Thanks to the ever-frustrating amalgam of rapidly moving digital tech and the old-model music industry struggling to keep up, the truth is that when it comes to marketing your music and developing an audience, the only rule is that there are no rules.
Bands today need to be not only capable of but willing to take the helm of their own success. Long gone are the days of idly waiting for labels to knock on your door and woo you in a fateful instant. Enjoy the beauty of the in-between because, these days, the work you put in between the fun stuff like recording your next album and touring the world will be what gets you to the next level.
Stay busy and on top of your goals. Here are a few ways to keep on the path — especially if you’re not that busy at the moment with pressing projects.
Explore Social Media
The lines of communication between your band and its fans can stay open at virtually any time. The strategies, objectives, and tactics you employ around a release or tour have much higher stakes than the lengths you’re able to go during your “free time.” Take advantage of downtime to experiment, learn more about who’s listening, and use these channels to make sure your band isn’t forgotten in the wash.
Live-streamed concerts are all the rage right now. They’re great ways to bring your set to anyone’s living room through a cool experience that didn’t exist just a few years ago. Think of it as a way for potential fans to test drive your show. You can even use video concerts as a way of teasing new tunes. And with the analytics you gain from streaming on Facebook or YouTube, this is a great opportunity to do some market research on your superfans.
The internet is dangerously boundless. Its mobility and accessibility make experimenting easier than ever. Take to YouTube each week, produce something unique and creative for your followers — internet intimacy. You’ll see a boost in your numbers and you may even be able to work some of this content into a live set, a new album, or more web-only content. Recording a cover song is a quick way to convince late adopters that you, as an artist, are worth their time and ears by introducing yourself through something familiar.
Have extra merch lying around? Run a contest and spread the love. Contests are great during a band’s downtime because they keep your name top of mind for your fans. And for the price of giving an album or two away for free, the intel you gain about who’s listening and who’s engaging is priceless. It’s also great practice for writing marketing copy, the fruits of which will be super helpful the next time you have a new project coming out.
+ Read more on Flypaper: “The Definitive Guide to Running a Successful DIY PR Campaign”
Read Up About Your Industry
It’s not hard to pinpoint the differences between the objectives of an artist versus those of a manager, publicist, or talent buyer. Sure, lines are often too starkly drawn between the “business” and creative sides of music, but it’s somewhat crucial that each party does its due diligence.
By choosing to make music for a living, you’re just as much a player in the industry and its politics as your team, so I recommend that you don’t blindly leave the details up to others. A salient understanding of the ins and outs, trends and topics of your industry is not only savvy but impressive and guarantees you some level of control over how your story unfolds. You’ve worked too long and too hard to pass over the fate of your product because you didn’t take initiative to be more in the know.
On that note, it’s probably a good time to remind you that independent artists notoriously get screwed out of royalties that are rightfully theirs. That’s why Soundfly has partnered with Ari Herstand to bring you our latest free course, How to Get All the Royalties You Never Knew Existed, which goes through the differences between artist and songwriter royalties, what each type of royalty means, whether you’re eligible to receive them, and where to go in order to collect them! Here’s a glimpse.
The persistent sink-or-swim hustle and the urgent creativity that emerges from that lived reality is often what makes the independent artist such a rare and precious jewel, a force to be reckoned with. If your manager jumps ship and leaves you in open water, will you be able to steer the vessel straight?
Get out there and gab.
Networking is such a despised word, but it doesn’t need to feel smarmy. In fact, it can be fun! Check out other bands and artists, and learn the inner workings of your local scene. Go to festivals you’re not playing and build relationships that crazy, old-fashioned way: face to face in real life, genuinely.
Pay it forward by remembering to be a fan. I’m a firm believer in the power of band karma, so lend others’ gear when they’re in a pinch and do as much to support your contacts’ endeavors as you would your own. From an industry perspective, artists that are able to work a room as well as they can work a stage are invaluable. But don’t treat your contacts as commodities you can cash in on or pitch to. Treat them like people you genuinely want in your corner. Ask for help, but first, connect.
You’ll find that maintaining a certain rhythm with other bands and business contacts will make keeping in touch and supporting one another infinitely easier. Going in for an ask down the line, should you need it, will be much easier when the relationship is healthy.
You’re only as good as your reputation in any business (especially this one), and you are who you associate with, to some degree. Be present, and you’ll soon be meaningful, too.
+ Learn more on Soundfly: Take the next steps toward collecting more royalties, funding an upcoming project, tightening up your band leadership, and booking viable tours with our acclaimed Hustle series of courses.