ll have over 7,000 followers inside of 1 year.
Learn the use of this little symbol # (otherwise referred to as a "hashtag"). It can make or break your career. #music #upandcoming #greatnewbands #newmusic #nowlisteningto #folk #acoustic.
These are just a few examples. Also, look up magazines, webzines, music bloggers, radio shows, podcasts, internet radio, etc. on Twitter and casually ask them to review your music. They may not give you the time of day, because you’re still new in the industry and they may be prejudice because you don’t have a large fanbase to back you. They of course want visitors, because visitors revenue. This is a give-and-take business. No one wants to write an article or invite you on their radio program about a band and only to have 4 people tune in (lead singer, bassist, guitarist, and the drummer). This is no incentive for them to cover your work if you don’t give anything back in return, but at least put your music out there. They will eventually find your music on Twitter and listen. If your music is really good, they will want to help give you exposure.
Also, talk to your fans. I’ve seen good artists fall flat on their faces and have the same number of fans 3 years later and that is due in part because they refused to be on the same level. Be humble, but most importantly, be human. Until you’re Jay-Z or Coldplay, you’re shit to everyone. You’ve got to earn that respect otherwise they will not even press play. I hear this statement a lot, "My music speaks for itself". The truth is, you have to appeal to the personal side of a person before he or she will go to your website and hit that play button. Independent artists are a vast community. What makes you different from the millions out there? Why the hell are you so special?
People need to connect with you on a personal level, otherwise you're just an annoying musician saying the same thing as everyone else.
If there are 4 members in your band, EVERYONE needs the password to that Twitter account and RESPOND to comments. Never ignore your audience, especially when they compliment your music. When you do that, you earn a fan for life.
DO NOT TAKE PERSONAL ATTACKS PERSONALLY! This is very important. You are in the business of entertainment. If someone says, "You suck". Ask that person nicely, "What didn't you like about my music?" That person be shocked and realize he was an asshole and will treat you like a human being. If you personally attack someone for not liking your music, your fanbase will quickly drop, so mind your words. If you cannot take criticism, you should quit now, because you do not belong in this business.
Perform, perform, perform…
No matter if it’s acoustic night and you hate it....do it. Perform at coffee houses, amateur night, a dive bar, whatever. Just get yourself out there.
Hold off on contests and award events. The majority of them only look at numbers. Keep in mind, not all of them are scams. There are some legitimate contests out there that will take you no matter what. But, always remember that this is a business. They are traffic seekers, so if your fanbase has 250 fans or less, then you’re wasting everyone's time. To them, your fanbase is traffic and traffic means money. Always remember that.
Create a Youtube account and record your practices and record your live performances. Be selective though. You don’t want to bombard people with redundancy. They will get tired of you if you do the same thing over and over. Experiment with covers, but make your songs original. Don’t ever try to copy an artist, because you WILL be compared. You don’t want to be compared. If you sound original, they will continue to listen, but at the same time, they forget you are doing a cover. That’s what that means when you "own" a song. They’ll realize they are singing with you, but forget it’s because they already know the song. That’s your goal.
When you’re new, everyone wants to make money. Right now, this is Public Relations 101. You need to realize you’re nobody and you need to work your way from the bottom. Give AWAY YOUR MUSIC. No one will pay for music that no body knows. Yeah, you’ll always get someone that will buy your CD and insist you take their money here and there. But by-and-large, the majority will scoff at you and say, “forget it”. Earn your fanbase and this is the time to do it. Make it free. Go to network events and pass out your CD, flyers, and business cards. Never stop promoting your music.
If you insist on protecting your music, shave off the final 1-minute off the back-end. You will fail before you begin if you only allow a 30 second sample. This practice should only be reserved for major recording artists.
Having said that, this should be a good guide to start you off for the next 1 to 2 years.
Good luck and no matter what, follow your heart! You may not get rich with music, but at least you'll be at peace with yourself, because you're doing what you love.