For artists who truly value their craft, the words “self-promotion” can be gag-inducing. Spending time on marketing seems like the antithesis of spending time chiseling your art and exercising your music muscles. But if you’re making your music your business, self-promotion is an essential part of increasing the value of your career to the people whose hands it is inevitably in: your fans.
When you start promoting yourself online, you may feel like you’re bombarding people with posts about your band, or that your content looks like clickbait. Maybe you feel that you don’t know what to say to pique people’s interest. You might just hate the way it feels to encourage others to pay attention to your work. But if you’re not promoting yourself, then you’re missing the chance to connect with thousands of new fans.
So how does one go about making this dreadful task less daunting? For starters, change your mindset about what self-promotion means for you and your career with these tips:
You’re taking your music seriously, so take your brand seriously. Even if it’s just you and your instrument on stage, you’re not promoting yourself — you are promoting your business. Build a website. Create professional social media accounts exclusively for your music. If you’re just sharing updates on your personal page, you’re putting undue strain on yourself to filter everything you say so that it works for both your band and you, personally.
The more that you can separate your professional online presence from yourself as a person, the more comfortable you’ll feel with promoting your music.
As social media has risen in popularity as a marketing medium, experts have recognized a shift in marketing theory from content-based, to what is referred to as brand storytelling. Brand storytelling is exactly what it sounds like: advertising content that includes personable characters, classical storytelling techniques, and a touch of intrigue to keep followers wanting more.
A sales-based social technique that focuses only on press clippings, new albums, and upcoming tour dates is a common mistake among musicians taking on their own marketing. When the emphasis is always on coming up with new content to push, staying social becomes tedious and stressful. But it doesn’t have to be that way! As a self-promoting musician, your job is to tell the story of your music in a way that allows your followers to be involved.
Share a snapshot of your songwriting notes or reveal the lyrics that almost were. Tell the story of how your bandmates met, or ask your followers for feedback on a work-in-progress melody. Your marketing can be just as much fun as your story has been. It’s just up to you to think of ways to tell it.
You do not have to share everything on the internet. The artists who are killing it at social media inject their personalities into their posts. They interact one-on-one with fans and get passionately involved. But remember, they’re also cultivating the way that their work and they themselves are seen online.
As in, newsflash: Not everything you read or see is 100% brutal, honest fact. Even those #nofilter posts.
As an artist, you often put extremely personal parts of yourself out there for everyone to see. But when you’re building an online presence, you can control the conversation about your work and yourself. You decide what you’ll share and what you’ll keep private, what you’ll be brutally honest about, and what you’ll paint in a few rosy shades.
No matter how incredibly talented you are, self-promotion is a necessary part of building a successful business. Without it, your work might never receive the attention it deserves. Record labels and talent buyers take note of bands who manage their promotions well themselves. As uncomfortable as it may be now, it will only get easier with practice.