By Mike McDearmon
In an era when music discovery spans so many technological channels, it’s about time we rethought what aspects of SEO are actually worth your effort and energy as a musician in 2016. The goal has always been to attract new fans to your music, but while almost everyone with an Internet connection uses a search engine every day, they likely aren’t using it to discover new bands.
Search engines are also extremely complex and it’s hard to keep up with how they work. Google’s search algorithms alone contain over 200 factors and they’re constantly evolving to meet the demands of a growing Internet. The good news is there are lots of ways to make your band more discoverable and, surprisingly, many of them have nothing to do with your band’s website or any search engine.
Here are five things you can do right now to attract more listeners online.
1. Stop thinking about where you rank on Google results and start putting yourself in the shoes of a music fan.
When was the last time you discovered a band directly as a result of a Google search? Probably never. The task of trying to lure potential new listeners to your website by way of a search engine is an uphill battle in a world where most listeners today discover music through friends, popularity charts, curators, algorithms, or just plain serendipity.
Your band’s website is still important for engaging with fans that have already discovered you, but in order to attract new listeners your effort is best spent making sure your music is visible on the communities and streaming services where the people are already looking for it.
2. Get your band mentioned on a blog, journal, or music community.
This one may require a little elbow grease, but getting your band mentioned by a third party does two things: First, blogs and journals are great at shining a spotlight on emerging artists and helping music fans find the next needle in the haystack. Secondly, it helps build legitimacy around your band, not just to your audience, but also to search engines that determine your ranking in part by understanding whether or not authoritative sources are publishing content about you.
Try reaching out to local bloggers and music journals who fit your style about reviewing your latest release or plugging an upcoming show. Start small, too. Sites like Pitchfork receive more inquiries than they can count and may never respond if you reach out to them, but you’ll probably have better luck with someone from your local scene.
3. Create a profile on all the social networks and music communities online. ALL of them. Even the ones you think you’ll never use.
Social networks are one of the best ways to connect with listeners worldwide and share content about your band. That is, if you’re conscious about using them regularly. Even if your posts are few and far between, though, social networks are still free advertising platforms that allow you to add volumes of photos, music, and links back to the one or two places that you actively update. It’s like leaving breadcrumbs all around the Internet for potential new fans to find you.
4. Share your taste with your audience.
As a musician, you know great music when you hear it. You’re also probably creating your own playlists for this or that anyway, so why not share them? Music fans look for ways to surface gems from the bazillions of tracks flying around the web, and sharing playlists is a great way to help them on their quest. It’s also a great way to build a following and get more ears on your own music at the same time. If you need inspiration, look no further than Arthur Brown’s playlist for trampolining a truly eclectic mix that only a real (odd) human could dream up.
5. Pay it forward and plug another band on social media.
Show your peers some love by promoting their upcoming shows, album releases, or blog mentions. Helping build buzz for your friends gets you involved in your local scene, draws attention to bands that are similar to yours, and it’s contagious. Social networks are also powerful search engines in their own right, and helping build up other bands funnels potential new fans to your music at the same time.
Mike McDearmon is a jazz, R&B, and rock drummer based in NYC. When he’s not drumming with alt-soul band Madam West, he’s sitting in with various R&B groups and playing in subway stations. A software designer by day, Mike is interested in helping musicians leverage web technologies to promote their music.